Lourensford Wine Estate, nicknamed “Jewel of the Cape Winelands

One of our favorite Wine Estates, and very accessible

Founded in 1700, this lovely estate lies just below the Helderberg Mountains on the


Slave bell

outskirts of the town of Somerset West (but is listed under the Stellenbosch wine route). It was once part of Adriaan van der Stel’s Vergelegen Estate nearby, so it’s steeped in history and heritage but nowadays it also uses ultra-modern wine technology. One of the historical pieces is the old Slave Bell, used in the past to summon the slaves when needed.



Saying hallo to a Cape buffalo


A metal horse


Vine art

Lourensford has extensive, beautifully-tended gardens and a number of whimsical outdoor sculptures (some made of metal, some of huge old vines), all with the backdrop of mountains. It’s gorgeously “Cape”—in fact, I’ve almost never seen other wine areas anywhere else in the world that look quite as lovely as this. Some are more dramatic (Switzerland), others vaster (France), others on rivers (France, Germany). Maybe it’s the combination of setting and the Cape-Dutch architecture—green nature and white buildings. Whatever it is, it’s beautiful and a great place to relax, soak in the outdoors, enjoy a tasty meal and taste world-class wines.

Lourensford is a very large estate that offers a lot for the visitor. There’s the Tasting Room with a mini cellar tour; the Millhouse Restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating and a kids’ playground; a shop, a pottery shop, an art gallery and a coffee roasting company, which is a whole other tasting experience. Plus, there are trails and walks through the vines and up into the foothills (there are a couple of known leopards there)—in addition to rambling the Estate’s own gardens and emerald green lawns. They also cater for events—our nephew got married here and said the Estate people were pleasant to deal with.



Coffee Roasting Company

coffeesignIt’s well worth a visit and we suggest you allocate many hours, as each part of the visit is very leisurely—don’t try to be in a rush.

Besides wine tasting, and eating in the restaurant (see next post), you should definitely visit the Coffee Roasting Company (open daily 9-5). They roast on site, giving the room that warm, smokey aroma of ground coffee. It sells coffee beans to go, as well as being a small café, with some pastries, and a few gift items, like teas, coffees, chocolates, preserves, a few souvenirs, and sometimes a lovely series of kids’ books called “In the Land of Kachoo”, about African animals.


One family group


Another family group


Inside the Coffee Roasting Company

Many local people come to the Coffee Roasting Company just for the coffee, to buy bags of coffee specially roasted to go, or to sip and savor coffee in the sun under a vine trellis or other fruit trees. That’s what we did late one March, and it was a lovely outing for our multi-generational group. We did the same again this June.

There’s the Harvest Market on Sundays too.

The winelands have many markets and


Lourensford hosts theirs on a Sunday from 9am to 3pm. It has a rustic setting at the edge of the lawns, where they’ve set up a set of wooden stands with a permanent roof structure, making it an all-weather market. You can find many different items—-from delicious foods like Lebanese hummus, to real Ginger Beer and fresh eggs, to colored glassware and aromatic coffees. Of course you can enjoy the Lourensford Wine, as well as the new Beer—ABRU—made on the premises by the Aleit Hospitality group. Come and relax and enjoy the live music and while away a Sunday in Somerset West.


Coffee etc for sale

The estate is open daily and entrance into the grounds is free.




African Cotton Thread Art


These ear-rings are exquisite little works of art

2closerSouth African artists are well-known for making wonderful arts and crafts, some of the most famous probably being beautiful batik prints with African scenes and really intricate pieces (often animals) done in colorful beadwork. And of course, very life-like carvings of Africa’s wildlife animals and people’s faces in wood or stone.

Another pretty craft I’ve discovered in recent years is pin thread art, also called pin thread sculpture, and if you look closely you can see why—some of the pieces do look almost three-dimensional. This special technique is used mainly in jewellery, especially in ear-rings and pendants, and we see an amazing array of colors, sizes and geometric contours. The founder of this special art form is Aaron Ndaba, and his family—wonderfully creative, I’d say.

You can find these pieces at many African curio shops, notably “Out of Africa” (there’s a large branch at O.Tambo Airport in Johannesburg). I love the ear-rings and try to find a couple of new pairs each time we return to visit South Africa.



Abby the giraffe approaches


Holding the bucket of corn/maize


Giraffe candy!

Feeding a Giraffe in South Africa

This event made me think of the classic children’s book “If you feed a moose a muffin”. So…”If you give a giraffe a gift of corn”.

Only 23 km east of East London city center in South Africa is an unexpected surprise for the kids and for wild animal lovers—a small nature reserve called Areena. Areena is billed as a Riverside Resort, on the banks of the Kwelera tidal river. There are a variety of accommodations, a restaurant and pub, and all kinds of adventure activities (river cruises, kayak trails, mountain biking, abseiling, archery, horse-riding, zip-lines etc).



But what drew our hosts, Mike and Margie, to Areena were the wild animals—-wildebees, zebra, impala, ostrich. And especially the giraffe. The reserve has three giraffe and one is particularly tame as he was hand-reared because his mother was shot. They told us that it’s hard to tell the gender when giraffes are babies. They thought this baby was a female and named her Abby, but turned out she was a he!

At certain times of day a game ranger finds Abby


and brings him to a big open paddock and people can pay to have a Giraffe Experience. Our granddaughter (aged 6) was ecstatic to have this unusual opportunity to pat and feed a giraffe. Matthew the ranger helped her feed Abbey a bucket of dried maize (corn) kernels—giraffe candy! She was then able to stand on the fence and pat Abby. The rest of our party was pretty happy to have this experience too!

What a special adventure!


An almost giraffe “kiss”

South African Cow Parade

IMG_3973I’ve written about various animal parades before and the colorful fiber-glass creatures dotted around different cities—see here https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/animals-on-parade/ .

So, we were very interested to find one at Gateway Shopping Mall in Umhlanga Rocks in IMG_3974South Africa. Umhlanga Rocks is on the Natal coast just north of Durban and is in Kwa Zulu Natal Province. This cow is from a collection Cow Parade South Africa that was held in aid of the Childhood Cancer Foundation. This colorful cow has a very clever name: KowZuluNatal, a play on Kwa Zulu Natal, and is decorated with themes and icons from Kwa Zulu Natal.

The artist is Sibulele Mtshabe, and the cow was sponsored by The Scoin Shop and the SA Gold Coin Exchange.




facadecloserColumbia Restaurant—An Ybor City Institution

Great Food and Gorgeous Hand-Painted Tiles

The original Columbia Restaurant, founded in 1905, is the oldest and largest Spanish restaurant in the USA, and the oldest continuously-operated restaurant in Florida. It was opened as a café for cigar-makers by Casimiro Hernandez, Snr. When he died in 1930, his son Casimiro Hernandz Jnr inherited it and built it up. The restaurant has always been under the management of the founding family and is now in the fifth generation.

The Columbia is a definite feature in Ybor City, known not only for great food but also for art work in every room, notably tiles, fountains, sculptures and stained glass. It also helped popularize Spain’s cuisine in America, and through the years has played host to celebrities and world figures. In 1972, Ybor City obtained the first charter of the Krewe of the Knights of Sant’ Yago, which is devoted to preserving Latin traditions in Tampa. Columbia Restaurant is Krewe headquarters.


St Columba story in tiles


tilesIn more recent times, Cuban dishes have also been added to the menu.

What immediately catches your eye is the gorgeous tile work on the exterior, beautiful panels telling different stories. We noted Saint Columba (is the restaurant name inspired from this?), and Don Quixote. These are hand-painted tiles from Seville. They were placed in the 1970s when third generation owners Cesar and Adela Gonzmart vacationed in Seville, Spain and fell in love with the colorful tiles there.



Part of the Don Quixote story

There’s also a Don Quixote Room inside depicting the windmill-tilting character of Cervantes’ classic novel. Second-generation owner Casimiro Hernandez, Jnr began his collection of Quixote-themed art in the 1930s with tiles from Cuba, Spain and Mexico.

This original restaurant is huge, with around 1700 seats in 15 rooms, taking up an entire city block. The restaurant now has 7 locations in Florida, including St Augustine, Celebration, Tampa Riverwalk, and Tampa International Airport.


Don Quixote and the windmill



St Augustine Columbia Restaurant

We didn’t eat at this Columbia Restaurant, but some years ago a friend took us to the one in St Augustine, which was very good, also with lovely tiled walls inside. But, our friend waxed eloquent about the flagship restaurant in Ybor City, and swore that nothing could beat that. Food is excellent and the whole place is very well run. Sometimes they have performances of Flamenco dancing.

The various Columbia restaurants get good reviews on Yelp and Trip Advisor, which mostly feel the original one is the best.


Inside Columbia Restaurant in St Augustine


Great food (St Augustine)


The sangria was delightful

Look at their excellent web site—-for history, locations, events etc.




memorialThe 9/11 Fallen Heroes Memorial

There’s more in Ybor City than we realized. An unexpected find: another memorial to that fateful day, and a symbol of courage, healing and hope.

This memorial was unveiled September 11, 2014 by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office at the Hillsborough Sheriff’s operations center in Ybor City.

The sculpture titled “Fearless Champions” represents and pays tribute to the first responders and survivors of that fateful day. It is by artist Becky Ault. The figures of firefighters, police and civilians are life size, and made from stainless steel. The centerpiece of the memorial is a steel beam recovered from wreckage of the World Trade Center. The Tower 2 memorial has the text: ‘In Memory of World Trade Center 2

One might wonder why this memorial is here in this city. Probably it’s because of the following two people.memorail2

Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Capt. Brian Muldowney was present when the memorial was unveiled. Muldowney’s brother, a New York City firefighter, died in the line of duty on 9/11.

Retired Navy Capt. Jeff Cathey spoke at the opening. Cathey served in the U.S. Navy for 29 years. He also worked in Washington in the Secretary of Defense’s office. Cathey was raised in Tampa, played football at the University of Tampa and received a degree from the University of South Florida.

The memorial is located near the junction of E. Eighth Ave and 20th Street, Hillsborough Sheriff’s operations center in Ybor City, Tampa, Florida.


chickencrowingWe found Ybor City, Florida, really interesting for 4 main things: the old cigar stores and stories; the Columbia Restaurant; the World Trade Center Memorial; and a fairly large population of feral chickens (which is what Rod was looking for there as part of some research).

Ybor City is a historic neighborhood in Tampa, Florida, just northeast of down town. It was founded in the 1880s by cigar manufacturers, and is named after Vicente Martinez Ybor. Ybor was a Spanish-born cigar manufacturer, who moved his operation from Cuba, to Key West, to near Tampa. Thousands of immigrants, mainly from Cuba, Spain and Italy, came to live in this area, many as cigar workers. For the next 50 or so years, workers in Ybor City’s cigar factories rolled millions of cigars each year. It was an unusual immigrant community in southern US at that time because of its multi-ethnic and multi-racial population.


cigar2Another historical tidbit: A plaque tells us that the Rough Riders rode by here in 1898. “The intersection of Seventh Avenue and Twenty-second Street was a sandy cross-road connecting three army encampments in the Ybor City area during the Spanish-American War. At this cross-road was a water-trough where the Rough Riders watered their mounts. Col. “Teddy” Roosevelt frequently rode by here on his horse “Texas” followed by his little dog “Cuba”.”


Lions Club

A plaque at Columbia Restaurant explains the involvement of the Lions Club

During the Great Depression a slow exodus out of the area began and became worse after WW2, leading to a time of abandonment and decay. From the early 2000s, part of the original neighborhood has been redeveloped into a nightclub and entertainment district, with movies, restaurants and shopping opportunities.

The neighborhood has been designated a National Historic Landmark District and a number of structures in the area are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

In 2008, 7th Avenue (the main commercial street in Ybor City) was recognized as one of the “10 Great Streets in America” by the American Planning Association.

In 2010, Columbia Restaurant was named a “Top 50 All-American icon” by Nation’s Restaurant News magazine. Besides serving food, this restaurant has played a large role in the history of Ybor City. For example, it’s the headquarters of the Krewe of the Knights of Sant’ Yago, and the Lions Club of Ybor City was organized and met here.chickensbycar

See next posts for Columbia Restaurant and the World Trade Center Memorial.

How the chickens came about, who knows? But they are very pretty birds.


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