Posts Tagged ‘Stellenbosch’

imageStellenbosch was founded by Simon van der Stel, the Governor of the Cape Colony, in 1679, who named it after himself. Stellenbosch means Stel’s bush. It’s in the Western Cape, about 50 km (35 miles) east of Cape Town, and on the banks of the Eerste River (First River, as it was the first river Simon van der Stel encountered when he ventured out of Cape Town). It’s the second-oldest European settlement in South Africa, after Cape Town. It’s also a great alternative to Cape Town—good hotels and restaurants, and gives easy access to the winelands.
It’s a university town—Stellenbosch University—and the campus is a big feature, so it has lots of cultural assets, such as the Sasol Art Museum. We saw many students, lots speaking Afrikaans, but not exclusively so.
It’s a pretty town architecturally in the Cape-Dutch style, the streets lined with many oaks, with lots of small shops, little plazas and alleys lined with cafes, art stores, old-book shops, unique fashions etc. The day we rambled around we found the people all very friendly and the atmosphere in town really nice and relaxed. However, there’s a fair bit of security around, such as in banks and outside public buildings. Many parking attendants, all in a uniform, walk around with portable meter machines.

imageThe city also favors public art on the streets, such as the Malay Girl (see https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/faces-malay-girl-by-lionel-smit/ ), the Mandela Wall outside the Town Hall (see https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/stellenbosch-sa-honoring-nelson-mandela/ ), and the Huguenot Wall outside the Public Library (see next post).
Stellenbosch, and most of the Western Cape, has a Mediterranean climate, plus hilly, well-drained soils, all of which are excellent for viticulture. Stellenbosch is part of the Cape Winelands, with Paarl and Franschhoek, and the South African wine industry has become world famous, producing really good quality wines.

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Postcard Café at Stark-Condé Winery (South Africa)


From the other side of the lake we see Postcard Cafe, and the tasting room on the small island

From the other side of the lake we see Postcard Cafe, and the tasting room on the small island

The view from the cafe verandah

The view from the cafe verandah

Living in a Postcard.

Imagine yourself in a dramatically beautiful valley (Jonkershoek Valley)…Add mountains on either side…Fill in the foreground with a small lake…

This is the gorgeous setting for the aptly-named Postcard Café in the Stark-Condé Winery, Stellenbosch. The view is exactly what people strive for on postcards.

Postcard Café does boast this idyllic location, overlooking the lake and the Stellenbosch Berg (Mountain) beyond, with the winery’s tasting room on an island in the small lake.

The sweeping view leads the eye over the lawns down to the small lake, which has a path all around it. We walked it, even though the weather was grey and drizzly the day we were there. But, it was still stunning in spite of the weather and must be spectacular in the sun. This valley is part of the Franschhoek Nature Reserve, so supposedly you can sometimes spot some wild animals up there, some say maybe even a leopard (which I really doubt).

Cafe verandah

Cafe verandah

signWe only had coffee that day, but the food looked good and the café is also a venue for events (birthdays, weddings etc).

3 coffees R60, plus R5 tip.

Stark-Condé is a family-run winery, run by winemaker José Condé. Grapes are harvested from some of the highest altitude vineyards in Stellenbosch, leading to many award-winning wines. We’ve tried some of their wines before, and they are excellent.

Postcard Café, open Tues-Sun 9:30am-4pm. Closed Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Good Friday

Wine Tasting and Sales, Mon-Sun 10am-4pm. Also closed Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Good Friday


Definitely a postcard view!!

Definitely a postcard view!!



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Facing Plein Street. It's hard not to see the face!

Facing Plein Street. It’s hard not to see the face!

Facing Plein Street

Facing Plein Street

Strolling along Plein Street in Stellenbosch (Cape) on our visit in March, we came on a really interesting structure in front of the Town Hall, the Mandela Monument Wall.

At first glance this is a map in metal relief on a stone wall—a map of places significant to Mandela. But as you step closer and to the side something amazing happens: the metal bits align and change into an image of Mandela’s face. At first, my camera viewfinder saw it, but then my naked eye did too, depending on where I stood. It’s a really clever arrangement, to create this optical illusion. In fact, my camera had trouble NOT seeing the face!

I wanted to find out more.

Facing Town Hall

Facing Town Hall

Unveiled in early October 2013, the structure was created by landscape artist Strijdom van der Merwe and approved by the Nelson Mandela Foundation. It is a large concrete block with a white marble covering, on which a map of a part of South Africa is etched on either side. The side facing east (the Town Hall side of the structure) has a map of the east side of South Africa, including Mandela’s birthplace in the Transkei and his home and workplace in Johannesburg before his incarceration. On the West side facing Plein Street, the map reflects the Western Cape, and the three prisons in which Mr. Mandela spent a large part of his life—Pollsmoor, Robben Island, and Victor Verster (now Drakenstein).

A laser cut silhouette of Madiba’s face in 20mm (about ¾ inch) Corten steel is placed in front of the marble block ‘canvas’.

What is really interesting about the artwork is how multi-faceted it is, and how the map and the steel look different in representing Mr. Mandela depending on how close or far away you are from it.

A long strip of white paving leads from the information board to the monument wall, inscribed with some of the famous words from Mandela’s Inaugural Speech in 1994 in Pretoria (see words below). It was a great speech and it, plus Mandela, are being doubly recognized right now, so soon after his death in December 2013. Everywhere in South Africa are tributes and recognitions to this great late leader.


This monument is also interesting as in a way it follows/copies some facets of the design of the new Mandela Capture Monument in Howick—which we were also able to visit this time in South Africa. See here: https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/nelson-mandela-capture-site-in-south-africa/

The famous words:

“Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another.”

Sign seen at Durban Airport

Sign seen at Durban Airport

If you are interested, here are links to the text of both Mandela’s Inaugural speeches.

http://www.anc.org.za/show.php?id=3132 (Pretoria speech,  May 10, 1994)

http://www.news24.com/NelsonMandela/Speeches/FULL-TEXT-Cape-Town-Inauguration-Speech-20110124 (Cape Town speech)


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That sure is a beautiful view

That sure is a beautiful view


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

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?).

It started off as a regular farm stall and

Outside entrance to the kids' play area

Outside entrance to the kids’ play area

blossomed/mushroomed out into what we see today—a colorful, sprawling complex. 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, and a vast array of colorful ‘scarecrows’ and other creatures and transportation creations delight the eye.

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 etc. But, it’s undoubtedly a lot of fun. We bought a bottle of wine for R25—one of their advertised specials. They seem to have many of the specials for various airlines.

Tasty bottled Cape gooseberries

Tasty bottled Cape gooseberries

restarantsignIn March it was too late for strawberry picking, but we ate there one lunch time by default, and it was great. The restaurant is called The Farmers Kitchen. It has a fun atmosphere because of the setting and the colorful statues and very good food—a tasty meal, with very generous servings, of fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. The deck where we sat 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.

Some of the more "respectable" animals!

Some of the more “respectable” animals!

Granny Peggy, Viv, Caroline, Anthea enjoy the wine

Granny Peggy, Viv, Caroline, Anthea enjoy the wine

Five of us shared a carafe of Du Toitskloof sauvignon blanc. One of our party had a huge lamb burger with Greek-style cucumber-yoghurt sauce, and salad; one had chicken wrap; another had a bacon, brie and walnut pizza, served with salad; and two of us had parma ham and fresh fig salad; followed by 2 espressos and a coffee. Total (without tip) was R452. At the exchange rate at the time that’s about US$43, which is amazingly good value!

The Farmer’s Kitchen 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.

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

Ham and fresh fig salad

Ham and fresh fig salad

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Faces. Portraits. People.

Why have I been seeing so many large outdoor sculptures of various kinds of faces and heads in the last year or so, in many different parts of the world?

People are inherently interesting, and large faces or heads are a lot easier to execute for an outdoor exhibit than a landscape scene, for example. Faces get people to stop and look, faces can make us think, faces can reflect a culture, and I’m sure we can come up with many more ideas.

Here is another delightful example found in Stellenbosch, a town in the South African Cape, not too far from Cape Town.

Caroline M  poses by the sculpture, showing how large it is

Caroline M poses by the sculpture, showing how large it is

It’s metal work and is entitled “Malay Girl”, by Lionel Smit. The artist is a South African, born in Pretoria in 1983 (we were living there at that time), who now lives and works in Cape Town. He has also exhibited at art fairs overseas, for example in Amsterdam, London, Miami and Hong Kong. He is best known for contemporary portraiture of everyday people in his life, working with huge canvases or sculptures.

The Cape Malay people are a big part of the Cape culture and history, so this head seems very appropriate in this setting outside the Stellenbosch Public Library.

The descriptive plaque for "Malay Girl"

The descriptive plaque for “Malay Girl”

On the plaque below the sculpture, the artist’s statement reads: “The work transforms the stereotypical idea about a painting’s environment, in other words its display in a gallery space. It also explores the creation of a sculpture from a painting. The portrayal of a Malay Girl (a recurrent theme in my works) on two sides of the sculpture translates into the concepts of identity transformation and hybrid identity”.

Very interesting concept, here in South Africa, also known as the Rainbow Nation with its many peoples.

Below are links to other head sculptures we admired in 2013, in Krakow, Chicago, and Dijon.




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