Exploring Stellenbosch with #Stellenblog 2015
Stellenbosch is barely an hour away from Cape Town and the coastal scenery of Baden Powell Drive makes driving to the lush wine valley a joy. We love the fact there’s far more to Stellenbosch than just good wines. This past month, TravelGround was invited to explore cobbled streets, historic buildings and go on a gastronomic adventure with world-renowned bloggers, tweeters and Instagrammers for this year’s #Stellenblog.
What is #Stellenblog
#Stellenblog is a yearly initiative of Stellenbosch Wine Routes and Stellenbosch Tourism in conjunction with iambassador and Destinate. International and local bloggers, tweeters and instagrammers (called iggers) are invited to the winelands for a week to experience as many of the plentiful activities on offer as they can. You can find out more about it by visiting the official Stellenbosch Experience website.
Bites and Sites Walking Food and Heritage Tour
The day started with meeting the #Stellenblog team outside of Stellenbosch 360 Tourist Information centre found at 36 Market Road (36 Mark Straat on Google Maps) where we met Hanli Fourie, the Bites and Sites tours creator. Hanli chose the Foodies on Foot tour for the Stellenbloggers which encompassed a guided walking tour of the old town centre, with stops at heritage sites, artisanal food shops and wineries. Having done this, I can say this is one of the best ways to be immersed in the Stellenbosch culture, both old and new.
Passing a bustling street market in the park, and stopping to view a reflections sculpture, Hanli took us around to places such as the oldest Dutch East India Company’s munitions storage facility, the VOC Kruithuis; the old canal and mill stream and the Rhenish Misson Church that dates back to 1840; where Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbolds father used to preach.
Crossing the mill stream, we made our way to the artisanal Eikeboom Butchery, where the scent of coriander hangs in the air. The biltong, made with coriander, pepper, salt, and a few other herbs, is left to air dry for 3 – 4 days resulting in some of the tastiest biltong to be found on the winelands side of the boerewors curtain.
At Schoon de Companje we were brought into a world of freshly baked breads and pastries, lively conversation and quaint décor, created by an artisanal collective. You can find them set in the Oude Bank building alongside the sparkling House of Crystal and just around the corner from the Bartinney Wine & Champagne Bar. Here you can enjoy everything organic – including breads made with proper stoneground flour! The artisan ice-cream, cupcakes, brownies, smiling staff, and array of happy chatting customers cement it in my mind as one of the liveliest and friendliest stops around.
After a quick perusal of the bakery we set off to Bramptons Wine Studio, which boasts an award winning Cabernet Sauvignon that took gold in the Michelangelo awards, though their Sauvignon Blanc and Rose are nothing to sneeze at. The street-side tasting room, complete with chalk board tables and colourful hues, was where we could take a load off our feet, put the cameras aside for a while and indulge in the delicious foods and smooth wines being poured.
A short meander through the oak-lined streets led us to Coopmanhuijs, set in a historical building dating back to the 1700s. The interior features dark woods, lavish rugs and 5-star luxuries, with warm service. The Mezze platter we were given included a hearty helping of cheeses, cold meats, pate, and delicious deep-fried aubergine sticks (you must try them!).
We took to the streets once more and learnt that Stellenbosch’s nickname is “Town of Oaks”. Though oak trees are numerous, very few are original oaks from the time the settlers first planted them due to the great fire, and in present times, leaf blight.
We stopped in to see Nokwakha, who sits spinning rough silk cord into useable thread outside of Africa Silks, and after a chat with her, a few of us dared to try dried Mompane worms – which tasted a lot like dried herbs and seaweed for those curious.
Explore the streets of Stellenbosch and you’ll come across numerous artworks and sculptures commissioned by the Stellenbosch Outdoor Sculpture Trust. Since the initiative began, the crime rate has dropped significantly while the use of outdoor communal spaces has increased. The artworks and themes change yearly and Reflections is the 2015 theme.
These inspiring items are found all around, nestled below buildings and oak trees, in the botanical garden and outside the collage, and they quietly ask viewers to pause for a moment or two and reflect.
We detoured through the Botanical Garden and discovered a paradise within the heart of Stellenbosch, ideal for a break or a picnic (who knew?!). Varied foliage gives way to humorous artworks before fading to greenhouses, and transforming into climbing vines and lawns with paved walkways.
Bonne Esperance Guest House
Our final stop for the day was Bonne Esperance with its lush rose garden, spacious rooms, old world touches, and polished décor, marking it as a place to unwind in style and comfort.
We were greeted warmly by the owner and staff and ushered in to the dining area where a table was laden with the most delightful high tea goodies you could ever imagine! After a brief introduction to the origins of high tea, we set about crunching on the delicious treats available – the biltong bite-sized sandwiches, mini milk tart macaroons and scones, Cape Malay koeksisters and decadent (non-alcoholic) brandy tart.
As we ate, we were told ghost stories and historical facts by a local storyteller. With a short cooking lesson later on how to make proper Koeksisters (complete with their coconut sprinkles), the foodie tour was over.
TravelGround would like to thank all involved who made the experience so memorable.
Why do you love Stellenbosch?