“It’s a postcard town,” the captain of the catamaran says as we glide silently over the turqouise sea looking at the whitewashed buildings clustered along the seaside. This is the second time I’ve heard this description today about Langebaan, and it could not be more apt.
There must be something special about Club Mykonos in Langebaan, because this is our third time back here in the past year, and every time we have just loved it. “It’s a relatively undiscovered gem,” the manager of the Bouzouko restaurant, adjoining Club Mykonos, furtively whispers to us as we enjoy the most amazing setting for a dinner.
The sun sets over the yacht mooring creating a postcard scene as the yacht sails are silhouetted against an indescribale riot of colors competing for attention across the sky, and I sip my beer, and tuck into succulent chicken souvlaki. “This is one of my favourite dinners,” my kids chime. I can see why. It’s the combination of good food and incredible setting.
Most of the people from Cape Town don’t seem to know about Langebaan. It has been discovered by Gautengers, and a few foreigners, like George from the kite surfing shop, who comes from Greece each year to teach people to kite surf. “It feels just like my home,” he says. “The whitewashed buildings, the sea, and the friendly village atmosphere.” Of course I have to lean forward to understand him as he enthusiastically explains this in his rich Greek accent.
What strikes us as amazing about Langebaan, and especially Club Mykonos, is that it is not only a destination but a launchpad to explore this area. “If anyone is bored here,” the Bouzouko manager says, “then there must be something wrong with them.” And he’s right. The Club Mykonos resort is built like a Greek village. A maze of winding, cobbled pathways snake between whitewashed homes, arrayed with brightly coloured shutters, set around a Mediterranean-like sea. Just lying under the palms and soaking up the atmosphere would be enough…but there’s the siren’s call of the refreshing sea, cruises on yachts, spas for those needing pampering - and our personal favourite, a glass of wine watching the sun dip into the sea and transform the world into a wonderland.
However, the opportunities don't end here. The town of Langebaan has everything from the best-value breakfast at Breeze to the best place to learn to Kite Surf in South Africa, to a plethora of quaint shops and eateries. Then within about thirty minutes drive there is the West Coast National Park with it’s stunning white beaches and flower displays in Spring, Paternoster for the quant fishing village experience - make sure you have your hake and chips in paper wrapping at the takeawawy by the beach, and Veldrift for a boat cruise and pink flamingo extravaganza!
Maybe it’s best that not too many people find Langebaan so it keeps it’s small town feel, but I think the word is getting out, and we’re sure glad we found this place! Why look at postcards when you can step into one?
Brrr, it's 9c as our car tires crunch along the gravel driveway as we head towards our booking at Grande Provence. It's a Shiraz wine and dine collaboration dinner and it sounds spectacular. We're welcomed by a huge silvery full moon rising over the mountain casting its magical light on everything as we make our way to the restaurant.
Inside soft candles flicker on the tables while a crackling log fire warms the restaurant. The soft hum of chatting diners draws us in.
“Hello, I'm Michael,” we are warmly welcomed. The waiter gives us a board of warm homemade seed bread with sundried tomato butter.
“We probably shouldn't be filling up on the bread,” I say as I reach for another piece. I can't resist. I've just read the menu and it looks spectacular. Maybe just one more piece.
The first shiraz arrives it's a 2010 Lammershoek Syrah. It's smooth with a lovely linger. Maybe it's because it's our first wine and the tastebuds are excited, but this is a great start.
We kick off with a spiced butternut and saffron mouth warmer. So smooth. So tiny. So leaving me wanting more.
Clink, clink goes a glass. All heads turn towards a tall, commanding figure standing near the log fire. “Hi I'm Karl the general manager of Grande Provance,” he says as we all go quiet. He welcomes us to the fourth wine evening for the year. Darren the chef then takes us through the menu in an exciting verbal journey. This is followed by the winemaker from Lammershoek telling us about both his vineyard and the wine. Now I have a problem. I want to go and visit this vineyard. It sounds stunning. Nicky is soon on Google looking to see if we can find it. Maybe...
“Sir, here is your Indonesian salt cured duck...” the waiter says continuing with even more detail. All I know is it looks delicious. And as my teeth sink into the succulent duck with citrus caviar I'm enraptured.
“What makes a wine great?” asks Tamsin from Hartenberg Estate who has now stood up to introduce our second wine for the evening. “It's the company you keep.” And she is right. I'm enjoying this evening with stunning company - my wife - and a group of fellow wine lovers. “It's a very masculine wine,” Tamsin says describing the 2008 Hartenberg Gavel Hill Shiraz. “Hmm...if this is masculine I'm glad I'm a dude.”
Horse and carriage, love and marriage. That's what this is. The perfect pair. The barbecue sea bass with charred baba ganoush arrives on a warm stone plate. It is deliciously smoky and goes like a Siamese twin with the wine drawing out the natural smokey taste of the Shiraz. It's probably the best pairing I've tasted.
While the bliss of the taste match is still doing a tango on my tongue the winemaker from Eagles Nest stands up and regales us with fascinating stories about their farm and the 2012 Shiraz we are now having. It's paired with slow braised beef brisket and once more the combo is a choreographed symphony.
Finally, Karl stands up again and introduces us to our last Shiraz. “It's always a worry when you have to pair your wine to dessert,” he says smiling, “because the cream and buttery flavours mask the taste.” He tells us a great story about the guy who attempted to produce great wine by introducing weeds, then goats to control the weeds, then dogs to control the goats, then children to control the dogs...and finally birth control to control child production. Which shows simple birth control can produce the greatest vines. Just shows what you can learn about wine making at an evening like this.
The dessert arrives which is scarily “sago with white chocolate creme”. Sago? For dessert? Isn't that boarding school food as Karl joked? The plating is beautiful. I take my first tentative bite. “Bounce” go my jowls. Bounce. It's sago after all. Despite the delicious topping I still think sago is best kept as punishment for boarding school kids.
The diners next to us joke that the sago is big balls - sago on steroids. Well, the Shiraz was great! And serving this for dessert was indeed very ballsy.
Finally Darren the chef appears together with the whole kitchen team. It's been a spectacular evening. Lovely tastes. Great wine. And as we learnt...the key ingredient...great company. Here's looking forward to the Pinotage evening.
To find out about their next special wine pairing evening check out their site.
One, two, three...heaven. Or at least as close to it as possible.
Backing up... “Hi Craig, welcome,” Manu says shaking my hand warmly. “The winds a bit northerly at the moment,” he says nodding towards the vaguely flapping windsock. We're at Signal Hill and below us the beautiful city of Cape Town stretches out towards the sea and the infamous Robben Island in the distance. “We need it to be more head on,” Manu the owner Cape Town Tandem Paragliding says. He then goes on to explain how we must take off into the wind. “It's not like a helicopter that creates its own wind, we need the wind to be provided.” I look at the windsock still flapping forlornly and wonder if we will fly. I'm hoping we will, but I'm all for there being enough wind to keep us up.
“It looks like the wind is fine now,” we're told about 20 minutes later. Soon I'm being strapped into my gear. It sort of feels like I'm wearing a giant diaper. “Maybe it's for those who get a little afraid on the flight,” I muse sagely as I stare down at our destination far below. “Just make sure you keep running,” Manu says, “just don’t stop or sit otherwise I’ll end up on top of you.” And so it is that after just three steps I’m suddenly like one of those cartoon characters and running in the air. The ground drops away and it’s almost miraculous as we are suddenly flying.
“We need to turn into the wind,” Manu says as we bank to the right along the side of Signal Hill. It's stunning, because rather than immediately heading off over the city, we fly along the side of the hill with the hillside brush flying past just a few meters below our feet. “It really does feel like I’m flying,” I say as the fresh Cape Town wind whips at my jacket. It’s an amazing feeling literally skimming above the plants below you, yet somehow you’re flying.
After a minute or so…time in this heavenly place takes on a different meaning, so it could have been an hour, we bank left and the hill drops away. Moments later we’re flying above the busy Sea Point suburb below us. The packed streets, crane-active buildings, and daily life seem like a distant planet as we float softly on the gentle breeze. It’s quiet. It’s tranquil. It’s amazing.
“Do you want to experience some tricks?” Manu asks as we near the Sea Point promenade. “Yeah sure!” I exclaim enthusiastically, “bring it on.” I’m loving this and the more the tranquility mingles with the thrill the better. “You don’t get motion sickness do you?” Manu enquires. Well, even if I do, I want to taste the action. “No,” I reply, “let’s do it. Even if I get sick I want to experience the fun.” And so as we glide out like a seagull with wide-spread wings over the sea, the action begins.
All of a sudden Manu banks to the left and we are thrown into a spiral. Then moments later we are tossed around and spinning in the reverse direction. Or at least I think that’s what happened. All I really know is that I’m yelping with excitement as the adrenalin pumps and the stomach gets that awesome tingling feeling. Wow!
Finally as the sparkling ocean screams past us just meters below, we bank once more to the left and are suddenly calmly floating down towards the grass field on the promenade. And then like a butterfly landing on your skin, we gently float and touch down on the grass. One, two, three…earth. Wow. What an incredible experience.
“That was incredible,” I say as Manu packs up the gear. “Absolutely incredible. How many flights do you do?” I ask.
“About one thousand a year. But then there are between three and six in the team depending on the time of year,” he continues. I can see why they’re so busy. From start to finish the experience is not only incredible, but it's professional and you feel totally safe. Minutes after we land their shuttle is there to pick us up and take us back to the top.
“Ninety!” I exclaim. “Are you serious?”
“Yes,” Manu replies, “The oldest person I’ve taken on a flight is 90 and the youngest is 3.”
That is incredible. It truly is a sport that anyone can do. An opportunity for anyone to experience flight in a way that a few years ago we would never have dreamed possible. An opportunity to step, at least for a moment, into heaven…or at least heavenwards, where the wonder is better experienced than ever explained...because most won’t believe until they’ve been.
I love Cape Town but not the traffic. The solution is the hop-on, hop-off, City Sightseeing Red Bus, and we've got tickets for the family to explore for the day. “Welcome on board,” beams Eric the bus driver as we step on board. We've boarded the bus at Sea Point, close to where we are staying.
The bus makes its way along the Sea Point promenade. The sun is poking out after an evening of cold rain. It's fortunate, because this experience is best seated on the top level of the bus in the open air section. “Hey Josh,” says Hannah leaning over, “there's a kids' channel.” I plug my headphones in and see they have, besides English and a whole lot of languages, a dedicated kids' channel. It's actually very vibey and I'm listening to it enjoying the banjo and “Daar kom did Alibama oor die see”. I'm feeling young...I'm looking forward to this adventure.
We arrive at the Waterfront which is where all the adventures begin and end, although you can leap on and off at will. We've decided to do the blue Peninsula tour but with a stop to do the yellow downtown tour. We love inner city experiences especially in vibey Cape Town.
The kids have their headsets plugged in, tuned to the kid channel awaiting our departure. Maybe I should “grow up” and hear what the adult channel has to say.
We've driven thousands of kilometers on our travels this year around South Africa, so there is something particularly relaxing to just sit on an open air bus while around us cars hoot and jostle for position.
As we sit atop the bus I'm grateful for my warm jacket as the winter air is fresh but invigorating. As we weave through the city we are fed a constant stream of fascinating information from the audio feed. "Look up," the commentary says, "at about the same height as the bus you will see a balcony." Like obedient robots everyone turns and looks up. "It was from this balcony that Nelson Mandela first addressed the nation of South Africa after his release." Wow, it's so cool to drive past places which were momentous occasions in the birth of our new country.
“District 6 was the birth place of Cape Town's colorful carnival,” says the dude in my ear as once again the strains of “Daar kom die Alibama” play to make the point. There is no carnival on at the moment, but a colorful array of people, from tourists to locals, fill the streets around here. It's testimony to transformation where tourist and locals mingle together in the streets.
“This wine farm has the best views and the most modern wine tasting area,” says one of the bus operators as we arrive at the wine loop. Of course you have to do the wine loop - it's Cape Town. And so we hop off at Beau Constantia. It's a short stroll from the bus stop and soon we are seated in a glass enclosed tasting room perched high above the beautiful vineyards. The sun streams into our glass sanctuary warming us as we soak it and the ambiance in.
“This sushi is delicious!” Nicky exclaims. And it is delicious. We love sushi but this warm crispy sushi on a cold day blended with a glass of award-winning wine is just what we need to satiate our lunch needs. The only issue is that we won't be buying any because the prices seem to match the area...fancy!
After Beau Constantia we continue on to Hout Bay and decide to get off here for the requisite dose of fish smell and real harbor experience. Some locals have charmed a large seal out onto the pier with fish snacks. For a few rands tourists get to take photos and have a chat with the seal. Net in Suid Afrika (only in South Africa) #ilovesouthafrica
After strolling around for a while and eating some fish-tasting “slap tjips” the bus arrives, always like clockwork, on time. It's the homeward journey now and the bus turns around at Snoekies factory...there's no doubt what they sell here as all the kids - land lubbers they all are - cover their noses to mask the smell. It's our trip back now along the beautiful Atlantic seaboard towards our end point, Sea Point.
The sun is rapidly heading towards its seaward destination and is bathing the mountain in a warm light as we travel along the bottom of the magnificent Twelve Apostles range. It's truly beautiful, and I'm almost dizzy from deciding whether to look right at the majestic mountains or left at the sun-tinted sea.
Finally with the song, from the kids audio channel, “the tourists on the bus go click, click, click...” playing over and over in my head, we get off the bus. We certainly have gone “click, click, click” as we tried to capture some of the stunning and different scenes we saw on our trip. We're just in time to watch the majestic sunset back at our apartment, with a glass of wine in hand and some more...click, click, click.