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While South Africa's fertile valleys are world famous for their crisp white and classic French-style red wines, the area is also a treasury of rustic beauty and sprawling estates shaded by giant oak trees. Our drive today will include the country's principal wine routes of Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, with a stop en route for lunch (for own account).
Our day starts with a visit to Paarl where you will be struck by the beauty of the Valley, the pristine blue sky, the rolling vineyards and the Pearl of Paarl set high above the valley. Paarl made headlines when President Mandela was released from the Groot Drakenstein prison (ex Victor Verster), on the outskirts of the town, to freedom and the start of the new South Africa. We enjoy a wine tasting and cellar tour at one of the local estates.
From Paarl, we'll continue north-west to the beautiful village of Franschhoek, near the Drakenstein Mountains founded in 1688 by French immigrants fleeing the Huguenot religious persecution in Europe. A memorial in the town commemorates the arrival of these early settlers who helped develop the wines sought after by Napoleon, Bismarck and royalty such as Edward VII, the Prince of Wales. Here we will stop for lunch (for own account) and another wine tasting at a vineyard.
We'll then head to Stellenbosch, the second oldest town in South Africa and the historic heart of the country's wine region. In 1679, Dutch East India Company governor Simon van der Stel, recognized the fertility of this long valley on the banks of the Eerste River, as perfect for vineyards. The rest is history, which has been carefully cultivated in this town. A gracious blend of 18th-century Cape Dutch, Georgian and Victorian buildings is evident on Dorp Street, where massive oaks still shade original water furrows. Enjoy a final wine tasting before returning to Cape Town.
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