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wine

Oudtshoorn sunrise

From the Beach to the Desert, Part 2: Oudtshoorn

After spending two days overlooking the beach in Plettenberg Bay (see part 1), our group of lady journalists took a quick hop over the Outeniqua Mountains to spend two days in the desert town of Oudtshoorn. Oudtshoorn is part of the Klein Karoo (or “Little Karoo”), the southeastern border of the Great Karoo, which is the sprawling, semi-desert region that occupies a huge section of central South Africa. I had been to the Garden Route before and I had been to Oudtshoorn before, but I had no idea how close together the two places are. George, the biggest town in the Garden Route and travel hub for the area, is actually closer to Oudtshoorn (just under an hour) than it is to Plettenberg Bay (just over an hour). The stark, windswept scenery in Oudtshoorn was such a sharp contrast to the lush, green coastal views we had in Plettenberg Bay. Visiting the two places together was a really interesting experience. Two Days in Oudtshoorn The first notable part of our trip to Oudtshoorn is the route we drove to get there. The Outeniqua Pass, crossing the mountains via the N12 highway, is one of the prettiest stretches of road in […]

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Heather in the Swartland at Allesverloren Wine Estate

8 Magical Moments in the Swartland

I visited the Swartland — a wine region about an hour northwest of Cape Town — almost two months ago. My visit was mostly about wine, which I wrote about already, but I have all these other cool pictures and memories from the trip that I wasn’t able to share in that post. Here are some of the best: Swartland Moment #1: Lambs at Vleidam Guest Farm Swartland Moment #2: Allesverloren Swartland Moment #3: Olives in Riebeek Kasteel Swartland Moment #4: Lazy Afternoon at Kloovenburg Swartland Moment #5: Serenity at AA Badenhorst Swartland Moment #6: Overlooking Riebeek Kasteel Swartland Moment #7: A Colonial Church Swartland Moment #8: Hike to Pulpit Rock I think that’s a good place to finish. I visited the Swartland with support from the Swartland Wine and Olive Route. Opinions expressed are mine. Pin it:

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Adi Badenhorst in his winery

Quirky Winemakers of the Swartland

The Swartland is a rural farming region in South Africa’s Western Cape province, about an hour northwest of Cape Town. “Swartland” means “black land” in Afrikaans, referring to the endemic renosterbos plant that looks black from a distance at certain times of the year. The Swartland is known for wheat farming and sheep farming and various other kinds of farming. I went there for the wine farms. I love visiting South Africa’s wine regions and the Swartland is one of the largest and best. My friend Dee is currently working in the Swartland, so I booked a flight to Cape Town and we spent a few days drinking wine together and doing other fun things. I visited a bunch of wine farms in the Swartland and had the privilege of spending time with several winemakers. I noticed something: Winemakers are often quirky and weird, in the best possible way. It makes sense. Making wine is a delicate, finicky business — part science, part business savvy, part art, part insanity. You’ve got to choose which grapes to grow, grow the grapes (praying year after year for the right weather), harvest the grapes and crush the grapes, ferment the grapes in specially […]

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Hermanus overlook

36 Hours in Hermanus

Everyone in South Africa knows Hermanus, a quaint little town about 90 minutes’ drive from Cape Town, as the whale-watching capital of the world. Hermanus is overtaken by tourists in whale season, which runs from June to December but is heaviest during the peak calving season in July and August. Up until recently I had been to Hermanus only once — an October day trip many years ago. My friends and I drove from Cape Town, wandered the promenade looking for whales, spotted a couple far out to sea, walked through a couple of shops, had lunch, then drove back to Cape Town. I now know this was a mistake. I recently revisited Hermanus again for 36 hours (still not long enough) and couldn’t believe how beautiful it is and how much there is to do there — even when it isn’t whale season. It’s a crime to drive to Hermanus and not stay for at least a few days. Here’s a quick run-down of everything I packed in during my two nights in Hermanus. 1) The drive from Cape Town If you take the right route, the drive from Cape Town to Hermanus is one of the most beautiful […]

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Rooiberg wine from Robertson Wine Valley

Two Days in the Robertson Wine Valley

After our epic two-day journey on the Rovos Rail, my mother and I embarked on an epic weeklong road trip from Cape Town to Joburg. Our first stop was the Robertson Wine Valley. Before I start talking about wine I need to give a shout-out to Around About Cars. Renting cars normally gives me huge anxiety, but Around About Cars was so easy to deal with and we couldn’t have made this journey without their assistance. Also we loved our little white car, which was perfect for wine country photo-ops. The Zandvliet Wine Estate and our cute car, which took us from one end of South Africa to the other. Anyway, back to the wine. The Robertson Wine Valley is about two hours north of Cape Town, consisting of about 50 wineries in and around the towns of Ashton, Bonnievale, McGregor, and Robertson. (This area is also commonly referred to as the Langeberg.) I’ve been wanting to visit for ages and I thought this would be a great time to do it because Mom loves hanging out in small towns. I was right. I love Stellenbosch and Franschhoek but Robertson has a totally different vibe — homier and more casual. […]

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Gerakaris winery in Craighall Park

A Winery in Joburg!

There’s a new winery in Joburg called Gerakaris Family Wines. This is a big deal (hence my use of a rare exclamation point). Let me explain why. South Africa is heaven for wine-drinkers. I rave about it all the time to my American friends. South African wine is as good or better than wine anywhere else in the world, and ridiculously affordable. Also drinking wine in South Africa is a particularly enjoyable activity. We’ve got the right weather and the right scenery and it’s all just perfect. But South Africa’s wine culture is in Cape Town and the surrounding areas of the Western Cape province. No one comes to Joburg for wine. The climate here isn’t right for grapes and it’s next to impossible to buy decent wine by the glass in this town. Up until now, as far as I have been able to determine, there were no wineries in Joburg open to the public. That changed a couple of weeks ago when Gerakaris opened for business on a quaint little property in Craighall Park. Gerakaris Family Wines. Gerakaris is not an actual wine estate, meaning it doesn’t grow its own grapes. But that doesn’t mean the wine isn’t […]

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Click Boutique Hotel garden

Quickie Restaurant (and Hotel) Review: Clico Boutique Hotel

Last month Ray and I were invited to enjoy dinner, bed, and breakfast at the Clico Boutique Hotel in Rosebank. I jumped at the chance. People are always asking me for Joburg hotel recommendations, but I rarely have much to offer because who spends the night at hotels in their own city? I was also eager to try Clico’s restaurant as I’d heard good things. My birthday was in July so I decided to schedule our visit on that day, and Clico turned out to be a great place for a sumptuous birthday feast. Dinner at Clico. The garden and pool area at Clico Boutique Hotel. What I liked about Clico: 1) The location. Clico is in Rosebank, just a couple of blocks from the Gautrain station and across the street from the Keyes Art Mile. 2) The service. The reception staff, wait staff, and everyone working at Clico were particularly outgoing and friendly. I offered some feedback after my stay via email, and the Clico management responded immediately in a positive and proactive manner. 3) The wifi. Clico has free, unlimited wifi with a simple password and no silly vouchers or megabyte limits. WHY DOESN’T EVERY HOTEL DO THIS? 4) The […]

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Love Wine in Stellenbosch

I Drank Stellenbosch

My last Stellenblog post was about all the non-drinking things to do in Stellenbosch. I wrote that post for a couple of reasons: 1) I thought it would be useful for non-drinkers visiting Stellenbosch; and 2) I figured it would ease my conscience to write a post about non-drinking Stellenbosch activities before writing this post, which will be all about the delicious wine and other alcohol I drank in Stellenbosch. A beautiful wall of wine at Love Wine Studio in downtown Stellenbosch. A glass of white from Lanzerac. I don’t have a sophisticated wine palette; I’m one of those “I like this/I don’t like that” kind of wine people. (Usually I like it.) But there’s one thing I do know: South African wine is damn good and affordable. If you like wine and want to take a wine-oriented vacation, there is no better place in the world to go than Stellenbosch. Things I Learned About Wine in Stellenbosch I drank a lot of different wine in Stellenbosch, and as I said my palette isn’t sophisticated. I won’t wax on for hours about the different varietals I tasted and what their bouquets were. But there are a couple of trends I’d […]

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Thembi Koli in Kayamandi, on tour with Stellenbosch 360

A Non-Drinker’s Guide to Stellenbosch

Let me clarify that I am not a non-drinker. I’m no party animal, but I do enjoy a glass of wine. So I was ecstatic to be invited to participate in #Stellenblog, a blogging campaign in Stellenbosch. There were some non-drinkers in our group, and at the start of the trip I wondered how much fun they would have hanging out for a week in the wine-drinking capital of South Africa. At the end of the week, when I looked through all my Stellenbosch photos, I found they told an unexpected story. There was lots of wine-drinking, to be sure. But the most memorable activities of the week had nothing to do with wine, or any alcohol for that matter. Alcohol-free Stellenbosch So I decided to put together a little guide for non-drinkers. If you don’t like wine, or don’t drink at all, here’s a list of activities to keep you busy on a multi-day visit to Stellenbosch. 1) Take a Segway Tour Back when I lived in Washington D.C., I used to watch group Segway tours glide past and silently make fun of them. I should have known that someday my own Segway time would come. Laugh silently if […]

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View and wine glasses at Jordan Wines in Stellenbosch

11 Spectacular Views in Stellenbosch

I recently received an invitation to participate in a blogging campaign called #Stellenblog. #Stellenblog is an annual weeklong event in which bloggers/social media influencers from around South Africa and the world go to Stellenbosch — a university town outside Cape Town that is the center of South Africa’s wine industry — and hang around eating/drinking/having fun. The #Stellenblog crew, clockwise from top left: Fhatuwani, Trudy, Samuel (doing his best to hide), Lauren, Becki, Vuyo, me, and Audrey. Not shown: Ongama, Dawid, and Mark. Sounds like a tough job, right? Okay, I lie. Drinking/eating/having fun is not tough at all, especially not in Stellenbosch. If you go to Stellenbosch, on someone else’s dime, and don’t drink/eat/fun yourself to within an inch of your life, then there is probably something seriously wrong with you. Like maybe you don’t have taste buds. Or your heart is made of stone. So last week wasn’t hard. But the hard part of this job comes now, as I wade through more than 3000 photos and try to figure out how to tell the story of #Stellenblog. I will start with the view. Stellenbosch is drop-dead gorgeous, especially in the fall when the grape vines and grass and leaves […]

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10 New Discoveries in Soweto

As mentioned previously, I spent 72 hours in Soweto as part of a campaign promoting the Soweto Wine Festival. It was an epic journey. Before this trip I thought I knew Soweto, kind of. I’d been there a lot, doing a lot of different things. But #72HrsSoweto held many surprises. Almost everything we did over the course of the weekend was new (or at least partially new) to me. Here are ten new things I did during our #72hrsSoweto weekend. 1) The Soweto Hotel The Soweto Hotel, the only 4-star hotel in Soweto, is on Walter Sisulu Square in Kliptown. If this hotel were anywhere else it would feel like any Holiday Inn. But the Soweto Hotel’s location makes it special. Kliptown is the oldest and most historic township in Soweto, and still one of the most disadvantaged. There’s a bustling market right below the hotel that provides excellent people-watching, as well as a monument and museum honoring the Freedom Charter. Staying there is an experience. My room at the Soweto Hotel. Sunset over Kliptown, from my balcony at the Soweto Hotel. 2) The Soweto Wine Festival I’d been hearing about the Soweto Wine Festival for years, but it had never occurred to me to go because […]

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72 Hours in Soweto

Like many newcomers, Vilakazi Street in Soweto was the first real tourist attraction I visited upon moving to Joburg. Here is the blog post I wrote about that visit, just a week after I arrived. (I’m a little embarrassed by the pictures and the words — I’ve come a long way since then.) Soweto — which is technically part of Joburg but really a city-state unto itself — is a legendary place, with a population larger than many small countries and a larger-then-life history to match. I live 20 minutes from Soweto and have been there many times over the years. I’ve done walking and cycling tours in Soweto. I’ve gone to concerts and art exhibitions in Soweto. I’ve participated in numerous instawalks in Soweto. I’ve done photography jobs and charity events, run races, and visited doll factories in Soweto. But I’ve never spent the night. So when I received an invite to be part of a social media campaign for the Soweto Wine Festival, I jumped on board. The festival is this weekend and I’ll be spending three full days sipping wine and participating in all kinds of exciting Soweto-based activities. The best thing about this weekend is that I get to stay […]

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