Friday, July 27, 2012

The Shuntin' Shed

After all that wine tasting we needed some "blotting paper" so it was back to Bot River for lunch.  We'd seen an intriguing sign on an old tin building on the railway station platform and we decided that this would be an interesting place to have lunch.

The Shuntin' Shed has been restored and transformed from old goods shed and parcel distribution building to quirky restaurant and pub.  Good pub food and excellent pizzas are served all day and local wines are featured on the wine list so you can enjoy a bottle of wine from one of the estates you've just visited.  In our case it was Beaumont Raoul Shiraz, a delicious quaffable pink .  Relaxing on the deck which overlooks banks of pretty red and pink geraniums, towards the rolling green hills of the Overberg on a warm winter's day, is one of the Cape's many enjoyable experiences. 

The interior of the restaurant has been furnished with fascinating railways memorabilia, including the green leather and wood train seats which those of us of a certain age will remember from childhood when cars were used on special occasions and most people travelled by train or bus into the city.  Old black and white prints line the original corrugated tin walls and shunting lanterns and signs add a nostalgic note.  There's a fireplace for colder days and the pizza oven does a sterling job of warming up the space.  A wide screen TV for important Springbok games and live music at weekends ensures a good crowd on match days.

The railway line from Cape Town to this small village was completed in 1902 and for a while formed a useful method of transport from Cape Town and Somerset West, and on to Caledon and Bredasdorp.  Interestingly the railway line was going to be extended to the nearby seaside town of Hermanus.  A pretty little white station building was erected at the site of the station and all seemed set until Sir William Hoy, the then General Manager of the Railways, decided that he didn't like the thought of trains spoiling the natural beauty and peace of this popular holiday town.  He blocked the plan and Hermanus remains the only town in South Africa to have a railway station with no tracks and at which no train has or every will arrive.  The attractive old station building now houses the Tourist Information Centre and Sir William's memory lives on in the form of a small hill called Hoy's Koppie, in the town where he and his wife were both buried!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The journey continues ...

The next winery we drove to was Gabrielskloof, a short distance from, but in complete contrast to the more intimate, cosy Beaumont vineyard.  Altogether a much bigger and very slick operation, it stands imposingly on top of a hill surrounded by beautiful vistas of green winter wheat fields and unending rows of vines.

After turning off the N2 the road winds through rows of gold and red vines, each row separated from the next by stripes of green vegetation.

The winetasting and restaurant buildings are fairly new, although the sympathetic wood, stone and glass design and soft, pale ochre paint blend in perfectly with the vines.  The buildings are arranged around a large square courtyard with deep verandahs all round for dining al fresco.  Two long pools reflect the impossible blue of the mid winter sky and mirror images of the buildings and reflections of the people dining on the verandahs.  Bookings for the restaurant are apparently vital but in any case we'd come to taste the wines and intended after that to return to Bot River for lunch.

The winetasting area is impressive, long old wooden tables, gleaming crystal wineglasses and big wood and glass sliding doors on all sides afford panoramic views down over the valley.  We enjoyed our precious sips of ambrosial wines, and purchased a fair sampling, including two very good, special occasions  bottles to take home.

The undulating valleys and hills make a patchwork like quilt of soft green and gold, picked out here and there by plantings of olive and eucalyptus trees, all enclosed protectvely by the distant blue mountains.

On the way back to Botriver we drove through lush green fields edged by yellow grass and wildflowers.  Contour planting lines lead the eye across the gentle slopes towards the distant mountains.

Next stop, lunch at an interesting and quirky restaurant right on the platform of the old Botriver railway station, aptly named The Shuntin' Shed.


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