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"Bites and Sites"

Stellenbosch, South Africa

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On a gorgeous, sunny fall day, we had a wonderful experience exploring the charming town of Stellenbosch, South Africa with the fantastic tour guides from "Bites and Sites". The peaceful 3 1/2 hour walk through the quaint streets, combined with the warm and welcoming locals, left me thinking I could definitely see myself living here. From the delicious coffee and snacks to the mouthwatering food and drinks we sampled along the way, every aspect of the tour was delightful. Stellenbosch's beauty and friendly atmosphere made it feel like a place I could call home.

Our journey began mid-morning as we departed from Cape Town, embarking on a 50-minute drive eastward through the picturesque agricultural landscape and acres of vineyards that adorn the Cape. Despite it being Memorial Day back in the United States, the arrival of fall in this part of the world had already caused the once-vibrant grape vines to slip into dormancy.

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Our knowledgeable, passionate guides, shared the rich history of the region, starting with a visit to the local museum. Afterwards, we strolled through the charming streets of Stellenbosch, a town affectionately known as the "City of Oaks." This is due to the abundance of majestic oak trees that line the streets and grace the homesteads, a legacy left by the town's founder, Simon van der Stel. Stellenbosch, originally a Dutch settlement, boasts a captivating array of historic buildings in the distinctive Cape Dutch architectural style. The town's allure is further enhanced by its prime location, nestled in the heart of renowned wine farms and complemented by a delightful assortment of cafes, restaurants, boutiques, and art galleries and sculptures.

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The striking metal sculpture depicts a stylized tree-like form, with twisted branches reaching outward. However, when viewed from a certain angle, the composition of the abstract shapes creatively suggests the likeness of a male face in profile. This clever use of positive and negative space invites the viewer to appreciate the artwork from multiple perspectives to discover the facial features subtly incorporated into the design. The other intriguing piece consists of a stone obelisk flanked by two suitcases. According to our guide, the artist was inspired to create this piece after frequently observing visitors pausing at this corner, seemingly unsure of which direction to explore next. The sculptor entitled the work "The Accidental Tourist" as as acknowledgement of the momentary feelings of disorientation often experienced while navigating unfamiliar places. Oh, and of course, it wouldn't be a "day out on the town" without Jeff finding his favorite, an extremely well-crafted metal sculpture of a horse!

The "bites" part of the adventure began with a visit to a local artisanal coffee shop, Butterfly and Blue Crane (named after the national bird of South Africa), where we indulged in a uniquely brewed coffee and a delectable lemon cake. As we continued our journey, we made stops at several carefully selected restaurants and cafes, each offering a taste of Stellenbosch's diverse culinary scene. We sampled Biltong, a dried cured cut of beef, typically made from wild game such as Kudu, which was perfectly paired with a refreshing Gin and Tonic. We also enjoyed a "snack" of pork belly and lamb wrapped in phyllo dough, accompanied by three local beers.

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No visit to Stellenbosch would be complete without experiencing the region's world-famous wines. Our Bites and Sites guide led us to Helena's Restaurant in the Coopmanhuijs Hotel, where we were treated to a mouthwatering Mezze Platter. The platter was accompanied by roasted peppers, golden-fried goat's cheese croquettes, homemade pickles, a delicious tuna spread, and fried eggplant. To complement these flavors, we were served a glass of Stellenbosch's renowned Cabernet Sauvignon. We ended the day sipping on a local beer, Diesel and Dust, with two of our fellow travelers before embarking on our journey back to Cape Town.

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After such a delightful day, it's difficult to comprehend the stark contrast between our festive experience and the abject poverty we witnessed along the highway on our return to Cape Town. We passed by multiple sizable townships, home to an estimated two million people living on the outskirts of the city in metal shacks. The juxtaposition of the day's joyous activities and the harsh reality of the living conditions faced by so many served as a sobering reminder of the deep-rooted inequalities that persist in South African society. This dichotomy left us with a profound sense of gratitude for how lucky we are and a heightened awareness of the complex socio-economic challenges that the country continues to grapple with when facing up to 40 percent unemployment, limited mass transportation and a recent corrupt government.

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Posted by Where2FromHere 12:37 Archived in South Africa

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Comments

Thanks for joining us for our Bites & Sites tour. We are honored that you chose us for one of your days on land right here at the Southern point of South Africa.
The sculptures by our local artist Strijdom van der Merwe are beautifully captured by your pictures, I quickly realized this here we have a photographer who knows exactly what she is doing!
Stellenbosch is the second oldest town in South Africa.
Am in awe with this wonderful trip that you are doing and what a great way to share your stories here. Hope you can one day come back to visit again and see more of our country.
Enjoy the rest of the cruise and your visits ashore.
Kind regards, Anne (one of the Bites & Sites guides)

by Anne

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