Paarl – Part 2 of the Drakenstein experience

We had set a pretty reasonable time to get up based on the time we needed to be in Paarl so I set my alarm for 15 minutes before breakfast only to wake up an hour before (of course, because I could technically sleep in my body wouldn’t)

I got up, boiled the kettle and got dressed, made a awesome cup of coffee and headed to my little balcony. I watched the valley wake up and the birds running across the grass, imagining Bug chasing them. I discovered one of my fellow travellers was also awake when I saw his instagrams of a similar view.

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Breakfast started with warm little pastries and then bacon, eggs and tomato (hash brown too if you wanted and would you like some mushrooms with that?). Stories and anecdotes, preferred methods of exercise and giggles abound we had to move along, get our bags and head to Paarl.

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We met our guide Hybre at Het Gesticht Museum, one of the oldest church buildings in Paarl, it was the slave church and it forms a sort of hub for people to come learn more about their heritage, from there we walked through Paarl learning about the history of several buildings including an old well, hidden in an old age home. Hybre was so relaxed and knowledgeable the walking tour felt more like a stroll down the road with a friend who happened to know a lot. I could have walked by her side for several more hours.

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We piled back into our bus and headed for the Taal monument. I have not been before and although I read some information about I had no idea the magnitude of it or the care that was taken in it’s design. I also took the opportunity to grab a cache, which took a little longer than I intended and I dashed back to everyone waiting for me patiently in the bus.

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Lunch was at Laborie, a beautiful picnic basket after a tour of the farm and the monument that sits on it. This monument was a little different from the many we saw over the tour as it focussed on the Boers and not the slaves. Laborie do a whole list of tastings including Chocolate and Wine, Olives and Wine and Charcuterie and Wine with a kiddies tasting to keep your kids entertained while you are.

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The tapas restaurant’s menu looked amazing too and with a beautiful kiddies play area this is most definitely a place to go as a family. We said our thanks and our goodbyes on the rolling lawn as only 2 of us we going on to the next stop, Drakenstein prison.

The prison itself is fascinating, a farm prison. Drakenstein produces meat and vegetables for other prisons. Formally Victor Verster Prison, it is a low-security prison and was used to hows soon to be released prisoners. Our guide, of Indian descent, was a prison guard at the time Mandela was taken to Drakenstein. He told us about how they used to live (the white guards had the big houses with the big properties as you drove in and the non-whites had the smaller houses further in) but that with the segregation at home, once they were at work they were colleagues and that this helped the transition when apartheid ended.

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Seeing the house Mandela spent his last 18 months incarcerated in was surreal. It looked like a typical house in the suburbs, in the 60s, if your typical suburban house was bugged everywhere. A little bare of furniture, due to filming, but still full of history. We sat at the table where South Africa’s future was negotiated. The house has been open to visitors for almost 10 years but only 5 pages in the visitors book are filled because you can only visit by special appointment and that made this a very special end to a very special trip.

I would like to thank Anesca and the Cape Winelands District Municipality for an amazing trip and for really opening my eyes to the beauty right on my doorstep. I will be back to both these towns to explore them more fully, especially Wellington, I think I left my heart there.

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