Falling in Love with Tintswalo at Boulders

“Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.”
~
 Sarah Kay

On 16 February 1870, Cutty Sark, the fastest clipper ship of the time took to the waters on its maiden voyage from London to Shanghai. Considered the pinnacle of design, the merchant ship successfully completed the journey, returning with 590 tonnes of tea in its hull. For the next 52 years of service, the Cutty Sark earned its keep transporting goods between the continents, visiting sixteen different countries and travelling the equivalent of two and a half voyages to the moon and back. Today, at 150 years old, she is the world’s only surviving extreme clipper hip and, having been retired, is open to visitors in Maritime Greenwich in London.

Cutty Sark was, is, a famous ship (named after a short nightdress nogal) but this article isn’t about famous ships…it’s about the theme inspired luxury suites named after famous ships and the glorious Atlantic-facing villa that houses them. This is about our one-night stay at the Tintswalo at Boulders Boutique Villa in Simon’s Town.

Tintswalo at Boulders

An ode to the Cape’s vibrant colour palette

The name “Tintswalo” has deservedly become synonymous with luxury, but it is a brand of luxury that does not attempt to outperform the spectacular natural landscapes in which each of the brand’s six lodges are ensconced. Rather, Tintswalo’s interiors are created and curated to pay homage to its setting with colours and textures that compliment those framed by its generous windows, balconies, and sliding doors. Tintswalo at Boulders is, of course, no different.

Each suite has a unique colour theme and is named after famous ships, such as Bounty, Grosvenor, Water Witch, Drommedaris, and the Mayflower, the lattermost of which is regarded as one of the most important ships in American history because it brought the pilgrims to Massachusetts during the Great Puritan Migration in the 17th Century. All are an affectionate and luxuriously appointed ode to the vibrant colour palette of the villa’s surrounds, from the luscious aquamarine of Boulders Beach’s shallow waters to the rich, royal blue of the impending evening.

Location, location, location

This spectacularly beautiful villa is in Simon’s Town, centre stage to Boulders Beach, which, being home to a world-famous resident colony of endangered African penguins, hardly needs an introduction. Standing on one of the lodge’s large balconies, one can easily see the penguins, previously called Jackass penguins for their donkey braying-like call, carpeting the granite boulders, the beach sand, and even in the turquoise waters. Occasionally, a wanton ocean breeze carries the sounds of their braying up to the villa and its this, the yelping of black-backed gulls, and the gentle sigh of the Atlantic ocean kissing the shore that is the soundtrack to your stay at Tintswalo at Boulders.

Tintswalo at Boulders

A stone’s throw away from the lodge, less than a minute’s drive down the road, is “downtown” Simon’s Town, a historic seaside anchorage nestled into the eastern flank of the Cape’s dramatic peninsula. For more than 350 years, this sheltered harbour, which overlooks False Bay, has served as a major naval base, first to the Dutch settlers, then the British, and now the South African Navy. This explains why there is an enormous battleship and a retired submarine in the harbour. In spite of its small size and relative remoteness, there is a lot to do in Simon’s Town, including kayaking out to the penguin colony, perusing its various art and antique stores, curio shopping at Jubilee Square, and taking a photo with the statue of Just Nuisance, a Great Dane and the only dog to ever be officially admitted to the Royal Navy.

But sitting there on Tintswalo’s balcony with its panoramic ocean views or in my suite, swimming in poofy white duvet, all thoughts of stepping outside this slice of paradise were so far from my mind, it would have taken a high powered telescope to locate them.

Dinner and wine

Tintswalo at Boulders operates on a bed-and-breakfast basis; however, for our stay, we were treated to a four-course feast prepared by Executive Chef Christo Pretorius from none other than the 12 Apostles Hotel & Spa. This was paired with wines from Bouchard Finlayson, a boutique winery in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley dedicated to the making of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc wines.

Tintswalo at Boulders

We embarked upon the evening with a “celebration of summer wines” in the courtyard, featuring Bouchard Finlayson Sauvignon Blanc 2018 and canapés of seared beef teriyaki roll, yellowfin tuna sushi rolls, and the most divine springbok and chakalaka kare pan, a Japanese curry-filled pie. With introductions done and the wine beginning to melt away the social shyness, we headed inside to take our place at a long table glittering with impeccably polished cutlery, crockery, and glassware. Thus, beganneth our meal.

Tintswalo at Boulders
Tintswalo at Boulders

Our first course was Moroccan lamb en croute prepared in the traditional French technique and served with pickled apricot purée, home-made labneh, crispy chickpeas, and cured lemon peel. This was paired with Bouchard Finlayson’s unwooded Sans Barrique Chardonnay 2017. Next up was the Fizantakraal salmon trout tartar, served on a bed of garden pea panna cotta, with pea and mint salad, chive crème fraîche mousse, and trout roe. This was paired with the gorgeous 2017 and, as yet unreleased, 2018 vintage of Bouchard Finlayson’s Missionvale Chardonnay.

Tintswalo at Boulders
Tintswalo at Boulders

The main course was Angus bavette steak with artichoke purée, soy truffle cream, grilled king oyster mushrooms, pickled shitake mushrooms, and a Pinot Noir beef jus I would have gleefully licked off my plate had I not been sitting at a table full of people. The wine for this course was the 2015 and 2018 vintage of the truly exquisite Galpin Peak Pinot Noir. Nirvana found.

Tintswalo at Boulders
Tintswalo at Boulders

Our meal was brought to a sweet close with a medley of desserts: a coffee and caramel chocolate torte crowned with gold leaf, vanilla bean and passion fruit macaron (my personal favourite and not only because it was purple in colour), hazelnut bon bons, and citrus tart. With a fairly impressive number of empty wine bottles lining the table, we let our inner children free by plastering the gold leaf to our teeth and seeing if our table neighbours noticed.

Tintswalo at Boulders

A frame for nature and an unforgettable stay

A stay at Tintswalo at Boulders is really a frame for the appreciation of the surrounding area and its sublime natural beauty. While deeply, deeply luxurious and comfortable, there isn’t a sliver of ostentatious display to distract one from the glorious section of coastline and glittering Atlantic Ocean that unfurls below and before you. For one blissful day and night, we relinquished ourselves to the caring embrace of Tintswalo and steeped ourselves in fine wine and food, courtesy of Bouchard Finlayson and Chef Christo Pretorius. And the morning after, saying goodbye to it all – the views of penguins, our expansive bed, the villa’s tranquil interiors, and murmur of the ocean – was really rather heart-breaking.

But you know what they say: better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.

For bookings and enquiries, please call +27 (0) 21 612 0113 or go to www.tintswalo.com/boulders/villa/

7 Gay Road, Simon’s Town

This blog was originally written for Southern Vines, the largest leisure and lifestyle magazine in the Western Cape of South Africa: https://www.southernvines.co.za/2019/11/22/falling-in-love-with-tintswalo-at-boulders/

Grande Provence Celebrates the Season with a New Spring Heritage Tasting Menu

Executive Chef Marvin Robyn is celebrating Cape cuisine and all the fresh, local ingredients the changing seasons brings with his new Spring Heritage Tasting Menu at Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate in Franschhoek.

It was a spring day so warm it may as well have been summer. Towering oaks cast dappled shade over gardens and sculptures so lifelike, they appeared to be in liquid motion. Row upon row of vineyards celebrated the season with an exuberant dress of emerald leaves. People sat at shaded tables on the veranda, sipping wine and dipping into platters of food. And it’s all so perfect! That’s Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate for you. A place of such stunning visual perfection that it’s almost as if it has been curated for a movie.

Grande Provence Spring Menu

That, or you’ve fallen asleep in the shuttle and are dreaming. Or so I thought as I meandered around Grande Provence’s sculpture garden on a gorgeous spring day, anticipating a meal that pays homage to the very unique culture of the Cape and the local, seasonal produce of the Cape farmlands and Franschhoek valley. The marriage of the two is being presented as the Spring Heritage Tasting Menu and, spoiler alert, it is one of the best winelands meals and experiences I’ve had in many moons.

The Bistro at Grande Provence

After a stroll through Grande Provence’s art gallery and then wine cellar, lead by winemaker Thys Smit, we gathered at the Bistro for an oyster and bubbly pairing, for which Grande Provence has rightfully cultivated quite a reputation. Incidentally, Thys Smit has been selected as one of the 2019 Diner’s Club Young Winemaker of the Year finalists, a remarkable achievement (we hope you win, Thys!)

Grande Provence Spring Menu

One of the estate’s two eateries, The Bistro has a more laid-back, informal atmosphere and spills out onto the lawn, offering gorgeous vineyard views. The menu covers breakfast (10:00 to 12:00 daily – try their new heritage breakfast menu); lunch and early dinner (12:00 to 18:00); as well as daily specials such as pitas, wraps, salads, platters to share, and the most glorious cakes.

We slurped back fresh West Coast oysters embellished with a variety of dressings, from pineapple and yoghurt to kimchi and sesame seeds. These we chased with sips of Grande Provence’s indomitable Brut Rosé and buttery Vintage Brut 2011.

Grande Provence’s Cap Classique and oyster pairing is served from the oyster bar in the sculpture garden for R180 per person. Also, enjoy daily happy hour oysters between 17:00 to 18:00 for only R10 each.

Grande Provence Spring Menu

Lunch al fresco under the oaks

Appetites thoroughly whetted, we exchanged the casual Bistro setting for the gorgeous sculpture garden, in which a harvest table had been laid out for us beneath the oak trees. It was finally time to roll up our sleeves and delve into Chef Marvin Robyn’s Spring Heritage Tasting Menu and we were all enthusiastically up to the task.

We embarked upon our multi-course meal with bite-sized canapés of lamb bobotie samosas, soft potato churros, and fresh farm bread with a salted herb and garlic butter so divine that I shamelessly lathered it onto my bread in thick swaths.

Grande Provence Spring Menu

Then, for starters: fire-roasted beetroot with pink beetroot purée, honeycomb walnut praline, chevin, and suurvytjies (sour fig) dressing, paired with the soft, supple, and black fruit forward Grande Provence Merlot 2018. This was followed by the gold Michelangelo award-winning Grande Provence Sauvignon Blanc 2018 and Saldanah bay oysters, fynbos infused kimchi, fresh plums, dune spinach and, hiding within the oysters, something Chef Marvin called “oyster kaiings”, crispy and sumptuous nuggets of battered and deep-fried oyster juice. Sublime. Also, the combination of sweet honeycomb walnut praline, salty goat’s cheese, and earthy beetroot was so delicious, it was something of a spiritual experience to eat it.

Grande Provence Spring Menu
Grande Provence Spring Menu

Wave of mains and a sweet, sweet ending

A quick succession of dishes almost totally arrested conversation around the table as we savoured each bite and sip of wine. The free-range chicken breast served with stewed apricot, pickled curried onion, cream cabbage, and ginger bread jus was a spectacular symphony of flavour, and paired beautifully with the Grande Provence Chenin Blanc 2018, which is one of the two wines that clinched winemaker Thys his prestigious nomination. The other was the Chardonnay 2018.

Grande Provence Spring Menu
Grande Provence Spring Menu

There was also beef rib-eye steak with cauliflower purée, button mushrooms, asparagus, and kapokbos jus (wild rosemary), paired with the Michelangelo award-winning Grande Provence Shiraz 2017; Sea Bass, papaya purée, sweet corn, grilled cos lettuce, chilli caramel, and delicious smoked snoek croquette, paired with the creamy and elegant Grande Provence Chardonnay 2018; and the exquisite carrot risotto with heritage carrots, blue cheese, and white chocolate spuma, which we shared (read: fought over).

Grande Provence Spring Menu

Buttons bursting, we faced our final course: a rich, dark, and velvety 70% Valrhona chocolate fondant served with Amarula crème, KWV brandy snaps, and apricot gel. I’m not typically one for sweet dishes but I couldn’t stop until all that was left on my plate was a chocolate skid mark.

Escape to Franschhoek

Chef Marvin’s spring heritage menu is a glorious ode to the season and to the Cape’s natural and cultural heritage. Each dish was symphonic in colour and flavour, which, paired with the estate’s delicious wines, makes for a meal you’ll remember with a nostalgic sigh for months to come. It is my sincerest recommendation that you bring your friends and family and experience it for yourself!

Grande Provence Spring Menu

The new Spring Heritage Tasting Menu is priced at R495 or R595 for three or four courses respectively (without wines) and R780 or R880 with wine pairing.

The Restaurant at Grande Provence is open for lunch on Monday to Sunday, 12:00 to 15:00 and dinner, 18:30 to 20:30. The Bistro is open for light meals and tastings from Monday to Sunday, 10:00 to 18:00. For bookings and enquiries, please email reservations@grandeprovence.co.za or call +27 (0) 021 876 8600

Grande Provence Spring Menu

www.grandeprovence.co.za

This blog was originally written for Southern Vines, the largest leisure and lifestyle magazine in the Western Cape of South Africa: https://www.southernvines.co.za/2019/10/23/grande-provence-celebrates-the-season-with-a-new-spring-heritage-tasting-menu/

Haute Cabrière Elevates its Offering with a New Outdoor Area, Deli, Wines, and Reimagined Interior

The view from Haute Cabrière has long served as a potent draw card to visitors to the Franschhoek Valley. Of course, there’s also the estate’s legendary and dangerously quaffable Chardonnay Pinot Noir and, my personal favourite, the Reserve Pinot Noir, which delivers more dark, juicy complexity and near-unspeakable sexiness than Sharon Stone in an Armani business suit. But with little more than some stretched-out tarpaulins providing shade to the terraced outdoor seating area, Haute Cabrière’s ability to accommodate guests al fresco was well and truly at the mercy of the Cape’s weather, which, as we all know, suffers from multiple personality disorder.

Haute Cabriere

This, I’m thankful to say, has all been successfully addressed and in spectacular style with the very recent addition of a grand outdoor conservatory. Here, floor-to-ceiling windows frame Haute Cabrière’s stunning vantage point over the Franschhoek Valley, enabling guests to enjoy the climate-controlled wind and weather immune benefits of eating indoors with the sense of space and connection with nature afforded by al fresco dining. And what views! Perched near the top of the Franschhoek Pass, Haute Cabrière serves guests a visual buffet of ruggedly handsome mountains, rolling hills, and summer-rich vineyards.

Haute Cabriere

Canapés in the winery

The grand evolution of Haute Cabrière isn’t only marked by the addition of an enormous, sheltered outdoor seating area. The tasting room and restaurant’s interior has also received a whole lot of love over the course of the past almost-year. Now, it presents as far sleeker, sexier, and more comfortable and stylish with several intimate seating areas and nooks for wine-tasting parties. A deli and bakery have also been added, introducing the allure of bubbly-soaked breakfasts and brunches to Haute Cabrière’s already seductive offering.

Haute Cabriere

It was here that we kicked off the celebrations with a selection of wine-paired canapés fresh from the new deli and bakery. Smiling servers wafted about with great trays of homemade bacon and brioche cheese “toasties”, smoked salmon bagels, and sweet and sour lamb kidney vol-au-vent with poached quail eggs. These delectable bites were paired with the Pierre Jourdan Brut (classic Chardonnay Pinot Noir bubbly), Pierre Jourdan Belle Rose (100% Pinot Noir bubbly), and Pierre Jourdan Ratafia fortified dessert wine, respectively.

Haute Cabriere

Lunch on the new outdoor terrace

While Haute Cabrière may have received quite the flattering makeover, its menu remains ever rooted in France with the odd flirtation with South African cuisine. That’s not to say that it goes without evolution, but the philosophies and approach to fine dining remain the same – a product of Chef Nic van Wyk’s passions, talents, and imagination. I say this with the utmost confidence because every time I have eaten at Haute Cabrière I have left with a grin on my face and this occasion was no different.

For starters, I found my cheesy, happy place in a bowl of ricotta and garden spinach dumplings topped with fresh asparagus and broad beans, and served swimming in creamy celeriac foam. The wine pairing was the recently introduced Haute Collection Chardonnay 2017, a single vineyard wine created from a block of Chardonnay planted on the Franschhoek property in 1983 by proprietor Achim von Arnim. Only 2138 bottles were produced.

Brief side note

With dad von Arnim yielding the reins to his winemaker son Takuan, the estate’s repertoire of wines is slowly expanding and evolving to include more interpretations of the two principle varietals: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Haute Collection Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and amphora Chardonnay, as well as the demi-sec Pierre Jourdan Belle Nectar, are examples of this evolution.

Haute Cabriere

Back to lunch

The main event was charcoal-grilled venison, served in thick slices of pink and perfectly tender deliciousness, in a lake of port and truffle sauce. Also on the plate was a not-overly-sweet pear tartlet, a gorgeous contrast to the savoury venison. For this course, we were treated to the sublime, earthy, and red cherry rich Haute Collection Pinot Noir 2017, another single vineyard wine – of which only 1011 bottles were made – created from a block of Pinot Noir planted in 1992 and 1993 on the slopes of the Middagkrans Mountain in Franschhoek.

Haute Cabriere

Dessert was a medley of treats fresh from the bakery, all conveniently sized so as to be easily plucked off the plate and popped in the mouth: Paris-Brest (choux pastry filled with praline flavoured cream), warm almond cake, and digestive biscuits with green figs. The wine for the final course was the new Pierre Jourdan Belle Nectar, a salmon pink demi-sec Méthode Cap Classique with a sweeter palette and aromas of rose petals, strawberries, and Turkish Delights.

Haute Cabriere

So, when are you going?

Haute Cabrière’s recent renovations and reimagining bring a much-needed transformation to this award-winning and vastly popular wine estate; one that has rendered its gorgeous terrace invulnerable to the wind and rain, which means that its panoramic Franschhoek Valley views can be enjoyed all year round. In addition to the greatly elevated aesthetics and comfort of Haute Cabrière, you can expect a few new wines by Takuan von Arnim, freshly baked treats, and the same absolutely delicious food by Chef Nic van Wyk. Haute Cabrière has most assuredly received its second wind and it’s absolutely worth a second look!

Haute Cabrière is open Monday to Saturday, 08:00 to 20:00 and Sunday, 08:00 to 16:00. For bookings and enquiries, please call +27 (0) 21 876 8500 or go to www.cabriere.co.za.

Lambrechts Road, Franschhoek Pass, Franschhoek

The Den: a Base to Explore the Best of Stellenbosch

The Den Stellenbosch

The wind gently tousled through the rooftop area and as the sun descended below the western horizon, the chill crept, reminding us that although spring is on its way, winter still has dominion over the Cape; particularly the nights. We milled about, glasses of Waterford “Rose-Mary” Blanc de Noir and gin-and-tonics in hand, chatting and admiring the views over the entirety of Stellenbosch.

In the winelands summer heat, the pool would be irresistibly seductive but tonight, it is just pretty to look at. The rooftop of The Den, the venue for our drinks and canapés (and chin-wag), offers a remarkable space for visitors to spend time. Clean-cut and modern with extraordinary valley and mountain views…how could one not be inspired up here, I mused as I hoovered down my fifth basil, buffalo mozzarella, and cherry tomato hors d’oeuvre.

The Den Stellenbosch

The Den in Stellenbosch

The Den in Stellenbosch is a large apartment complex located on Dennesig Road, on the very doorstep to the historic town centre, the University of Stellenbosch, and all the wonderful wine estates beyond. Cape Summer Villas is a privately owned hotel group that began in 1996 as a single three-bedroom guesthouse, which has since expanded to a boutique collection of high-end properties scattered throughout the Western Cape. All feature “tastefully decorated interiors, the finest linen, and five-star amenities that have all been selected to showcase their surroundings.”

What do The Den and Cape Summer Villas have to do with each other? Well, the hotel group has just added 18 of The Den’s apartments to its portfolio, which it now offers as beautiful and super convenient self-catering accommodation to visitors to the Cape. And it was one of the 15 open-plan studio apartments that I would be spending the night – taking it for a test run, if you will.

Thank you Waterford Estate for the gift of wine and chocolate, and Stellenbosch’s very own Banhoek Chilli Oil Co. for the gift of oil that I shall slather my next slice of pizza with!

The Den Stellenbosch

Modern, comfortable, and entirely serviceable

If a luxury hotel and the student digs of your dreams had a whirlwind romance, the offspring of that would be what the Cape Summer Villas have done with their self-catering apartments at The Den in Stellenbosch. The rooms are compact and feature everything you could possibly need to live, never mind spend a night or two. Yet they also convey a sense of space so that you don’t feel claustrophobic. For example, my humble open-plan studio apartment had a queen-sized bed, a fully kitted-out kitchen (complete with high-end appliances, a washing machine, stove, and medium-sized fridge), small table for meals, study nook, large flat-screen TV, and ample closet storage on either side of the bed. It even had a balcony with a built-in braai. You could actually live here and very comfortably too.

The Den Stellenbosch

This made me think about the audience for such accommodations. Being a budget traveller, I’m always attracted by accommodations that have kitchen facilities and allow for complete independence. This is what The Den offers – complete independence – which essentially means that the target audience is limited only by imagination: foreign and domestic tourists, business travellers, tour groups, wedding parties, long-stay visitors; heck, even parents visiting their kids at the University of Stellenbosch. From R1,250 per night, it’s incredibly affordable accommodation, conveniently located, and allows for complete travel independence.

Practical considerations aside, these apartments are gorgeous. Artfully decorated with interior design by Clara’s Interiors, each room blends a palette of soft greys, whites, and blonde woods with pleasing accent colours (in my room, a gentle azure blue), whimsically patterned tiles, and artwork inspired by nature. There’s also high-speed fibre Internet and, for those concerned with safety, private parking, closed circuit cameras, biometrics, and 24-hour security. If I were a trust fund baby and a student at the University of Stellenbosch, this is where I’d like to spend my college years.

The Den Stellenbosch

Dinner by Chef Rich Rorich; wine by Waterford

That evening, a glass or two of Waterford’s “Rose-Mary” down (a delectable Blanc de Noir made from Shiraz, Mourvèdre, Tempranillo, and Grenache grapes), we all gathered for supper in one of The Den’s two-bedroom apartments. Just to illustrate to you how serviceable these accommodations are: Rich Rorich, the Head Chef of Cape Summer Villas’ Sky Villa Boutique Hotel in Plettenberg Bay (who had been brought down to Stellenbosch for the purpose of cooking for us), was able to use these kitchen facilities to whip up a delicious three-course meal. On the subject of working in a small kitchen, as opposed to the imposing stainless steel jungles he’s accustomed to, the gently spoken Ritchie had this to say:

“As chefs, we love nothing more than this. This is how we learned to love our craft: by cooking for friends and family in cramped spaces and environments.”

The Den Stellenbosch

How wonderful! Additionally, each course, I was absolutely titillated by, was brilliantly paired with wines from Waterford Estate: a starter of creamy mussels in coconut and coriander with the Waterford Chardonnay 2017. Mains of tender lamb curry, turmeric rice, and vegetables paired with the Waterford Grenache Noir 2017 or tall, dark, and handsome Kevin Arnold Shiraz 2015 (or, if you’re a wine glutton like me, both). Finally, for desserts: a kalaeidescopic selection of macarons and a fun game of “guess the flavour.”

Falling asleep has never been so easy.

The Den Stellenbosch
The Den Stellenbosch

A base to explore

The Den in Stellenbosch is the most recent addition to Cape Summer Villas’ constellation of properties and after spending the night, it’s clear that there is very little restriction on the audience these beautifully furnished and affordable self-catering apartments appeal to. With summer slowly on its way, even I am hatching a plan to get friends and family here to enjoy an itinerary packed with the best the Stellenbosch Wine Valley has to offer.

Cape Summer Villas: www.capesummervillas.co.za

The Den: www.thedenstellenbosch.co.za

Waterford Estate: www.waterfordestate.co.za

The Annual Blooming of the Cape Wildflowers

Namaqua daisies Cape wild flowers
Carpet of Namaqualand daisies on abandoned fields, Skilpad, Namaqua National Park, Northern Cape, South Africa. By LBM1948 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Beneath the seemingly infertile soils of the Western and Northern Cape lie the dormant seeds of more than 1,200 different species of wildflowers; waiting for the sun to rally against the winter chill. Towards the end of August and the beginning of September, when the days begin to warm, the seeds split open and send tender shoots skywards to bloom. And so, it is that the arrival of springtime in South Africa becomes marked by a spectacular event that transforms the otherwise drab and semi-arid landscape into an explosive cacophony of colour.

For a few precious weeks, places such as Darling, Clanwilliam, the West Coast National Park, Cedarberg, and, further afield, the Namaqua National Park, Kamieskroon, Port Nolloth, and Springbok become heavily carpeted with purples, oranges, yellows, and reds like thick brush strokes of oil paint. This spellbinding show by nature attracts people in the thousands from all over the country, as well as from abroad. But, for all their beauty and vivacity, the blooms are short-lived and as September passes, the spectacle wanes until the landscape is once again returned to its usual shades of browns, greys, and greens.

Darling Wildflowers Show
Silver Dune Photography

The Darling Wildflower Show 2019

The annual blooming of the wildflowers isn’t only celebrated by the local wildlife, which delights in the unusual abundance of food; several towns in and around the so-called “Cape Flower Route” also put on exciting festivals. And perhaps the best known and loved of these is the Darling Wildflower Show, which is held every year on the third weekend of September. This year, the 102nd instalment, it’s taking place on the 20th to the 22nd September and is set to be an extravagant affair; the perfect complement to a morning or afternoon spent admiring the spectacular wildflowers.

Here, visitors can enjoy attractions, such as craft and gourmet food markets, a beer tent, a mini-wine route, tractor-drawn wagon rides, veteran car and tractor shows, kids’ play park, live entertainment by local artists and musicians, conservation talks, and educational workshops for both adults and children. And, of course, when you’re not delighting in the food, tipple, entertainment, and enlightenment on offer, there is the remarkable Cape floral kingdom to admire.

The main celebrations will be going down at the Darling Golf Club but there will also be shuttles taking visitors on a tour of Darling’s key points of interest, including the Renosterveld Reserve, Darling Museum, Duckitt Nurseries, and Evita se Perron: famous South African comedienne Evita Bezuidenhout’s cabaret theatre and restaurant.

Darling Wildflowers

Wildflower viewing tips

Wildflowers bloom in gardens, fields, and along the roadside throughout the Western and Northern Cape but the best places to see them are those that are undeveloped and unspoiled. The West Coast National Park, Darling (both 1 hour’s drive from Cape Town), Clanwilliam (2 hours, 20 minutes), and the Biedouw Valley in the Cedarberg (3 hours, 20 minutes drive) are rewarding spots to travel to. However, getting the most out of your wildflower viewing requires more than just jumping in your car and driving to your destination.

The wildflowers are coaxed open by the warmth of the sun and so they are best viewed on warm, sunny days between the late morning (±10am) and late afternoon (±4pm). If the weather is poor or it’s too early or too late, the flowers will close to protect themselves from the cold and possible frost, and you won’t get the full visual effect. The wildflowers also angle their heads towards the sun, so it’s best to travel from north to south or from east to west along the flower route so that you keep the sun behind you and, therefore, the flowers open towards you.

Tienie-Versfeld-Wildflower-Reserve

A bucket list must for Capetonians and visitors

The annual blooming of the wildflowers is a truly magnificent show that every South African needs to see at least once in his or her lifetime. With the fun and flamboyant Darling Wildflower Show, and some of the most ostentatious floral displays as little as an hour’s drive from Cape Town, there’s every reason Capetonians and visitors should add this to their travel bucket lists!

For more information on the Darling Wildflower Show:
Telephone: (+27) 72 178 5744 or (+27) 84 916 1111
Email: info@darlingwildflowers.co.za
Website: www.darlingwildflowers.co.za

This article was originally written by Thea Beckman for Southern Vines Magazine: http://www.southernvines.co.za/2017/08/13/annual-blooming-cape-wildflowers-2017/ 

All Aboard! MSC announces its INCREDIBLE plans for the new cruise season and the next 8 years

In Cape Town, MSC is one of the most widely recognised company acronyms. The name is emblazoned across the gargantuan hulls of the cargo ships that frequent our harbour and, of course, the name has become lovingly associated with luxury, all-expenses-covered sojourns into the Indian Ocean and beyond. Cruises and cargo: that’s MSC. But, since 2017, the marine brand has been hard at work plotting its upward trajectory, the ambitions of which would have Superman quaking in his crimson boots.

Ross Volk
Ross Volk, Managing Director of MSC Cruises South Africa

But “It’s better to set your sights high and fall short, than to set them low and always succeed.” This is the unofficial mantra at MSC, said Ross Volk, Managing Director of MSC Cruises South Africa during a media brief that took place Monday 19th August at the Old Harbour Conference Centre, Westin Cape Town. Seated around a conference table the size of a rugby field, 30 pairs of eyes grew larger and larger as he and Angelo Capurro, Global Executive Director at MSC Cruises, laid out the company’s plans for expansion, renaissance, and revolution in the coming decade – plans that have been on the drawing board since they kicked off their “second phase” in 2017.

But before I spill the goods, let’s take a brief look back at the history of this vastly accomplished cargo and cruise company.

Then and now

Unlike most other cruise lines, MSC is a family owned company with a family spirit. Its 50-year history began in 1970 with its conception as a cargo shipping enterprise in Brussels, Belgium, under the stewardship of businessman Gianluigi Aponte. Then, in 2003, MSC added commercial passenger ships to its offering and over the course of the next 10 years, enjoyed a monstrous growth of 800%. Today, MSC Cruises is the number one cruise line in South Africa, Europe, South America, and the Gulf, with 70,000 employees transporting millions of passengers to 211 global destinations on five continents annually.

“Phase Two” AKA Operation Reach for the Sky

Or should I say horizon?

The new phase of MSC’s expansion, which is as much about getting bigger as it is about getting better, is multi-faceted and has been laid out over a 10-year timeline, from 2017 to 2027.

“South Africa is an important market for MSC Cruises and reflects our broader growing investment in cruising globally,” says Capurro. “We have committed to launching 13 next-generation ships between 2017 and 2027, which will bring our fleet total to 25 and see our passenger capacity more than triple. Our total investment in these ships amounts to approximately R200 billion.”

This year alone, the company has added two new ships to the family: the MSC Bellissima and MSC Grandiosa. But this is small news compared to the grand scheme of their designs; designs that bode exceptionally well for South Africa in terms of our choice of holiday destinations, our tourism, our economy, and our future.

MSC Grandiosa
MSC Grandiosa

I. Four ship classes

The company has identified four ship classes that are based largely on delivering the best possible experience to passengers based upon their desires and, to a lesser extent, budget. For example, ships in the Meraviglia Class are primarily for cruises in off-peak seasons, when the weather might not be so conducive to outdoor lounging. And so the ship is designed with more indoor space and a focus on indoor entertainment and activities. The Seaside Class, on the other hand, is tailored to travel itineraries in sunny, peak season travel with maximum outdoor space and sophisticated outdoor amenities, entertainment, and activities, giving passengers that ultimate “seaside” experience. Next in the portfolio is the World-class fleet, which delivers longer trips to far-flung cruise destinations. And finally, the Ultra Luxury Class: for people with more green than the Amazon rainforest.

II. Expansion and Improvement

Hand-in-hand with the development of these ship classes comes the addition of new cruise vessels to MSC’s already handsome portfolio of ships. As previously stated, the company introduced the MSC Bellissima and MSC Grandiosa this year and have committed to adding one to two ships per year to swell their ranks to upwards of 27 ships by 2027 (that’s triple their current guest capacity). As for their original fleet, which has been in service since 2003, they have received a loving “make-over” and major upgrade through MSC’s Renaissance Program, so that they can offer passengers a modern, luxury travel experience.

Ever in pursuit of improvement and refinement, MSC is also evolving its fleet to offer greater comfort and a more seamless experience that begins on the shore already. Refreshingly, they are doing this by tapping in to their most valuable resource: customer feedback (don’t we wish more big brands would do that?) And so, the design of new ship prototypes has been largely dictated by customer feedback on the existing ships and the experience they deliver.

III. Partnering with the best-in-class

If you want to build a beautiful, sophisticated space and curate an unforgettable experience for your passengers, you need to work with a grand variety of partners who are considered the best in their class. And since a cruise ship is essentially a self-sustaining microcosm, MSC has established partnerships with people and brands that are considered to be at the pinnacle of their field, from top chefs, wine estates, and tech companies to entertainers, musicians, and even toys for kids. If you want to offer the best, you’ve got to work with the best!

IV. New infrastructure

More than mere ships, cruises, and cargo, MSC is set to revolutionise the cruising industry in South Africa by investing in infrastructure to enhance and extend the cruise experience and offering. This investment has been particularly noteworthy in the development of the Durban port terminal over the past few years: a R200+ million construction of a new world-class Durban Cruise Terminal as part of the KwaZulu Cruise Terminal Consortium (KTC).

“This multi-user terminal will make Durban an even more desirable destination for cruise ships from all over the world,” explains Volk. “It will substantially boost tourism numbers, create thousands of jobs, and lead to supplier development. All the partners in the initiative will shortly sign off the final design of the terminal and ground-breaking is scheduled to begin in November this year. We want the Durban Cruise Terminal to be an iconic destination. We hope the new port will be operational by January 2021.”

V. FREE training program for South Africans

“Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy, 1961

MSC has made a commitment to the betterment of South Africa by introducing their Shosholoza Ocean Academy, which offers a FREE three-month training program (either in hospitality or some kind of trade) to 5,000 students. Upon successful graduation, these students can seek employment with MSC and work as many seasons as they wish.

In other words: it is a wide open doorway to a career at sea, whether it’s as a server in a fine dining restaurant aboard an MSC cruise, or as an electrician on an MSC cargo ship. Did I mention the Shosholoza Ocean Academy is free? It is, and with no obligation to even work for MSC upon graduation. This is just one facet of the company’s commitment to investing in the future of South Africa.

VI. More travel itineraries for South Africans

Finally, MSC has announced the addition of several new cruises and itineraries to South Africa:

  • MSC Opera will sail from homeport Cape Town from December 2020 to March 2021;
  • MSC Musica will sail from homeport Durban from November 2020 to April 2021;
  • Next season will offer over 60 cruises from one of two home ports (Cape Town and Durban);
  • And guests will have eight different itineraries to choose from: the most in Company history!

“Our decision to increase the number of ships for the South African cruise season in 2020/2021 is due to the significant growth in demand we have seen in our guest numbers over the past few years,” explains MD Ross Volk. “Our most recent season saw a 25% increase in guests compared to the same period in 2017/2018. MSC Cruises has been bringing bigger and better ships to this country and enriching our itineraries as more South Africans are realising that a cruise is an affordable, convenient, and exciting holiday option.”

MSC Opera, which can accommodate 2,500 guests and was completely refurbished in 2014, will offer 22 cruises next season alongside MSC Musica. MSC Musica can cater for approximately 3,200 guests and will offer 40 cruises. The ships will alternate routes, providing South African cruisers with a wider choice of options to suit their holiday needs. This means that both Cape Town and Durban ports of embarkation will get to experience the leading cruise line’s elegant and diverse product offering and enjoy more cruise destinations and packages than ever before.

One highlight of the 2020/2021 cruise itinerary is MSC Cruises’ 14-day New Year cruise around Southern Africa, incorporating destinations such as Portuguese Island; Nosy Be, Madagascar; followed by Port Victoria, Seychelles; and then Port Louis in Mauritius. MSC Orchestra will also make her maiden voyage to South Africa in November, offering three, four, and five-night sailings around the South African coastline until April 2020, visiting Pomene Bay in Mozambique – a marine safari experience complete with its own beach club – Portuguese Island, and Maputo.volk

Investing in the country’s future

“If there is one thing that can save South Africa’s economy, it’s tourism,” said Volk during his presentation of MSC’s incredible new plans, and with the company providing more cruise ships, more destinations, and more infrastructure for travel here in South Africa, not to mention a free training program that could give 5,000 students a career, they are guiding the country quite powerfully towards a better future.

What adventure awaits?

www.msccruises.co.za

This blog article was originally written for Southern Vines magazine, the largest lifestyle and leisure magazine in the Western Cape of South Africa: https://www.southernvines.co.za/2019/08/23/all-aboard-msc-announces-its-incredible-plans-for-the-new-cruise-season-and-the-next-8-years/

Breakfast at Bistro BonBon at La Petite Dauphine Estate

Franschhoek wines and Cape flavours served in a rustic space, infused with traditional elements.

It is imperative when visiting Franschhoek – and particularly overnighting in Franschhoek – to pick a good breakfast spot. Why? Well, make no mistake, there will be wine and good wine at that, which means that the morning after the day’s indulgence will, in great likelihood, bring with it a hankering for some gorgeously greasy sustenance. I ain’t talking about no Wimpy breakfast, either. I’m talking about a breakfast buffet table groaning with cheese, charcuterie, pastries, breads, fresh cut fruit, cereals, and yoghurt, and a menu with every warm breakfast known to civilized man and woman (well, westerncivilized man and woman)…I’m talking about breakfast at Bistro BonBon.

La Petite Dauphine estate 2
The road to Bistro BonBon, La Petite Dauphine Estate, Franschhoek

Whether you like your eggs fried, scrambled, Florentined or benedicted, Bistro BonBon does a breakfast that is practically guaranteed to help you atone for the sins of the day before and to restore your body and mind to sufficient enough rigor to get you right back on that horse for round two in the Franschhoek winelands. Or three: who’s counting?

But it’s not only breakfast Bistro BonBon has earned a widespread reputation for (clearly, judging by how full they were on the morning we visited). Located on the breathtakingly beautiful La Petite Dauphine Estate on Franschhoek’s Excelsior Road, this charming restaurant with its rustic, country interior and views of dewy gardens, orchards, and mist-swathed mountains, does lunch and dinner too. Scottish Chef Archie Maclean is the creative driving force behind the menu, which takes full advantage of the Franschhoek Valley’s rich fruit basket of fresh produce.

Bistro BonBon Franschhoek 2
Inside the breakfast room at Bistro BonBon

Lunches and dinners are typically taken in The Studio of Bistro BonBon, a converted fruit packing shed with oodles of naked wood and natural textures giving it that beguiling, rustic feel and paintings from local artists adding pops of colour.

We, however, arrived late morning for breakfast and a strong cup of Sega Fredo coffee. After a warm welcome from Dominique Maclean, Chef Archie’s wife and Bistro BonBon’s front of house manager, we snuggled in for breakfast.To our backs, a wood-fire stove radiated delicious heat, beating back the icy chill of the Franschhoek Valley after a night spent in the teeth of a tempestuous Cape storm.

La Petite Dauphine estate
The gorgeous La Petite Dauphine Estate after a night of storming

Having spent the day before steeping ourselves in Franschhoek’s beautiful wines, we made no pretences about “being healthy” – the diet can start on Monday – and so we ordered that ultimate, loving ode to cholesterol: the English breakfast. Two gooey eggs, a pork sausage, crispy bacon, sautéed mushrooms, seeded toast, a potato rosti, and sweet tomato relish later, I was ready to brave the new day!

Bistro BonBon breakfast
A breakfast of redemption

Bistro BonBon provided the perfect, cosy setting for breakfast on a cold Franschhoek morning but watching the sun bathe La Petite Dauphine estate’s manicured gardens and orchards in silvery winter light left us somewhat regretful that it was too cold to sit outside. By the way, if you look “tranquil” up in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of the view from Bistro BonBon, which might explain why we departed feeling like more than just our bodies had been recharged.

Sega Fredo cappuccino
Sega Fredo cappuccino

This is truly a magical location with a warm, country vibe that makes you feel right at home. We will just have to make our pilgrimage back to experience a lunch or dinner, outside this time, and under the shade of their 200-year old oak tree!

Bistro BonBon is currently running some great winter specials until 31stAugust 2019:

Breakfast (08:00 to 11:00, Monday to Saturday) – R100 for selected breakfast, including tea or coffee

Lunch (12:00 to 16:00, Monday to Saturday – R225 for a two-course or R275 for a three-course lunch.

Bistro BonBon is pet-friendly!

http://www.BistroBonBon.co.za, +27 (0) 21 876 2679