Upside Down at the Height of Summer
I know your interests are Paris, and that’s why you read the Parler Paris Nouvellettre®, but this “Parisienne” is currently “upside down” on the other side of the planet — the southern hemisphere, enjoying the height of summer — and the heights of Cape Town, South Africa. My daughter and I have been here less than three days and it’s been an eventful 72 hours to say the least.
Monday morning our clients and friends from Pretoria, chef of the Restaurant Mosaic* Chantel Dartnall, her mother and proprietor of the five-star resort hotel The Orient, Mari, and Mari’s husband, Cobus Du Plessis, took us on an excursion to the winery, Klein Constantia, for a personal and private wine tasting with their young and talented winemaker, Matthew Day.
Klein Constantia has the roots of being the very first winery in South Africa, established in 1685 by the VOC Governor of the Cape Simon van der Stel. The farm was used at the time to produce wine as well as grow other fruits and vegetables, plus do some cattle farming. “Van der Stel, a keen viticulturist, had been the first to recognize the potential of the decomposed granite soil in the sheltered valley facing False Bay and bounded by sea on both sides after he had had soil samples collected from all over the Cape. He chose this area to plant his vines and named it Constantia.” (Wikipedia.org)
After his death, the farm was divided into three estates and then divided again in 1817 after other various transformations. It’s undergone a fascinating journey through history, with the last transfer of shares in the form of a merger with Anwilka Vineyards in 2012 when it acquired two new shareholders, Bruno Prats and Hubert de Boüard. (Read all about it at kleinconstantia.com/)
*The Mosaic is one of 30 contenders for the annual Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards.
Matt took us on a tour through the cellars and the fields with a stop in between to taste 10 different wines — seven Sauvignon Blancs, two reds, one of which was from a 27 year-old bottle, and their illustrious “Vin de Constance 2013.” The glasses were laid out in front of us ready for the wines to be poured, for us to smell and taste and decide for ourselves the various properties of each. One Sauvignon Blanc was not one that they bottle and sell, but one they use for testing.
The smartest of us spit the wine out instead of swallowing while we other gluttens went for broke and finished our sips on our early morning empty stomachs. By the end of the tasting a few of us were reeling a tad, but happily euphoric. The Vin de Constance we deemed “liquid gold” — a bright golden-colored sweet dessert wine “with aromas of citrus marmalade and frangi pani,” full bodied and complex.
Our hosts discussed what foods would pair best with the wines all through the tasting. I could see Chantel’s creative brain working as she was thinking about various delicacies she could concoct at her award-winning restaurant to be accompanied by each of the wines. Now fully sated with some of the world’s finest wines, and quite hungry, Cobus drove us all to chef Franck Dangereux’s Noordhoek restaurant, The Foodbarn, for a sumptuously decadent lunch in the casual atmosphere of an old barn in a tiny South African village not far from the winery.
Dangereux (don’t you just love his name?) was born in Cannes and trained in both Nice and Paris. He and Franck Swainston at Uitsig started “La Colombe” in Cape Town where it was placed 28th on the list of the world’s 50 best restaurants. The Foodbarn is now where he can spend more time with his family, have less pressure and more fun. The dishes were even more exciting by taste than by their beautiful presentations, using all exquisite ingredients and beautifully combined flavors. We left there not just satiated, but sated.
After all the decadence, Erica was energized for a serious hike up Lion’s Head with a friend while I collapsed at the BnB for a rest. While she was climbing, she was texting over photos of herself standing on the top rocks, showing off her mountain-climbing talents, making me nervous that she might not come home in one piece!
At the same time, a group of people were positioned around the big dining room table, taking a painting lesson given by one of the BnB owners, as I worked on my laptop in the salon. One of the women there suddenly realized I was “that agent on House Hunters International” and asked politely if she could take a photo with me to send to her twin sister. I had no idea the show had such a big following in Cape Town, but it seems it must…as I got spotted the next day, too, this time in a tiny dress shop on Long Street by another big fan of the show.
Yesterday morning we prepared ourselves for a paragliding adventure off Signal Hill, fortunately in tandem with an experienced pilot. It’s a sport I’d never experienced before — the closest thing to it was our ziplining adventure in Costa Rica a few years ago, during which I just never wanted to stop. I could have ziplined in the tree tops the rest of my life, if that were possible.
We booked the paragliding with Fly Cape Town Paragliding a couple weeks ago, checked-in in advance to be certain the winds were acceptable for a good flight and Ubered up to the Signal Hill parking lot, leaving the rental car parked at home. There, we were met with a crew who strapped us each in to the parachute and set us up with our little GoPro cameras on a selfie stick.
Josh, my tandem partner pilot asked, just before we were to run off the edge of the mountain, “Are you nervous?”
“Nope, not a bit,” I answered, “as long as you land us safely — I’m good.”
I couldn’t wait! And there we went…out over Cape Town and the Atlantic Ocean with the mountain behind us. We soared high and I felt like a bird in flight. It was exhilarating!
“How about a bit of a roller-coaster ride?” Josh asked while in mid flight.
“Sure, go for it.” (Why not? What did I have to lose at that point?!)
And he had us turning seriously “upside down” on this other side of the planet with me screaming in delight. At the bottom, on the beach, was our friend, Harry, with his big lens and fancy camera snapping away as each of us glided down over the city and seascape hanging from our respective parachutes. He caught us on “film” (digital, of course) in flight as the GoPro captured each of us up-close in mid air.
“Can we do it again?” I asked after landing. Again, I could have done that all day long and now I see why the pilots do it to earn a living…while having an absolute blast pretending to be birds over Cape Town.
The afternoon was spent shop-hopping on Long Street in the City Bowl section — all the African shops filled with hand-made goodies — clothing made from African fabrics, hand-carved masked and all the typical wares. We needed gifts and I was hoping to find some a great print skirt to wear in an upcoming House Hunters International shoot…and I did.
This morning Harry will escort and chauffeur us to the Cape of Good Hope, or in French, “Le cap de Bonne-Espérance.” (The name in French sounds so much sexier!) This is where we hope to meet up with a few penguins and other wild life, see incredible views of the two oceans, although this isn’t officially the exact point where they meet — that’s the southernmost point of Africa — the Cape Agulhas about 150 kilometres to the east-southeast, but we may get to see that, too!
Stay tuned to Monday’s Nouvellettre® when we relate to you the next five days — our adventure with the penguins at the Cape, our stay at The Orient, dinner at Le Mosaic and perhaps most exciting of all, our three days of Safari…yes Safari!
Words of advice if you’re traveling to Cape Town:
Don’t rent a car and try your hand at right hand drive, if that’s not something you’ve done before. Uber is so cheap here it will blow your mind and you can get anywhere by Uber or take tours so you won’t have to drive. I rented a car and then upon pick-up realized it was a mistake, but it was too late to cancel. The rental car sat in a parking spot in front of our BnB most of the week, except when I could recruit friend and photographer, Harry Hamburg, to get behind the wheel on our behalf.
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
(in Cape Town)
P.S. Planning a trip to Paris in the summer? Now’s the time to find your apartment. Contact our Bookings Manager, Patty, and find your perfect home away from home now!