Today the hubs and I decided to go for a nice lunch out in the Cape Winelands. If you even sort of follow this blog you know that wine is a little bit of a thing for us… so this is a pretty routine trip.
|Photo: Wikimedia Commons|
|Photo: Wikimedia Commons|
|Photo via http://1.usa.gov/IF82Kd|
|Chad le Clos|
|Chad le Clos photo from: Gallo Images &||http://www.sport24.co.za/OtherSport/Olympics2012/Le-Clos-withdraws-from-final-20120802|
You probably know that South Africa produces some of the world’s most delicious wine. Vines have been grown in this area since about 1680 or so, dating back to Jan Van Riebeeck and the first Dutch settlers in the Cape colony. A quick 15-minute ride from our house is the oldest ‘wine farm’ in South Africa. (Wine farm, in case you were wondering, is South African for vineyard). The area, called Constantia (and seen in the photo, albeit not from Van Riebeeck's time), produced such delicious vino that it was the first wine from the new world sent back for the hoi polloi of Europe to enjoy.
The business didn’t stop with the European crème-de-la-crème, although they are still the biggest importers of our local juice. Wine is a big business here: South Africa is the seventh largest wine producer in the world and contributes about US$3 billion to the country’s GDP.
Aside from coining their own name for vineyards, South Africans even created their own wine varietal, Pinotage- a mix of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut grapes. It’s a little sweet for me, but I have enjoyed one or two glasses of the stuff on occasion. You can’t live here and not give it a sip.
To be honest, the real problem is not the Pinotgae, it’s the Savignon Blanc. And the lovely bubbles. And the delicious Shriraz. And the spicy red blends with Cabernet Franc and Merlot. It’s the inescapable fact that you can go into virtually any restaurant around Cape Town and order a fabulous, reasonably priced bottle of wine.
This is even more obvious when you travel around the rest of South Africa and see the lame excuses for wine they serve at restaurants. Johannesburg is cosmopolitan? Not when it comes to your average wine lists. Love the sun of Durban? You won’t love the sub-par wine. After one night out in either of these places, you’ll be begging to be back in Cape Town, drinking fabulous wine.
Considering the history of South Africa and the apartheid government, there is also a disturbing backstory about wine production – namely the “Dop System”. In Afrikaans, a “dop” is an alcoholic drink. Going back as early as the 1800s, those who worked on the wine farms were paid in wine. Sometimes, most or even all of their salaries were paid in drink - hence a system called the "Dop System". While I am sure many of you would not mind part of your salary in wine (in fact, I know it might save some of you quite a bit of cash throughout the year), it has created a disturbingly high incidence of alcoholism, fetal alcohol syndrome (the highest in the world in parts of the Western Cape) and tons of other negative consequences.
Since I don’t want you to have sour grapes about South African wine, I will tell you that the “Dop System” has been outlawed since the 1960’s and the post-apartheid government has been particularly outspoken about getting rid of it. Some say it still persists in areas of the Western Cape. A recent Human Rights Watch report said two farms in the area were giving their workers wine, but the industry has certainly cleaned itself up. Mostly they just exploit workers like any other farming industry in the world.
Apologies for leaving you as bitter as red wine left out too long.
One of life’s necessities since moving to Cape Town is that I have to drive. After living in urbanity for the better chunk of the last 15 years, my driving escapades have been limited to the occasional rental in some far flung locale, the borrowing of a friend’s car or the occasional use of a Zipcar. Hence, I may be a little rusty in the applied vehicular knowledge.
If my rusty driving skills were the sole problem, this thing would be a cakewalk. Pile on the fact that people drive on the other side of the road, you sit on the other side of the car and parking on the sidewalk is not the sign of a drunk or insane person – now you can imagine my own personal hell every time I get behind the wheel.
But alas, I have no choice in the matter. Driving means doing the things I want to do in my life, so now I am a driver.
First, the wrong side of the road thing. At first I thought this would be the killer. But it’s fine as long as you keep shouting left to the left, right to the left to yourself as a reminder to keep you from pulling onto the wrong side of the road when turning. Problem solved. Circles; a tad more challenging but as long as there are other people there, you can just follow along. The only issue was a recent brief foray to the US when I became utterly confused at an empty street corner and had to think hard before deciding which lane to go into. Yikes!
So once I got the hang of the wrong side thing, I noticed all the other things… namely the roads. Ladies and gentlemen, we are not talking the interstate highway system – South Africa has yet to elect their own Dwight Eisenhower. Most roads are as wide as the sidewalk on Broadway near Herald Square but with the ludicrous expectation that two-way traffic will use it. Sure the cars are small, but c’mon! Spending a lot of time in reverse, rather than playing (but feeling) chicken.
Even parking in the driveway can seem like stuffing a sausage into the casing - see photo.
The parking lunacy doesn't end there. While driving last week on a beautiful scenic road (which there are no shortage of), I noticed that they had actually marked little white lines for parking spots on the SIDEWALK – which explains why everyone thinks it is perfectly fine to park pretty much anywhere they want, often leaving pedestrians to walk in the road.
But I have also noticed this flagrant attitude of “Fuck You” that comes from pedestrians. They walk right in front of moving cars, indifferent to the fact that a machine is barreling towards them at 40 miles an hour (will never get that kms thing, sorry). Overall, it's a very tense relationship but can you blame them? I mean the cars park right in your path!
Cars v. pedestrians. Same ‘ole war no matter where you are.
P.S. Haven’t even thought about riding my bike. Scared shitless for that one!