Trip to South Africa, Part 3 – Wine and Poker

We woke up a little later than planed the following day and I slowly mobilized the troops to hit the wine route. Jacqui, who gets up at a time more fitting for a college student than a senior partner in a law firm, gave us some advice on the trip before we hit the road, but mainly about where the cops are likely to pull us over and where it will be cheaper to drink rather than which estates won which awards. So we climbed back into our Korean death trap and headed out into some of the prettiest parts of the country. Although the boys were not as impressed with Cape-Dutch gables and white washed farms with quaint stone walls and country hedges as I tried to insist they should, they were suitably impressed with the air and the sky. I guess that my parents had done a suitably educational brainwashing job on me to have instilled deep seeded appreciation for Cape-Dutch architecture, gables and white-washed all.

We spent what seemed like a low-blood-sugared hour searching the small university town of Stellenbosh for a dining establishment suitably interesting enough for Rob’s foody tastes, but it was worth it for yet another great fish and chips for me and ostrich burger for Rob. Andrew ate his salmon sandwich peacefully and only mentioned New York and Rhode Island three or four times.

Our first stop on the route was truly inspired (if I do say so my self, and I do.) Although there were one or two grumps and grimes from the peanut gallery about my being an alcoholic, we first hit the Van Ryn brandy distillery. We were greeted with apricot juice and brandy starters and then led on a tour of the plant, which included a demonstration of barrel making by hand which was pretty impressive considering that “Uncle Clarence” looked about eighty years old. When I thanked him for the entertaining demonstration in Afrikaans, our tour guides eyes swelled up like plague-infested lymph nodes. “Where did you learn that!?” he said. Apparently everyone here seems to immediately assume that I am American from my extremely thick yank accent. Every tourist I meet believes me to be a zapher because of my South African accent. I can now begin working on the new “Trans-Atlantic” accent that was so indicative of wealth, upbringing and education in the 50’s, but now just means you work in television.

From there we were given a bandy and chocolate pairing flight. Never have I been a big fan of dark chocolate until it was served with so much brandy! Somewhat stable, we left for the estate most recommended by the locals, Vergelegen. It was recommended so highly as it has been winning all the local awards recently, although has not started shipping internationally. The estate is owned by an Italian who has produced a ton of unique blends of Cape and Italian grapes and something something something… after the third of forth glass I couldn’t really keep up with how impressed I was supposed to be. We were also given an olive and olive oil tasting which was odd, but enjoyable. The last time I actually drank oil willingly was before I had to go into a hospital for a particularly nasty procedure.

The evening’s itinerary had included going to diner with my great aunt and uncle, James and Mari, David’s parents. Normally this would have been a stop and go mission of trying to decipher tourist maps and hand scrawled notes, while popping into gas stations (garages as they’re called here), to make sure we’re headed in the right direction. However, the previous evening, David had been far sighted and trusting enough to give us his GPS (gipis as I call it), so the trip was extremely smooth. When we arrived were greeted with more warmth and love and food than I knew what to do with. David and Tanya arrived in time for dinner and dilution, and we had a great time. The boys were very patient while my uncle and cousin and I discussed our insane family and how much we love them and how much we miss some of them. After we had indulged in enough memories and wine to make us all nice and soppy, we headed off back to Hout Bay. The boys wanted to hit up Long Street and check out the night life, but fate had other plans.

Every Friday night, we gather at Steve Martinez’s house to play poker. Texas Hold’em to be precise. We are borderline fanatical. So when Jacqui’s son Chris called us and invited us to his friends place to play, Long Street didn’t even make a showing for second. When we arrived, the game was already huge, but our arrival required a split into two full tables. There was beer and chips and wine and whiskey for all. The final ended up with an extremely tired Greg as big stack and some guy called Rob (not our Rob who had re-bought in twice and had busted out three times, much to his “I’m the best poker player in the world chagrin”) who didn’t really seem to understand what he was doing. After some drunken negotiations, it was decided that I would make an unlucky bet and then be happy to settle for second place and take my hard earned R500 home. We were leaving the next day and still had not done Table Mountain, which Rob insisted on doing before our flight at 1:30, so it was quickly to bed (after I did some more work and got yelled at by clients for being on the other side of the world.)

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