End of a decade travels (part 4: excursions)

Tuesday

Having spent a little time wandering Cape Town, it was time to venture further out. We were up early for breakfast and coffee, leaving before 9am. We walked down to Hertz to pick up our rental car for the day, having determined a car rental was far less expensive and more flexible than a day-long tour. The “standard” car Virginia reserved was a BMW 320d M-class. !!! I had never driven a BMW and was both thrilled and nervous (I didn’t want to damage it in any way).

I was our driver for the day, which generally suited me just fine. South Africa drives on the left side, and at least I had done that in the past year. We were able to get outside Cape Town easily enough and were off to our first stop: Boulders Beach. It’s a small national park on the east side of the Cape Peninsula just south of Simon’s Town. Why would four city mice go there? Penguins! We parked at nearby Seaforth Beach (R50 donation) and walked over, maybe 10-15 minutes on foot. The views were amazing and thankfully the penguins are quiet (they’re known to bray like donkeys).

Penguins!

Next up: Cape Point at the end of the peninsula. After driving to the park, we waited over 30 minutes to pay our fee and enter. Thankfully we had a reservation at the Two Oceans restaurant at the main stop. I was a little worried about making the reservation but relaxed once we were past the entry. After parking at the outskirts, we walked over in time to have a really nice lunch (shellfish, hake, dorado, Cederburg Chenin Blanc) and enjoy the view. After lunch, we walked up to the lighthouse, perhaps a 30 minute hike. It was 100% worth it to access just incredible views of the Cape and ocean. 

We drove back to Cape Town and dropped off the car around 5:45pm, then walked back to the Airbnb satisfied with the day. Jordan made a cherry clafoutis while I cooked dinner (chicken in tomato sauce with wine pasta) as a change of pace.

Wednesday

Deux Freres winery.

Our last full day in South Africa was reserved for a day-long tasting tour in Stellenbosch, probably their most well known wine region. I had made arrangements with Camino Tours for a private tour about a month before, as South African wine is new to me and I’ve learned each country handles visitors differently. They set up tastings at five wineries, one of which was switched out mid-day — another benefit of a private tour. Janine, our tour guide, talked with us throughout and, on hearing my like of Cabernet Franc, decided we should skip the last scheduled winery and visit her friend Lola who makes an amazing Cab Franc. So our day included:

  • Waterford – we sat outside and enjoyed a tasting of Chenin Blanc, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and dessert wine with chocolates.
  • Oldenburg – we arrived just in time and settled into our table, outside again, and ordered different tastings. Virginia really liked their bush vine Grenache, while their Rhodium blend was my favorite.
  • Delaire Graff – we didn’t have a tasting, but each tried one of their wines with lunch (beef/mushroom pasta, seafood pasta, coffee-rubbed venison). I had been told this was THE place to have lunch in Stellenbosch, and they were right.
  • Deux Freres – After visiting more polished, large-scale wineries in the morning, we scaled down to family operations. We briefly met one of the two brothers and enjoyed his Fraternité Shiraz-Mourvèdre blend among others.
  • Mitre’s Edge – This was our last minute swap. It turned out to be my favorite, in large part because we did our tasting with Lola, the owner and winemaker, in her personal cellar. We talked wine for a while and ended up picking up several verticals (same grape, different years).

Janine took us back to the Airbnb and bade us farewell. We had learned from our Franschhoek experience, drank a lot more water, and were consequently in better shape on our return. Dinner was roasted beef fillet, roast potatoes, baby marrows, and tomato sauce, after which we packed and ended on two rounds of Bananagrams.

Thursday

We had breakfast and did the usual double-checks on our packing. Virginia and I were on an earlier flight to Joburg and would meet E&J when their later flight arrived so we could all take the same flight to JFK. Cape Town’s airport was easy to navigate, and we made it through getting a tax refund for the wine, wrapping our luggage, checking in, and clearing security in under 45 minutes. We spent a long time in the lounge waiting first for our friends and then for our flight.

It turned out that our flight for JFK was filled with families. I was worried about disruptions but it turned out mostly okay and we were all able to get some sleep.

Friday

We arrived at JFK around 6:00am after having gotten reasonable sleep on the flight. We cleared passport control, picked up our bags, and walked out without any problems. We parted ways with E&J so they could go home and transferred over to the American Airlines terminal to check our bags. From there, we returned to the TWA Hotel for coffee and a little work, followed by a full breakfast in the cafe.

After breakfast, we went back to the terminal and stayed in the lounge for a while before an easy flight home. Because the final leg was domestic, we were able to quickly get all our bags and hop into a taxi. Strangely, the taxi driver wasn’t really prepared and had to stop for gas on the way. But ultimately we made it home.

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