Friday, February 12, 2016

Stellenbosch, South Africa: Wine Country and Penguins!!

We are in South Africa! Finally made it.  Jess and I flew from Windhoek, Namibia to Cape Town (there's also a bus, but it's 21 hours..... I'm pretty ghetto, but not that ghetto.)

Upon arrival in Cape Town, we were picked up by two of Jesse's friends, Mariet and Johan. Mariet and Johan both taught English with Jesse in Taiwan, but have since moved back home to South Africa.  They drove us out to Stellenbosch, where they both grew up and currently live.

What It's All About:
Stellenbosch is a gorgeous, mountain-framed town about 45 minutes outside of Cape Town. It's best known as being part of South Africa's wine country, as the city boasts over 300 wineries.  There's also a large university population (Stellenbosch University), and it is South Africa's second-oldest European settlement after Cape Town. This results today in a primarily Afrikaans-speaking population, around ~70% (trippiest-sounding language ever, btw).

Stellenbosch is seriously flanked by mountains and wineries on every side

The thing about Stellenbosch is, really, that it's absolutely stunning. Not only is it one of the most picturesque places ever, but the wineries are in a completely different realm. Like Napa on crack. I'm not sure Napa even holds a candle to how gorgeous these wineries are. Not only are they all freakishly beautiful and consist of super-fancy, Four Seasons-level buildings set in landscapes so unreal they look like postcards, but the tastings themselves range from free to like, $3. THEY ARE SO CHEAP. Which is fitting because the wine here is SO CHEAP as well - even in the most crazy-fancy winery with crazy-fancy tastings set in awe-inspiring designer modern rooms and crazy-fancy wine glasses and employees who describe all the flavors in the wine that you never actually taste (hints of pear?? LIES), the bottles themselves range from $4-$10. You could really splurge and get the nicest bottle of wine for maybe $15. I could live my life in Stellenbosch just doing 5 wine tastings a day. Perfection.

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • After picking us up from the airport, Mariet and Johan drove us an hour out to Stellenbosch, as Mariet was kind enough to let us crash at her parent's house in Stellenbosch for a couple days.  Johan's cousin was having a big 30th birthday party the day we got in, which we arrived just in time to crash.  It was lovely - drinking wine, eating fancy finger foods, listening to touching speeches, and hanging in the pool with a whole bunch of South Africans we'd just met. 
  • The first day, Mariet and Johan drove us out to some of Cape Town's expansive coastline. We headed out to Boulders Beach, which is known for its massive boulders...and penguin colony! 

On the drive to Boulders, we stopped by the adorable town of Kalk Bay, where the oceanside restaurants have their own cute wading pools 

And then we arrived to Boulders Beach! Exhibit 1: boulders

Exhibit 2: PENGUINS!! These guys just chill on the beach with all the people!

There's also these random fat wombat-looking animals all over Cape Town.

But more importantly, PENGUINS! They seriously just waddle around everywhere and you can swim with them and hang with them and everything. Except you're not supposed to touch them. Noooo touch-y (what movie is that from??)

Jess got in the way of these penguins

They also swam around adorably


There's another beach where humans aren't allowed because all the penguins are mating and sitting on nests

Me, Jess, Johan, Mariet. And penguins.

  • After penguin time, we took the world's most beautiful coastal drive around the Cape Peninsula - it reminded me of Route 1 in California - stunning vistas at every single turn. We only stopped once for photos, but if it were up to me, I could have stopped to take photos like 25 times.

White sandy beaches everywhere

Mountains everywhere

This is the road we were on; carved into the side of the mountain

One stop photo-op

Quick stop into Cape Town for dinner, where we wore plastic bibs and drank from pitchers

  • The next couple days, Mariet and Johan had to work/go to school (real lives...you know), so Jess and I spent time exploring downtown Stellenbosch and WINERIES. It's super convenient because Uber is pretty big out here, so we seriously just Übered from winery to winery.

First stop, Lanzerac winery!  

Lanzerac is where the very first pinotage was created

I did a wine and chocolate tasting, which was amazing. I mainly was just really into the chocolates. Wine always tastes fine to me.

Jess and I seriously bought bottles of wine to gift to anyone we could. BECAUSE THEY WERE SO CHEAP.  A friend of Mariet's gave us a ride to one of the wineries the next day, and we were like "THANKS SO MUCH HERE'S A BOTTLE OF WINE" and he was like "um ok thanks?"

That night, Johan and Mariet had a barbecue (which they call braai; it's quite a big deal in Southern Africa - they really love their braai).  I'd never actually seen someone chop wood before so I took a photo of Johan doing it.
And here is Johan and the braai

A family friend, Dirk, and his girlfriend were over for dinner as well - hooray delicious bbq!

  • Day 2 of wine tour, commence! 

We first stopped at the most beautiful little pond ever. SO PICTURESQUE.

Second stop, Tokara Winery!

Here is the winery and the estate

Walking in, you see all the wine-making metal contraptions

Their wine tasting room was super fance, as it had an entire glass wall that overlooked the winery grounds. AND THE TASTING WAS FREE. FREEEEEEEEE

How is it possible to have green AND purple grapes on the same bunch??

Stop #3, Thelema Winery!  

Thelema looked close enough to Tokara to walk, so we did - nope, not that close. Wine estates = super spread out. The actual tasting room was pretttttty far from the entrance sign you just saw

The walk, however, was stunning

Wine grapes

And here's all their oak barrels

Thelema's tasting was ALSO super fance - you got to choose any of their six wines to taste and the tasting was $1.50. Unless you bought a bottle of wine, in which case, the exorbitant tasting fee was waived. Of course we bought a bottle of wine. GIFTS.

Stop #4, Delaire Graff - the FANCIEST ONE OF THEM ALL.

Seriously, look at this view of the estate. The tasting room had a mini waterfall that led you to the bathrooms, and a huge wraparound balcony that looked down on the winery and all of Stellenbosch. Siiiiiiigh.

  • We only ended up doing 4 wineries (and super randomly, too - we'd seriously call an Uber, get in the car, and then look at the map and point out whichever winery looked closest) - the fact that the wineries we went to were all so uniquely GORGEOUS and fancy and upscale and amazing, and the fact that there are over 300 more wineries in Stellenbosch, leads me to believe this is what heaven is like.

Fun Facts of the Day:
  • I know this was a long entry, so if it was too long to read it all, your takeaway is STELLENBOSCH = CHEAP WINE TASTINGS AND SUPER CHEAP WINE. Add in the most beautiful scenery EVER.
  • Afrikaans is a mixture of Dutch and local languages. Which means people who speak Afrikaans can kind of understand Dutch, but not vice versa. 
  • Afrikaans learning time! Lekker = cool.  Dankie = thank you. "Thank you very much," to me, sounds like "buy a donkey", but in actuality is pronounced more like "baiya dahnkeeeee."
  • They call traffic lights "robots" here.  So someone will be giving you directions and will be like "At the third robot, take a right."  
  • They don't have Pinot Grigio anywhere. I don't know enough about wines and wine regions to know why not (is it only available in a specific wine region?).
  • Shiraz = syrah. SAME WINE. Some fancy wine person explained why they have different names, but I don't remember his explanation.


  1. Ahhhhh I loved this post!
    1. The penguins are ridiculously cute! Did it take like all the self control in the world to not just reach over and grab one and squeeze it? Also, the fact that they're just hanging out on the beach makes it even more perfect in my mind.
    2. All the wineries look so lovely! Def jealous about how cheap the bottles are. I just went somewhere with $20 glasses...Thanks, SF.
    3. Love the pic of you sitting by the pond - it looks like you're in a freakin Monet painting! <3

    xo catherine

    1. Thanks love!

      1. I KNOW. I WANTED TO. But the Lonely P was basically like "DON'T TOUCH THE PENGUINS, THEY WILL PECK YOU" so I had to ignore my initial instinct to squeeze them and take them home in my backpack (penguins would be happy living in a bathtub, right??)

      2. Haha, that just means you must come to SA and live it up at some point in the near future!

      3. Isn't it crazy how stunning places can be??

      Love you miss you see you in SF xooxxo!