Another early morning starting with our usual terrific breakfast at the hotel. Every morning we are met with beautiful smiling faces and lovely greetings. A grand way to begin the day. And two cups of espresso don’t hurt either.
Today’s adventure started with meeting Byron, a guide from our hotel. Before arriving in country we arranged a good many tours as we had no idea that this fabulous hotel we’re staying at, the Cape Royale, has the capability of arranging just about any local touring we could want, and private and that, so we could make the plans exactly to order. Hence, Byron. He met us as we came down for breakfast to introduce himself and let us know he was ready anytime we were. Today was our wine tasting day. And yes, you may recall, dear readers, that we did a wine tasting yesterday, but that was ad hoc. Today was planned. Byron escorted us into a gorgeous Mercedes and off we drove, headed for the Franschoek area. We were inadvertently slowed a bit due to an unfortunate accident on the freeway between a car and a motorcyclist, which was dreadful to see, but eventually onward we went. The drive took us through a beautiful area with rolling hills, apple trees and lots of grape vines. Fortunately, the predicted morning train held off. We had the most intriguing conversation with Bryon about his life and views of South Africa. That is really one of the best parts of this sort of touring. Yesterday we had Thabo giving us a lot of history of the country, but today’s chatting was more current. He told us about growing up essentially as part of the “Born Free” generation – the post apartheid years. It was amazing to compare and contrast his views and experience with what we’ve dealt with and continue to wrestle with in the states. The lively conversation continued throughout the day and the enjoyment of multiple wines.
We first arrived at a lovely vineyard called La Bri, established in 1694. Imagine that! A beautiful facility with a huge table with a raw edge filled the main room, at which we sat after gawking at the gardens, the vines and the barrels of wine. It was only 0930 but we sat for what I considered our second breakfast, the one of champions, wine paired with chocolates. Yum. I loved one they called La Bri Cellar Door. Well. They don’t export it, so I bought a bottle to drink while here. So sensible! After trying, and totally consuming (you don’t honestly think we’d do the spit it out routine, do you?) 7 different wines, it was time to move along.
The next stop was the Haute Cabriere winery. It felt like you were walking into a cave like cellar, but it was warmed with a fire and certainly with all the wine. We began with champagne that they opened with a cutlass. And progressed on to so many varieties that we lost track. Oops. Time to mosey.
We then went on to the town of Franschhoek to meander a bit through the shops. We each went our separate ways so it was fun to see what drew each of our attention as we climbed back in the car. Then it was time to head back to Cape Town.
We asked Byron to drop us at the waterfront so we could get on the boat we had scheduled to take us to Robben Island. He kindly took our purchases back to the hotel so we didn’t have to carry them along. We arrived with enough time to get a quick bite to eat, then queued up to hop on the boat. After a 30 minute very bumpy, robust ride out to the island we were met with several buses. They toured us around the island explaining what we saw and giving some details about prison life there. We made one stop mid way and were surprised to find a good number of African penguins enjoying the beach. They’re cute, tiny things. Back onto the bus that then drive us to the actual prison facility. We were met by our guide, a former political prisoner, who was held there for seven years for “terrorism”. Can you imagine what he went through but still is willing to come back, now that the prison is a museum on the World Heritage list? He walked us through the facility, giving us a poignant view of life there in the various areas. He was held in a communal cell that held 40 men. They slept on pitiful mats on the floor until the international red cross supplied bunk beds. He told of the in processing, the food, the clothing, the work and the dreadful treatment. And then brought us along to see the cell where Nelson Mandela was held. It’s an amazing thing to consider the struggle and sacrifices that so many had to make to make the change from the policy of apartheid. And then to think of young Byron who had made so much of himself with the new opportunities that change has provided. A profound day.
The boat brought us back to the harbor with a glorious sunset after which we chose have dinner sitting outside, albeit under heaters, to enjoy the harbor life. A much needed walk brought us back to our wonderful hotel. We tucked in for the evening with jammies and wine.