There is a place in South Africa that I can’t get out of my head. I thought the best way to tackle this problem was to tell you about it so that it plagues you, too. You’re welcome.
Tucked away in the Cape Winelands, down a broad tree-lined avenue, is the sprawling estate belonging to Vergelegen Wines. We intended to eat lunch at their acclaimed restaurant, The Stables, but it was fully booked. The fact that we had neglected to make a reservation only briefly registered on the guard’s face at the estate gates before his professionalism took over and he warmly invited us to enjoy a picnic instead.
Heading off to pick up a picnic basket, we felt like we were settling for a distinctly “second choice” lunch option. With the kidlets in tow, though, perhaps eating sandwiches on the grass was the best we could hope for….Turns out that the best we could hope for was WAY better than we expected.
Our picnic basket was expertly loaded up with fresh gourmet food while we chose a bottle of wine from the vineyard’s list. Already this picnic was looking much better….
I was eyeing a patch of grass nearby, considering it for our picnic, but before I could sit down, a lovely woman offered to lead us to our lunch spot. She guided us a short distance into a forest of elegant Camphor trees where we came upon – a table! And chairs! And a wine holder! Picnics be praised!
As she dressed the table with linens, cutlery, and parcels of food, we gazed around at the magical woodland: trees towered above us, wide pathways led off in different directions, autumn leaves carpeted the ground, and interspersed through these enchanted woods were tables and chairs for picnicking – Vergelegen style.
As I sipped my wine in these fairytale surroundings, I changed my entire opinion of picnics. This was no “second choice”; this was, most definitely, the first and best choice.
I could have wept with joy at how Vergelegen got so many things so very right: the food, the service, the stunning grounds, the wine…. Instead of weeping I just swore that I would be back to do it all over again. Until then, a few love letters to Vergelegen:
Thank you for infusing your cream cheese with truffles to create a spread fit for woodland Gods.
Thank you for hiding my kidlets’ desserts in a tree stump and giving them a treasure map to find it. I’m thinking of doing that for all of their meals….
Thank you for packing Coronation Chicken in our picnic basket. It is an undervalued lunch dish; but chicken, curry, apple, and raisins are all good in my books.
Thank you for protecting trees that were planted in the 1700s. Jeepers, what a treasure.
Thank you for an experience that made me feel like all was right in the world.
“Pleasant it was, when woods were green,
And winds were soft and low,
To lie amid some sylvan scene…”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow