Intent on spending time in the Western Cape without indulging the fruit of the vine, Ryan Enslin seeks out other experiences in the Mother City, and beyond.
As a non-Capetonian, thoughts of the Mother City and its surrounds invariably lead me down the garden path toward grandiose wine farm associations. Having said that, the region does the whole wine farm-shebang so well, paired with breath-taking architecture, vistas for days and culinary delights that get my gastric juices flowing, despite being only mildly peckish.
But there is so much more to time out in this highly-acclaimed region of South Africa, other than spending time on a wine farm. Let me show you what I recently found as I went exploring from sea to hinterland, without even visiting a winery.
The Grand Dame of the Waterfront
My time of discovery started where so many Cape Town adventures begin – at the V&A Waterfront. Established in 1988, the V&A constituted a bold move to redevelop the historic docklands around the Victoria and Alfred Basins, themselves dating back to 1860.
Central to Cape Town life today, as much as it was back then, the resultant mixed-use development has since seen more than 24-million visitors, with the Victoria & Alfred Hotel taking pride of place in this heritage, as the first hotel to open.
Today, this rich history merges with timeless luxury at the foot of Table Mountain, offering a stay that is imbued with a sense of calmness and serenity flowing from the mountain and the chilly Atlantic Ocean, both on your doorstep.
A balmy Cape Town evening made for just the right backdrop to explore what those 24-million other folks had already experienced, the various districts that make up the V&A Waterfront. Armed with the Walking Eye mobile app, I went exploring. I found this GPS-based walking tour app to be a great way to get to know the space I found myself in, and they have a few free tours available too. Best of all, you do it entirely at your own pace.
Meals at the V&A Hotel are served at Ginja Restaurant, a mere stone’s throw from the water’s edge. In keeping with the ambience of the hotel experience, Ginja has a welcoming, contemporary interior and a wide selection of dishes, not to mention cuisine styles. Opting for the seafood curry, complete with coconut rice, sambals and papadums, my meal made for a long, lazy time spent taking in the splendour of my surroundings.
Retiring to my room, I left the windows open in an attempt to continue the experience of living at the water’s edge, which turned out to be a pure salve for the soul as I drifted off to the melodic sounds of that mighty ocean.
A piazza facing room at the V&A Hotel starts from R4 800 per room per night and includes breakfast at Ginja.
Since you’re at the V&A, consider doing this
Take a walk and experience the latest addition to the V&A Waterfront, Makers Landing. Touted as a small-food-business incubator, Makers Landing is also a food market celebrating our diverse South African culinary roots. Located alongside the new Cape Town Cruise Terminal, it’s an easy walk from the V&A Hotel and ideal for a lunchtime stop.
Shop, eat, drink and be merry at Makers Landing with some delectably spicy Durban-style pickled vegetables from Charms Kitchen or a taste of the rather interestingly named Ugly Gin from Pienaar & Son. Find them on your right as you enter the building.
An undulating roof in the Breedekloof Valley
Having satiated my Joburg-instilled urge to spend time at the sea, I headed north-east(ish) in search of a chapel on a farm, the roof structure of which was designed in sync with the silhouette formed during golden hour by the surrounding Slanghoek mountains.
I had visited Bosjes Farm previously, but only on a quick stop-and-go lunch hosted in the self-same, iconic chapel. That interaction was, however, enough to spark a desire to return, and to more fully take in and appreciate the beauty that is this working Boland farm.
Just on a 90-minute drive from Cape Town, Bosjes Farm is an ideal escape for the day to nature, or a prolonged time of indulgence for those with more of this precious commodity to hand. Arriving just after the midday hour, I headed straight for the Bosjes Kombuis, where Chef Nic presented his seasonal menu.
Die Kombuis is housed in a structure that pays homage to the surrounding Waaihoek mountains through the use of high ceilings and glass walls plus a deck that lends itself to al fresco dining. I found myself tuning into the Bosjes ethos of celebrating the pristine nature all around, and adapted my pace to this way of life.
Having chatted to Chef Nic, I settled on the mustard crusted tuna loin with radish, sautéed spinach and salsa rouge. Served with a Middle Eastern tabbouleh salad, it was the ideal complement to the uber-healthy tuna and made for a fine meal on my hinterland escape.
Looking to aid the digestion of my meal, I took to the pathways which criss-cross the farm, immersing myself in the natural beauty. Happening upon Die Winkel, I found an array of products on sale from local craftsmen, curated by Cape Town-based interior designer, Liam Mooney. Of special interest to me was an art project undertaken in collaboration with the local school, now available as tablecloths and napkins on sale at Die Winkel. Die Spens, a short walk further on, offers deli-style light meals and an assortment of on-the-go fare, housed under a planted roof.
For guests overnighting at Die Skuur, the accommodation offering at Bosjes Farm, an early evening game drive is a delightful option to end a day in the Boland. With several hides discreetly located across the Bosjes Bergkamp reserve, time spent in one was the ideal way to bid farewell to yet another marvellous day on my other Cape Town experience.
Die Skuur is currently evolving to increase its accommodation offering, but while on the farm I settled into the Family Suite. Complete with a private main room, a lounge and fireplace to pass a chilly Cape evening and upstairs sleeping for three youngsters, the suite made for a home away from home. Liam Mooney continues to place his mark on the farm using clean, contemporary lines throughout all the rooms, underscored by warm, earthy hues. The bespoke collection of Cape Town inspired books throughout Die Skuur had me settling in from time to time to flick through their mesmerising pages.
A true highlight for me was the endless hours I had to shoot that iconic chapel. Having fully adapted to the slower pace of life so celebrated at Bosjes, I took my time capturing this beauty. Pure photographic bliss I tell you.
A classic queen room at Die Skuur starts from R2 970 per room per night including breakfast, while the family suite starts from R4 500 per room per night including breakfast.
Since you’re at Bosjes, consider doing this
As you’re smack-bang in the middle of the Breedekloof Valley, I highly recommend exploring Wolseley and its surrounds, where some interesting things are happening in this region of the Cape Winelands. Spearheaded by Peppi Stanford, owner of The Creative Hub, a space that promotes the artwork of valley locals, Peppi is passionate about getting the word out and sharing what is happening in greater Wolseley.
While exploring with Peppi I met the two Patricks. One a creator of metal sculptures that blew my mind, both in scale and concept, the other a leatherworker adept at crafting bags, belts and just about anything in-between. The valley is also home to the legendary Adene’s Farm Flowers, which grows a large range of flowers and foliage using eco-friendly growing methods. Get your timing right and you can enjoy a stroll through their five hectares of floral bliss, but only between mid-December and the first week of April.
My hinterland sojourn sans wine farm
And there I proved it to myself yet again, there is indeed more to spending time in the Western Cape than a mere assortment of wine farm stops. My other Cape Town experience gave me a splendid combination of interesting activities and, indeed, the best of both worlds – the sea and the mountains. And so much to discover in-between.
Follow more of Ryan’s adventures in and around Joburg here.