January 10, 2012

Sri Lanka in South Africa 2011-12

Wine, food and a wonderful weekend unwind

Firdose Moonda
The main house of the Boschendal wine estate, built in the 1800s in French style, Franschhoek, January 9, 2012
The main house of the Boschendal wine estate, built in the 1800s in French style  © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
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If only Test matches could melt into ODIs as easily as butter does on a hot stove. From a solid, steady, substantial base, similar to Test cricket, into an easy-flowing, fluid river of runs that the limited-overs game has come to represent with no mindset shift required.

Players often talk about the importance of adjusting to the different formats, be it in run-rate, bowling length or mental terms. In truth, they are not the only ones who need to change their outlook. Fans, journalists, scorers and ground staff all have to make the turnaround as well. They have to start thinking in immediate terms, minimise their contextual analysis and gear up for a smash and grab.

Luckily, there were a couple of days to do that in. In this case, a weekend in Cape Town.

While the city centre offers everything from hip haunts to bustling bars and swanky supper joints, what lies beyond is quite spectacular. The drive from Cape Town to Paarl, the venue of the first ODI weaves through the Cape Winelands and the country's food capital Franschhoek.

More than 20 wine farms dot the town, most of them are open on Saturdays for tasting and many have restaurants attached. For a few hours, it's an indulgent escape into the hoity-toity world of the upper-class. At dusk members of the MCC committee, who are in town for one of their two annual meetings, turned up at Boschendal. The estate is one of the oldest in the country and was founded by the French Huguenots. Remnants of the tradition remain with a scattering of Boules balls inviting visitors to try their hand at the French metal ball game.

While international, and particularly colonial, influences are what once enticed people to explore this area, it's heartening to see that home-grown hospitality is thriving. The centrepiece of Franschhoek's culinary delights is Reuben's, a restaurant conceptualised and run by a local chef who has hit the big time.

Reuben Riffel started off as a barman and waiter at Franschhoek Country House and was lured into the kitchen almost by accident, when the head chef needed some assistance. He soon fell in love with the pots and pans and has worked at restaurants around the country and in Cambridge, before returning home to open his own. Riffel is a popular public figure and even appears in a television advert for Robertson's spices and his success has brought great pride to the local Franschhoek community.

Other South African industries are also clearly cashing in Franschhoek. Wooden and beaded crafts are for sale on every corner, banana leaf paintings are a popular source of d├ęcor and even the minstrels have found a way to get mileage out of the tourists.

A firm fixture of New Year's Eve street parades and Tweede Nuwe Jaar (Second New Year) celebrations, these bands are considered to play the sounds of the city. Just after lunch, one came marching down the main road, kitted out in their usual colourful clothing, trombones calling out to people and money collectors on all sides, accepting donations that will go a long way to helping them compete in the annual competition, which culminates in February.

Sport can sometimes take you to places where you feel like a tourist in your own country and this was certainly one of those occasions. Having never travelled along this route before, I was as wide-eyed as anyone and left with a completely fresh mindset, one that I will no doubt need as the whirlwind ODI series begins.

Four of the five matches take cricket to parts of the country that are seldom visited, especially by international cricket. Three of them, Paarl, East London and Kimberley, I have never been to before. Let the journey begin.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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Keywords: Offbeat

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Grenville Smith on (January 13, 2012, 9:23 GMT)

I write as a London based South African, part of the pre-transformation diaspora, who has been back to what I now recognise as my spiritual home many times. My last trip was for the World Cup and because I had the time to traverse the country I had only seen from the Garden Route (too many times to count) and a coastal run to Durban (once). On previous trips from the UK, I travelled by bus or train (cheapest fare) from Jozzie to CT and recently to the Kalahari (Prieska) eating in local places and staying in B&B houses on the way, not smart hotels. If you've never done something like this before, Firdose, you have an experience to look forward to. Whenever I go back and see family, I am amazed at how little my relatives and others know or see of this wondrous place. They travel to Europe and America and don't see what's under their noses.

Posted by Nicholas on (January 12, 2012, 10:39 GMT)

Stunning piece Firdose, looking forward to reading about your other trips, and hope they're just as enjoyable for you.

Posted by John Smith on (January 11, 2012, 21:42 GMT)

Pity you did not manage to provide an indepth on the spot report from the MCC World Cricket Committee meeting in Capetown a couple of days back- especially the bagging they gave to India for its rejection of DRS. Consisting of 14 past Test Captains including Kumble and Dravid it was pretty heavy stuff for Mr Srinivasan to swallow.

Posted by Derek Perlman on (January 11, 2012, 21:40 GMT)

Firdose continues to delight with her well-crafted and insightful pieces, She brings back memories of the great radio cricket commentator, Charles Fortune, who like Firdose, turned his broadcasts into a literary genre of his own.

Posted by Rehan on (January 11, 2012, 5:21 GMT)

I live in Franschhoek and I can tell you that Reuben's is no longer the great restaurant it used to be, because Reuben himself is hardly ever there anymore - instead he can be found at the One & Only (6-star hotel) in Cape Town. Now the quality of food has fallen dramatically and it is merely an overpriced eatery for tourists. There are many other better restaurants, just as there are many better wine farms than Boschendal, which is actually just a tourist trap.

Posted by Kathy on (January 10, 2012, 16:29 GMT)

Nice writeup Firdose ... and so true: A tourist in your own back yard. Well said. In a big and varied country like SA, there's 101 places one never goes to, and that surprise and delight when business or some accident takes you there.

Posted by bbmsri on (January 10, 2012, 11:40 GMT)

A very good writer !

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