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Somerset West Offers A Blend Of Unique Culture

May 2, 2008
Somerset West, home to a number of wine estates, is one of the most beautiful and popular areas of the Western Cape. While you are in the area soaking up the natural beauty you will certainly wish to tour at least a few of the wine estates in the local area and taste some of the fine vintages produced here.

Franschhoek is considered to be one of the premier winery regions in the world. The fertile ground in this region was first used by the French to produce wine some 300 years ago. Today, the noble tradition first begun by the Huguenots continues. There are more than twenty wine farms in the region, many of which are considered to be among the most respected in South Africa. You will find everything from excellent whites such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Semillon to rich and vibrant reds like Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Most farms happily welcome visitors to enjoy tastings.

Paarl Vinters is another region which is definitely worth exploring if you are a wine connoisseur. The wines produced in this region are primarily reds and the this area has become known as the Red route. Some of the best red wines in the world are produced here due to the ideal soils, micro-climates and strong red tradition.

While wine certainly does form a strong part of the local region, there are also many other activities and sights to enjoy while in Somerset West. Spend an enjoyable afternoon in Schreuderhuis, a thatched village museum, which represents some of the main stylistic periods spanning the past three centuries. The museum was actually one of the first dozen dwellings to be formed when the pioneer settlement was established. Step back in time to the eve of the French revolution while also admiring neoclassical architecture and even a typical Victorian residence of the late 19th century. A Toy and Miniature Museum is also on site and well worth visiting for both the young as well as the young at heart.

The Botanical gardens are also a must see, located in the oldest university gardens in South Africa. Indigenous and exotic plants are contained inside the museum, ranging from herb and desert plants to orchids and lilies. Many of the plants you will find inside the gardens are quite rare, so this is definitely worth a stop by in Somerset West.

Finally, make sure you drop by the oldest homestead in the Cape, Groot Constantia. The Manor House was originally allocated in 1685 to Governor Simon van der Stel. Today, it portrays everyday life in the 19th century. Collections include Delft ceramics as well as typical Cape furniture from the mid-18th century. Both drinking and storage vessels in a range of materials dating back to 500BC are contained in the Wine Museum. Cellar tours and wine tastings are offered inside the complex while two on-site restaurants offer both Cape Cuisine and Continental Style Cuisine.

From wine tasting to museum explorations, Somerset West has plenty to offer in terms of culture.
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