Stellenbosch, a Voyage of Discovery
Words Fiona McIntosh, Pics Shaen Adey
Stellenbosch Wine Routes and Stellenbosch 360 have three exciting winter winelands packages to suit different budgets in their Come Sit, Stay & Savour winter campaign.
It was a weekday afternoon in the middle of winter but the sun was shining. Stylishly wrapped up in jackets, scarves and woolly hats, the locals were sitting out in pavement cafés sipping lattes and swirling Sauvignon Blancs around in elegant glasses. Others sat on benches reading the papers and watching the world go by. It was all very French. Except that I wasn’t in France. I was in Stellenbosch.
It had been a while since I’d had the time just to wander the streets of South Africa’s food and wine capital: to browse the arts and crafts shops, the galleries and the delis. All too often I’ve sped through on my way to the tasting rooms or much-lauded restaurants of the surrounding wine farms, so this was a voyage of discovery.
With its compact historic centre and beautiful architecture, the vibey university town is the perfect size to stroll around. And a range of funky new attractions just made it even better. One of this year’s drawcards is the new outdoor Come Sit exhibition, linked to the Cape Town Design Capital’s theme ‘Live Design. Transform Life.’ which creates art that is accessible to everyone in their everyday lives.
As you stroll the oak-lined streets you come across benches where you can sit and pass the time: not just plain old benches, but thought-provoking artworks. Some are covered with beautiful mosaics, others, more disturbing, have discombobulated marble facial parts encased in the seat.
My favourites are those where I have a companion. I sit barefoot next to a baboon, cracking up with laughter as I try to mimic its dour expression; I commune with a beautiful young woman as we sit under her umbrella and take a pew next to an old man reading his diary, his message a sombre reminder of the need for sustainable living. Then I throw caution to the winds and ride high on the swing, my soul soaring as I relive the carefree days of my childhood.
As the dusk approaches, we move indoors to the cosy cellar at Schoon de Companje for a wine tasting before dinner and the first of our two nights in Devon Valley on the outskirts of the City of Oaks. Tomorrow we’ll visit the Saturday Slow Market then it’s off to Middelvlei to blend our own wine! Somehow we’d hoped to squeeze in a mountain bike ride, a beer at CRAFT, a wine and salt pairing, Van Ryn’s Florentine and Brandy Tasting – and of course a visit to the old stalwart, Oom Samie se Winkel, before leaving on Sunday. Not this time!
But there’s currently a good value winter promotion offering an all-inclusive accommodation, dining and activities package so I hope to be back. There’s just so much to discover in Stellenbosch.
Stellenbosch Wine Routes and Stellenbosch 360 have three exciting winter winelands packages to suit different budgets in their Come Sit, Stay & Savour winter campaign which runs until 30 September. For more info visit http://stellenboschtravel.co.za