Okay, back to wine country we go! To give you an idea of how massive Stellenbosch is, we spent four full days in one little quadrant of the area (see the yellow below). Once again, FOMO is a real thing here because you can only get to so many vineyards in so much time and actually enjoy yourself. In fact, I’m feeling it now. If we went back tomorrow, there’s no doubt we’d have a completely different experience in the other areas. A reason of many to come back. Any takers?
After 4 beautiful days roaming around Stelly, we headed northeast to Franschhoek, another wine region but quaint and charming with strong French heritage. It was a Sunday morning and the 45 minute drive through the vineyards was picturesque and relaxing. Did I mention yet that we rented a car for this excursion to wine country? Well, we sure did and let me tell you, driving on the other side of the road was terrifying. Thank goodness we got an automatic because a manual would have likely killed us. Now I should take a moment and thank Adam here because he drove superbly and I just passenger seat drove while cringing with each seemingly opposite turn we made. Driving was an adventure in its own right, but back to fancy Franschhoek.
During our time in Cape Town, we met so many wonderful friends, but Adele and Steve became our pals to find adventure with. Adele is from Cincinnati (totally random) and her boyfriend Steve is a South African Afrikaans native. They are quite a pair and helped make our visit pretty awesome through the four times we hung out (they also threw us our first braai!). Steve and Adele had the magical idea of meeting us in Franschhoek for a day to cycle and sip our way around the vineyards. Obviously, this was an amazing idea which is why there is this Part II to this blog.
The four of us rented an adorable AirBnB cottage in Franschhoek and the fun instantly began. Adele, who had “cycle wine toured” before, was our fearless leader and got to plotting our route based progressively on vineyard closing times. Genius. With our route in hand, we went to rent bikes at Franschhoek Cycles from the shop owner Steve who was gracious enough to open his shop even though he was closed on Sundays. With all the necessities taken care of, we were getting thirsty and our first stop involved a hill, bubbly and the best view in Stellenbosch.
As the day progressed, so did the fun. Sweaty, hungry and thirsty we pedalled our way to four different wineries. Bubbly, sweeping views, charcuterie boards, incredible service… this day really couldn’t be beaten. We had one more winery on our minds when we arrived at Rickety Bridge, our 2nd to last stop. As the name eludes to, we biked through a beautiful entrance across a rickety bridge and arrived at a relaxed, welcoming vineyard and tasting patio.
We sat down in the corner where there was a rugby game on TV and were quickly greeted by our server, Charles. Now I’m not sure if we clicked so fast with Charles because he spoke Afrikaans like Steve, or because he just liked that we were friendly and rolled up on bikes, perhaps a change up from the frequent more pretentious tasting visitors. Regardless, Charles made our tasting at Rickety Bridge the highlight of our day in Franschhoek. Aside from being funny, warm and chatty, he was a stellar host. As we all selected our wines for the tasting, Charles brought each of us one of each wine… basically doubling our tasting so we could try everything on the menu! At one point, he even let Steve pour the tasting and keep the bottle at our table. The atmosphere he created was so alive and spontaneous that instead of rushing to one more vineyard, we crushed a delicious cheese plate, planned an itinerary for our future trip back to South Africa, talked about how incredible it was that the four of us met, and kept drinking the bottomless wine. I will relive that experience for years to come and will always buy Rickety Bridge if given the chance… and did soon thereafter at Duty-Free at the Joahnnesburg Airport :).
This day and this wine tasting in specific spent with new friends, spectacular service and great wine solidified the fact that people are going to make for our richest experiences on this 9-month adventure. With the four of us all smiles, we trekked back to our farm cottage with 5 freshly purchased Rickety Bridge bottles in our backpacks. Thanks Charles for a great closing to a fantastic afternoon and thanks to Adele and Steve for planning such a fun day!