July 27, 2011

Driving a standard for the first time in several years... in a new city... a very hilly city... ON THE LEFT SIDE OF THE ROAD?


After a leisurely start to the day and another "health breakfast" (yummm), Josh and I embarked for the winelands. South Africa is famous for its wines, as the climate is particularly suitable for vineyards, and so we chose to visit Rustenburg Estates, if only because the guidebook said the road to the tasting room was lined with sheep pastures, and I'm a big fan of sheep.

We drove up the long drive (baa) under a canopy of green leafy trees (few of them native species, if any), and it all reminded me so much of New England, down to the smell of dried leaves.

I've never been to a wine tasting. Josh, on the other hand, loves wine, makes wine, and has been entertaining thoughts of becoming a somalie. I was just along for the ride, but did harbor hopes that I could find a wine that I actually like. (Not particularly caring for alcohol is rather socially inconvenient.)

We stood at the lacquered wood counter (a spiral staircase, pastoral paintings, upholstered chairs, stone floor, a view onto the courtyard and English gardens, classical music) and were served the first of the winery's selection, the signature white. I sipped it and told Josh that it was surprisingly not horrible, and Josh recommended that I not use that particular description with our server. Instead, when the server came round again, I praised the wine, and asked to try one of the fruity reds, thinking that sweeter might be better for me. The server raised his eyebrows, saying, "You'd like to skip to a red, then?" Silly me. I didn't know there was an established order to these things. I replied that, yes, I would skip ahead, and tried something fancy and red while Josh enjoyed another white. 

As Josh and I were chatting, I got hotter and hotter, progressively stripping off layers of clothing until I was in a tank top and rolled-up pants. My ears starting to burn hot and my esophagus ignited, burning a line from my throat to my stomach. Sweat broke out on my forehead and I had an overwhelming desire to lay my head on the cool wooden counter. Seeing the early signs of spontaneous combustion, I excused myself and went out for a breath of fresh air. Catching on fire is not nice to do in a high-class winery. 

(Could it be the sulfites, I wonder? Or do I have a sensitivity to ethanol? Thoughts?)

After about ten minutes of lying sprawled on the grass, I returned to the tasting room, where Josh was on something like his eighth glass of wine (small amounts, but still impressive). Josh convinced me to sip a desert wine (and the few molecules I imbibed were actually quite tasty), and then we took a walk through a stunning English gardens and through a paved labyrinth. 

We drove onto Stellenbosch for dinner, which is a really beautiful place. It's a college town, so the population was a little young and drunk, but we enjoyed wandering around the streets, looking at the European architecture. After a delicious Lebanese meal, we drove over the pass to Hermanus, a sleepy little seaside town, where we met up with Jade and Leslie for a drink (this post is, apparently, all about alcohol) before heading back to Leslie's beach house (where we drank tequila and Cape Velvet).

While sitting around the table (drinking), Leslie told Josh to keep an eye on the door to the courtyard, and be ready to close it in the event of baboons. Again: in the event of baboons. Apparently, baboons in South Africa are like really, really smart raccoons in the US. When I told Leslie that I would be inclined to hug any baboon that walked through the door, she said something like "no no no no no no no." According to Leslie, baboons have staged organized, strategic attacks on her kitchen, surrounding the house and beating on the windows and doors to frighten all human inhabitants into absolute petrification. After this, they run indoors, swing from the rafters, open the fridge and pantry, load up on goods, and retreat. Should any human make any kind of threatening gesture like, oh, moving, the baboons tear them limb from limb, beat them with their own arms and legs, poop all over them, and then light the house on fire. Something like that. I can't remember the details, but suffice to say, I causally got up and closed the door. 

Tomorrow: the Garden Route to Oudtshoorn.