Have you ever seen an accordion on the last day of Oktoberfest? Me neither, but that’s probably a good description of how I feel on 5 January. Summer holiday is a wonderful time of family, friends, braai-after-braai, my wife’s birthday, her brother’s birthday, my sister in law’s birthday, Christmas presents under the tree with my family, Christmas dinner with my wife’s family and New Year with friends or both families. It is a blessed time which usually ends with me considering to become a hermit.
I have a wonderful marriage, but there is one thing I wish I could change – the wedding date. By the time it is 5 January I am ready to celebrate our wedding anniversary with coffee at the Wimpy. Which according to my wife would be a sin. This year we were celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary and I was committed to rise to the occasion and not taking my wife for a mega-coffee at the Wimpy. Another challenge was getting baby sitters for our two boys. With everybody being away on holiday or busy or “not good enough” (according to my wife), we could only find a 24 hour gap to enjoy our second honeymoon. Would 24 hours be enough? Well if one night in Bangkok was enough, imagine what you could do with 24 hours in Swellendam.
Apparently "taking photos all the time" is another wedding anneversary sin. So the majority of photos for this blog was sourced from the patron’s website, Facebook or Instagram. I used photos that reflected our experience best.
Day1 10am: Drop boys off at their Grandmother on the farm 10am-3pm: Wine Tour – Viljoensdrift, Van Loveren, Esona 3pm: Book in at Augusta de Mist 3:30pm-5pm: Relax at the pool 7pm: 7 course meal at Augusta de Mist
Day2 8am: Breakfast at Augusta de Mist 10am: Pick boys up at their Grandmother
Our 24 hour honeymoon commenced as soon as we dropped off our boys and started with a “husband-and-wife-only” wine tour. I must admit that wine tastes better when you leave the kids at home. Ten years ago a wine farm had ….. wine. These days if a wine farm does not have an added activity or special atmosphere they are like a super-hero without an outfit – a bit boring. We stopped at two spots that I would skip in future visits because the lacked super star outfits and the romantic charm needed for this 24 hour honeymoon trip. I would rather spend more time at the spots listed below. Here are our top picks for a 24 hour honeymoon wine tour:
Viljoensdrift After seeing a lot of advertising on social media, we decided to try them out. What a great way to start the day! Viljoensdrift is located with the Elandsberg Mountains in the background, on the banks of the Breede River. And while Cape Town is struggling with water shortage the Breede River is showing no signs of this. You can choose a variety of items from their self-help deli to “build” your own gourmet picnic basket (pretty sure they provide the basket/box as well) which you can enjoy on the sunny deck with panoramic views overlooking the river, on the grassy slopes of the riverbank OR on a relaxing boat trip along the peaceful Breede River. Be sure to include a bottle of bubbly in your basket. Wine tourists can expect much more from Viljoensdrift than just a taste of their unique wines.
We enjoyed a free wine tasting and two fish combos from the deli for lunch on the deck.
Van Loveren This is the wine farm that I have visited the most and obviously one of my favourites. If they were a Super Hero they would have two capes. A brand new MUST try Four Cousins Restaurant in Robertson, the JAVA mountain bike event and mountain bike trails on the farm are only some of the reasons they deserve the mentioned second cape.
Because we just had some wine and wanted to act responsible we did not enjoy any wine here. Instead we bought and sampled some of Van Loveren’s very own chocolate while drinking a coffee under the shaded pergola at Christina’s – the restaurant at Van Loveren. Christina’s specialises in thin crusted, wood-fired pizzas, gourmet burgers and a variety of seasonal chef's specialities. Christina’s got its name from an ancestor whose bridal chest was passed down for generations and remains on the farm to this day. Christina was married to the first Van Zyl to arrive in South Africa in 1692.
What we usually enjoy at Van Loveren is one of their 8 food pairing options. Platters include chocolate and wine, cheese and wine, charcuterie and wine, nougat, nuts and wine, a Four Cousins fan pairing as well as non-alcoholic pairings for both adults and children.
Esona When it comes to romantic – this is my spot. Of the three wine farms listed, Esona has the smallest venue, which ensures a more intimate atmosphere. Its rustic feel with underground fermentation tanks (kuips) take you back into the bygone years of wine making. Add a beautiful view of the vineyard and wine tasting with Riedel glasses – magic.
Their upstairs deli has a small but enticing menu with platters and sandwiches. Something we really want to try in future is the unique wine tasting experience in candlelit “kuip” aptly named: Taste-the-Difference. You will get the chance to compare two vintages of their single vineyard limited release wines; Sauvignon Blanc – Chardonnay – Shiraz. You will also be able to compare ordinary wine glasses (jokers) to grape specific crystal glasses (RIEDEL). Pairing of wine, fruit preserves, chocolate, music and art.
Add if you have the time: Jan Harmsgat
Augusta de Mist Even though I had been living in Swellendam my whole life, I have never seen Augusta de Mist’s entrance. Luckily I knew where to turn left. The entrance is located in a dead end street and when you park your vehicle disappears into a densely vegetated garden with big trees and lots of shade which can almost be described as a forest. At that point I could not recognise Swellendam and it was almost like we went down a rabbit hole and entered a Wonderland….
We were greeted and taken to our luxury free-standing cottage following narrow pathways in the dense garden. The luxury cottage is built in old style, with thick walls and reed ceiling. The room was very stylishly decorated with king-size bed, fireplace, private patio and bathroom with double basins, large bath and very large walk-in shower. We spent the rest of the afternoon cooling off in the swimming pool and lazing in the sun with drinks. The swimming pool is surrounded by the dense garden making it very private which is wonderful. The guests that joined us at the swimming pool were all from Europe. This just confirmed that we were not in Swellendam but on a luxury honeymoon somewhere in Europe ;)
Photos by Bruce Flyinghorse
Augusta de Mist's African Kitchen In the evening we enjoyed dinner at Lena's Cape Table at Augusta de Mist's African Kitchen. This is an experience like no other. The 7 course set menu is an indulgence that is out of this world. Neither words nor photos could do this dining experience justice. With only about 6 tables available, unique selection of dishes, meticulous presentation and personal attention they create the impression that this dinner is being prepared especially for you. You will believe in as many as six impossible things before desert.
At breakfast you get to enjoy this almost impossible dinner in a breakfast version. Unexpected highlight – Renate your host. She is as unique and wonderful as the rest of Augusta de mist. Unexpected problem – I got lost at least 3 times in that garden. Luckily my wife found me every time.
After breakfast we sadly said our goodbyes to Augusta’s Wonderland and returned to the outside world through the rabbit hole. Do we wish our second honeymoon lasted longer than 24 hours? Of course. Was it worth it? You bet.