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If the need for a spa calls, head to the Hotel Relais San Maurizio in San Stefano Belbo. It will take 25 minutes from Alba. This luxely transformed old monastery in the middle of vineyards has crisp linen sheets, a Caudalie of Bordeaux, France, Vinothérapie Spa and one of the finest restaurants in the area. Da Guido recently moved into the hotel's subterranean quarters--renovated, vaulted-ceiling wine cellars--from its previous home in Asti. The cooking is elegant in its simplicity. Perfectly memorable were the chunks of cardoons (a close cousin of the artichoke) punctuating a puddle of potent, artery-clogging fonduta, and the dish is covered with, you guessed it, shavings of truffles.
Biking Through The Bush in Style
If you're going to eat your way through your vacation, you may as well get some exercise too. Since 1966, Butterfield & Robinson has been hauling bicycle enthusiasts around the globe. The company made its name in Burgundy, France, and has expanded to include two dozen countries. What's more, it does it in luxury, creating trips that are cushier than a padded bicycle seat. Its South African excursion is a great escape from the winter blues in the U.S. South Africa's summer is our winter, and temperatures in March are about 77° for the highs and 57° for the lows--perfect for biking.
It's also the perfect time for the prewine harvest, when produce is peaking. You'll discover that South Africa's chefs have the freshest of raw materials to play with. And you might even lose a couple of pounds, since you'll be able to bike from 14 to 50 miles a day.
The tour, which lasts 10 days, starts in Cape Town, just outside of the Stellenbosch, South Africa's most famed wine-producing area. You'll be biking through some of the most beautiful viticultural landscapes in the world. Wines to look for are Pinotage (an odd cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, a South African original) and Chenin Blanc. The area produces excellent Sauvignon Blancs as well. And the wine flavors line up beautifully with the fragrant cuisine.
Some of the imaginative food you'll get to experience? How about double-baked beetroot and rocket soufflé, springbok loin in balsamic broth with curried gnocchi, orange-glazed ostrich filet with sweet-corn and basil pancakes or bobotie (a curried meat and custard dish)? Or maybe you're hankering for karroo lamb and rose-petal ice cream.
The accommodations aren't bad either. Lodging is either Relais & Chateaux or equivalent. That includes the safari nights in the bush, where elephant and giraffe sightings are common. Yes, even in the bush there are modern conveniences to comfort you on the darkest nights, with wild and fascinating animals howling in the very near distance.
Blessed Are The Burgundy