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Our guide from five years ago, calm and ever-helpful Valerio, pulls another rabbit out of the hat, (and also gets a slice of the little animal on his plate at a wonderful lunch), with his choice of ‘Camphors’ Restaurant – just a walk through the beautifully manicured grounds of the 18th century Vergelegen Wine Estate in the Western Cape.
I thought I was past ‘garden tours’, and definitely so in century temperatures. But, today’s visit to Vergelegen is a most enjoyable exception to my own rule. Hydrangeas in bloom make a carpet of blue under the trees as far as the eye can see, and African lily (Agapanthus) in shades of blue and white stand tall in full sun. I ‘m partial to the potager kitchen garden all tidily laid out in hedged, symmetrical beds too.
Then its time for lunch – ‘Camphors’ is named after huge 300 year-old Camphor Laurel trees in the grounds. (I know camphor laurels. There was a huge one in a neighbour’s property in front of my Bellevue Hill home that cost me $300 to get three branches cut off to let the sun through to my herb garden.)
“The menu reflects a cuisine style that shows simple restraint with complex precision whilst supporting only local producers”, says the Menu. And they’re not wrong. We enjoy a most delicious, innovative, inviting, and surprisingly inexpensive lunch by Aussie standards ($50). I’ll let the photos tell the story.
Vergelegen Estate reflects the Renaissance influence of wealthy estates and palaces in Europe in the 18th century, with their symmetrical plans and ornate gardens. The estate is laid out with a double walled octagonal garden, radiating avenues, and four flanking outbuildings – the slave lodge, water mill/stable, the wine cellar and pigeon house. An avenue of chestnut trees runs through the centre of the walled garden and the manor house.
TWO-WAY SLAVE TRADE – SLAVES FROM BATAVIA TO AFRICA
The Dutch East India Company came to South Africa to exploit the wealth of the land, bringing slaves from Batavia and other nearby African countries. The British colonisers, who invaded in the early 19th Century, brought order and infrastructure development, and abolished slavery.
My knowledge of the slave trade on this Continent was of black people being transported ‘out of Africa’ to Europe and to countries of the New World.
However, our guide Valerio, in explaining the origins of the ethnicity of the people in the Cape Province, (Black, European, and Cape Coloured), enlightens us of an ‘inbound’ slave trade to Africa in the 17th century, from Batavia. The Dutch brought skilled craftsmen from their colonies in the East Indies, (Moslems from Indonesia and Malaysia), into the Cape. They also enslaved people from countries closer, like Madagascar and Angola.
These form the origins of today’s large ethnic grouping known as ‘Cape Coloureds’.
Crayfish, oysters, lavender farms, wineries, historic houses and paddock to plate food and hydrangeas: you could be in Tasmania. I guess you are now on the way to Italy, so wishing you all a joyous Christmas..