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Day 5 : Tuesday 7th December 2004

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Cape wine tour

I had booked a wine tour the previous evening as in my previous experience these can be great opportunities to meet people and also learn loads about the local area. And of course, you get to sample loads of nice wine while being driven round the countryside .

The pick-up from the hotel was quite early, about 7:45am and we only had a few more pick-ups after me before we were heading out into the cape wine region. The itinerary was fairly packed, with visits to the towns of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek as well as a quick drive by of Paarl (actually a quick drive by the prison from where Nelson Mandela was released). Three wineries and lunch was also on the agenda.

The first stop, about an hour outside Cape Town, was at the Zevenwacht winery, near Stellenbosch. The wines were lovely but it was strange to be drinking so early (about 9:30am!!). Next, we drove on to the town of Stellenbosch, the second oldest town in South Africa. We had a lovely half and hour wondering round this beautiful town, before it was off to a further wine tasting at the Seidelberg wine estate. We had a lovely lunch at the De Leuwenjagt restaurant with our wine tasting (or the other way round, you decide!) and the view from the terrace was simply stunning - a wonderful panorama of the Cape region with the mountains surrounding Franschhoek to the left and Table Mountain visible in the distance to the right.

After a relaxing couple of hours, we headed off for our final stop at the Chamonix winery in Franschhoek. Now this might take some explaining! Franschhoek is Afrikaans for "French corner" and was a town founded by French Huguenots (Protestants) fleeing Catholic persecution in their home country. The Dutch settlers of the Cape offered them the site of Franschhoek as a site to build a town and farm the fertile lands surrounding it. But there was only one condition - they were to only speak Afrikaans, not French. So today's Franschhoek is a bizarre mixture of French tradition with Afrikaans language.

On the way to Franschhoek we passed the prison in Paarl from where, in 1990, Nelson Mandela had been released after 27 years in jail. We stopped briefly outside the famous gates where he walked to freedom 14 years ago, but didn't linger as the place is still a working prison (you could see some inmates playing football inside).

After our wine tasting, we had 20 minutes or so to wonder round Franshhoek, which was again lovely. The town is surrounded on three sides by mountains and at the end of the main street is the large and somewhat unusual Huguenot Memorial.

And that was that as far as the wine tour went. Just a 1.5 hour trip back to Cape Town, where I made a mistake and instead of taking 2 bottles of wine I had bought on the tour, ended up taking someone else's .  Ooops! I think they were roughly the same cost though, so no serious harm done, but by the time I realised (the next day) there was no chance of repatriating them.

Due to the wine, the weather (which was beautiful all day) and the early start, I was pretty exhausted by the time I got back to the hotel, so dinner again consisted of the hotel restaurant buffet. Not the best choice but I couldn't be bothered to go out and I had another early start the next morning!

Wineries and views