Living in Cape Town means you don’t have to venture out very far to see breathtaking scenery. It’s a permanent backdrop.
As someone who doesn’t enjoy summer very much (this pale complexion takes years of avoiding the sun) winter is my favourite time to explore The Cape of Storms. The world comes alive, like a dog shaking off its wet fur. Just look outside to see how vivid green the grass has become as it waits expectantly for the rumbling black clouds to release more rain; how the skies are never anything less than dramatic.
It’s so wonderfully gloomy.
Here are some of my favourite places to go when it’s cold outside.
I go to Franschhoek at least once a year, specifically for the literary festival, which is probably the most fun a bookish person can have. I love everything about Franschhoek, but every time I visit there’s always something new that surprises me. During my last stay, the roof over my head belonged to a historic Cape-Dutch home from 1870. I love old homes, and yes it’s mostly because I secretly hope they’re haunted. Avondrood was just wonderful. Time seemed to stop as we sat on the lawn outside our room, sipping wine and discussing all we had seen and done that day. A visit to the monument will tell you that the town stands for freedom and enlightenment, which is exactly how I usually feel after visiting. My favourite farm in the area is Babylonstoren (technically it’s in Simondium), with its ever-changing gardens and maze of fruit trees, its greenhouse restaurant, and the theme of vintage ceramics that’s present in everything. (I collect Delft Blue plates, a hobby my partner thinks is terribly old-fashioned).
Paarl isn’t the most obvious destination for spontaneous weekends away, which makes it the perfect hidden gem. We stayed over for a night and never ran out of things to see. We attended an engagement party at Graceland – a water park with the most amazing backdrop of mountains and valleys, and resident goats which don’t mind if you pet them. If goats are your thing (they’re certainly mine!) then head to Fairview for delicious wine and cheese tastings, sumptuous farm lunches and goats as far as the eye can see. Driving up to the Paarl monument offers incredible views, plus their pancakes are to die for. Incidentally, we did have one near death experience in Paarl when my partner stepped on a Cape Cobra at our guesthouse. Thankfully the snake, which we have since christened Christopher, decided to slink away without attacking.
I went to Cavalli to see the horses and saw some art instead. Or to be honest, I was curious about the farm after seeing their beautiful wine bottle labels at the Biscuit Mill. The estate is gorgeous (I’m sure it’s even more so when the horses are out), the wine is good and the food is a work of art, if a little pricey. I discovered a highly enjoyable rose called Pink Pony, which has a simple label compared to the others, but it was my favourite from the lot. I suppose the reason why the trip stands out was the drive itself, just hanging out and headbanging to Finnish band Wintersun in the car. Sometimes the journey is better than the destination.
Durbanville Hills Wine Valley
I adore Durbanville, which boasts the closest wine country you’ll find without having to leave Cape Town. As soon as you hit the windy road you feel like you’ve left the city far behind. Most of the farms hold a special place in my heart, but Nitida and Diemersdal stand out above the rest. The latter recently had a winter special, which offered delicious highlights from the restaurant at prices to suit humble artists like me. It was some of the most delicious food I’ve ever had – exquisite carpaccio, sirloin prepared to perfection, caramel cake with jet black ice cream and quince truffles (yes please!).
Whenever we visit the area I insist on stopping at Nitida. Their wine maker has a workshop which he calls The Tinkery, where he creates the most amazing artisan wines. Wild Child, with its wild yeast and runaway fynbos flavours, is my favourite.
When the sleepy bay comes into view on Booyes Drive I can’t help but smile. Whenever I see the sea I have to try and name the shade of blue. It’s always a different colour. Grey, silver, turquoise, deep midnight blue. No visit to Kalk Bay is a bad one, whether I’m eating ice cream on the harbour wall, browsing antique shops or dining at Harbour House with the waves below. It’s restorative. I suppose it’s for this reason that one of the most important scenes in my upcoming book takes place here. Recently, I was driving home from a friend’s launch at Kalk Bay Books, when the ocean suddenly peeked out through a line of trees on Booyes Drive. The moon cast a phosphorescent glow on the still, black water, illuminating every ripple. It was beautiful. Sadly, my camera phone completely failed to capture the scene. But moments like this are a reminder that beauty can lie around every corner, and sometimes it’s worth leaving the house, even when it’s cold and stormy, and you’d much rather stay in bed.
I suppose I better get my fill while the weather’s still good.