The next stage of our trip brings us about an hour east of Cape Town to the Cape Winelands. We stopped for lunch at one of the first wine estates on the way, Vredenheim. In addition to high quality, inexpensive wines, they offered delicious estate made grape juice for kids in the tasting room, a jungle gym outside the restaurant patio, and beautiful views from the garden. The yummy food came out quickly, but I’m not sure what happened after that as it took almost an hour to get a coffee and dessert after the main meal…
After lunch we took a short drive to our home base for the next few days. We’ll be staying in a cottage on a farm partway between the two main wine towns of the region: Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.
The place was called “TreeTops Cottage” and it certainly was! This deck was looking out into the tree canopy and was a lovely place to have all of our meals and drinks. We even used the braai (BBQ) to have some local sausages one night.
The setting and views from the rest of the property were magnificent. Elinka loved the jungle gym which was right beside a vegetable garden, and very close to an orchard. We discovered a lemon that was so big that it looked like a little pumpkin!
On New Years Eve we set out for a hike in one of the nature reserves about half an hour away. I wanted to take a photo of the road just opposite the trailhead parking – note the warning ! Baboons ! sign on the left. These were everywhere, just like the deer warning signs you see in Canada. We didn’t see any baboons until later in the trip though…
The Krom River trail was as far as I could tell, a good hike for kids of moderate distance with an enjoyable end point. It wasn’t easy to find a lot of information about this hike but I clearly didn’t do enough research on this one.
There was full hands on scrambling for Elinka more or less 10 minutes from the car! She had fun with it initially, but as the sun grew hotter and the day longer, it just became tiring. We did have gorgeous views the whole way, though.
The sections of walking on good trail were regularly broken up by boulder hopping, scrambling, and several creek crossings.
Finally at what will be the end of the hike through the desert for us, we reach a lush overhanging cliff with water sprinkling down from above which provides air conditioned shade for a lunch stop. Just below us some more scrambling leads down to the lower waterfall which pours into a pool that looked awesome for swimming for adults – way to deep for kids. The highlight of the trip was the upper waterfall and pool which wasn’t much further but required more scrambling and Elinka had enough already by this point. It was already 33 degrees out and we needed to get back before we all expired. Not before seeing some of the local fauna beside the pools, though.
Towards the end after a few stumbles, tears, and extremely dusty face and body, Blanka offered to give Elinka a few breaks with a piggyback ride which was happily accepted.
We made it! Sort of….. I’m not sure how long the hike actually was, but my Strava showed 14 km with 550 m of elevation gain. I had thought that it was 7 km round trip. In any case, it was way too long and demanding for us on this day and we were all really happy to be back at the car. We stopped at the next gas station on the way and guzzled several litres of cold drinks. I would say this is a good hike for kids, but not 4 year olds. Maybe 6 or 7 when they could enjoy all of the scrambling and boulder hopping on their own. I’m disappointed as I actually had to do quite a bit of research to find what I thought was a suitable hike for kids, and even had to book a permit in advance to hike the trail as they have a quota system in place for nature reserve visitors. I would have loved to take a dip in the pool at the end.
After supper and cleaning up at home we headed down into Stellenbosch’s historic and cozy town center where people were getting ready for New Years Eve festivities. The main reason for us to go was gelato (no pictures, sorry, we demolished it too quickly after our big hike).
There were a number of street buskers around doing various performances for tips, but these guys were just amazing. A marching band much like you’d see in New Orleans, yet these guys weren’t asking for tips. Just going from patio to patio for several minutes at a time playing their music!
On New Years Day we visited another wine estate – Lanzerac – for a late lunch. Most of the wine estates around here started in the late 1600’s and they really know how to make their stuff!
On Thursday our whole day was spent visiting wine estates on the other side of our base, using the wonderful Franschhoek Wine Tram. It was a great experience, since not only were we able to take a cheap Uber ride to and from the station, it was a great way to get around to a variety of estates we wouldn’t necessarily think of. I booked us into the Orange line tour as the pickup point and stops were all fairly close to home for us. There were several options for tours, some of them headed in the other direction and ended another 10-12 km away. There are literally dozens, maybe hundreds of wine estates around here!
The first stop for us (we actually skipped the first stop on the tour) was Babylonstoren, one of the largest and most popular estates in the area. It was already busy. We grabbed an early lunch and then walked around through the gardens. I had wanted to do a wine tasting here as we’d had a delicious bottle of theirs from a restaurant in Cape Town last week, but there was already a wait. They certainly had a lot to do on the grounds; one of the other attractions was a soap/cosmetics making shop across the garden from the tasting room. Also too busy by now to be enjoyable so we decided to move on. This would be a great place to spend most of the day, but come outside of the holiday season for a more relaxed experience!
Our next stop was directly next door at Backsberg, directly next door. They had a bouncy castle not far from the tasting patio: approved!
Not all of the wine estates on the tour are next to the rail line so the outlying stops are served by an old-tram style open air bus. They’ve got such an awesome arrangement. If you purchase wine for takeaway on your tour, you give it to the driver of any of the vehicles, they give you a sticker, then you pick it all up at the terminal station at the end so you don’t have to lug it around with you all day.
Next stop was Vrede en Lust. They had an amazing view from their tasting patio. And some pretty good red velvet cake, too!
Our last stop for the day was Allée Bleue. We did a cheese pairing with the wine tasting list at this stop. They also had a jungle gym just outside the tasting patio.
As we were about to leave, we spotted their picnic area around the corner which had a bouncy castle, and another, larger jungle gym. Should we pick up a bottle and sit out and enjoy the afternoon? Don’t have to drive after this, why not!!
We walked back down the entrance road to the tram station which was just across the road instead of waiting for the bus to come pick us up.
There was another tram parked at the station, a single decker unit which didn’t appear to be in use today. It was a successful and fun day! They say that you can visit up to 5 estates on the full day tour, but I think adults on their own could easily do all 7 possible stops without too much rushing.
On Friday we finally visited the wine estate right next door to our cottage – Zorgvliet. They had an awesome picnic area. We ordered a picnic basket for lunch which came with way too much food, a bottle of wine, and a gigantic lollypop for Elinka! This sadly was after we had packed up all of our stuff in preparation to move on to the next place.
We all wish that we could have stayed here for longer. The cottage was such a peaceful, relaxing place to stay, and the setting fabulous. If you can’t tell already, many of the wine estates and restaurants are extremely kid friendly and they were kid-approved by Elinka!