J drives a red Ferrari. Of course he does. Apparently it’s a very special shade of red. Every time we drive past a gaggle of roadside lingerers, they cheer with reckless abandon.
So off we (he) drove to Franschoek, a world-famous wine region about an hour from Cape Town, where as I’ve previously mentioned… restraint, sobriety and healthy habits go to die.
Everything’s pretty European there – Dutch, but also quite French; quaint white colonial buildings nestled in a valley shrouded with stonking great mountains.
The first French/Dutch settlers arrived in South Africa at Franschoek in the 17th century and their sleepy, arty, boozy, charming influence very clearly lives on.
We had a divine lunch underneath a canopy of old trees at La Motte, a wine farm dotted with sculptures and Very Good Art.
Then checked into La Residence, which is set on rolling acres of green and overlooks a pond punctuated with a weeping willow.
Our room can best be described as a shrine to Marie Antoinette; cluttered with furnishings in bright pink hues, opulent flowers, crystal glasses, gold panels, chandeliers and weathered marble.
In the handsome courtyard outside, dazzling peacocks pranced around like dressage ponies with their emerald tail feathers shimmering in the manner of someone who really, really wants to score.
We then took a trip into town that afternoon to watch the rugby world cup (South Africa vs. Wales) which surprisingly, for a sports philistine, I really loved.
The crowd was rowdy (there was talk of murder), the wine was flowing (you can see a theme emerge) and most importantly of all, we (South Africa) won.
It’s a pretty tricky sport to understand from where I’m sitting. You can’t really see what’s going on under the heaving tangle of meaty players most of the time but J informed me that we were lucky to win, because, broadly speaking, we were doing ‘too much kicking’.
We celebrated by getting back to La Residence and trying to converse with some springboks (the animals, not the rugby players) and a pair of ponies with very trendy hair. Neither were very interested in conversing.
Then dinner, which was magical, and more wine, which was tiring, but in the best possible way.
The following morning, we bid the heavenly staff farewell and went to Le Quartier Francais for lunch.
Very recently under new ownership, it was sadly pretty naff. In a bid to ‘modernise’ it, they had ruined the decor and Americanised the food. Less said on that the better. What I will say is that the lithe-limbed rabbit sculptures all over the rose-bursting gardens were another example of Very Good Art.
J – who buggered off back to Cape Town in his red batmobile – then dropped me off at the Delaire Graff wine estate, which is without doubt one of the best places I have ever been lucky enough to stay.
I was feeling ill (lingering cold with an extra helping of hangover – OBVIOUSLY DON’T FEEL SORRY FOR ME) and a bit sad (less said on that the better) but I was treated to a breathtaking villa with far more space than I could ever need and a bottle of their wine on the terrace. And a private plunge pool.
So I plugged my headphones in, listened to cheer-up music, sipped wine and bobbed around in the pool all afternoon until sundown, gazing out over the rolling mountains and periodically chatting to Buzz on le telephone (you can see another pattern emerge).
Unsurprisingly by this point, I was a bit hammered. Not staggering around feeling-sick hammered (I never get like that) but woozy and overly-friendly and in love with everything.
Dinner I enjoyed in the company of my laptop, and holy moly did I enjoy it.
I’ve eaten a lot of good food in my time but this was something different. Fleshy mushrooms, mysterious sauces, dainty flowers, earthy blobs of joy… I felt like I was having canapés from the garden of the gods.
Next stop, Gansbaai: the mostly shark-infested waters in the world, to go and plop myself in a cage while Great Whites bash into the bars with their mouths agape…