One week over, thirty-five to go

As Thursday dawns in Hermanus, we realise that we have completed our first full week on the road. We will be travelling for 36 weeks in total, returning to the UK on 8th August next year, so we’ve used a mere 2.77777% of our journey time.

Sadly, our hotel breakfast this morning did not include whales. We re-packed and loaded the car. All of our luggage fits just about perfectly in the boot of the Toyota Corolla that Avis provided at Cape Town airport. We re-fuelled the car for the drive, at a cost of 83p per litre, and set out for our next stop in Franschhoek.

We took the scenic route to get here, passing through the town of Caledon, which, despite its Wikipedia page,  is not at all scenic. It has a lot of heavy industry and a fringe of shanty towns which, presumably, supply much of the labour. Otherwise the route itself was very pretty. The drive across the Franschhoek pass (Ishbel’s panoramic shot above) and down into the town was amazing, with lots of hairpin bends and outlook points over the valley below.

We came in to the town past the Huguenot Monument, which dominates one end of the Main St, and parked in the centre. Almost the first thing that greeted us was a wine display.

IMG_2896The Chocolate Block is a magnificent wine and an excellent accompaniment to the food in Waitrose’s Steak and Oyster bar in Canary Wharf. Don’t ask how I know this. I just do. I was disappointed to learn that the winery that produces this little stunner, Boekenhoutskloof, is only open for tastings twice a week, at 11am on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We arrived too late on the Thursday to visit, and leave too early on Tuesday. We’ll just have to make do with one or two of the other 45 wineries around town.

To get to our hotel here, Val d’Or Estate, we had to drive all the way through town and a couple of kilometres further on. Franschhoek is very much geared towards tourism and all of the hotels and guest houses are very well signposted so we had no trouble finding the turn off. We unpacked, settled in to our enormous room, and enjoyed a glass or two from the complimentary bottle of wine provided to us on arrival. There’s no restaurant here, so reception made a booking for us at a restaurant recommended by a friend who has visited the area regularly. They also arranged a driver to take us there and back.

The driver arrived promptly at 6:45 to get us into town for our 7:00 reservation. We told him the name of the restaurant, Dutch East. “It’s gone”, he said. I was surprised that it should have disappeared in the three hours since our booking had been made, but it transpires that a new restaurant has opened up in the same space, and with the same phone number. It’s called Bovine, and obviously specialises in beef.  He gave us a brief tour of other restaurant possibilities but we decided to honour our reservation and eat there. It was very good, with Ishbel having the lamb belly, and me, the fillet steak. They also offered a wine flight which we both had.


This was the premium flight, since the standard selection had no reds.

As we ordered dessert, the restaurant started preparing for load shedding as another power cut was imminent. I wanted to use my Revolut card to pay so I asked for the bill immediately before the power went off. During power cuts, shops and services take payment in the charming old school way by swiping your card in a machine with carbonless copy paper to take an impression of the raised numbers on its face or, of course, cash. Interestingly, the Revolut doesn’t have embossed numbers so that method doesn’t work for it. By the time dessert arrived, we were fully candlelit in the restaurant and the lights were off all across town.

After dinner, we took a little stroll along the main street and noticed that there were some places still lit. We were tempted in to the Tuk Tuk Microbrewery, who obviously had a generator to ensure conditions could be maintained in their brewing room. I had a really good pale ale in there before we asked them to contact our driver who arrived promptly to pick us up and return us to Val d’Or. On the way home, we negotiated an inclusive deal for him to take us to our restaurant for the next night, and to give us a five hour winery tour on Monday. All that to look forward to in the coming days.

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