Tuesday, October 23, 2007

South Africa: The Wine Country

After all the excitement of last week, we could really use a drink. So off to the wine country we headed. We first made our way to Franschoek, a little corner of French culture in South Africa. A woman who ran one of the backpackers in the Drakensberg gave us a great tip on nightlife in quiet Franschoek in the form of a supperclub night. Le Quartier Francais (the famed and expensive and critically-acclaimed restaurant in town), also has a more casual and less pricey bistro where you can enjoy a great meal and then retire to their private screening room for a movie. This sounded divine, as we hadn´t seen a movie in ages. As it turned out, it was a truly private screening, since we were the only folks there. We sat on comfy red couches and enjoyed a French film La Tourneuse (the page turner) on the big screen with our feet up and our bellies full. We highly recommend this to anyone passing through town.

The next day, we awoke to find out that the power was turned off for the whole town due to some sort of electricity shortage. It is still Africa, after all. No worries, who needs a hot shower or eggs when a croissant and a new hairdo will do. We opted for our own walking wine tour of Franschoek, where we literally crossed the street from our Backpacker`s inn called Otter`s Bend and walked right up to the tasting room of a beautiful winery. We wanted to really love their wines, as they are one of the few wineries owned by a black African, but unfortunately we didn`t. So we kept on walking. And tasting. And walking. And tasting. And in the afternoon, the rain set in. But by this time, we had tasted quite a bit. Perhaps too much. So we simply pottered about in the drizzle, and Kathleen adopted what Eric called her `beekeeper` look to protect herself from the rain.

It is shameful to admit, but in Franschoek, what many consider the culinary capital of South Africa, we went back to the Otter`s Bend and made spaghetti and veggies in their beautiful self-service kitchen. Oh the shame and the joy.

Our next stop in the wine country was Stellenbosch, where we joined a boozy wine tour with two hilarious Canadian playboy pilots living in Dubai. A highlight of the tour was the Fairview winery, where owners have given part of their land to their employees to make their own wine (Fair Valley) that they sell in their winery. All profits go back to the employees and their families. Nice! Also nice were the copious amounts of cheese set out for tasting. The best moment of the tour, however, came at the last winery, when one of the high roller pilots whipped out 500 Rand and laid it on the table. He leaned in and asked the winery guy in a low voice to close the windows and doors and pour us something really interesting. We were somewhat embarassed by this theatrical maneuver, but we also sort of hoped that velvet curtains would part and we`d be led into the exclusive back-room for free massages and chocolate-covered strawberries. As it turns out, 500 Rand is only about $70 US Dollars, which I guess doesn`t get you that far in the wine world. We did, however, get to try a really tasty 2001 cabernet.

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