Vineyards in South Africa's beautiful Franschhoek Valley
  • Vineyards in South Africa's beautiful Franschhoek Valley
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South Africa is becoming a destination of choice for good reason.

We were happy to arrive in Cape Town, the mother city, after a very long flight: 24 hours across two continents on South African Airways. On average, a round-trip flight from LAX to Cape Town International runs about $1400.00. We rent a car for the week, knowing that to be without a car would limit our experience in this beautiful part of the world. City, mountains, wine country and beaches all beckon to be explored.

We spend a couple of nights in the city, checking into a hostel situated on Long Street in the center of town, Long Street Backpackers. From here we're within walking distance of wonderful restaurants, bars and shops. It's a vibrant part of town, filled with a creative spirit and a friendly, lively mix of people.

While in Cape Town, we book a tour with Sam's Cultural Tours (ntimba@telkomsa.net) of Langa, one of the shanty towns you pass on the way in from the airport. Visitors can so easily get a false perception looking from the outside in when passing these makeshift towns. Experiencing a shebeen (a typical South African drinking spot set up in someone’s home) and visiting a dormitory and a day care allowed us to really meet the people that live here. What looks like a squatter town from the highway is more like a village – and a strong community – when experienced from the streets.

We drive around Cape Point, run from baboons and enjoy fantastic views of two oceans meeting violently at the tip of Africa. In Hout Bay we eat delicious fish n’ chips wrapped in newspaper. We finally head out to the oasis that awaits us in the quaint little French colonial town of Franschhoek, Gooding’s Groves Olive Farm and Guest House.

View from Gooding's Groves

Arriving pretty beat up from the late nights on Long Street, we welcome the calm of this little farm, complete with olive groves and chickens cock-a-doodle-ing. They greet us with a glass of red wine and homegrown olives. The room and its views take our breath away; my only thought is, I want to stay here forever.

We enjoy fantastic farm-style omelets at breakfast and wash them down with freshly brewed coffee. After breakfast, a spectacular hike through the vineyards and up the mountain gets our heart rate going.

In town, dining out is its own experience: each restaurant in this culinary heaven of a village offers an award-winning chef and its own style and ambiance. We had a blast visiting galleries, wine tasting, taking in awe-inspiring mountain views, and enjoying the warm hospitality of everyone we encountered.

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