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Grape Escapes

By Irvina Lew

Posted: Tuesday, Oct. 08, 2013

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Cape Town, the mother city of the Western Cape of South Africa is one of the world’s most loved—and with good reason. Its gorgeous topography is an irresistible treasure from broad beaches along False Bay to the soaring peak of Table Mountain (one of the 7 Wonders of Nature). Easy day-trips to the penguin-dotted Cape Peninsula, nearby wildlife reserves, and the picturesque Cape Winelands are just a few of the reasons why it’s the historic country’s most visited city.

The working harbor thrives as a commercial, cruise, and tourist mecca adjacent to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, which features tour boats to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of his 27-year sentence. Here you’ll also find numerous restaurants, theaters, and galleries for perusing. Stop in spots like elegant steakhouse, Balthazar Restaurant (www.belthazar.co.za) or the locally-driven upscale Aubergine (www.aubergine.co.za) for a bite. Nearby, you’ll find the new Cape Town stadium (it was used for the 2010 FIFA World Cup) where sold out shows for groups like Coldplay and Kings of Leon have made it a destination for music minded visitors. Prefer your art in tangible form? Renowned galleries including Everard Reid and South African Print feature fine contemporary art from both South Africa and international artists.

For carefree access to this area, a hotel like One & Only Cape Town (www.capetown.oneandonlyresorts.com) is perfect for an evening. But if you’d rather escape the hustle of the harbor plan your stay on a nearby hillside at the five-star, boutique hotel: Ellerman House & Villas (www.ellerman.co.za). Here you can enjoy an award-winning wine collection, perfect for indulging in as you soak in the unsurpassable views. There’s also a sophisticated on-site restaurant, luxe spa, and the owner’s marvelous art collection and contemporary gallery for the exclusive use of in-house guests.

To really experience the region though, you’ll want to venture even further from the city to the Cape Windlands, which are located about an hour outside of Cape Town. Cape Escapes Tours (www.cape-escape-tours.co.za) offers a variety of ways to see many of the more than 300 “Wine Farms” in the nearby vineyard-studded valleys. Some of the most picturesque include Stellenbosch, in the foothills of Table Mountain where Dutch Huguenots settled in 1652 and Cape Dutch architecture endures, and Franschhoek, where the French moved in 1834 and literally created a French corner.

Stop in vineyards like Asara in Stellenbosch, a sprawling wine estate with a pond and rolling hillsides that dates from 1691, and sample it selections at tall round tables facing a window view of gleaming vats. At the nearby Tokara, you can lunch on locally grown, contemporary cuisine in the glass, steel and stone restaurant positioned to capture views 400 meters above sea level.

Franschhoek is on the far side of the scenic mountain. If you have the time, plan on spending a night there at Le Quartier Français (www.lqf.co.za), a luxe Relais & Chateaux hotel. This comfortably cozy yet chic resort features rooms facing a fragrant rose-filled courtyard and a swimming pool. A garden path connects the rooms and suites to the inns’ art gallery and two restaurants. The Tasting room, features an award winning French influenced menu, perfect for pairing with wines from nearby vineyards.

En route back to Cape Town, plan a final stop at Spier Wine Farm for a picnic in a flower-bedecked terrace. The original wine estate has been transformed into an eco-centric hotel, restaurant, and garden destination with Segway tours. It’s the perfect way to end an adventure through this region. Of course, you’ll likely already be planning your next as there are literally hundreds of distinctive boutique wineries to discover in this beautiful part of the country.

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