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Report 2042: Early Summer in the Western Cape, South Africa

By Panda from UK, Summer 2012

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Page 6 of 12: Stellenbosch and Franschhoek

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Our terrace at the Auberge Chanteclair

The next day, we took the road back out towards the airport, heading east past the long sprawls of the townships of the Cape Flats .The townships vary from the neat and well cared with paved roads and street lighting to hastily constructed illegal shanty dwellings in very inhospitable places, almost on the airport runways or right by the busy roads. Whilst we were there, we read of at least three bad fires that had broken out in what are termed informal settlements; it was easy to see how fire would spread very quickly. When we turned north the landscape changed from flat and featureless to much greener and prettier as we began to climb up towards the mountains.

We reached Stellenbosch in time for lunch, and first enjoyed a stroll around this major centre of wine making. It is an attractive and affluent town, with the population boosted in term time by the students at the Afrikaner speaking Stellenbosch University. The town information office has a separate office devoted to arranging wine tours and tastings of the Winelands region and useful free maps.

We enjoyed a salad lunch at one of the many cafes and restaurants in the centre, listening to (but not understanding) the conversations going on around us in Afrikaans ; we had noted that English or one of the many other national tribal languages was more prevalent in Cape Town itself.

After lunch, we passed the entrance to a small museum which did not look very promising, but the guidebook mentioned domestic interiors, so I wanted to have a look. We were both pleased we did – the Stellenbosch Village Museum turned out to be rather more than just a house, but six authentic town dwellings throughout the ages since settlement, with period dressed room stewards explaining details of the settler and then civic life. After house three we wondered where to go, then realized we had to cross the town road to four and five and back again for five!

Our journey then continued out of Stellenbosch, climbing steadily upwards towards the head of the Franschhoek valley, and passing many large wine estates and fruit farms on the way. Turning downwards again into Franschhoek, we could see the valley laid out in front of us. My particular pleasure as we drove down into the valley was in seeing some of the accommodations that had been on my shortlist, and why I had been right to reject them! Our accommodation, the Auberge Chanteclair, was on the other side of the valley which we located after a brief argument with the previously accurate GPS.

The Auberge is a guesthouse with six rooms, set just outside town, with a private vineyard (i.e., not open for tastings or tours to non-residents). We were delighted with the setting and colonial farmhouse style of the property, managed by the friendly hosts, Linda and Bruce. Franschhoek. The area was originally settled by Huguenots, and this is reflected in the prevalence of French names for properties and businesses in the valley. There is a large memorial to the Huguenots at the end of the main road through the town. With a large number of excellent restaurants the small town has become a magnet for international and domestic food and wine pilgrims and a popular choice for weddings and weekend breaks for Cape Towners.

It was still quite hot when we arrived, so we settled straight down to a swim in the pool and relaxation on the comfortable loungers then a stroll round the lovely grounds of the Auberge. As with the majority of the guest house establishments in the valley, they only provide breakfast, so Linda had provided a pile of menus for some of the restaurants in the village for our information. After the substantial lunch in Stellenbosch, we only wanted something simple for dinner so drove the short distance back to the centre of the village and settled on a straightforward dinner at the Café Traumerie of steak and salad before retiring for a comfortable and very peaceful night’s sleep.

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