More South African Dream

img_2384The Cape Winelands in South Africa is a particularly beautiful region of majestic mountains and valleys, small historic towns, breathtaking scenery and wine estates. We visited two areas, Franschoek and Stellenbosch, but one of the highlights was a stop at the Cheetah Outreach Center. Our grand daughter, Rose, has a fascination with Cheetahs so I was extremely excited about getting photos for her, and seeing these cats up close.

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Cheetah with trainer

Packed and ready to move to our next hotel, Steven picked us up, and we drove to the Centre. The young guides, who are trained to care for the cheetahs, toured us around and told us about the program. They also gave us firm instructions about what was expected of us. We were placed in groups of four.

These cheetahs were rescued after farmers, who were protecting their livestock, killed their mothers. This community-based program was created to increase awareness about the cheetah and to campaign for its conservation.

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fast asleep-notice soft belly fur

The young cheetahs are raised at the Center; some are even born there. Turkish Anatolian Shepherds, giant dogs, are kept and trained and eventually are used by farmers to protect their land rather than guns. That is the gist of the program, and guests like us are encouraged to donate to support this ongoing outreach. There was a small charge for our tour. Please read the specifics of this incredible program on the hyperlink I have provided; The Cheetah Outreach Center.

It was a very hot day and when we arrived the cheetahs were frolicking. We started petting them, while being watched by the handler, who had them attached to a lead, but they soon fell asleep. Their fur was like silk and their faces simply beautiful. I adored this encounter immensely.

We were soon encouraged to depart, I could have stayed there all morning, and headed to a winery called Marianne Vineyards in Stellenbosch. This is not a well-known property, I believe they only produce about 80,000 bottles per vintage, but we knew the owner, Christian Dauriac, many years ago in France, where he had wonderful St. Emilions and Pomerols, and I organized a private visit. Many emails later I discovered that he would not be there, but we would be in the hands of the managing director, Alex Brodbeck. We tasted cabernet Sauvignon, and Cape Blend of various years paired with biltong, a dried beef, served in strips.  Unusual, as often tastings are accompanied by bread cubes.

After an informative tour and the afore mentioned tasting, we left ready for lunch at another winery, the spectacular Delaire Graff. This is a major estate and is part of the Relais et Chateaux group of hotels and restaurants. Breathtaking views, gorgeous art and a pre-lunch drink in the lounge/bar started our visit. I had their Sunrise Brut and Charles, a Shiraz. Just visiting the washrooms was a delight of more art, spectacular furnishings, and of course relief after our long morning. We were served a splendid lunch on the balcony overlooking the vineyards and mountains. We sampled a tartare of salmon that was delicious and oysters.  Everything exquisitely presented.

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Reception at Delaire Graf

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art en route to washrooms

Our hotel, La Residence, in Franschoek, was our next destination, luxurious and yet countrified with peacocks wandering around the grounds near the swimming pool. After checking in and meeting the charming manager, Edward, we were ushered to our room. Well room is not quite apt, our palatial accommodation. I could live in the bathroom with its singular oval tub, separate shower, satin robes, mirrors, and views of the mountains. We were told to help ourselves to anything from a wall cabinet filed with wines, champagne, water, cakes, as all was included. Okay, here I should mention once again that this was a first class trip, however, the SA Rand was very low and favorable to the dollar so in my accounting we were way ahead.

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entrance to La Residence-note placement of Charles’ hand

I changed and went for a swim while Charles watched and read outside on the poolside terrace. It was a lovely infinity pool and I felt virtuous getting some exercise after all the yummy food and drink. Then we had our usual late afternoon nap, followed by dinner outside. We weren’t terribly hungry after our sumptuous lunch, but the chef accommodated us and we had a simple meal of yellowtail fish, even though the menu was a prix fixe.

The next morning we headed to the Franschoek Motor Museum.  This was a special treat for Charles, but I found myself fully absorbed. The sun was shining and the temperature very high, I think about 100 F, so being in the air-conditioned building was much appreciated. The Rupert family privately owns the museum, and many days the owner calls the museum and chooses a car to drive that day on his private track. Every car was ready to roll, as they were on a battery charger. Very nice cars indeed.

Lazy afternoon, then dinner of oysters and rack of lamb with Steve at Reuben’s outside in the garden. It was our final time with Steven Lake and we had a chance to enjoy his company and learn more about him personally. I keep in touch via Facebook, a nice new friend.

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The next morning we flew to Nelspruit, and then took a small plane to Singhita Boulders Lodge in Sabi Sand and our meeting with the Big 5. I could hardly wait.

What a country!

Riki

 

 

 

 

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