How about a nice winters Sunday drive


Want to do something different next week or even later?

Jump into your car, make sure you have fuel, oil. and your tires are in good condition!

Head out along the N2 and turn off on the R310 past the Meerlust Dam, it must be the only dam to have windmill in the middle of it. You are already in the winelands. If the weather is fine you will see the area is surrounded by magnificent mountains. The R310 closely follows the course of the Eerste River, so-called because this is the first river Simeon Van Der Stell can across when he officially discovered the little island in the Eerste River, which was to become the city of Stellenbosch.

Driving further along the R310 you come to Spier, whilst I am not particularly fond of Spiers, it’s too commercial for me, when I first visited Spier it was a genuine little vineyard that was years ago. It was the place where you could get real waterbloomjie bredie, how the place has changed. But there are places to visit there if you walk over one of the bridges over the Eerste River you come to beautiful farm settings a really good walk. The huge pond is really nice to have a picnic, you have to buy a picnic basket from Spier. The craft stalls are really nice, as are the cheetah and eagles experiences which are rather expensive. I prefer to see cheetahs in much lager areas.

Slave Bell Spier

Eerste River Spier

On leaving Spier the next port of call is the Van Rhyn Brandy producer, brandy is a very South African drink and is not favored by all. But  the visit is well worth while.

On to Stellenbosch, a visit to the Village Museum is very informative and is very well laid out the presenters know their history, and dressed in period customs, you can get the feel of what it was like to live in the bygone era. After the Village Museum a worthwhile visit is to the Toy museum this is far from a child’s place to visit.

On the way out of Stellenbosch drop into Oom Samie Se Winkel,  Oom Samie Se Winkel (Uncle Samie’s Store) is an institution in Stellenbosch and a recommended stop on any visitors agenda. Continuing the fine old tradition of the rural trading post, Oom Samie Se Winkel stocks everything from handcrafted straw yard brooms to clothing, fruit and veg and arts and crafts.

Visit Oom Samie Se Winkel

Om Samies se Winkel

Browse at your leisure through odds and ends, traditional wares and handicrafts. Recharge your batteries by relaxing on the bench on their veranda and watch the world go by as they did in the old days.

Pniel

Pniel Vineyards

As you head out of Stellenbosch you drive over Helshoogte Pass this pass which was built in 1854 and is a deviation of Banghoek Pass the remains of which you pass lower down Helshoogte on the right. On the right you pass numerous vineyards two of  which are Thelma and Tokra the later producing superb olive oil. Still on the R31o you arrive Hillcrest Berry Farm. Stop of for a cup of tea and a helping of Cheesecake delicious. Continuing along the road we pass a little village Pniel.  Linking the two major wine towns in this way makes for a more than pleasant weekend filled with good food, gorgeous views, and wine enough to fill the boot of your car.

The town of Pniel, nestled at the foot of Simonsberg, lies just outside Stellenbosch. Not only does the little village lie surrounded by vineyards and mountains in one of the most wonderful spots in the Western Cape, but its history is very interesting. Pniel started out as 19 hectares of land donated from the farm De Goede Hoop established as a mission settlement for the landless and homeless slaves of 1842 (the British Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 abolished slavery throughout most of the British Empire, including 40 000 slaves in SA).

Today its oak-lined main road is filled with quaint houses, some of the them built for the freed slaves by Sir Herbert Baker (hence the humps in the road, to make sure you take the time to look around you!), whilst its name, which means ‘face of God’, is taken from Genesis 34 verse 30. In 1843 a further 43 hectares were added to Pniel from the neighbouring farm, Papier Moulen, and the whole area was subdivided into plots and granted to emancipated slave settlers on a permanent tenure basis, to be inherited by their children.

One can organise tours by local residents that include the history and the significance of the 160 year old church.

Past the established vineyard of Boschandal you turn left on the R45, now we are on the road to Franschhoek, Franschhoek was established by the French Heugonauts

The Huguenot Monument

The valley was originally settled in 1688 by French Huguenot refugees, many of whom were given land by the Dutch government in a valley called Olifantshoek (“Elephants’ corner”), so named because of the vast herds of elephants that roamed the area.
The name of the area soon changed to Franschhoek, with many of the settlers naming their new farms after the areas in France from which they came. La Motte, La Cotte, Cabrière, Provence, Chamonix, Dieu Donné and La Dauphine were among some of the first established farms — most of which still retain their original farm houses today. These farms have grown into renowned wineries.
The Huguenot Monument
This heritage is preserved today with the Huguenot Monument standing at the top of the village. The museum nearby chronicles the history of the first settlers, with each of the original Huguenot farms having its own fascinating story to tell.
The Cape Dutch architecture in much of the village is unspoilt, with restrictions having been placed on the extent of renovations and new construction in order to preserve the spirit of the original settlers to the area.
There is plenty to do in the town including horse riding, guided tours of the town, culinary tours and a visit to the Huguenot Monument and its gardens.
Why not have a sumptuous lunch at Dieu Donne situated high on the sides of the mountains with huge glass windows overlooking the valley. If the weather is really cold they will have two roaring log fires to keep you snug. In the summer tables are laid out in the garden overlooking the vines.

Entrance to Dieu Donne

After lunch a return trip to Cape Town offers three interesting drives, all of which start from the top of Franschhoek Pass with it panoramic views over Franschhoek. Be aware that the pass can be closed in the winter due to snow which falls at the altitude of 1000 m.
The choices of your route home can be either via Villersdorp passing the Theewaters Dam and on to Klienmond via the coastal route. The second route would be via the bridge over the Dam and onto Grabouw the deciduous fruit-growing centre then back to Cape Town over Sir Lowery’s Pass.
My favorite  route is to turn off left just after the bridge over the Dam and via the dirt roads through the picturesque farming areas over Van de Staal Pass and back home via Bot River to the coastal route back to Cape Town.
Franschhoek Vineyards in the Valley
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