Newsletter from Pietman Retief - November 2014

While we had a most amazing Spring, with late snow on the Franschhoek mountains and before the Cape Doctor starts chasing all the insects into the Atlantic, the talk over a glass of sauvignon blanc has been on how beautiful the gardens are this year. It's as if everything has simply got better.

It is indeed a time of the year to visit the Cape. The vineyards are pushing out their shoots, the oak trees are thriving with young, pale green leaves, and the 2014 sauvignon blancs have now reached the shelves, and in between the tastings you drive through this spectacularly beautiful part of the world.

The clivias, or bush lilies, at Babylonstoren - tens of thousands of them - were blooming and showing off the different shades of red and pink with the occasional golden yellow in between. But then, some three hours' drive from Stellenbosch is the miracle of Namaqualand which we visit every year, and where we saw the daisies at their best, literally as far as the eye can see.

A 'not to be missed' attraction, which lures one to linger longer in Stellenbosch, is the town's latest Come Sit Outdoor sculpture exhibition. Blending function and form, it consists of 24 small benches placed in strategic locations around the centre of the town which an array of artists have transformed into impressive art forms in a variety of media. Other highlights to be enjoyed include a visit to the 110 year old Oom Samie se Winkel shop - a much visited and loved hive of traditional and novel items and artefacts. A stroll through the Botanical Gardens reveals several hundred bonsai to be admired. And, of course, the varied and beautiful buildings on the University Campus, which, by the way, has been judged amongst the top 300 in the world. A visit to the website is well worthwhile:


We as always have had many interesting visitors, who were prepared to walk the extra mile with me, listening to my ramblings on wine or history or art or proteas, depending mostly on their interests. Two couples, Roger and Claire Giles and Andrew and Karen Grabowska, staying at the historic Lanzerac Hotel on the outskirts of Stellenbosch, walking up the spectacular nearby Jonkershoek Valley resplendent with its million of flowering proteas, noticed netting over some areas which concerned them. This was to keep out the birds as part of research to establish how pollination could take place if not by the birds and there are some interesting results to come.

Roger and Claire Giles enjoying a tasting with friends Andrew and Karen Grabowska. And these are James and Margaret Potter who visited us in September.

Jo-Ann Pepperell and Nigel Bonham who came as guests from Holiday Architects in the UK.
James and Margaret Potter stayed in Franschhoek and made my life easier by first taking the Wine Tram which introduces visitors to some of the estates in the valley. I could then take it from there and we enjoyed a delightful lunch at Delaire-Graff, with its stunning views, art collection and of course great food and wine.

When taking out Jo-Ann Pepperel and Nigel Bonham, I was surprised by her fluent Afrikaans (including a few of the swear words only we would understand!). She told me that she was born in Johannesburg of Jewish parents allowing me to show off my own knowledge of the Jewish settlers from the 1880s onwards who made such a huge contribution to the country.

Among other guests in September were Leonard and Jeanne Fernandes who were born in Kenya and now live in the USA.

With the busy tourist season now approaching, it is timely to remind our tour operators that traffic volumes at peak hours, when our guides are picking up and dropping off Winelands Tour clients, does result in less time to enjoy the day. The Camps Bay, Clifton and Bantry Bay areas are particularly affected. As such, with a wide variety of wonderful hotel and guest house accommodation available, we recommend these clients enjoy the hospitality of the Winelands.

Annie Lin, Inbound Product and Operations Manager of Jacada Travel, visited Babylonstoren with Pietman in October. Morgenhof was one of the estates visited during Audley MD, Chris Mantel's, day with Pietman.

As always, our guides like to design the day around their clients' special interests. With so many wine estates also having fabulous gardens - Bablyonstoren and Rustenburg, art and sculpture collections -Tokara and Kanonkop and the vintage car collection at L'Ormarins, it is important that we have as much info as possible, as well as names, approx ages, and if this is a first or return visit. With Pietman as a Stellenbosch councillor in charge of tourism, wine (and also cemeteries!!) and Andre, having lived in the area all their lives, our guides are well versed in the history, culture and politics of the region.