We asked our B&B hosts what we should visit in the area of Somerset West.  Vergelegen (meaning “situated faraway”) wine estate was listed as probably number 1.  It was built by the governor of the Dutch East India Company in early 1700s.  It is a beautiful grand estate…, unless one realizes that the land was acquired illegally,  slaves were used to build it, and company resources were used to farm vast tracts of land.  When the Company finally realized what was happening, the governor was sacked and the buildings ordered to be destroyed.  Apparently much of the destruction never happened.  The estate went through various hands until early 1900s when it was restored to its beauty.  At that time many shrubs, trees and herbaceous borders were planted.  In the late 1900s the vineyards were re-established and Vergelegen wines are considered among the top in the world.

Queen Elizabeth II, Elton John, President Bill Clinton, and Nelson Mandela are among the many who have visited Vergelegen.  In fact, the ANC held their preparatory meetings here before their first talks with the government in 1990.  The Cape Dutch farmstead has been restored and some of the early camphor trees are still standing.

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