Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category



sign2South Africa: Buitenverwachting Winery, 37 Klein Constantia Road, Cape Town

In Afrikaans “buitenverwachting” means “beyond expectations”, and this winery is trying to live up to its name, or even to exceed expectations. It’s part of the Constantia Wine Route (10 wineries are listed: http://constantiawineroute.com/about/).

Our family from the Cape have been to this winery a number of times, so on our last trip to South Africa we all decided we should too, as we were in the vicinity and we were trying to visit as many new (to us) wineries as we could.

We were only at Buitenverwachting for part of an afternoon, but long enough to see a bit of the estate and to do a wine tasting. Long enough to whet our appetite and know that we want to return. It’s another lovely winery, with great wines, a complex of gorgeous Cape Dutch buildings, and spectacular scenery.


The Tasting Room is in that lovely building


gableBit of history and back story:

Constantia is a large area just outside today’s main Cape Town metropolitan area, with farms, vineyards, restaurants and other attractions, including the 10 wineries on the Constantia Wine Route (mentioned above). Simon van der Stel founded Constantia in 1685, also known as Groot Constantia. He was the first governor of the new Dutch colony at the tip of Africa. He chose this particular valley, not only for its beauty but also for the decomposed granite soils on its slopes, gently cooled by ocean breezes. Here he built a house and used the land to produce wine (Constantia’s first wine farm, Groot Constantia), as well as other fruits and vegetables, and for cattle farming. After van der Stel’s death in 1712, the estate was broken up and sold in three parts: Groot Constantia, Klein Constantia and Bergvliet. Groot and Klein Constantia still exist today as lovely wineries.

In 1773 a 200-morgen sub-division (probably about 171 hectares or 422 acres) was sold to a Cornelis Brink and this became, in 1796, what we know as Buitenverwachting today. (A morgen was a unit of land measurement used by Netherlands, Germany and the Dutch colonies in those days).

It’s a beautiful farm on the east-facing slopes of the Constantia Berg (mountain), only vinesabout 12 km from False Bay. Sadly it changed hands rather frequently but still generally did well as a wine farm, partly because of the 90,000 vines planted in 1825 by Ryk Arnoldus Cloete, brother of Hendrik Cloete. Hendrik Cloete, the first winemaker of Groot Constantia, planted new vines to replace the old ones, thus improving the quality of wines from the estate.

The new estate, Buitenverwachting, had many ups and downs over the years until recently.


The Tasting Room looks out on a big lawn with a huge old Norfolk Pine tree

Richard and Christine Mueller bought this historic property in the 1980s, with a view to restoring its fortunes. Their team seem to have done a good job, as Buitenverwachting has helped to re-establish this area’s reputation for fine wine. The team is Lars Maack, Christine’s son and part-owner; Hermann Kirschbaum the cellar master; and winemaker Brad Paton. They restored the farm to its former glory and started planting selected cultivars. Their first grape harvest of 100 tonnes was the first in 30 years for the farm and they haven’t looked back.

Back to the present;

After you turn off the main road you drive for a little while through the vineyards and past fields, all with a wonderful view of the hills not far away. The first impression of the winery is of greenery and beautiful Cape Dutch buildings, the white gables standing out against the green.


Glen M and Nath M waiting to taste wine


Tasting Room and terrace

Today, it has a restaurant, winetasting, and a coffee shop.

First, the wine tasting. The Tasting Room(s)are in the historic wine cellar, with its traditional thatched roof, white-washed walls, and yellowwood ceilings. The inside is casual, with a tasting bar, couches and small lounges. Or you can sit outside on the terrace, which we did as our party had two little people. Outside was perfect for them to play around on the huge lawn that has a magnificent 250-year-old Norfolk Pine tree.


The 2 little girls in or party had a lot of fun outside, especially around the big tree


even the stools are fun


The rosé was probably our favorite wine

The non-drivers of our party did the tasting at R60 for 5 wines (about $4), half of which was waived because we bought some wine too. All the wines were great, and we noticed that they are regularly rated very high by John Platter. The terrace is a great place to linger and chat, perhaps order a bottle of wine and a charcuterie plate.

The restaurant, in one of the original thatch buildings, has recently been renovated after a terrible storm in 2017. I’m told it is very good and serves a great menu based on locally-sourced ingredients. We didn’t sample it this time, but it’s on our to-do list next time we are in South Africa.

The coffee shop is called Coffee BloC, named for the coffee roastery, built in the traditional Cape style of architecture in the shape of a small square block. Besides excellent, fresh coffee they have a small breakfast menu and a selection of homemade pastries and cakes.


The coffee shop is in this lovely building



There’s also a gift shop called the Studio, with mostly rather high-end (but lovely) goodies as far as we could see.

Next year Rod is attending a conference in Cape Town and will run a small workshop. He’d like to bring the attendees here, so we’ll see. It’s that good, and very accessible from the city.




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Besides having fun checking out the different languages when we travel overseas, it’s also interesting to find unusual signs—even locally. Sometimes humorous, sometimes provocative, sometimes thought-provoking or just quirky.

Here are a few from different places.

Found in Champaign-Urbana, our home town. At first I thought this was a made-up word, but no. Zymurgy is a new word to me, meaning a branch of applied chemistry dealing with fermentation, as in winemaking, brewing, preparation of yeast etc.


Pigs in California, in Napa area.


Glasgow, Scotland: Door of St Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life and Art ( a very interesting museum actually). Great to see how inclusive this is.



A Glasgow café: clever play on the saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.


In Hohhot, northern China. We wonder what a humane liquor is. Humane for whom?


In the Orkney Islands, Scotland. Many of the roads are narrow and winding and not always well marked— this takes the cake!



Found in Oviedo, FL—we didn’t actually see a tortoise.


At a café in Prague, Czech Republic. Probably true, I’d say.


Near Reims, in France’s champagne region. How apt that a town is called Bouzy (like boozy).


In South Africa: Worsis boerewors (a special farmer sausage, that is hugely popular). A clever play on “may the force be with you”.


Street sign in Seattle. Is it supposed to be Wy or did they forget the ‘a’ to make Way?


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Kev and Rod braai in the Cape


If you’re ever in southern Africa this is one of the traditions you don’t want to miss. A “braaivleis”, affectionately called “braai” for short, (in Afrikaans language, braai= cook over fire, vleis= meat) is very special, a talkative, communal event, evoking feelings of camaraderie and stirring memories of togetherness at “braais” past.Whenever we visit South Africa, one of the first things we ask our families is, “When are we going to have a braai?” It doesn’t really matter what the season or the weather is.


Our family gather for a braai in East London


and it was great!


We braii in Hibberdene

“Having a braai” is more than just cooking food outside, it’s an event. Sipping drinks under a wide African sky, filled with stars that seem somehow clearer and nearer…the delectable smell of meat or fish on the coals drifting over the scene…cicadas “chirping” in the trees around. All this gets South Africans nostalgic.

The fusion of flame and meat, the sitting round an open fire or a grill, these are a way of life and popular around the country, regardless of race, language, creed or province. In fact, some say that while most countries have a national dish, South Africa has a national cooking method. But “braaivleis” is also not just a technique for cooking meat over an open fire: it’s a way of life, a national pastime that unifies an otherwise sometimes divided country. There’s a National Braai Day, on September 24th, with Archbishop Desmond Tutu as the patron. This is South Africa’s Heritage Day too; See here http://braai4heritage.co.za/. As Archbishop Tutu says, “We have 11 official languages in South Africa, but only one word for this wonderful institution. It’s braai in isiXhosa, braai in Afrikaans, braaii n English…it has fantastic potential to bind us together because all it calls for is that you come with your friends, your family, have a little fire and braai”.


Kev prepares the marinade for the meat


Mike mans the braai in East London


Kev and Rod braai in the rain at Umfolozi National Park

For many South Africans a braaivleis is a much anticipated weekend event. If folks can also have one during the week, that’s even better. In the summer, the braai will probably be in the evening, after sundown, the heat of the day a pleasant warm glow. But, in the winter it’ll likely be at midday, under the bright winter sun and a big blue sky. And South Africans are so crazy about having a braai that they will even do it if it’s raining—but then, of course, the eating will be inside!

The ritual begins… The hosts light up the charcoal, or wood, grill, perhaps next to the pool if they have one, with table and chairs on the grass or patio. They spread a bright cloth on the table, and bring out plenty of good South African beer (try Castle) and great South African wine, a dry fruity white to sip first, then a hearty red with the meal. And plenty of fresh fruit juices for the non-drinkers.



We set the table


Braai-ing in Kokstad

And what a meal it’ll be. If you’re really lucky you’ll have “the works”—lamb chops, beef ribs, and the absolute “must”:boerewors (in Afrikaans, boere= farmer, wors=sausage). ‘Wors’comes from the butcher in a long strip, which is coiled carefully on the fire without cutting. This unique sausage has more beef in it, a coarser texture and less fat than most, and a distinct flavor dominated by coriander. It’s wonderful, and South Africans out of the country say they dream about having worsagain. As part of the ritual the guests all make comments on the cooking process, as they discuss their lives and country politics.

Traditionally, the meat is served with “putu” (thick maize meal porridge cooked with salt and a little butter) with hot, homemade tomato and onion sauce spooned over it; a green salad; and garlic bread—very garlicky. Many families also put fresh whole vegetables on the fire, in addition to serving a green salad. Fruit salad, based on paw-paw (papaya), with cream is a good dessert, or perhaps chunks of sweet watermelon.




Cooking the vegs first

In some parts of the country people make “roosterkoek” (fire-baked bread), or grill snoek fish basted with apricot jam. Sosatiesare also very popular. These are pieces of marinated meat on a skewer. In Pretoria (my old home town) lamb and dried apricot sosatiesare common, but in the Cape the Malay people make great sosatieswith lamb in curry marinade. In Soweto “chisanyama” with a spicy “chakalaka” sauce are popular. Chisanyamais isiXhoasa slang for grilled meats, and usually includes chops, ribs, wors,and steak.

Of course, the braai-ers often disagree about some elements of the braai: what types of meats and in what combination; what types of wood or coal, and whether to use Blitz (firelighters); what types of braaicontraptions, from shiny new Webers to old tin drums (but, the almost 100% consensus is: NO GAS!); what marinades, if any. BUT, beyond these differences is still a passion for sitting around a fire, drinking and chatting for hours, while kids run around and play.


Wors and other sausages


Wors in a coil

Many people believe that this passion is greater in South Africa than other countries. But why? We may never be able to explain this entirely. It may be related to the great climate in South Africa, but it’s not just climate related, because otherwise Australians and Californians would also braai as much, and they don’t. South Africans of all races prefer to have ‘real’ fires (not gas), which take longer and encourage one to stand around and drink beer, poke at the coals, and discuss politics and the rugby team or other sports events. South Africans also tend to eat outside, not just cook outside and then retire inside to eat. The actual braai-ing is usually done by men (although that is changing), who have learned from their male family members. Immigrants to South Africa learn from their (usually) male South Africa friends, or even attend a special braaiclass (although there are not many of those).

What do you think?

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manybeachThe Boulders and its African Penguins

We have a lot of photos for this post, so please enjoy scrolling through. It was such a privilege to be able to see so many penguins.

Some of our family in South Africa live in Kommetjie on the Cape Peninsula, so after lunch one day they suggested a visit to The Boulders to see the penguins. They have a young daughter and said that she loves going there. Seeing as we had our young granddaughter with us on this trip, we thought that was a great idea. And it was, even though it was extremely windy.

The Boulders is a protected area, part of Table Mountain National Park.




beachThe Boulders is on a sheltered cove between Simonstown and Cape Point and is an area with quite a few small beaches and sheltered bays and many huge granite boulders that enclose them. It’s believed these boulders are about 540 million years old. When you see the area, it’s quite obvious where the name comes from!

One the one side the area is bordered by indigenous bush above the high-water mark, and on the other by the clear waters of False Bay. The Boulders has become world famous for the thriving colony of African Penguins. The cove is right next to a residential area, but it is one of the few sites where this endangered bird (Spheniscus demersus) can be seen at close range, wandering freely in a protected natural environment.




You can see a swimmer down there

Swimming is allowed at one of the beaches (Boulders Beach, off the second parking area) and we did see some people in the water, but not very close to a few penguins. None of us thought about swimming—besides having to pay, it just doesn’t seem right somehow to be in the water perhaps close to the penguins, either disturbing them, or helping to habituate them to humans.

There is a parking area at each end of the cove, connected by a small road for local residents on one end, and then a boardwalk, which is free. Local vendors set up stalls selling some South African souvenirs on the edge of the parking area—some look very nice, and our daughter actually did buy a dress for our granddaughter made from a local indigenous print.



EmboardWalking along the boardwalk (or running, in the case of the kids) was fun, as we saw lots of penguins just below in the vegetation buffer zone, plus hundreds further down on the beaches. We even saw a couple on the boardwalk, just waddling along, which thrilled our granddaughter. They are cute, almost comical-looking, birds and we felt very privileged to see so many. With their black and white plumage, it almost looks like they have tuxedoes on, with just a little pinkish-red color above the eyes!




There’s a penguin down there


viewdowncloserTo get even closer to the actual colony, on some looping boardwalks that go almost to Foxy Beach, you have to pay. For adult South Africans (over age 12) it was R78 each, and children R39. For other African countries close to South Africa (there are 14 SADC—Southern African Development Community—countries) it’s adults R152 and children R76; and for international visitors adult R303 and children R152. This sliding price scale applies to many special attractions and parks in South Africa, unfortunately. The motivation for this is to allow locals to experience the wonder of these popular destinations at a more affordable rate. Only a couple from our party did this, as we got a good look at the penguins from our walk.




Tweedledum and Tweedledee


Penguins in the water

The African Penguin is listed as an endangered species in the IUCN Red List (International Union for Conservation of Nature). From an estimated population of 1.5 million in 1910, by the end of the 20thcentury only about 10% remained. The main reasons were the harvesting of penguin eggs for food, and commercial trawling, which reduced the penguins’ food supply. At The Boulders the penguins have rebounded from just two breeding pairs in 1982 to a colony of about 2,200 in recent years. This is partly because commercial trawling has decreased, thereby increasing the supply of pilchards and anchovy, which form a large part of the penguins’ diet (they also like squid). It’s also because they are protected here.




An information board

one4There are a number of information boards along the board walk, giving lots of facts and figures about these birds and their life cycle. So, here are a few fun facts.


–They used to be called Jackass Penguins because of their donkey-like braying call. But a number of species of South American penguins have the same sound so these local birds were renamed African Penguins, as they are the only species that breed in Africa.

–They can swim an average of 7km (4.3 miles) per hour and can stay underwater for up to 2 minutes.

–Ocean enemies include sharks, Cape fur seals, and killer whales. Land enemies include viewdownpenguinsmongoose, genet, domestic cats and dogs, plus gulls that steal their eggs and new-born chicks.

—They make their nests in the ground as they cannot fly. They are social breeders so they nest in colonies, but protect the area around their particular nest. Breeding starts at about 4 years of age, and main breeding season starts in February. African Penguins are monogamous, and take turns to incubate their eggs and feed their young.

generalview–New-born chick are covered in down, which is not waterproof. After about 30 days, both parents head out to sea to find food. Many young chicks congregate then for protection. After about 60 days the chicks’ plumage changes to a waterproof blue-grey color, and they can learn to go to sea. At this stage they are called “Baby Blues”. After about a year to 2 years, the Baby Blues moult and get black-and-white plumage.

–During the annual moult old worn feathers are replaced. During this period the birds warningbitlose their waterproofing and cannot head out to sea for about 21 days, so the moulting period is often called the time of starvation and before the moult they need to fatten up.

–Peak moulting time is December, after which they head out to sea to feed, as they do not feed during moulting. They return in January to mate and begin nesting from February to August.

–Penguins have very sharp beaks and can cause serious injury if the bite or lunge. So, be aware.warningsign






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The winery with lawns for picnics and pretty indigenous-plant gardens (fynbos)


Proteas, South Africa’s national flower, grow well in this area


View down to the lake and white Noordhoek Beach

Cape Point Vineyards

Continuing with the theme of new (to us) wineries in the Cape, we now move to the actual Cape Peninsula. We have family who live in the town of Kommetjie near Noordhoek Beach and they suggested we have lunch at Cape Point Vineyards. We’d never even heard of this winery before, so it was a big surprise to drive out of Kommetjie a short way in the direction of Cape Town, go up a hill and discover another gorgeous winery with a stunning location.

The winery sits on a hill, with vineyards above and below, and a sweeping view down to the long white sands of Noordhoek Beach. There’s indoor seating, or on a long verandah that looks out at the view. Directly below are gardens and a big expanse of lawn where people can also sit and have a picnic. A short way down is a small lake with a pier.


winery from the pier


Some of the vines


Lunch on the verandah

The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, all with this fantastic view of the ocean, fynbos, mountains, vines. I imagine that sunset views over the Atlantic Ocean must be spectacular. They also cater for functions, like weddings—what a gorgeous location. You can visit the cellar for tastings and there’s a Thursday market.

We had lunch there, on the verandah. Most people had different salads, all very good. Our little people were happy too, running around and looking at the large fish tanks.



roselabelFor wines, they have the Cape Point Vineyards range, and the Splattered Toad range, and they also sell wines from the Cape Town Wine Company. Our group tried the Cape Town Wine Co rosé and the cabernet sauvignon/merlot—both very good. Because the vines grow between the mountains and the sea, the cool ocean breezes make for a slow growing season, resulting in a late harvest and unique wines.

Cape Point Vineyards was mentioned by Platter as the Inaugural Winery of the Year in 2008. Founded just over two decades ago by businessman Sybrand van der Spuy, it remains the only wine farm on the narrow southern tip of the Cape Peninsula. Plantings are limited to only 22 hectares (about 54 acres) in Noordhoek, focusing on sauvignon blanc and Semillon.


cabmerlotlabelMore About Cape Town Wine Co

One of the pioneers of wine making in the Cape was Dutch Meldt van der Spuy, who first came as a tenured soldier with the Dutch East India Company. He later returned, became a vryburger (free citizen) and married a local heiress, Maria van der Poel. He prospered, bought wine properties and exported wine. Meldt’s descendant, Sybrand van der Spuy, owns Cape Point Vineyards today and founded  the Cape Town Wine Co.


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South Africa: Seen at an Oasis rest area on a highway in KwaZulu Natal. We thought this was great, in a day and age where people want to park close to the amenities and often don’t respect the signs for handicapped parking.



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amazing view from the Tasting Room


tastingsignBartinney Private Cellar

On our last visit to South Africa in February our family in Somerset West were very happy to introduce us to some wineries that we’d never been to before. And this was another fun place. The setting is superb, the ambience great, and the wines very good. Plus, you can tell from the wine labels, and from the decorating touches in the Tasting Shed that there’s a sense of fun here, a touch of humor.

You drive up a steep narrow road, park, and walk to the Tasting Shed. There is a bar on the lower level, with a unique chandelier made of old vines. But, it’s best to head upstairs where the large open room and the balcony overlook the mountain slopes, with views to the mountain beyond. As the sun sets, the colors of the mountain change from green to golden-orange, which is a magical sight. We were lucky to find a perfect table looking out. A waiter comes to take orders: our family has been many times before, and knows exactly what bottles of wine to order, so we followed their lead. Prices were really reasonable, luckily as we were a big group!



Gorgeous view by day…


…and at sunset


Ground floor bar

Bartinney is on the dramatic slopes of Botmaskop on the Helshoogte Pass on the way to Franschhoek, overlooking the Banhoek Valley in Stellenbosch wine area. It was established in 1912 and has been in the Jordaan family since 1953. Today it is run by Michael and Rose Jordaan.

The views from Michael and Rose Jordaan’s elevated Helshoogte Pass winery are spectacular, but working the vineyards on these steep slopes (some of 45 degrees) and high slopes (up to 1800 feet) is a labor of love. They have tried to do away with terraces and instead interplant with indigenous fynbos. The reason being that biodiversity is important and that viticulture will have to adapt to the increasing hot, dry conditions. They have small pockets of vines, but the wines are rated consistently high. There are three main cultivars: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon; but they also have Chenin Blanc and Merlot.


Very reasonable prices: US$1 was about R14 at the time



sculptureMost bottles have a winged figure as part of the label, called Elevage, symbolizing the  “French art of the selective maturing and ascension of a wine to its ultimate heights, unfurling its most noble traits”according to their website and the back of the label.

The sculpture in a small fynbos garden that greets visitors outside the Tasting Shed is also called Elevage. South African sculptor Dylan Lewis (born 1964designed it to resemble the winged figure of the Bartinney logo. There are other smaller sculptures dotted around, but Elevage really stands out.




labelbackBartinney also has another range of wines, called Noble Savage, and these labels feature various women lying on a red couch. As the back of the label explains: “You may not know it but there is a Noble Savage in all of us—a manifestation of sophistication and style, contrasting with a flash of mischief and a sexy sense of fun. Awakening your Noble Savage produces emotions and behaviors that results in the exciting and unexpected—raising eyebrows, raising the temperature and raising the game.

Bartinney also offers organized wine tastings, musical evenings, gorgeous proteas (South Africa’s national flower) for sale, vineyard guesthouses, and a bar in the town of Stellenbosch.


We bought some proteas for our cousin

proteaTo get to Bartinney: drive through Stellenbosch on R44, then take R310 towards Franschhoek. After going over the Helshoogte Pass, you’ll see Neil Ellis, Tokara and Thelema Wineries on the left, then a sign to the right to Bartinney. It’s not a big sign or a big road, so it’s easy to miss.


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