A nearly 2,000-acre private reserve, Farm 215 is committed to protecting indigenous plants called fynbos. We were in luck on our trip: The fynbos were blooming everywhere — delicate purple plants that looked and smelled a little like lilacs, and yellow buds that washed over the landscape in front of our postmodern cottage down to the ocean a few miles away.
Farm 215 also emphasizes sustainability when it comes to food — and drink. The big chalkboard at its restaurant lists all the bottles on offer from the winery next door, with vineyards so close we could see them from the windows of our cottage.
We got into the local spirit with three wine farm lunches in a province that’s a smorgasbord of stunning wine regions.
The first, Bread & Wine, outside the foodie Winelands town of Franschhoek, is famous for its homemade bread and charcuterie. It’s almost as famous for its cozy courtyard dining, but a bit of a spring gale drove us inside. Happily, it was nearly as nice there.
We did get to enjoy the veranda at the Black Oystercatcher Winery’s restaurant in a new wine region, the Elim district. It’s about half an hour from Farm 215 on a dirt road that had us stopping once to let a herd of cattle cross and again as a tortoise slowly made its way to safety.
My favorite wine farm lunch, and favorite wine region, was at the Salt of the Earth farm stand and restaurant. It’s in the dreamy Hemel-en-Aarde (Heaven and Earth) Valley, near the whale-watching town of Hermanus. The people who run it are grand, and we spent a long two-hour lunch on the porch, enjoying the scenery, the food and Spotty the tree-climbing dog. Just up the road is my sister’s favorite South African winery, Hamilton Russell, known for its very Burgundian Pinots.
The most local of our meals was during our stay at the fabulous Babylonstoren, back in the Winelands. It was our big splurge, at about $500 a night.
Our cottage was something out of a home design magazine (think: Wallpaper, not Ladies’ Home Journal). It riffed on the traditional Cape Dutch architecture, all whitewashed walls and clean lines, but it got playful with the vernacular, adding a glass cube of a kitchen.
Waiting for us on the kitchen table was a box of produce picked that day from the extensive gardens a few steps away. After we explored the beautiful grounds, we roasted the vegetables and tossed them with a good Parmesan and some pasta. And then scarfed it down with the local wines that came with the room. Ahhh ….
Not everything was so expensive on this trip. One of my favorite stays was at Braemar Villa, a self-catering cottage in the slightly boho fishing village of Kalk Bay, on the eastern, False Bay side of Cape Town. It was a rambling 100-year-old family home with four bedrooms and a view of the harbor from the classic South African veranda, and it cost about $100 a night. It was lovely.
We had two more locally sourced meals in town: at the trendy but laid-back Olympia Cafe and a legendary fish-and-chips joint called Kalkies. My vote goes to the former, my mom’s the latter.
Kalk Bay is the ideal base for exploring the peninsula south of Cape Town, including the penguin preserve at Simonstown. On a trip with lots of signs about protecting nature, or protecting yourself from nature, this was my favorite: Warning — please look under your vehicle for penguins.
Down the road, you reach the most southwesterly point in Africa, Cape Point, a craggy outcropping that seems to look out to eternity.
But not so fast if you think it’s the southernmost tip of Africa. That honor goes to Cape Agulhas, about a three-hour drive east. As an added bonus, it’s also the point where the Atlantic and the Indian oceans meet. So cool.
My sister and I, both swimmers, have a fondness for what we call ocean bagging. Just wading doesn’t count — you have to swim at least a few strokes. Because I’d already swum in the Indian, this time I played the role of documentarian.
As I watched her wade slowly into the still-cold water, I thought about my family and traveling to the end of the Earth together. And, yes, I thought about the last time I had stepped into the Indian Ocean, to say goodbye to a man who belonged to this beautiful land.
He was lucky. And I was lucky.
I am still lucky.