Museums, Monkeys & Margaritas

Everyone needs a break from their reality, especially at this time when most of us are isolating and staying at home in our bubbles. Norm and I loved our European weekends away when we lived in the UK. We would often book a last minute cheap flight and just take off on a whim. We loved wandering the streets of a new town in a different country, finding interesting shops, going to museums and art galleries and then choosing random spots for dinner. Norm and I fancied a change and I booked a long weekend away in Stellenbosch which is only an hour or so up the motorway but almost feels like a different country. Norm had stayed in Stellenbosch on a business trip and he said that Stellies reminded him of those European weekends.

We booked into a small boutique hotel right in the centre of the town.

Stellenbosch town was formally founded in 1685 and the Stellenbosch Hotel was founded on land granted between 1692-1701 by Governor Simon van der Stel. The building was restored in 1987 and declared a National Monument.

The location was perfect, we were able to wander off to find plenty to amuse us nearby!

We arrived about 5 or so and we had not eaten lunch so we were ravenous. We changed and headed out to walk the streets and forage for an early dinner. We wanted a spot with outside tables and few people nearby but many of the restaurants had tables crammed closely together so we walked past those. We came to Back’s Restaurant and Deli and there was a table which had space around it and we chose to stop off there. This is one of the venues owned by the family who own Fairview Wine Estate.

We decided to share a bottle of the Fairview Darling Sauvignon Blanc wine. I usually avoid wine as the acidity affects my stomach and it makes me feel very bad the next day, but this wine was divine and I am glad I had it.

I ordered the chicken burger: crumbed free range breast, mature cheddar, free range bacon, guacamole and aioli. It was very messy but very tasty. They do amazing hand-cut crispy chips.

Norm had the Bacon and Brie Burger: free range beef patty stacked with bacon, Fairview brie, crispy onions and sweet mustard. Norm enjoyed this and managed to eat it all like a proper burger without making the mess I made eating mine with a knife and fork.

We decided to have a dessert but I wish we had not bothered as neither of them were that amazing.

I chose the maple and coconut cake. I love coconut and expected a cake similar to what we call a coconut cake in the South but it was a dry maple flavoured cake with an odd sour frosting and large chunks of toasted coconut. I did not enjoy this nor did I finish it.

Norm chose the pecan cheesecake and said it was OK but nothing to rush back for. I thought his looked better than mine but as he did not offer me a taste I cannot compare. #StingyScot

Based on the wine, the burgers and the overall experience we still give them 4 Kitten Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐.

We had a coffee to finish off our meal and then we went for a stroll around the block in the opposite direction than we had arrived just to get a view of the area. It was a gorgeous evening and there was live music and lots of vibe at many of the venues. We had both been up very early and were quite tired so we went back to the room to cuddle up in our king sized bed and relax. Our days of drinking all night are long past.

The hotel served an amazing breakfast which we almost missed as we slept so late the next day, it was so lovely to have a night’s rest without Panda’s barking to be lifted onto the bed or Navajo groaning when he moved about or any cats insisting we pet them in the middle of the night.

The breakfast was a buffet with the most divine muffins, croissants, cheeses, hams, fruits, yogurts and various other items ala a Continental breakfast. There were also large warmers full of cooked food: beans, mushrooms, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, and roasted tomatoes. You could order eggs cooked in other ways but we were happy to graze on the offerings on the large serving tables. We took a seat outside on the hotel veranda so that we could watch the city waking up and the shop keepers and restaurants opening up and setting up for the day.

We then went back to shower and get ready for the day. We wanted to hit some museums and art galleries but instead of plotting our route we just went for a wander. We stopped at an inside art exhibition which had some lovely pieces but many people were not wearing a mask so we did not stay long. We acted silly with the monkeys on seesaws outside the exhibition.

We stumbled upon the Gavin Collins gallery and we loved his work. Most of his pieces are very large and have the focus of the piece off centre yet your eye is immediately drawn to the detail. There was a large stunning painting of a woman and you felt that you could see into her soul in that painting. Gavin is incredibly talented. This is him with a smaller version of one of his pieces.
Image credit: Gavin Collins

We saw the Mandela Memorial Square which consists of a laser-cut steel silhouette of Madiba’s face which hovers over two sides of a concrete block clad in white marble. Under his face is a map which plots locations in South Africa that played significant roles in Madiba’s life. A popular Mandela quote etched in marble runs along a column on the ground: “Never, never and never again will this beautiful country of ours be oppressed by one over another” – apt for a region that was once a hotbed for apartheid.

We stopped off for a drink in the afternoon as we were hot and I was getting tired and grumpy. I have not done much walking in the past year and I was sweaty and had a blister on my foot. While looking for the Museum which GPS insisted was right in front of us (it was not) we came across a quirky little place called The Courtyard Café. Norm ordered a glass of wine but I wanted something very cold and I chose a Strawberry Margarita. Little did I know it was a whole pitcher!

It was exactly what I needed: ice and tequila, two things sure to soothe the savage Kitten.

The staff were very friendly and offered us 3 samples of their own homemade natural juices. Norm pinched a few bits off of their succulents around the courtyard which I will plant today.

We headed back to the hotel to have a little boozy afternoon nap then we showered and got dressed for dinner. We decided to dine in the hotel restaurant, the Stellenbosch Kitchen, as it appeared to be quite popular. Once again we sat outside away from other people.

Norm chose a nice wine and I ordered a vodka lemonade.

For our dinner we both fancied a steak and we chose the fillet steak described as: Premium beef fillet, charred onion, mushroom dust, potato gratin, cauliflower and white truffle purée.

We both asked for medium rare but the steak was more medium, however it was a nice cut and we did not bother sending it back. The potatoes were divine! It was all very tasty.

We both chose the same dessert as well, the chocolate fondant: Dark chocolate and toffee fondant, white chocolate ice cream, passion fruit anglaise. It was so delicious and rich!

We give our dinner at the Stellenbosch Kitchen 4 Kitten Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐.

The next morning we were up and away after breakfast for a road trip. We had decided to go to a wine farm. I looked through the little booklet put out by Visit Stellenbosch and chose Cavalli Estate as it has an art gallery, a boutique, a view and wine tasting so it seemed like a great choice.

Norm wanted to pop into Babylonstoren first as he had heard how lovely it was. Babylonstoren is one of the oldest Cape Dutch farms which has been made into a real tourist destination. There seemed to be a million people there. There were people crammed into the shops, many without masks. There were tours with neither the guide nor the tourists wearing masks. We were surrounded by people who had no sense of personal space and who were not wearing masks. It was also all red dirt and mud and I was wearing flip flops and a floor length white dress. I was not a happy girl and whinged so much we decided to call it a day and head to Cavalli. After a year of isolation I did not want to risk death just to look at some cabbages.

The lovely man at the Cavalli estate front desk was wearing a mask, offered us sanitiser and advised us that the entire venue was booked. They had a private party on the veranda and all of the inside tables were booked. We chatted to him that we were there for a weekend away and did not know we were coming to that estate until that morning so we did not book. We asked could we still see the gallery and he said yes of course, he then seemed to deem us acceptable patrons and said he would check if there was space for us in the wine tasting area but he said they only serve cheese platters and various snacks which is all we fancied after our large hotel brekkie. We had a wander through the gallery and when we got back upstairs he had sorted us out with a reserved table on the veranda with a stunning view of the mountains and farmlands.

We were so happy that everything worked out exactly as we wanted it to!

We chose our wine tasting and ordered some platters to snack on while we sampled the wine.

We were very impressed with the platters! There was a charcuterie board with all sorts of meats, olives, red onion marmalade, herby butter and breads.

There was also a cheese platter with several different types of cheese, grapes, pears, figs, jam and some honeycomb.

Together it was sheer perfection. We sampled 4 or 5 different wines and also ordered a case of the easy drinking White Knight: A rich Chenin Blanc that embodies both the richness and the staying power of a good Chenin Blanc from South Africa. The wine is fruity and fresh with intense floral notes and hints of guava, peaches, fresh lemon rind and cut grass on the nose. We also ordered a case of the very special Cremello: A blend of Chenin blanc, Chardonnay and Verdelho. All three components were whole bunch pressed and fermented in French oak barrels except for a small portion of Verdelho which was fermented in a porous egg-shaped vessel. A smokey, savoury nose with generous notes of vanilla, honey and ripe fruits. The palate is smooth with an interesting linearity laced with a creaminess from the peaches, guavas and honeysuckle. Aged for 12 months in selected French oak. We also picked up two bottle of the Black Beauty Shiraz for Caitlin. As they are a stud farm all of their wine names have a horse theme.

We left with full bellies and lots of wine to take home. We give Cavalli Estate 5 Kitten Stars for their exemplary service, amazing staff, delicious wine, scrumptious food and beautiful venue. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

We headed back to the hotel and had another afternoon nap. It was so lovely to have no time restrictions, to only need to go where we fancied when we wanted to do so. After our nap we decided to go for dinner at a place we had stopped for a coffee which had a nice spacious venue and a yummy sounding menu but after we trudged there they were closed. That teaches us to make plans in our plan free weekend! We walked around until we found a place which looked like it had an outside space available for us and we chose the Coopmanhuijs Boutique Hotel. It was an oldie worlde vibe type of hotel and the staff looked like they had worked there since the 1800’s but the menu looked nice and there were few people on the balcony.

There was a table of 5 men sitting behind Norm who we barely noticed until we were settled in. They had obviously been drinking all day and were incredibly loud and inappropriate. They were very flamboyant and 2 of them had such high falsettos that Norm thought they were women until I told him it was a table of all men. They watched various videos loudly on their phones, had screaming group calls to some friend who was not with them, shouted, shrieked and had conversations about the various men they had shagged down to the smallest (or largest) details about penis sizes and what effect a giant penis has on the ability to sustain an erection. They had a long, loud conversation about beavers. Not the ones they would avoid any face to face encounters with, rather the actual animals. Not sure what that was about!

It might have been more amusing had I been drunk but I was not and I was rather put off by the dramatics and noise. It was hard to hold a conversation over their nonsense.

As neither of us had much of an appetite we wanted something light and chose the cob, a South African fish aka kabeljou. It was served with 2 prawns on top, green beans, corn puree and cous cous with red pepper and corn. It was exactly what we wanted, perfectly cooked, tasty and not too heavy.

We decided to forgo dessert and walk slowly back to the hotel. En-route I decided to stop for an ice cream which I took back to eat in bed.

The next day we had breakfast and packed up the car and went to Somerset West. I had seen a small art gallery called R-Unique that I wanted to go to on Instagram and so we stopped off there. I bought a lovely planter for some of my succulents.

We wandered through the other shops in the complex and then we went for a coffee. There were seats outside which were isolated from other patrons.

We were happy to end our trip on a good coffee.

We then headed home and arrived to a tidy house and happy pets who were not even bothered about us getting home. They love Michelle so much. Once she left they did all come for a cuddle but it is nice to know they are happy in our absence as they are so familiar with Michelle.

All in all it was a wonderful weekend and it was great for our relationship to have some one on one time with no responsibilities, even after 20 odd years we still enjoy each other’s company and feel so lucky to have each other.

Today is Freedom Day in South Africa so I have the day off which is great as we get to acclimate back into being home and relax from our trip away. Freedom Day commemorates the first post-apartheid elections held in 1994. The elections were the first non-racial national elections where everyone of voting age of over 18 from any race group, including foreign citizens permanently resident in South Africa, were allowed to vote. Previously, under the apartheid regime, non-whites in general had only limited rights to vote while black South Africans had no voting rights whatsoever.

Mzudumo is here working today and he did a bit more work on my succulent garden. He has moved the large items into position.

I intend to plant some more of my new pots and then distribute some of the pots from the front porch into this area. We will buy some ground cover succulents to fill up the rest of the space.

I hope you have enjoyed experiencing our weekend away, albeit virtually. We had such a lovely break. I will revert back to my usual weekly post and format next time.

Remember to check on your friends, especially those who are on their own. Please hold positive thoughts and prayers for my friend’s husband Whitney who is recovering from Covid and for my Mom who has a procedure booked on the 30th.

Thanks for reading and until next time, Kisses from the Kitten xoxoxoxox

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