New Wine Tour

Now this looks like a good plan.

During the Christmas break, we took the kids (and ourselves) on the Cape  Town Sightseeing bus. We did the Waterfront, the CBD, Table Mountain and Camps Bay, before taking two exhausted, happy kids home. For some weird personal reasons, maybe you don’t believe me, so here are some photos and a blog post to prove it. See? Your issues, not mine. Get some help.

Anyway, incoming PR from Cape Town Sightseeing tells me that they have now added a couple of wine farms onto their Peninsular “Blue Tour”. Nice idea, peeps.

Claus Tworeck, the CEO of City Sightseeing, explains that the new Wine Tour has been launched as an added free value extension to the existing Blue Mini Peninsula Tour, and offers visitors and locals alike the chance to experience a true Cape outing.

“The Cape is synonymous with its wines and Groot Constantia, which has been in existence since 1685, not only offers visitors the chance to taste and purchase top quality wines but to also experience the grandeur and history of this beautiful estate and its surrounds!”

The list of things to do at Groot Constantia is impressive and, amongst other things, includes a fascinating tour of the historical Cape Dutch manor house, a cellar tour and wine tasting, the unique vineyard walk, the option to eat lunch at the restaurants or order a pre-packed picnic. Alternatively, bring your own.

“This is a wonderful day out for the entire family, and the estate is extremely child friendly. Kids can run around under the oak trees, visit the ducks in the pond and generally have a great time whilst their parents enjoy some wine tasting and a meal.”

And Claus is right. I think that the Constantia Wine Route is one of the most underrated attractions in Cape Town and if this helps it gain a little ground in the competition against its (admittedly also lovely) counterparts in Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek, then I’m all for it.

Add that to the other attractions on the blue tour: Kirstenbosch, Hout Bay and Camps Bay and you’ve got yourself a big day out. With wine. What’s not to like?

The “hop-on, hop-off” buses for the wine tour depart from the Waterfront stop (at the 2 Oceans Aquarium) every 35 minutes from 9am. Tickets are R120 for a day tour or and extraordinary R200 for two days consecutive tours – and if you book online, you will save R10 and R20 on the prices respectively.

Remember: Stuff found in the 6000 recommends category comes personally recommended. I don’t recommend stuff that I haven’t personally used and enjoyed, no matter how much cash people offer me to do so.

Stoned

Not in that way, of course. That would be very naughty.
No, my drug of choice is fresh air. That and brandy, obviously.

I took this on one of a few quick trips down to the beach from the cottage this weekend.
Rather hypnotic.

The remainder of the time there was spent sorting out the back garden (such as it is) and trying to salvage fynbos from the remnants of the building site. I’m unconvinced that we got a long way with that process, although my aching muscles are screaming otherwise.
My rationale for getting as much done as possible as soon as possible is that then I’ll actually be able to use the cottage for its original purpose, namely to chill out a little.

The place is alive with wildlife: peregrine falcons, African land snails, striped mice, scorpions (x2, in the house) and a tortoise in the bushes at the back. Then one of the neighbours came round to say hello and warned us about the the pofadders.

This sorted out a lot of a gardening worries, since I’m now going to raze the whole thing and concrete it over.

Got to love getting close (but not too close) to nature, hey?

More pics, should you wish.

Credit where it’s due (but only where it’s due)

I’m not South African, but I like to think of myself as an honorary Saffa. I do my bit for the country, I pay my taxes, I’m optimistic in a realistic sort of way and I try to buy South African goods and products as well as punting them on my blog if they’re any good.

I’ve said before that there’s no point in painting a wholly rosy picture of South Africa and ignoring the negative things that plague us. Not only is that completely misleading, but also it doesn’t bring those negative issues to the fore and therefore does nothing to sort them out. I think Jacques Rousseau made a similar point yesterday regarding the recent Kuli Roberts column debacle.

So having established that there’s no point in ignoring the negatives, please can we agree that equally, there’s no point in blindly praising everything just because it’s South African? This sort of behaviour is also completely misleading, unnecessarily raises expectations of products far too high and encourages disappointment in the real world (the world without rainbow nation-tinted specs). I’m sorry to tell you this, but there is no such thing as something being great, just because it’s South African.

Take, for example, the Kreepy-Krauly. The Kreepy-Krauly is an automated suction-side driven swimming pool cleaner: a hoover for your pool. And ask anyone round these parts for an interesting fact about the Kreepy-Krauly and they will tell you – pride oozing from every orifice – that it was invented in South Africa.

And they’d be right:

The first swimming pool vacuum cleaner was invented by Ferdinand Chauvier in South Africa

Nice work, Ferdinand. Or was it? Because in actual fact, the Kreepy-Krauly is rubbish. Rather than: “the suction provided by the pool’s pump causes the robot to move forward along the floor and walls of the pool picking up dirt and debris as it moves” as you’ll read in the brochure, something along the lines of: “the suction provided by the pool’s pump causes the robot to repeatedly get stuck in one corner of the pool, leaving the dirt and debris everywhere else” is probably more accurate. So the description of a Kreepy-Krauly as “automated” is a bit of a misnomer, since once you’ve shelled out the exorbitant cost of buying one, you will constantly have to assist it in its work by untangling it and freeing it from the step of your pool. And then cleaning up the dirt and debris yourself.
So yes, the Kreepy-Krauly is South African-invented, but that’s nothing to be proud of.

The same goes for music. I’m all for 5fm and the like having a SA music quota on their playlist, but really, some of the stuff they then end up subjecting us to is utter bilge.

Durban-based band The Arrows, for example. They recently gave us the rather watery but catchy Lovesick which made it onto said playlist. And that was “ok”, because the track was “ok” – not amazing – but “ok”. And then they release No Robots, the chorus of which sounds like the lead singer has grabbed an electric fence and is struggling to let it go. Seriously, they’ve been banned from playing it live at several venues as the local ambulance service (and sometimes the local SPCA as well) get calls from the 15 people in the crowd requesting urgent medical assistance “because something’s in pain”. And yet, because it’s South African, it gets airplay.

I’ve singled out The Arrows for a bit of criticism and that’s not fair, because there are other bands out there who are doing the same and getting away with it thanks to the apparent quota system. “We’ll endorse anything” band, The Parlotones (and I’m sure lead singer Khan Morbee won’t mind me telling you this *cough*) have been churning out rubbish from the pisspoor Stardust Galaxies album for well over a year now, but it gets played. Goldfish have somehow fooled the hipsters into thinking that they have released lots of different singles, whereas if you listen carefully, it’s just the same song on repeat. And still they get played.

Why does this happen? Is it because the music industry in SA is so small and fragile, they feel they need to give it this ill-thought support? Or is it merely a matter of national pride? Whatever, the powers that be need to think again on how they judge these things. Base your decisions on quality, not nationality, because much like endorsing the South African Kreepy-Krauly, supporting average local music devalues the good work that bands like Ashtray Electric, Zebra & Giraffe and Goodluck are doing and doesn’t contribute to raising the standard at all (not that I am suggesting that if/when they give us a duff single it should be played either). Is it really any wonder that there are so few local bands making it internationally when mediocrity is encouraged in this way?

Much as I don’t think we should be papering over the cracks as far as crime and corruption are concerned, neither do I think we should be telling people that all South African products and music are great when they patently are not.

All I’m asking for is a bit of honesty.

Away days

We’re spending the weekend “moving in” here, so I’m not actually here, I’m here:

It would be nice to have some better weather than when this picture was taken, although as you can see, the kids enjoy the place even when the weather isn’t all that it could be.

And, as I mentioned here, there is no internet and no cellphone signal where we’re going, so I will be mercifully quiet. Enjoy the silence.

Christchurch Earthquake – Google Person Finder

After the devastating Christchurch earthquake in the early hours of this morning (SA time), Google have launched a Google Person Finder to help track those missing or to let people know that they’re ok.

Thanks to those of you on twitter who have sent me a link to this app, knowing that my parents are in NZ at the moment. Fortunately, they are a few hundred kms away from Christchurch (although they’re due there next week).
Although I haven’t been able to make contact with them, that’s more likely to be because they’re out exploring the wilderness rather than anything earthquake related.
UPDATE: As I suspected – they’re fine – although they were to be staying just 300m from the cathedral in Christchurch when they get there next week. I suspect their plans may have to change.