Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Return to the Cape, Day 7, Elgin Valley to Cape Town

On our last morning at Rockhaven we had an early breakfast since we had an 8:30 meeting at a bank in Somerset West to learn about mortgage terms in SA. The drive from Elgin to Somerset West is not long, no more than 30 minutes, and while Somerset West would not be terribly appealing to tourists, for Elginites it is the shopping place, being home to a lot of useful stores, a large mall with some very good anchor stores, including a Pick n Pay grocery and a Woolworths (the latter being in South Africa a very upscale grocery store).

Interest rates in South Africa are very high, though we later learned that they have actually come down quite a bit. Still, with our being non-citizens, the prospect of taking a loan out is pretty unappealing, so we’ll have to find other ways of financing our property purchase.

After checking out Somerset West we headed into Cape Town itself, a further 20 minute or so drive, heading to The Vineyard Hotel and Spa for our overnight stay. This is one of Cape Town’s oldest hotels, located in the southern suburbs in the shadow of Table Mountain. As soon as we checked in we immediately headed out again to go in search of the local Chinese grocery, located not far away. We were happy to find that they have a lot of the things we would need/want, including Sichuan peppers, fresh tofu, and the like, though their supply of fresh vegetables is rather poor. We therefore started to plan to plant a Chinese garden with all the vegetables and herbs that we cannot reliably procure here, like asparagus lettuce (wosun), Chinese chives, and lotus root.

After a simple lunch at a local South African style pub, we returned to our hotel, used the surprisingly nice gym, and just relaxed until the evening. On Monday nights the hotel hosts a free wine tasting, so we sampled the wines of Meerlust winery (very nice) before having a proper drink to drown our misery over our apparently not getting our property sorted out during this visit, and waited for friends to arrive. The friends are people whom I met through Chowhound as I was preparing for our May visit to South Africa, a gay British couple who, like us, came to South Africa on a holiday, fell in love with the place, and returned a few weeks later. Ten years later they are still here, and seem to have a really great life here. We learned today that what they left behind in the UK was the stunning Rothes Glen castle-hotel in, of all places, Elgin, Scotland!

Our friends could not stay for dinner, so we wound up just eating at the hotel’s restaurant, which came highly recommended. My starter of crocodile with beet reduction and arugula salad was very good, as was J2’s of warm beef and gorgonzola salad, but my main course of grilled gemsbok with creamed spinach was so salty as to be inedible (J2’s gnocchi were also a bit salty, but nothing like my dish). Mine was so bad that I just had to say something to the waiter, much to J2’s consternation. The waiter brought it to the chef’s attention, and the chef came back to me to confirm that the dish was way too salty, owing to an error by a sous chef in preparing the spinach. In compensation, he took the dish off the bill (he offered to replace it, but I just wanted to get to bed at this point), and offered profuse apologies.