Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Return to the Cape, Day 8, Cape Town to Dubai

The Vineyard Hotel’s breakfast made up for the dinner experience the previous night; their buffet was extensive and the eggs benedict were very good, though what they call
a bagel is but a sad shadow of the actual thing (another business opportunity for me!).

The weather had turned a bit grey and gloomy overnight, which put a bit of a damper on any plans to do something fun while we waited for our flight at 6pm. We started off by visiting the Cavendish Square mall to check out the wedding magazines to get a sense of what sort of places are advertising as wedding venues, since Rockhaven and the other Elgin area B&Bs make a huge portion of their money hosting weddings and we’d like a chunk of that action. In fact Mike and Liz of Rockhaven had said they would direct people whom they cannot accommodate (chiefly smaller weddings of around 50 people) to us, as would the people at Gabriëlskloof, so we have even got a ready supply of referrals. Unfortunately, the only bridal magazine we saw was in Afrikaans, so we gave that a miss.

We now found ourselves with nothing much to do, but suddenly hit on the idea of going back to the Constantia Valley wineries, which we visited on our first trip in May but that was before we had any understanding of South African wines. We started off at Constantia Uitsig, which is one of the bigger wineries in the area. Until we got there we had not realized that we had been there before, but in contrast with our visit in May this time we had a much better sense of what wines to try (whites rather than reds) and we enjoyed them much, much more. And their Muscat d’Alexandrie dessert wine was a particular favorite, though at R395 per 500ml bottle it was a bit rich for our blood.

From Constantia Uitsig we continued to Steenberg Winery, at the end of the valley road. This is a beautiful estate, and turns out to be the first farm established in South Africa (way back in 1685 or so), and by a woman at that! She was rather star-crossed, though, having moved to SA from Germany as a 22-year old widow, only to get married to a guy who got stabbed on their wedding night, only to survive to be killed by a lion a few days later (the wife supposedly then went out on horseback later that day and killed the lion). She then remarried, but that husband was killed by local tribesmen, and then she remarried again to a guy who got stomped by an elephant. Only her fifth husband managed to survive her. Anyway, they had some very interesting wines, including a very nice red blend (named after that original female owner of the farm, Catharina) that we bought to fill our last remaining slot in our wine shipping box.

For lunch we decided to eat at the Steenberg winery’s restaurant, also called Catharina. This is a beautiful restaurant, overlooking the farms and the mountains, with a very interesting menu. All the dishes we ordered were outstanding, though once again, J2’s main course of Chalmar beef with gnocchi was the best dish, though I also very much enjoyed my springbok, though I was not really hungry enough to eat the whole thing.

Lunch was over by around 1:30, which still left us a lot of time before our 6pm departure time, so we decided to head back down to Simon’s Town for a visit with the African penguin colony down there at Boulders Beach. In contrast with our visit there in May, this time there were far fewer penguins, no babies, and those that were there were mostly just hanging around doing very little. It turns out that the reason for this is that it’s molting season, and during this time the penguins’ feathers are not waterproof, so they cannot swim for food and thus do what they can to conserve energy. Still, they are very cute, and they’re just right there next to the boardwalk, making for very good photos.

We were done with the penguins by 2:30, so we figured we’d head to the airport, and a good thing, too, since there’s no good route (that we could find) from Simon’s Town to the airport, and it was nearly 4pm by the time we got there. However, as it turns out, the flight was delayed several hours, so there was no real need to be there so early.

As we were checking in to the flight, I got an SMS from our estate agent, asking me to call her urgently. We took our time doing so, though, so as not to seem too desperate. Sure enough, when we phoned we learned that she had called the sellers to ask if they really were happy to have us walk away from the property in the wake of their increasing the price. And sure enough, they were not. However, they asked if we would consider leaving them a small portion of land that they could use to put up their own weekend cottage, suggesting that they might do it in an area that now is home to some derelict workers’ cottages. This was something I was thinking of, too, so I think it could be a workable option. We told Nicole we’d consider it and get back to her (no need to rush, we figure). But this meant that we spent the flight from Cape Town to Dubai reading up on the care and feeding of olive trees and how to set up a successful tourist venue in the Western Cape.

Because of the departure delay we landed in Dubai two hours late, but since we had a five hour layover, this was not a problem. Best of all, when we finally went to check into the flight, we learned that we were being upgraded to business class! After the cramped seats on the first leg, this was very welcome news indeed!!