Tuesday 30-07-2013

Today was actually spectacular. First of all, I must preface this by informing you that Alice’s family back in CA is in the wine business, and her step-dad actually went on a US wine tour with Mr. Malan, the owner of Simonsig (more about all this later).

Anywho, we woke up today and had another spectacular breakfast at 8:30. Around 8:35, we heard a knock on our B and B’s door, and it was Mr. Malan’s son, Michael, coming to pick us up. He was supposed to get here at 9, but because you can never tell how good/bad the Cape Town traffic was going to be, he got to us a bit early.

We felt bad for “holding him up” but he said he was fine sitting and chatting with us during breakfast (and he assured us that driving us to and from Simonsig was better than any alternative his dad would have had him do on the vineyard today!) Once we finished breakfast, we were off to the lovely town of Stellenbosch.

Stellenbosch is about an hour outside Cape Town, and it was a beautiful drive. After a few turns off the main road, we arrived at Simonsig, a winery that has been in the Malan family for quite a few generations.

And this place has quite the setup! There’s a tasting room, a restaurant (which unfortunately was closed today, since it’s winter/the off season), a gorgeous patio, and then of course all the vineyards and buildings where the wine is made, bottled, packaged, etc.

When we walked into the tasting room, we were greeted with Champagne (although I’m apparently not allowed to call it that – it’s sparkling wine, since we technically aren’t in the Champagne region of France!) We took our glasses, walked outside, and had a lovely chat with Mr. Malan.

Mr. Malan then took us all around the “inner workings” of the winery. We saw where the grapes got peeled and then fermented, where they are turned into wine, where they age in the cellars, where sparkling wine is made, and where all the wine is put into bottles. It was such a cool and unique experience!

Next, it was time for wine tasting! I loved the Chenin Blanc that Simonsig made, but many of the other wines were pretty swell, as well. Mr. Malan sat down next to us and tasted the wines alongside us!

By then it was time for lunch. Michael (who had basically turned into our chauffeur for the day) drove us to this absolutely gorgeous winery (there are at least a couple dozen in Stellenbosch!). I would describe Simonsig as beautiful in the old-fashioned sense of the word (with lots of woodwork and lower ceilings), but this winery/restaurant was beautiful in a more modern way.

First of all, there was a gorgeous mountain right in front of the patio where we ate. In addition, the dining area was all glass and wood – very simplistic, but incredibly well designed. To top it all off, there was a gorgeous waterfall right as you walked in from the parking lot. As if that wasn’t enough, we all (without knowing it ahead of time) ordered the chicken and avocado sandwich, which was delicious!

After eating and taking some pictures, we headed into Stellenbosch’s town centre. Michael showed us all around Stellenbosch University (his Alma mater) and there were lots of similarities between it and Harvard. For example, the first area we walked through was a dorm (although all-boys, and with a cricket match being played in the courtyard!), but said dorm also had its own dining hall, laundry room and gym just like each of the houses at Harvard.

We then walked around the Stellenbosch University Museum for a bit, and continued meandering around the town centre. Both Daniel and I were able to buy really cheap bags, essentially from a 5 and 10 cent store (Emirates allows two checked bags, so rather than risk being over the weight limit, I figured I’d just put everything into two bags).

After that, Michael drove us back to 22 on Rose. It was a spectacular (and incredibly cheap, all thanks to Alice’s connections!) day. But it wasn’t over yet!

My family and I have been part of the Harvard Host Student programme for three years now, and our first student we ever hosted was Amanda Lu. She graduated this past spring, but was enrolled in an engineering course that is basically paying her to spend the summer in Paris and South Africa! We ended up meeting her for dinner at Sargent Pepper’s on Long Street, and we all had a good time (even though Alice and Daniel had never met her before). I had a delicious chicken and avocado salad, while everyone else had pizzas.

We said goodbye to Amanda and then walked back to 22 on Rose. After using the WiFi for a bit, it was off to bed.

TGT: 1) interesting and informative winery tour of Simonsig today 2) amazing lunch with incredible views 3) getting to see Amanda for dinner

Until next time,
~JK

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