Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Rain in Stellenbosch

I have a good view from the train to Stellenbosch, unlike last time. Have they cleaned the windows? Don’t be silly, it’s just that I don’t have any glass in the frame in this seat. Free air-con and good views!

In Stellenbosch, I walk through town to the Banghoek Hostel, a sedate relative of the Stumble Inn party place. Takes about three quarters of hour in the warm sunshine.

All the buildings in the centre are painted white. There’s lots of green about.

The girls running the hostel seem really nice, and I get a whole dorm room to myself, which is probably just as well as the bathroom to this dorm has large transparent strips around the frosty glass! I’d be embarrassed with a girlfriend in here, let alone strangers! After chatting for a bit to a nice German couple, I head out for some art, first to the Sasol Art Museum, part of the University, which has mostly unexciting pieces by local artists, and a photo exhibition from a China trip by a local, then to the Stellenbosch Art Gallery, a commercial place.

Lunch I enjoy at the Wijnhuis (Wine House),

which in addition to having excellent food (I have the Kabeljou, which is the catch of the day), has an extensive selection of wines. I have their taster – three whites and three reds, provided with tasting notes.

Satisfied and happy, it’s “smac” next, the new contemporary art space in town. It has an interesting exhibition of photos, staged or otherwise, which are amusing or thought-provoking in various ways, you know the stuff – homeless person sleeping under billboards advertising the latest in luxurious beds, people picknicking right next to a written off Mercedes etc.

Not far away I find a strange shop, Oom Samie se Winkel, which apparently pre-dates Stellenbosch itself!

Oom means Uncle, hence the name of the Jazz club next door:

Next door is the De Akker Pub, the old man’s pub of the town. I grab a pint of Hansa’s Marzen Gold and a bench. Very pleasant.

On the way home, from the supermarket I pick up a bottle of Jordan Merlot Cab Sauvignon, it’s okay, a bit peppery considering it’s a blend. I enjoy it back at the hostel before heading out looking for dinner at Col’Cacchio, which is closed. After a terrible experience trying a Chinese place, I end up at Roman Pizza, a take-away which only does pizzas in pairs! Well what can you do?!

Raining again in Stellenbosch!

I wake up with it raining heavily, so much so that it’s bouncing off the floor and hitting me in bed! No cycling today then! Instead I wander out to Mung and Bean, a local café chain, and try their Eggs Benedict, which is not that impressive, but does the job. I order a cappuccino extra dry. They ignore my request, but give me an extra cup of foam to make up for it. Strange.

After some internet, the weather seems to have improved, so I walk out of town to Middlevlei Winery, who have cropped up a few times, at La Pineta and in the wine taster at Wijnhuis.

It’s a nice walk, especially with Craft Beer Radio back on the mp3 player!

Like many wineries, Middlevlei occupies a beautiful spot on rolling hills, with a small lake created by a dam, and old rustic farmhouse buildings.

Inside it’s empty, but the very friendly Jean pops up and asks me if I’d like to taste some of their wines. I would!

So I try their reds as her small dog, Peanut, potters about. The last I try is their Cab Sauvignon which is especially nice, so I pick up a bottle for later perusal. Anyway, they’re a family run business, and I strongly recommend them to you. Middlevlei!

Back in town, after a stretch at always-busy Java café, I head home, where I am corrupted into drinking several beers by the reception girls, Jeanne and Anne, who are sisters. We end up going put to a bar next to Bohemia in town, which apparently full of famous SA people. Means nothing to me! After a drink, we move on to De Akker, which at night is not the quiet refined old-man’s pub I love during the day, instead being packed and a bit rowdy. Anne points out that it’s infested with cockroaches, also not adding to my love for the place.

When a fight almost brakes out, we leave, and I walk girls the home before heading home myself via the dodgy dive of the Springbok Bar, and a pie from the petrol station.

In the morning it’s raining yet again, so breakfast is bananas and biltong, washed down with a cup of tea! Anne is downstairs having started at 7am. She’s looking surprisingly awake considering! I head into town to her tipped brunch spot, Beads bistro, where I have a nice glass of local Chardonnay with a plate full of smoked salmon linguine.

Dessert nearby at Lucca de Gelati, consisting of a cone of their scrumptious extra dark chocolate and cappuccino ice cream.

At Snow Café, my internet shop of choice, I spend ages updating this as usual, and phone home. Then back to Java for a feta and crispy bacon salad and their range of red wines by the glass. I must escape this town soon, too many naughty temptations!

In Summary: South African Wineries
Well, because of the weather I haven’t sampled as many as I would have liked to, but these are the ones I’ve been to:

Also tipped by Gerhard and others are the following:
Kaapzicht (Stettler)
JC Le Roux (Bubbly)
Lord Neethrut?
De Trafford
Ernie Els
Rust en Vrede
JP Bredell

Furthermore I have tried the following:
Cape Bay, Hermanus

I haven’t had any bad wines, so I’d say they’re all ones to look out for in the supermarket. Of course, as I learnt in New Zealand, the people are as important as the wine, and Hartenberg, Villiera and Mittelvlei were all especially friendly.

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