Winding a way through the Cape Winelands

Posted by Chloe Cooper on 8 May 2014

A short drive from Cape Town takes you from one top destination to the next. The Cape Wine Route offers a compilation of great eats, staggering views, and world-class wine tasting, while a trip over the Franschhoek Pass introduces a quietened world of mountain relaxation. Chloe Cooper went in search of some of the best spots to visit in the Cape Winelands …

A true mountain retreat at KolKol Mountain Lodge

Cape Town was awarded one prestigious title this year with its win as Top Destination of 2014. Honoured Capetonians can confidently argue that the beaches, mountains, winelands, wildlife and scrumptious eateries of their home town are the best of the lot. The associated images of glinting seas, green hillsides, and appetising platefuls are inspiring to say the least, but here on location, paging through glossy photographs is only secondary to setting foot on the streets and experiencing it all first hand. I took to the Cape Winelands and then on to the mountains and rediscovered the beauty that surrounds the hub of Cape Town.

Cape Winelands

It’s far too easy for Cape Town residents to find good wine. Vine-covered hills become a roadside attraction only 20 minutes outside of the city centre. Follow the road around Table Mountain towards Constantia Nek and Noordhoek and find yourself admiring a valley or sea view over a cheese platter and a local Sauvignon Blanc. Head in the opposite direction and exit the city on the N1, bound for what we know as the Cape Winelands. The historical town of Stellenbosch is located only 30 minutes away, just far enough to revel in its beautiful position among the rolling foothills of the Huguenot Mountains and to earn its quaint, quiet ambience.

Stellenbosch

One leafy road led us to Majeka House, a quirkily decorated five-star establishment in Stellenbosch. At the entrance to reception (where a home-baked muffin-scone and a cool, rose-mint brew awaits) is a large wall painting of the Stellenbosch wine routes: critical area information. I took a quick pic and didn’t need to consult my wine guide for the rest of the day. The owner’s pig fanaticism and the designer’s expert eye have combined to create quite an Alice in Wonderland-ish charm with painted, porcelain, plastic and pottery pigs on table tops and as door stops.

Karine Dequeker’s obsession with all things pig is evident in every room and in the gardens at Majeka House

Majeka House suite with open plan bathroom

Bright blue outdoor furniture draws one’s eye to the garden, which is lusciously green and speckled with the whites and pinks of neatly pruned rose bushes. Inside, the impressive wine rack cradles some of the best choices on the wine list at the award-winning Makaron Restaurant. The most important meal of the day was a simple selection of eggs, and I gravitated towards the Royale: smoked salmon, runny eggs, hollandaise and toast. It set the pace for an onward journey deeper into the Cape Winelands.

A garden of archways and roses at Majeka House

Award-winning Makaron Restaurant at Majeka House

Franschhoek

Franschhoek, Stellenbosch’s beautiful neighbour, was originally the home of French refugees and is now the location of some of the oldest wine farms in South Africa. Some of the best known ones – Dieu Donne, Chamonix, La Motte and Cabrière – were named after suburbs in France and now embody that heritage, offering something entirely unique to the little town in the Cape Winelands.

Unable to choose where to eat and drink, we set off on the Franschhoek Wine Tram, which is an open-aired, green bus perfectly routed to take its passengers to six of the top Franschhoek wine farms. Included in our R170 (a person) ticket was a wine tasting at two estates; Holden Manz (home of the renowned restaurant, Franschhoek Kitchen) and Dieu Donne, which boasts probably one of the most encompassing views of this beautiful part of the Cape Winelands.

Vineyard views at Holden Manz wine farm in Franschhoek

Blue cheese and figs, and a warm, fuzzy wine glow later, a walk across the main street took us to Realou Guesthouse where we were accommodated in an old French bedroom with high ceilings, a loft and a large, chequered bathroom. We took breakfast on the veranda, which overlooked both the pool and the blue peaks of the Huguenot Mountains behind it.

Bedroom patio at Realou Guesthouse

Realou Guesthouse gardens in the morning

Midday was spent in awe at Babylonstoren, where everything from the chickens, the olive tree archways, the mosaics, the Green House cafe and the meat and cheese rooms left our senses tickled.

Cordials galore at Babylonstoren farmstall

Freshly squeezed juices are the order of the day at Babylonstoren’s Green House cafe

Babylonstoren’s dedicated meat room

The road out of the fascinating ‘French corner’ led us over the Franschhoek Pass – a winding, rocky road up and over the mountains and into the next valley. We crossed Theewaters Dam – as flat as a millpond and ringed by a forest of tall pine trees. A left turn onto a gravel road destined for Botrivier took us up into a remote and remarkable part of the fynbos biome. The air was scented with spice and honey and the silence put pressure on our ears.

KolKol Mountain Lodge was more of a retreat in that its therapeutic energy induces an overwhelming urge to relax. The log cabin was spacious and wonderful. A rim-flow hot tub, a stone fireplace, a Zen shower and bedroom views were soul-enriching. The eco-ethos was evident in the friendly reminders about the preciousness of resources, and one will find nothing more gratifying than to abide by these water rules and conserve the natural wealth of KolKol.

A hot tub with a view at KolKol Mountain Lodge

KolKol’s cosy lounge

The main bedroom at KolKol looks right onto the fynbos surroundings

That night was spent beside a braai, and then (once the fiery furnace had warmed the water to an irresistible temperature), neck-deep in the hot tub under the stars. We couldn’t see an inch of the fynbos that spread from our cabin all the way into the Overberg Valley below us, but it was there to greet us as the sun spread its morning light across the valley, announcing that it was time to go back to the city. But that can hardly be a disappointment when that city is the most popular destination in the world!


This post is brought to you by Sun Safaris, specialists in tailor-made tours in Southern and East Africa, based in the shade of Cape Town’s Table Mountain. Check out Sun Safaris on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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