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wineryfarview

Hidden Valley Winery from up on the hill walk

vineyards

Some of Hidden valley’s vineyards

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Some of the olive trees

On our last trip to South Africa we were lucky enough to visit a number of wineries we’d never been to before (see Idiom Winery here https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2019/04/01/idiom-lunch-with-a-stunning-view/).

Hidden Valley was another one. We’d driven past the entrance many times before on our way up to the end of the road at Uva Mira Winery, but never got around to stopping. Thank goodness our sister-in-law, who lives in the area, decided this was a good lunch place, as it’s another gem, in a stunning location.

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Winery buildings from The Deck

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The lake

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Path along the lake to The Deck

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The Deck from the path

This winery is high up on the Stellenbosch Helderberg, just below Uva Mira Winery. After driving up the steep entrance road, you park and then can choose to either walk up the ramp to the large modern tasting room and the fancy Overture Restaurant (reservations and many $$ required!), or take the path along the edge of a small lake, surrounded by lovely indigenous gardens, to The Deck. We chose the latter.

The Deck, a casual eating place, is a floating deck on the lake. The view up to the mountains and the vineyards is spectacular, and it’s an unusual experience to eat and enjoy a bottle of wine while rocking ever so slightly on the water. We had a burger and wine—seems like a strange combination but it worked.

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Us on The Deck

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The Deck and lake from hill walk

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Classic Fragment (Face)

Along the path we passed two large bronze outdoor sculptures; one a face (called Classic Fragment) that has become the icon of Hidden Valley and is now on most of the wine labels; the other is called Ramona, an attractive young female figure. These pieces are only some of the “hidden” gems that one can find around the farm. The same bronze face, just smaller, greets visitors as they walk up the ramp to the tasting room. We also found a gorgeous big cat in a slivery metal (we think a Cape leopard, but there was no identifying plaque) near a parking lot above Overture Restaurant.

 

 

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Ramona

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Wine label (stuck in my travel notebook)

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I pose with a smaller Classic Fragment

You can take a walk on a circular loop from The Deck up the hill behind, winding through the fynbos, past some of the estate’s vineyards and olive groves, getting a great overview of the estate and across to the mountains. Rod did it while I sat with our sisters-in-law and just enjoyed being on the deck.

In 2015, banker Riaan Stassen (who has been involved with wine for many years) became the new owner of Hidden Valley and oversaw numerous new projects and upgrades. The cellar is still surrounded by vineyards, olive groves, almond orchards, and gorgeous fynbos gardens, but there is now a sculpture studio run by sculptor local Willie Botha

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What we think is a Cape leopard

(1958-), and some luxury accommodation next to the Overture Restaurant.

To get to Hidden Valley, take the R44 towards Stellenbosch. At Mooiberg Farm, turn right into Annandale Road, which is quite narrow. It splits after a little bit, so follow the road up, past Guardian Peak, towards Uva Mira. An even narrower road turns off that, and winds upwards.

 

 

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View from a pier

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Lots of people having fun

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Note the colorful chairs

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Looking down to Lake Mendota from Union Terrace

Union Terrace

This summer we spent some time in Wisconsin, first in Madison for a conference (and some extra days) and then in Spring Green, mainly to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Talliesin.

It was my first visit to both cities and it was fun exploring and getting to know new places.

Madison, the capital of Wisconsin, has the University of Wisconsin-Madison, so it is a very dynamic city with a huge variety of eating places and things to do. It grew up on a spit of land between Lake Mendota and Lake Monona and then spread all around the lakes. The Capitol is on a slight rise in the center of the spit and dominates that part of the city (more later). The city is also well known for buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright. But, another dominant part of the city is the university campus.

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We enjoyed a glass of wine

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There are also a few big chairs, which people like to sit on for photos

Something that really impressed us is how accessible and welcoming to the general public some parts of campus are. Of particular note is the Memorial Union Terrace, next to the Alumni Park on the edge of campus close to State Street, which leads to the Capitol. It’s university property but open to the public, and the public sure does flock here.

The Terrace overlooks Lake Mendota and is a sprawling place on many levels. Signature circular metal tables and chairs, with sun-burst design in many bright colors, are dotted around and on a summer evening are really busy. So, it’s hard to find a table.

Old people, young students, families with children, people with dogs stroll around or sit and enjoy the lake view with a drink and snack. You can buy beer, wine, pizza, brats, icecream from different stalls outside on the terrace or from places inside the food court. Some kids feed the hopeful ducks on the lake, and many people hire some sort of water craft to take a spin out on the lake.

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edgeAs the sun goes down, more people come and sit on the edge of the lake and a music group is likely to begin playing on the stage set up on the edge. If the weather is good, the sunset view is wonderful.

It’s bustling, lively and noisy but has a great vibe and each time we went there we were impressed again that the university permits such a place—because the U of I certainly doesn’t, and we suspect wouldn’t.

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sunsetview

 

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Rod M and Mike S look at an elephant skull

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kidsOne of the things we did in East London was visit the East London Museum, a first for us even though we have visited the city quite often.

This museum is a little old and musty but has a surprising number of exhibits—from WW1 stuff, to stuffed animals and birds, to a stones collection and shells collection, and the famous Coelacanth fish exhibit, all downstairs. Upstairs is African bead and wire work, period furniture and clothing from the colonist times, a section on the local German settlers, and two exhibits on local shipwrecks (the Grosvenor and the Oceanos).

Actually quite interesting and more than you can take in in one visit. It’s popular with groups of local school kids, who seemed quite excited to be there.

carHere I’ll highlight 2 small special exhibits that we found interesting; Wirework and Shweshwe cloth. Later, I’ll cover the story of the famous Coelacanth fish.

Wirework

Among Xhosa-speaking people, wire obtained from European traders was traditionally used in the manufacture of items for adornment such as waistbands, bangles, and anklets. More recently wire has been used in a range of creative, alternative ways. These include toys made by children and items made specifically for sale to the tourist market. An example of the latter is the model of the Mercedes Benz car and Venter trailer by Philip Ntliziywana, made of wire and scrap tin, around 1998.

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Another is the Model of a Windmill, made by M Adams of wire and scrap tin, in East London, around 1987.

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Shweshwe cloth bags

Shweshwe cloth is a type of indigo print cloth that is very popular in South Africa. Indigo cloth arrived in South Africa after 1652 when a seaport was established at the Cape of Good Hope. It came mainly from India and Holland and slaves, soldiers, Khoi-san and Dutch women wore indigo cloth and floral printed indigo.

In the 1840s French missionaries gave King Moshoeshoe 1 of Basotholand a gift of indigo printed cloth, which became the favored cloth, a tradition that continues today. That’s how the name Shweshwe cloth came about—from shoeshoe or isishweshwe. It is typically used for traditional ceremonies in the rural areas but has also become fashionable beyond this use. It is used for all kinds of clothing, and for cloth bags, for example, all very popular with locals and tourists. A family member bought a Shweshwe print pinafore for our granddaughter when we visited East London not too long ago—very pretty.

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Red Shweshwe cloth pinafore

Much of this printed fabric, which now comes in other colors including chocolate brown and red, is produced in a plant called Da Gama Textiles near East London.

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Traditional and modern

signThe sign explains: the mannequin on the left has an outfit for a newly-wed Xhosa woman (UMakoti). Each piece has a meaning: The Headscarf/iqhlya is used by a married woman to show respect to her in-laws ad to differentiate herself from single women.

The long skirt/Umbhinqo covers her legs and lower body in a dignified way.

The Apron/Ifaskoti symbolizes the way a dignified wife doesn’t share problems or issues in the marriage or new family. As the apron covers what she wears, so will she cover challenges.

The Blanket/Ixakatho also shows respect to the in-laws.

The mannequin on the right has the Shweshwe dress worn by Zoe Reeve to her graduation party, 2008.

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Margie W at the cafe

 

at lunch

Rod M, Mike S and Margie W at lunch

After a couple of hours in the museum we had lunch at the museum café, aptly named the Coelacanth Café. It was pleasant and the food pretty good. Lots of local folks were there having lunch too, plus some students from the nearby high school, so they must be doing something right!

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Summer view to mountains

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Winter view

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Entrance to the farm stall

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Many creatures on the approach road

MOOIBERGE FARM STALL

This is always a good place to have lunch in the Stellenbosch winelands area as it’s easy to get to, the prices are very reasonable and it’s a lot of fun.

Mooiberge means “pretty mountains” in Afrikaans and the view out here certainly is that, as it’s right below the Helderberg Mountains.

 

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springbok

A Springbok (SA rugby team) and a Wallaby (Australian team)

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A Stormer (Cape rugby team)

On the R44 road between Somerset West and Stellenbosch, this landmark farm stall is hard to miss, as much of the property is “fenced” with a line of colorful art creatures/’sculptures’ (can we call them sculptures?) that the farm calls scarecrows and transportation creations. They are colorful, whimsical, and sometimes naughty scarecrows! Many of them are animals representing various sports teams, both South African and other countries. For many people, Mooiberge is “that farm with the crazy oversupply of scarecrows.” We wondered how it all began and in fact, the menu explains some of the history.

It started off in the 1950s as a farm stall selling strawberries, run by the Zetler family (Samuel and Josie Zetler and 5 sons), who later added sweet peppers too. As the roadside cart grew too small, they built a bricks and mortar stall that blossomed/mushroomed out into what we see today—a colorful, sprawling complex.

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Some of the crafts in the modern farm stall

gooseberries

Cape gooseberries for sale

sauces

What about some Mama Africa’s hot sauce?

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Thirsty Scarecrow play area

Some might say it’s a kitschy produce market-cum-wine shop-cum-market for bottled goods (jams, sauces, olive oils for example), cakes, nuts, biltong, local crafts, wine barrels, fruits and vegetables. But, it’s undoubtedly a lot of fun. We once bought a bottle of wine for R25—one of their advertised specials. They seem to have many of the specials for various airlines.

It’s a great place to take kids in the strawberry season (November-January or February), as the strawberry picking is very popular. There’s a wonderful play area called the Thirsty Scarecrow, which the kids in our group loved on the last visit.

 

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Caroline M, Rod M, and Anthea K enjoy lunch

Over the years we’ve been here many times to eat lunch and it’s always been great. In the winter, there’s obviously no strawberry picking and the rows of plants are all covered in plastic. But, it’s still a great lunch place, as it has a fun atmosphere because of the setting and very good food—a tasty meal, with very generous servings, of fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.

The outside deck where you can sit looks out over the kids play area and across the pepper/strawberry fields to the mountains, the whole view enlivened by the bright, quirky, animals (mostly) sculptures—which in general you’d say don’t fit into this (wine) environment, and yet they’ve become a local fixture and a tourist feature and attraction.

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Miss E at entrance to Farmers Kitchen

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One of their delicious salads

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Rod M has the lamb burger

The restaurant is called the Farmer’s Kitchen, which re-opened in September 2011 after new owner Kelly Zetler revamped it, to “French colonial meets rustic countryside comfort”. Its hours are 8:30am-5pm, and they specialize in breakfast, snack meals and lunch, with many dishes featuring strawberries in season.

At different times over the years, members of our party have tried many items on the menu. Some of the favorites are a huge lamb burger with Greek-style cucumber-yoghurt sauce; an avocado and chicken wrap; a bacon, brie and walnut pizza, served with salad; a parma ham and fresh fig salad; and a fresh salad with pomegranate and goat cheese. They also have very good meat and cheese platters. The house wine is Du Toitskloof sauvignon blanc and there is also beer, hard cider and all kinds of cold and hot drinks.

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Another great salad

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We look down at rugby player scarecrows from the restaurant

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More creatures

Also in the Mooiberge complex is the Thirsty Scarecrow Bistro-Pub, open Mon-Sun 11am-11:30pm.

Mooiberge the Farm Stall is open Mon-Sun 8:30am-6pm.

This should definitely be on the list for anyone visiting the Cape Town and Stellenbosch winelands.

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Mooiberge’s first tractor

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chairVrijthof’s Carnival Theme

One side of Maastricht’s huge Vrijthof Square is lined with lovely old buildings, now cafes, bars and brasseries. One, roughly in the middle, is a bit more ornate than the others. It’s the Grand Café Momus and it used to be the Carnival Hall. Their logo is still a carnival mask, which features on the chairs and menu.

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RodtableWhy Momus? And what’s the significance of 11, which we see on menus and signs? Momus is named after the Greek god of lunacy/craziness/jesting. The Momus on Vrijthof used to be the Carnival Hall and has a sculpted jester on the façade. There was a Carnival Council of Eleven, nearby cafes had a breadth of 11 meters, and 11 was the number of the Lunacy god. The “season of lunacy” officially starts on November 11th, but actual carnival is just before Lent.

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During carnival people really dress up and bands parade around. You’ll see all kinds of amazing costumes, and beer and jenever flow freely. Even the salted herring sellers might be costumed (traditional carnival fare). All a lot of fun, I’m sure.

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Fish dish

One night we decided to eat at the Grand Café Momus at Vrijthof 8. It is a grand old building on the square and their décor with purple is very pretty. Tables are attractively set and it has an inviting air. Their logo, on everything, is a masked person, because of the link to the name Momus and to carnival.

Service was friendly and they brought snacks with the wine (olives and a

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Tapas plate

kind of garlic-cheese spread on soft toasts), but sadly the food was rather ordinary—it looked much nicer than it actually tasted. I had cod and another small whole fish on a kind of curry sauce with a few purple potato chips and a dish of curly fries. Rod’s tapas dish was okay—spicy spare ribs, chicken skewer, 3 fried calamari rings, a small bowl of olives, a small bowl of tuna/anchovy/red onion, and fries. Not really what we expected for tapas! The food wasn’t bad, just rather unimaginative, and my fish a bit dry.

So, sorry Momus, but I don’t think we would return, not to eat anyway. Perhaps to relax with a beer or a glass of wine.

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smallsquareAs I mentioned in the previous post (on the OLV Square), Maastricht has many squares, mostly fairly small, sometimes just a widening of a street. The Vrijthof is huge and comes as a bit of a surprise when you first see it (I’ll write about that next). Whatever the size, they are all well used by bars, cafes, restaurants, and will be dotted with tables and chairs, some with umbrellas. As with most European cities, it’s any excuse (and space) to get people together, socializing, and preferably outdoors.

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The Vrijthof (main square)

diffsquareHere are a few pictures of some of the squares we came across as we wandered around the city.

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OLV Basilica

OLV Plein—Onze Lieve Vrouwe Plein (Square)

Maastricht has many squares, the largest and most important being the Vrijthof (see a few pics of squares in the next post). Many are very small, hardly more than a slight widening of the street. This one is somewhere in between. It’s in front of Onze Lieve Vrouwe Kerk (Basilica of Our Lady), a towering building from 1000 AD that looks like a fortress in a way.

 

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The restaurants are along the street (far right) and all have tables outside in the square too

The square is lovely, as it is full of trees, making it very pretty, green and leafy, and giving it an almost Mediterranean atmosphere. It’s a superb setting for the cafes and brasseries that line the street alongside it, with their tables and chairs set out under the trees. Pick your café, depending on the color and style of the cloths and chairs (and depending on the menu, of course).

Because it’s smaller than Vritjhof and greener, it seems nicer in some ways, and is certainly more peaceful and has less motor traffic on the road between the line of cafes and the square.

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Our table at Charlemagne

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The delicious asparagus salad

One day we had lunch here at Charlemagne (OLV plein 24), which was great. We sat in the shade right next to the church, and had their special asparagus salad, with bread, and a glass of sauvignon blanc, followed by a double espresso. Service was friendly and good—the wait staff run in and out of the restaurant and its kitchen on the edge of the square.

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Enjoying the afternoon sunshine

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At Lanteern—if you look closely you’ll see me at a table on the far left

We enjoyed the more intimate atmosphere of this square again on two evenings when we ate at Lanteern, right next to Charlemagne (at OLV plein 26). We didn’t sit under the trees, but at the tables outside under the awnings against the building, slightly more protected in the evening when it was a bit cool, and in fact the heaters came on, so we were outside but warm. Plus we could more easily people-watch—coming and going to the tables, walking along the street, and the wait staff scurrying in and out.

One evening Rod had a varkenhaasje camembert (varkenhaasje is a pork

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Our meal at Lanteern

tenderloin) and I had gebakken slibtongetjes (some kind of baked whole white fish). Both with plenty of fries (a Dutch staple) and a salad—served with twists of orange and slices of starfruit. With a bottle of rose wine, the total cost was only 46.80 euros. The food was good, and plenty filling.

The second night Rod had the same, as he said it was so good, but I tried a salmon (zalm) filet, and we had a bottle of sauvignon blanc, all for the same price.

We were very satisfied with the whole experience in both cafes, and would happily return.

 

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