Story and Photos by Justin Ocean
“A week-long exploration into the luxe queer side of the Rainbow Nation.”
Day 6, Cape Town to Franschhoek Winelands
Waking up after a weekend of warrioring through Cape Town’s laid back yet hectic nightlife can be rough. But with blue skies and balmy weather, strong coffee at a generous breakfast, plus the The Glen Hotel’s private spa (steamroom, sauna and whirlpool) to soak it all away, recovery is an easy proposition. That, and I’ve got two days of hair o’ the dog on the horizon as I make my transfer to the Cape Winelands for a sedate wind down to my South African adventure.
Less than an hour’s drive away (a mere 85km, about 52miles, from downtown) the sleepy town of Franschhoek makes an ideal base to explore the sprawling valleys and vineyards of the winelands. Escaping religious persecution, French Huguenots arrived in 1688 and settled in what was then known as Olifantshoek (“Elephants Corner”), due to the herds of elephants that used the lush valley as a birthing ground (baboons still populate the hills today), and brought the secrets and skill of winemaking with them.
Today, the Huguenot Memorial
at the end of the antique shop-filled main road commemorates their
arrival and 46 cellars laud their skill. Other surrounding valleys such
as Paarl and Stellenbosch,
famous for its Afrikaans language university and historic Cape Dutch
architecture as much as its vintages, offer hundreds more options for
the wine enthusiast. The souvenir enthusiast will go ga-ga at the
200-year-old Oom Samie Se Winkel (“Uncle Sam’s Shop”) in
Stellenbosch, where you can buy everything from spices to clothes to
warthog heads and other sundry bric-a-brac throughout its crammed dusty
Much like the Napa-Sonoma area of California,
tourism is primo here and incredibly easy, with free maps readily
available marking well-organized regional wine routes. Leaving the
planning to the professionals of Southern Circle Tours & Safari (and really, who wants to drive with so many options to uncork?), I instead relax into the tranquil atmosphere of the La Cabrière Country House.
Noshing on a sugary slice of carrot cake and afternoon rooibos tea on
the breezy terrace, it becomes clear that unwinding is the name of the
game in wine country.
Leisurely dips into the swimming pool and strolls through the
meticulously maintained gardens, where scents of white rose, lavender,
olive trees and native fynbos (“fine bush”) specimens waft deliciously,
are perfect evening enders. I only wish it was chillier out so I could
light my in-room fireplace. Charming new and out owner Mark (he
expatriated from England to take over the property only a few months
back) tells me he has plans to expand the six-room property, but for
now its perfectly peaceful and would be an exceptional find for a group
of gay friends and lovers. Watching purple and orange streaks tear
across the sunset sky and frame a stunning mountain view as crickets
begin their evening chirp is nothing short of storybook romantic.
Continue to Day 7, Franschhoek Winelands
Go back to Day 5, Cape Town