Friday, January 02, 2009

Egoli vs. Cape Town

For Christmas we felt the need to abandon the super duper secure compound we call home and flee to the city we had heard so many good things about. Not a bad choice either, Cape Town is amazing and for a short while had me hoping that's where we were making our lives happen instead of the financial and industrial capital of South Africa, Johannesburg.

We had chosen to stay at the Waterfront, the revamped harbor area, at a hotel built into one of the old harbor buildings, and all I have to say is that boutique hotels are totally my thing, regardless of country. Still the Waterfront, the hotel, the awesome restaurants and cafes, those all pale in comparison to how we spent our Christmas in Cape Town.

After hearing about our vacation plans, our friends in Joburg, who originally come from Cape Town (we are yet to meet any people who were actually born in Jozi), immediately planned our four days for us. And on top of that they were in the mother city at the same time with us. This is where our European - and we both come from reaally small and in many ways reaally closed European societies - psyches came into play, and were truly taken by surprise. 

On our arrival we were picked up at the airport and whisked away, via a scenic route and one Table-Mountain-from-the-back photo op stop, to a family Christmas eve lunch at a cozy family restaurant, where our friends had three tables reserved for all of the relatives (and us). Many plates of awesome seafood and multiple glasses of Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc (a lovely quaffer, I'm sure Platter's would say), not to mention a drinking game, later we were finally delivered at our hotel to check in. In our 'Christmassed out' state (in a very good way) all we could do that night was to visit the recommended Waterfront restaurant, Belthazar. Glad we did, they boast 178 different wines by the glass. All of them pretty amazing, and naturally South African. 

Next morning, after having breakfast looking out over the water at Table Mountain, we had a little time to tour the exciting waterfront (and get a wheat grass shot for the slight hang over - I had to try more than one wine at Belthazar) before we were again picked up by our lovely and extremely hospitable friends for the official Christmas Lunch. I never knew having Christmas by the pool drinking local sparkling wine (everyone here calls it champagne, but being European I have to respect the rules), while kids are jumping in and out of the pool, could be so much fun. We are glad to have witnessed something real instead of having to settle only for the touristy thing. This was also the first time ever I tasted gammon (and still don't know exactly what it is) and flaming Christmas pudding with custard. Good times.

As much fun as Christmas eve and day were more was still to come. Early next morning we started on our real mission - the wine route. If this blog was entirely about wines this post would have been miles long. Our first stop was Delheim, where we took the tour of the vineyard, tasted about nine glasses of manna (except for the icky sweet rosé), and ended up with three boxes of wine in the trunk of the car. Amazingly these bottles are still uncorked and will be going on my (so far only planned, not executed) wine rack/ aging thingy once I get it standing. I can recommend the Delheim Grand Reserve and their Vera Cruz range shiraz and remind everyone that if you plan on tasting nine glasses of wine, and are unable as me and my friends are, to spit out this precious liquid, you should get the undoubtedly tasty Delheim cheese platter to avoid getting thoroughly sloshed at your first stop. This is, of course me telling you this after the fact and you can imagine what really happened...

Our next stop was Kanonkop. According to Platter's Wines of South Africa, this winery is the winery of the year and also produced the wine of the year, Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 2004. Needless to say their (slightly pathetic and very overpriced) cheese platter came too late for us, but we still tasted four more or less amazing reds. The wine of the year was sold out (I have since managed to get hold of four bottles, still uncorked, will report later), but we tasted the 2005 equivalent. Fruity, yet personally I wasn't that excited.

In our search for something more to eat (and naturally also to drink) we drove down to Spier. I have to admit their wines have generally been good, but, man, what a circus that place is. We parked the car, walked to the restaurant, saw the queues and the masses, ran right back to the car, and sped away. Too touristy is just too touristy. I have later learned that Spier is the most visited tourist attraction in South Africa. I sure do believe that.

At three in the afternoon, after having consumed 13 glasses of wine (except for our poor, water- drinking, designated driver, my husband) we had still found nothing more to eat than the cheese at Kanonkop. We saw signs by the roadside (never a good thing) and decided to visit Asara. What a surprise! Their restaurant was amazing, the setting incredible and the view left me at a loss for words. Their wines weren't that exciting, but next time I'm in Cape Town this is the place I want to stay at. I'm sure the price is not the most affordable, but based on our visit I'm pretty sure it would be worth it. 

I never imagined being this interested in wines, apart from how much alcohol was in them, and how much they cost me, but South Africa might just make a wine aficionado of me yet. As lovely as Cape Town was, with its Waterfront, Camps bay, Hout Bay, Muizenberg, Table Mountain, District Six and so much more, my best memories are of our deeply South African Christmas with our cool friends, as well as touring the wine route with them. I'm happy our friends are here in Jozi on the same estate as us, but I can't help wondering whether vines really can't survive around Joburg. All I'm asking is for a couple of vinyards in Egoli, not even for that many. 

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