Grand Constance, a winter pairing.

It’s one of those winter’s days when your duvet is your best friend and you seriously contemplate working from your bed. All I want to say is “Really Cape Town, does it have to be this cold?”

But I have a date with food and wine and history at Groot Constantia, so I dress up and show up, shivering and muttering just a little bit.

The focus is food, but I am still at the “I don’t understand this menu” level .

The food is being paired with wine which unless served in a really small glass makes me sleepy, drunk or both very quickly.

My mood improves slightly as I enter the grounds of Groot Constantia. A weak sun is shining on the vineyards and the old buildings have a classic beauty that is admirable in any weather.

Groot Contantia perfevcting life for 300 years Di Brown

Entering the private function room at Jonkershuis Restaurant I am cheered up a bit more by the warmth of the fire, gorgeous table, warming nibbles and a glass of Grand Constance.

a warm fire paired with Grand Constance Di Brown

I am addicted to Grand Constance, so let me tell you a little bit about it.

It comes from the Cloete Cellar at Groot Constantia which is the original home of the South African wine industry dating all the way back to 1685.

Grand Constance is a sweet wine with spicy undertones and smoother than anything you will ever taste in your entire life.

It is high in sugar, totally organic and wine maker Boela Gerber has managed to come very close to replicating the recipe and methods used hundreds of years ago, when this wine was highly sought after by the who’s who of Europe.

Groot Constantia still have the original purchase order from Napoleon Bonaparte who needed thirty bottles of Groot Constantia wine a month to give him comfort during his exile on St Helena Island.

Grand Constance Di Brown

Grand Constance is made from Muscat grapes which are left on the vines until they are practically raisins. They are then picked, stomped and allowed to ferment for a few days before being pressed and put into barrels for a couple of years. That’s just the basics of the process; they are not giving away all their secrets.

Whatever they do and however they do it, the result is very palatable. In my opinion Grand Constance can be paired with everything, but Groot Constantia does have other great wines, and this is how they chose to pair them.

Grand Constance

By now I am cheerful and warmed by the fire and the generous glass of Grand Constance that has warmed and charmed me into good humour. I take a look at the four course menu and foreign words assail me.

Pafait, gnudi, emulsion, parmentier, terrine, fondant.

Help! What does it all mean?

A few English words come in to focus and reassure me, nice easy words like cauliflower, mash, kudu and chocolate cake. OK,maybe I will survive.

the table is set, Jonkershuis Di Brown

The starter and dessert were both paired with Grand Constance and did an excellent job in enhancing all the subtle flavours of the wine.

For the foodies, here are the details, foreign words and all.

Starter: Chicken liver parfait, soft creamy goat’s cheese on brioche toast served with a choice of these preserves.

Apricot and vanilla, spiced beetroot relish, apple chutney, almond and honey praline, pineapple and chilli preserve.

The dessert was a celebration of chocolate flavours and consisted of a dark chocolate and citrus terrine, a chocolate fondant with salted caramel and a gluten free chocolate cake.

We also enjoyed a Governeurs Reserve White wine with Ricotta Gnudi, butternut emulsion, sage noisette butter and spinach.

This was followed by a Governeurs  Reserve Red with Deconstructed Kudu Wellington, buttered cauliflower mash, puff pastry with porcine and red wine sauce and roasted winter root vegetables.

Despite my initial misgivings and appalling ignorance and inability to speak fluent “food and wine” this restaurant is not easy to leave.

From the creative blends of flavours to the friendliness of our hosts and the perfect private setting for a day of indulgence, GrootConstantia  delighted me.

Jonkershuis door Di Brown

Foodies will swoon and drool and to any non-foodies like me, the food might sound scary and weird but it is actually normal food with a delicious twist and when the plate is in front of you, you will recognise most of what is on it.Trust me, just dig in and enjoy it.

I finally left the venue, full, warmed, merry and with a great respect for the creative people who combine science and a passion for food with such artistic flair and make eating an adventure.

 

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CheapflightsExplorers: HoutBay, Cape Town.

The city of Cape Town is a drama queen of note, and during winter her moods are all over the place.

She charms you with beautiful sun drenched days and just when you have unpacked all your favourite T shirts she throws a tantrum. Icy winds blow in from the Arctic, and black clouds rain on your dreams of outdoor living. Mountains and views disappear into the mist, and the wind is in cahoots with the bad hair day monster.

The city becomes fifty shades of grey, but trust me, you do not want to be naked.

Hout bay beach, Di Brown

Don’t allow the weather to trap you inside as there are benefits to braving the elements and exploring Cape Town in winter, all you need is a positive attitude and warm clothing of the layered variety.

I became a #CheapflightsExplorer of Cape Town for a day and it was not sunny at all. I must admit that I would far rather be out and about as nothing makes me more miserable or cold than being inside looking out at a grey day. Depressing stuff.

Kathryn Rossiter and I were sent off from Constantia to explore Hout Bay and Chapmans Peak and this is what we found.

Hout Bay beach, windswept ,wild and awesome. This is not the calm bay of summer where boats cruise smoothly on a turquoise sea and the large block of rock called the Sentinel draws your eyes to marvel at it’s greatness.

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Today it’s a beach with grumpy birds flying like drunkards in the wind. The sea is a cold green and the waves are fighting the air and throwing seaweed onto the sand. The Sentinel is a dark blob, half obscured by a very black cloud. It’s raw nature showing who is boss and it is a beautiful sight, but you have to hear it and feel it to enjoy it.

When the feelings get too much, three steps from the beach will take you to Dunes Restaurant. It is family friendly with indoor and outdoor options and the best views in town. We warmed up with coffee on the deck upstairs as I resigned myself to a mad hair day.

the Dunes, Hout Bay. Di Brown

Leaving Hout Bay, headlights on and windscreen wipers needed we drove up Chapman’s Peak , one of the most scenic drives in the world, whatever the weather. This road was started 101 years ago and took seven years to complete. It is sometimes closed due to rock falls, causing Capetonians to freak out and the tolls brought in in 2003 caused a huge furore, but if that’s what was needed to keep “Chappies” open, so be it.

Kathrine Rossiter enjoying the views, Chapmans Peak, Di Brown

We drove, marvelled at the views, the engineering, the giant steel meshes to keep the rocks in place, paid the toll with a semi smile and stopped at various viewpoints without getting blown out to sea. We also met Clara who was selling her colourful beaded animals at one of the viewing points and she was good enough to pose for a pic.

Clara and her awesome beadwork, Chapmans Peak, Di Brown

Heading down into Noordhoek we decided that retail therapy and a comfort stop trumped a long walk on the beach. This beach is dreamland for dedicated surfers and equestrian addicts, and it’s good looking too, even on a moody, drama queen day. For more info on beach rides click here 

Noordhoek beach, Di Brown

The Farm Village in Noordhoek is a curious mix of eateries, a Hotel, a deli, coffee roastery, info centre and unique clothing and speciality shops. It was too chilly to sample the temptingly named Kirsten’s Kick Ass Ice Cream but we did enjoy the excellent coffee from The Village Roast.

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The browsing took longer than anticipated as there is so much to see, a refreshing change from a collection of chain stores. Shopping for non- essentials is a highly recommended winter hobby, and this is the place to do it.

colours of Africa seen at The Village Mall, Di Brown

Colourful things that must be examined.

The Village shopping Mall  Noordhoek, Di Brown

Creative displays to make you smile.

Coffee to fuel you to explore / shop all day 🙂

Back in Hout Bay we followed the road until it ended and found the locals favourite fish shop, aptly named Fish on the Rocks. Something of an institution in Hout Bay they have been selling fish to the community for over 25 years.

Fish n Chips, Hout Bay, Di Brown

Being in a working fishing harbour the smell, while not my favourite aroma, certainly lends authenticity to the statement that the fish is really fresh.  Take a walk over to the cannons right next to the shop, it’s a great spot to watch the waves and imagine the drama as enemy ships tried to enter the bay. The cannons are in working order and the tourism office can provide information on when they are fired. Boom, this weather looks just right for a war movie.

canon at Hout Bay, Di Brown

Braving the light rain we walked around the area that on Friday, Saturday and Sunday is where you will find the lively Bay harbour market, an energetic celebration of tastes, cultures, music, art and bargains, offered in real, noisy Cape Town style. Being a weekday we missed it, but being a weekday, we found parking everywhere we went, and did not fight traffic, not even once, a rare thing in Cape Town.

Craft beer, Hout Bay, Di Brown

Shopping and eating is thirsty work and a good craft beer goes down well in any weather. The Urban Brewing Co is a convenient few steps from Fish on the Rocks, it would be criminal to leave the area without sinking a pint or two.

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Some interesting street art adorns the walls in this street.

street art, hout bay, Di Brown

A community project, I love that.

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Back tracking we went to the more mainstream Mariners Wharf, in their words “ a harbour front emphorium” that is bounded by the beach, the road and a dock and has a long pier that must be walked to see the fishing vessels, seals and sea birds. The seagulls will do their utmost to share your food, so look out, the calamari we had there is way too good to share.

Mariners Wharf, Hout Bay, Di Brown

Kathryn braves the elements to walk along the pier and say hi to a really fat seal.

Boats at Hout Bay Harbour, Di Brown

Look at these silly birds lining up for who knows what.Roll call?

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A last walk on the beach before heading home.

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Cape Towns moods don’t get me down, I enjoy seeing the real side of this temperamental diva.

Get yourself to Cape Town this winter, pack your warm clothes but throw in a T-shirt or two, beat the crowds, the traffic and the boring picture perfect views and experience a slightly different Cape Town to what you see in the brochures. She will still steal your heart.

Cheapflights.

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Disclosure: This post is part of a Cheapflights campaign, opinions are all my own.

 

 

 

 

Eye level with Table Mountain | NAC Helicopters

Cape Town has an intimate relationship with Table Mountain, Lion’s Head and the Twelve Apostles mountain range. Most people think Capetonians are a little obsessed with the mountains, and they are correct, we are. They dictate our weather, our traffic and our appreciation of beauty as well as serving as magnificent natural landmarks and a backdrop to our little place in the world.

It is only when you see these mountains from the air that you truly appreciate how much the mountains dominate and shape our city and our lives.

NAC HELICOPTERS CAPE TOWN Di Brown

 

If you want to understand Cape Town, take a scenic helicopter flight with NAC Helicopters Cape Town, it will blow your mind.

5 standard tours are offered starting at under R1000 per person for the 15 minute Hopper Tour.

Longer flights cover a bigger area and include Robben Island and Cape Point.

Click here for detailed information on the tours on offer.

12 APOSTLES NAC DI BROWN

My Experience on the Hopper Scenic Flight.

Sadly my camera is in for repairs and my cell phone pics do not do justice to the views that await you. 

I arrived at NAC as requested half an hour before my flight time, feeling a little disappointed as the weather was overcast and cloudy and I did not have high expectations of seeing much. Not that it would stop me, for the thrill of a flying in a helicopter I would have gone even if visibility was rated zero.

The excitement starts from the minute you walk through the doors and are ushered to seats on the deck overlooking the sea. Sipping coffee and watching the helicopters take off and land while you complete the paperwork and get weighed before the safety briefing is all part of the experience. The sounds of the helicopters starting up and the rhythmic tuk tuk of the rotors as the speed increases before they rise up and you watch as the helicopter becomes a small speck in the sky. Knowing it will soon be you heading for the clouds.

NAC VIEW FROM THE DECK DI BROWN

flew in a Robinson 44, just big for 3 passengers and the pilot, Abri Le Roux. From the moment we hovered a centimetre off the ground until a few hours after we landed, I had a stupid grin plastered all over my face.

Head phones on, strapped in and off we go. The gods must have been smiling on me that day because the mist rolled away, the clouds moved and Cape Town was showing off in a big way.

NAC HELICOPTERS TAKE OFF DI BROWN

Abri made me feel completely at ease, talking about the workings of the helicopter, the altitude we were at and pointing out landmarks along the way. He also reassured me that I would be able to get photos on the way back and should relax and enjoy the views.

Being eye level with Table Mountain, looking down and seeing how a city had to develop around all these mountains and observing the contrast of rugged, untamed nature right next to high density urban landscapes is incredible.

It felt like for the first time I could say “I see you, Cape Town, and you are even more spectacular than I imagined.”

After we landed I went back to the deck, had another coffee, and watched a few more take offs and landings while I mentally came back down to earth. Sitting there, the mist came back in and the clouds rolled over the mountains, and I said thanks to the weather gods .

I would rate this as the best experience I have ever had. Ever !

About NAC Helicopters Cape Town

NAC stands for the NATIONAL AIRWAYS CORPORATION, a company with a solid 70 years of experience in the aviation industry. Started in 1946, NAC has grown into the largest general aviation company in Africa and one of the largest of its kind in the world.

NAC Helicopters Cape Town are based at the V&A Waterfront and are considered market leaders for coastal sight-seeing helicopter tours.

 LIONS HEAD CLOSE UP NAC  DI BROWN

The Feel Good Factor.

NAC Helicopters Cape Town supports the Forever Wild Elephant Conservation Initiative, a programme started by The Wilderness Foundation in 2011 to highlight and support the rhino poaching crisis. It has been expanded to include elephants, as well as other endangered species.

For every walk-in client, NAC Helicopters Cape Town donates R90 to the programme.

Tips. 

Take a camera, and if you have one add a polariser or ND filter to reduce the glare and reflections off the windows.

Take a jacket as the higher you go the cooler it gets.

Take your time. Enjoy the views without your camera, those scenes will be etched in your brain forever.

Ask the staff for advice if the weather conditions look overcast.

Sit on the deck after your flight, look for the Black Oyster Catchers, see the silly Hadedah birds sitting unperturbed in between 2 noisy helicopters, and ask Frankie to tell you about the seal who wanted to sleep on the helipad.

SIGNAL HILL NAC DI BROWN

Nothing beats flying in a helicopter, and doing it over a city as spectacular as Cape Town is mind blowing.

Disclosure . Thank you to NAC HELICOPTERS CAPE TOWN for hosting me on the Hopper Scenic Flight. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

A car, a camera and Cape Town

There are hundreds of kilometres of roads to explore in Cape Town and many different ways of doing it.

Having only half a day to play, we chose to stay close to the CBD and this is what we got up to.

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Our ride for the day was a huge don’t mess with me Land Rover that was perfect for four chattering females. It had gadgets that beeped and  flashed cautions and instructions, leaving us free to concentrate on the talking and the scenery most of the time.

We all agreed that coffee was the best way to start the day, and having it at a scenic spot outside would allow us to put the car through its paces.

Victoria Road hugs the coastline past Camps Bay, and Detour Expresso Bar is a small trailer parked on the roadside producing seriously awesome brews . The space is shared with traders of local crafts, epic ocean and mountain views and plenty of fresh air.

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Raring to go after a caffeine fix, we headed back towards the city and up into the BoKaap to walk around the historical, colourful streets.

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This neighbourhood is one big photo opportunity. It is also where real people live so please be mindful before you start clicking away. It is always a good idea to ask permission before taking photographs of the local residents. Many are happy to pose, answer questions and tell stories but they are not obliged to do so.

 

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The BoKaap has a fascinating history that is worth discovering, with or without a camera.

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From the BoKaap we travelled back towards town and into Woodstock to take in some street art. So much talent to be seen here.

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The best way to experience this is on a guided tour or in a group with an audio guide by Voice Map an app that can be downloaded onto your phone.

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Our last stop was to The Old Biscuit Mill  in Woodstock where the creativity of Cape Town is still evident, this time as functional art in the buildings and spaces and as culinary art at our lunch venue, The Pot Luck Club.

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This restaurant is situated above life on the street and is accessed via a glass lift. Arrive hungry because this is more than lunch, it is a feast.

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Disclosure and thanks to Around About Cars for the vehicle, The Pot Luck Club for the taste bud treat Thanks must also go to Dawn Jorgensen, Fiona Rossiter and Kathryn Rossiter for being inspiring travel companions and The Travel Manuel family for making it all happen.

New Travel is inspired by a photogenic dish, drizzled with an infusion of foreign accents.

When food became a “thing” a few years ago I thought it was a passing fad.

Well, I was so wrong.

I am not a foodie. I don’t drizzle, infuse, blend or add chilli. In fact, I can’t really drive a kitchen very well at all.

Today at eTAS ( e Tourism Africa Summit ) one of the key messages was how food is playing a huge role in travel.

Firstly we were told that Chefs are being told to prepare photogenic meals. This means buffets are out. They look terrible in pictures. It seems that food must be pretty first, comment worthy second, and taste OK last.

Search online and you will find numerous links to tricks for photographing food. “Tweet before you eat” has become the norm. So much so that a restaurant did a survey and realised that numbers were down because people were staying at their tables longer. Only because of the time it took to photograph, edit and upload pictures of their food before they started to eat it.

What would have been bizarre a few years ago has become the norm. I even try to do it myself, but not very adept at it!

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In France where food is everything, they are considering banning the photographing of food in restaurants as they say the copyright of the plated food art belongs to the Chef.

I say the world is going mad, but we better start being nice to Chefs as they are becoming key role players in tourism.

Seriously, in Britain apparently a staggering 50 % of travellers make their travel choices based on  food. I thought I had misheard that statement, but no, it is a true story.

88% of destinations are using food as a reason to visit, and clearly it is working. We are told that travel is evolving and we need to know our customers and audience. Today I learned that my audience is either hungry or watches way too much TV on the Food Channels.

That said, it’s good to know that Cape Town as a global food destination is surpassed only by Vietnam.

Our visitors are hungry for a food adventure with Table Mountain as a pretty backdrop.

Restaurants seem to be the new way to start your online travel research. Any eatery that does not have fast free wifi and a presence on FaceBook, Instagram, TripAdvisor, and Twitter, and a charismatic chef who can produce photogenic food is missing out on a huge opportunity.

In conclusion, the marketing recipe for future success for any tourism business is to align yourself with food providers in your area, and find a way to whet the appetite of hungry travellers.