Tag Archives: Wine

Cape Winelands

Before heading out to wine country, we walked to a beautiful market with a huge variety of foods and crafts.

“There was a time long before apartheid
when South African wines were savored
by Napoleon and Louis XVI. The vintages
are reclaiming their global renown now
that democracy … has arrived. ”
New York Times

Today we’re escaping the city in search of some of South Africa’s fabulous wines along the Paarl Wine Route,  We travel over the 366 metre (1,200 foot) Helshoogte Pass to elegant Stellenbosch. Founded in 1679, this is the second oldest town in the country and is home to South Africa’s first Afrikaans-language university.

“The district of Stellenbosch is one of the oldest and most
important wine producing regions in South Africa. It is
located just east of Cape Town within the Western Cape
and along with Paarl and Franschhoek helps to form the
Cape Winelands. Simon van der Stel is credited with
founding the town of Stellenbosch back in 1679 and the
first vines were planted in 1690 according to our
Stellenbosch Wine Guide. Stellenbosch is composed of
mostly hilly terrain and a Mediterranean climate with
warm and dry growing seasons. The variety of soils in
the region in combination with its location at the foot
of the Cape Fold mountain range gives Stellenbosch
a favorable terroir for viticulture. Our Stellenbosch
Wine Ratings would indicate that Cabernet Sauvignon
helps to produce the best wines in this region.
However Merlot, Pinotage, Shiraz, Chenin Blanc,
Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are also all grown
throughout Stellenbosch. For more information on this
region check out our Stellenbosch Wine Guide.”
The Wine Enthusiast

 

There are over 60 wine estates in the Stellenbosch area and we will stop at one for a wine tasting in this heavenly setting.   For more on the “rich, juicy syrah, perfumed Chenin Blanc and Viognier, tobacco-laced Cabernet and Merlot blends and easy drinking whites and roses,” check out The Jaw-Dropping Wines of South Africa’s Stellenbosch, at Winefolly, here

First we stopped in the scenic town of Stellenbosch.

We arrived at our lush destination, the winery, L’avinir, where our guide, Sarah, dramatically lobbed the cork and top of the bottle off with a sword.  We tasted a selection of champagnes, known as Méthode Cap Classique (more commonly the rather uninspiring short form “MCC”, as in, “MCC anyone?” Or, “a glass of MCC, s’il vous plait?”) alluding to the fact that they use the same method as classic french champagne producers.  We also sampled some delightful Pinotages.

We stopped for a delicious lunch at a spot that specialized in cheeses and, not surprisingly, kept some jolly billy goats gruff.  After salads, cheeses and a charcuterie board, we went next door for more sampling, this time, everything from beer to chocolate.

Returning to Cape Town, it was our last night and I had to return to the vibrant waterfront to wander, enjoy the saturated evening light, music and gelato.  One of the prettiest scenes among all of the gorgeous scenery we have seen in Cape Town, is right here.

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I hope South Africa is able to turn itself around economically and narrow the gap between rich and poor, because Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen and I would love to return.

Now that I have Zigged through Amsterdam and Zagged through Capetown, it’s time to Zog, meaning this trip is about to take a very different turn!  As we fly over more beautiful South African scenery, I am eager to get to the heart of this trip, spectacular Namibia.  We’re flying to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia.

Best,

Jan

Olé!

🇪🇸 Did someone say Seville?  By request, this is our next stop on our armchair travel around the world.  When I was there a year ago, I wrote that once Seville is in your heart, you feel it will never leave.  A year later, and especially during the pandemic, I remember Seville wistfully and wonder when I can return.  With its friendly people, a culture all its own, and sprawling orange tree-lined plazas and boulevards, I recommend it as a Spanish destination second only, perhaps, to Barcelona.  The scent of orange blossoms hang in the air, as redolent as the scent of leather in Florence, Italy.

So grab yourself a Death in the Afternoon and spend a second-time visit to Seville as I re-post my time spent among the matadors and Flamenco dancers.

Regardless of my position on the treatment of animals, I admit a romanticized appeal to the idea of the bullfight – the macho toreador, the connection between man and bull, the perfection and elegance of the movement, the danger.   And nowhere is more evocative of these themes than Seville with its magnificent-looking bullring, the Plaza de Toros.

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Ernest Hemingway also springs to mind when I think about bullfighting in Seville, especially his novel The Sun Also Rises and a non-fiction treatise on bullfighting called Death in the Afternoon.  The latter also contains a deeper contemplation on the nature of fear and courage, a theme running through many of his novels and one he frequently tested in his own life.   Being one of those unfortunates who carry a gene that often leads to suicide, I have to think his curiosity about bullfighting was more personal than intellectual.

Hemingway created a cocktail called Death in the Afternoon, which, laden with Absinthe, may be related to such contemplations about bullfighting and life and death.  But doesn’t it look lovely?

INGREDIENTS

    • 7.5 ml Absinthe
    • 15 ml Freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 7.5 ml Sugar syrup (2 sugar to 1 water)
    • Brut Champagne

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We are in Seville, a former Moorish city-state (“Taifa”) that rose in 1023.  Abu al-Qasin was the first king of Seville; his son, Al-Mu’tadid, succeded him.  Al-Mu’tadid was a great poet, and was friends with another renowned poet, Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn al-Ammar, whose claim to fame was having beaten Castilian king Alfonso VI at chess.  Al-Mu’tadid was also the lover of the married future queen Itimad.

Seville Cathedral

Later, after the Reconquista, Seville became an important Catholic centre and construction began of a magnificent Cathedral in 1401 that was completed in 1507.  The Catedral de Sevilla quite spectacularly succeeded in fulfilling the design team’s original aim to make something “so beautiful and so magnificent that those who see it will think we are mad.”

There are countless beautiful depictions of Mary:

A sliver of the 7,500 pipe organ:

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In death, as in life, the higher the ranking, the more pillows under the head.  This is the tomb of a cardinal:

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Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus) is entombed here.

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The local thinking is that, even by his standards, Colón travelled more in death than in life. When he died near Madrid, one of his sons was governor of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. The son had his father’s body buried on the Caribbean island (Colón had asked to be buried in the Americas), then his remains were transferred to Cuba and ultimately, in 1898, back to Spain.  Santo Domingo officials still believe he is buried there.  In 2006, DNA testing on the bones in Seville was compared the DNA to that of his brother, also interred in the Seville Cathedral, and they were a match.  Santo Domingo, however, dismisses the Seville tests.

Alcazar

After a sangria break, we toured the beautiful Seville Alcazar.

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Mudéjar (/muːˈdeɪhɑːr/, Arabic: مدجن‎ ) literally meaning ‘tamed; domesticated’, refers to an architecture and decoration style in (post-Moorish) Christian Iberia that was strongly influenced by Moorish taste and workmanship.  The Seville Alcazar is considered to be the finest and most beautiful example in the world.

As sometime home of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, Cristóbal Colón planned three of his four trips to America, depicted in this tapestry, at the Alcazar Palace.

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The castle, a UNESCO world heritage site, was also the birthplace of Marie Antoinette.   The Alcazar was used as a set for “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Game of Thrones.”   A private section is still the royal family’s official residence in Seville.

Plaza de Espana

This complex was constructed for a 1929 World Fair which, because of the stock market crash, never happened.  The city has a lovely legacy, though, and locals can rent rowboats and float past on a diversion from the Guadalquivir River.

These three little boys were brave, they had a page and a half of questions they had to ask someone at the Plaza in English and they were very serious about their project.  They wanted a photo of me, and they returned the favour.

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And this pretty young girl celebrated her first communion:

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A few images from our wanderings around Seville, where the scent of oranges hung in the air:

Las Setas

Seville does not stand by relying on its historical architecture.   One of its finest examples of modern architecture and becoming famous in its own right is the wooden Metropol Parasol designed by German architect Jurgen Mayer.  One can see why the structure is nicknamed by locals “the Mushroom.”

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Flamenco

I have previously elaborated extensively on the dance, but it is hard not to think of Flamenco when you think of Seville.  And of course, we were seeing Flamenco tonight and it was amazing: the guitar players played beautifully, the singers were passionate and the five dancers were mezmerizing; steam seemed to rise up from the stage.  Here’s a sample from youtube.

We had a fabulous meal of many courses before the show:

What a perfect way to end the evening, a nightcap on the roof patio of our hotel, in a balmy breeze, watching the sun go down.  The only tower in Seville was in front of us, which the locals have dubbed “the Lipstick.”

 

No me ha dejado”—“It has not forsaken me

Seville’s motto is so appropriate:  once the captivating Seville is in your heart, you feel it will never leave.

Best,

Jan