A Journey through Africa's Winelands

For Anthony Rose, a tour of Cape Town and the South Africa's Winelands is 'never forgotten'. It was the Dutch East India company back in the late 16th century we have to thank for putting Cape town an

By TTM on 13 June 2005 in Travel Articles

Today the influence of the famous spice route to the East remains tangible in the Cape Malay culture and its homely, deliciously spicy cooking. But international travel has brought new wave cuisine to Cape Town too. Thanks in large part to the weak rand, you can eat and drink like royalty in Cape Town at the many modern restaurants which add to the wealth of gastronomic variety - and wash it all down with a South African chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon.

With its almost Mediterranean climate, California-style cafes, restaurants and hotels, its sandy beaches and azure skies, you can occasionally have to pinch yourself as a reminder that you really are in Africa.

There certainly is a buzz about jacaranda-lined Cape Town's bustling markets and many tourist attractions. It's not the drumbeat of deepest Africa, but rather a lively hum created by the peaceful but busy-co-existence of the diverse communities and the babel of different tongues, whether Shona, Swahili or Sengalese, spoken in and around Cape Town. It's what travel writer Erica Platter has called 'provocative contrasts of different worlds sleek first and throbbing third'.

Within easy reach of Cape Town, the Cape's winelands are among the most spectacular in the world, with vineyards close to the ocean, climbing the slopes of the distinctively shaped mountains in three main regions:
pretty Paarl, whitewashed Stellenbosch and French-influenced, foodie-friendly Franschhoek. How much you take in - literally - depends on the amount of time at your disposal. But you can do anything from a short tasting at a winery in Cape Town or Constantia close to Table Mountain, to spending several days cellar-hopping around the plethora of traditional and modern wineries in the region, staying at comfortable bed and breakfasts or hotels along the way.

If food and drink is one of the most obvious attractions of the Cape, they are by no means the be all and end all. There are so many more reasons to visit South Africa's winelands that you'd need a second - or third - visit to cover them all. A short drive out of the city and you're surrounded by rugged mountains, turquoise seas and silver beaches. There are the flower gardens of Kirstenbosch with their hundreds of native plant species, nature reserves with zebras on the mountains, beaches where you can swim or simply walk along and admire ostriches and penguins, or out to sea, whales at play.

If you don't mind having your conscience pricked - and for many it's a prerequisite of a visit to South Africa - there are short rides across the waves and the Waterfront to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was banged up for 27 years.

Township tours too show you the heart and soul of the shanty town communities, which vibrate with the energy of their spirited residents. At Table Mountain, the cable car ascends to its dizzying summit to give you a panoramic eagle's eye view of land and ocean.

And of course there's all the shopping you could possibly want, from the smart, modern malls at the revitalised Waterfront or Century City to the throbbing jive of the bustling pan-African market, wall-to-wall with carved, beaten, painted, woven and beaded Africana.

Once visited never forgotten, the travel brochure might say, and in this instance, it would be spot on.

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