We got up quite early to get a taxi to the train station, arriving at the Premier Classe lounge a bit too early, so we had to wait outside, but that didn't really matter... while it seemed kind of dodgy in the area, we never really felt unsafe. And we didn't have to wait that long...
When the lounge opened, we checked in and sat in one of the sofas. We were served coffee and muffins while waiting for the train to arrive for boarding. While waiting, we walked around the tracks area, and watched as they were loading cars onto the train, including a bunch of Ferraris.. really weird...
Things were running a bit late; apparently a lot of the cars that were going on the train arrived late, which delayed everything. After a while, we finally boarded the train, and found our berth. It was supplied with, among other things, a bathrobe each. And slippers. Nice :)
Quite shortly after boarding, we were herded into the dining area, where we were given a glass of sparkling wine (nasty sweet – bah) and fed snacks (potato chips, nuts, and biltong) and scones and sandwiches and coffee or tea... let the feeding commence!
After the snacks and before lunch, we sat in the lounge area, enjoying the scenery from the train. We walked back and forth a lot, between our berth and the lounge area, hanging out and observing stuff. The scenery was amazing... everything from farms, vineyards, etc...
It was soon lunch time. Our lunch was:
- Avocado ritz – shrimps in a seafood sauce, served in an avocado half. Absolutely delicious! The avocado was perfectly ripe, and the shrimps and the sauce were tasty. An excellent combination! The bread they served with it was on the dry side though...
- Grilled hunter's steak (ordered medium rare), served with a bacon-, onion-, and mushroom sauce, tomatoes, potatoes, and vegetables. The steak was good, but a bit overcooked for medium rare...
- strawberry custard slice, with berries and cream. Was OK... not too crazy about desserts ;-)
And the wine: Graham Beck "Railroad Red" Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
- color: ruby red
- nose: fruity, red berries, spices, pepper. Very aromatic
- palate: Fruity, rounded and pleasant tanins, full-bodied. Primarily a wine to be paired with food, preferably red meat and maybe spicy dishes.
- grade: :-)+ for food, :-) otherwise
After lunch, we continued to enjoy the scenery; you get a good dose of wonderful scenery from the train! It's not easy taking photos while the train is moving, but it's not impossible...
At 3 pm it was time for high tea. We were starting to feel like geese that were being overfed to fatten up the livers, but hey... tea and cake ;-) I chose rooibos tea and carrot cake. The tea was nice, the cake was OK but a bit dry. What's with the dry baked goods here?
At some point between high tea and dinner, we were passing through the Karoo, a semi-desert region. It was raining. Quite heavily. With thunder and lightning too. At some points, while the sun was shining. And it even started to hail! In a desert! How cool is that?
Dinner was the following:
- Marego soup – a cream of wild spinach and potato soup, flambéed with South African brandy. Very tasty!
- Kingklip Hout Bay – pan-fried kingklip with smoked snoek cream sauce. This was also very delicious, though the fish was slightly overcooked. The sauce was very different and interesting, but quite tasty...
- Lamb chops “Saratoga” - Karoo lamb chops with potatoes and vegetables. Mmmm... lovely lamb! Nice and tender. It was served with potatoes, green beans, pumpkin, cauliflower in a cheese sauce, and half a peach. It's especially the peach-lamb combination that was excellent...
- Chocolate mousse. Didn't eat much of this as chocolate bugs my stomach... :-/
- Cheese board. Mmm... cheese!
White wine: Vrede en Lust 2006 Karien (chenin blanc + semillon) – from Paarl
- color: pale gold
- nose: citrus, melon, peaches
- palate: dry and acidic, flavor of minerals, blood orange. Standard white table wine
- grade: :-)
Red wine: Stormhoek Pinotage 2006
- color: (too dark to see properly)
- nose: prunes, spices, blackberries
- palate: pepper, plums, cocoa-bitterness towards the finish. Pleasant tannins. Very well-balanced.
- grade: :-)+
After dinner, we were kind of tired, and we wanted to get up early to try to get some sunrise shots, and everyone else had gone to bed, so...
We made the lame attempt to get up early but, well, forget it! ;-) (Well, we did manage to take showers before everyone else wanted a shower, and then get back into bed)
We did get a wake-up “call” at 7 am; we were served coffee in our berth. We sipped our coffee, and then went to the dining car to have some breakfast. And as usual, breakfast was a big affair. We had juice and yoghurt, followed by an omelette with bacon and a sausage on the side. Good stuff :-)
Now the rest of the train ride was a bit of a “disaster” - we were delayed due to some accident earlier. People were getting restless, the staff was restless and nervous and frustrated, there was no more food left. We were supposed to arrive in Johannesburg at 11 am, and we didn't get there until 1 pm... bah...
But what can one do? When we finally arrived, we grabbed our luggage, went to get our rental car (a big Volvo!), and drove to Melville, where we would be staying for the rest of our trip...
Photos for the train ride start here - keep clicking forward until you get to here...