Franschhoek to Arniston via Hermanus - Day Two

Franschhoek valley, South Africa. February 2012.Dinner last night at the French Connection in Franschhoek; perfectly serviceable, but after Bon Vivant it was always going to suffer by comparison. We were actually supposed to have dinner at Jordons Winery and Restaurant, another one of the top rated restaurants in SA and headed up by George Jardine, one of SA’s top chefs. Fortunately we called ahead to confirm our reservation since it’s a 25k drive from La Dauphine to Stellenbosch only to be told that our reservation was for the previous evening. I was completely gutted to hear that I had messed up the reservation, yes it was my fault, particularly since I had struggled with their on-line reservation form about two weeks previous, before we had left home. At that time, I had thrown my self-control to the winds and wrote them a scathing email about their less than useless web site (anyone struggling with this web site is welcome to be equally as cutting if you write to me, goose and gander). They replied very graciously and we arranged for dinner, but clearly I had gotten my dates wrong so I am doubly upset; my mistake cost them a reservation and us a very good dinner and the circumstances surrounding it are cringe-inducing. Roadside baboonsEarly start this morning, driving to a vineyard just outside Hermanus to meet friends from Toronto who have spent the last three winters in Hermanus. To get there, we climbed a switchback road up one of the mountains that surround Franschhoek, over a pass and then down into enormously different country on the other side. During the course of our climb we came across a troupe of baboons, wives, fathers, children, and elderly aunts about 40 in all, sunning themselves and squabblng in the middle of the road. Fortunately for them, little traffic and we stopped and climbed out to get some shots. They let us approach to a point then got very stroppy so we bid them a fond adieu and sped on.

We seem to have passed through at least three very different climates and vegetation regions in the course of a 2 hour drive.; Franschhoek is in a bowl surrounded by mountains, green, verdant, prosperous and filled with vineyards; over the pass, and down the other side of the mountains, the landscape flattened out into orchard country with acres and miles of apples and pears; then into even flatter prairie country, rolling and covered for 360 degrees, as far as the eye could see with brown, newly-harvested hay and grains, with stooks piled up in the fields. In this region it would have been very easy to imagine that you were in Saskatchewan just after harvest. Fascinating, and so by degrees, arrived in Hermanus.

Prairie countryside on the way to HermanusSmall, seaside town on a bay which is the calving grounds for the Southern Right Whale. This was not the time of year for them to be in attendance but the town seems to be the Muskoka of Cape Town in addition to its whale watching fame. Very pleasant lunch and afternoon with Don and Susan and then pressed on for Arniston where we will be spending the next two nights.

Arrived in Arniston in late afternoon. Once again, a very different sense of place; it’s only a short distance from the most southerly tip of Africa and the beaches are long and wide, backed by massive rolling sand dunes about 10 or 20 metres high and subjected to a continuous pounding by huge rolling breakers. Tiny place, originally and still is a fishing village and many of the original stone cottages are still being used.

Met our hosts and were advised to have dinner at the large Arniston Hotel, just down the road from our inn. Pleasnt enough but at the end of the day, hotel food. Looking forward to our drive tomorrow; were advised strongly not to miss the Black Oystercatcher Vineyard for lunch so it's at the top of our list and will organize our drive around it.

Early dinner and bed; not much else on offer.

Arniston - Day Three

Franschhoek - Day One