The dreamy island destinations of the South Pacific are for many a once in a lifetime, last frontier or even… more>>
South Africa represented for us just a new destination, a week ago and now it is so much more! This was our third leg of our round the world journey. We took an Emirates flight from Venice and through Dubai, traveling during the entirety of the night. Upon arrival in Cape Town our expectations were high, but we had no idea how much more they would be exceeded by this wonderful country. We chose to explore Cape Town and much of the Western Cape region because it was as far as we could go, all the way to the Southern edge of Africa.
Cape Town we found to be majestic, Table Mountain, the quaint downtown, the infrastructure, the ocean and bay views make it a world class town in the arms of dramatic scenery. We spent time in Gordon’s Bay where the cliffs that mark the start of the Garden Route plunge into the sea. We packed up our trusty little chevy rental and made for the high mountain passes, never imagining the variety and beauty that the N2 Garden route would unfold.
In a 4.5 hour drive to Knysna we passed wine country and alpine forests, rolling fields with livestock for miles, apple orchards, baboon troops, ostrich farms, all the while driving with a towering mountain chain on the Northern side of the road. Knysna is a special place with secluded beaches, mountain locked rivers and lakes, it is like Northern California, Switzerland, and European towns all rolled into one place. Every city we stayed in we found well established hiking trails that brought us into dense forests, panoramic views and serene wilderness. What we can truly say about the Western Cape is that it is a blend of nature’s best hits!
At first we thought the hotel staff were extremely friendly, but we discovered people in South Africa are genuinely happy for your visit and want to share their beautiful place with you. We found service in hotels, apartment rentals and in grocery stores and gas stations to be top quality. People take pride in their work and where they live. We even found drivers to be extremely courteous, a feat anywhere in the world! In general people go about their own business, but every interaction was full of smiles. People stopped to see if we needed directions, gave tips for good places to eat and drink as well as made sure every detail of our stay was cared for.
From Knysna we made our way back to Franschhoek, one of the oldest towns in South Africa about 40 minutes outside Cape Town. This valley sits between towering mountains of bare rock whose slopes are painted with centuries old vineyards that offer wonderful and informal tastings. Since our visit came in wintertime June we were able to see many of the colors of Fall still adorning the forests and vines at the estates. The main street of town is charming and historic, not to mention savory with some of South Africa’s best restaurants making up local businesses. With all this Franschhoek merits the title food and wine capital of South Africa. The trend for quality food and drink stood firm everywhere we went, we found supermarkets stocked with an abundance of fresh and artesian goods like cheeses, hummus, pesto, breads and of course delicious wines. Pinotage is a local varietal whose praises we’re still singing and tasting.
South Africa has a great many things to be proud of. Its indigenous natural beauty, the developed society it has achieved in commerce, public works, infrastructure and the way in which its people enjoy a high quality of life. This is a highly livable place, one that offers tourists the chance to see nature like they’ve never seen it before, to enjoy great accommodations and service, food, wine and an active lifestyle at a fraction of the cost one would expect. We highly praise South Africa as a place for affordable luxury, slow travel and a place to enjoy life.