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Posted on: Thursday, 16 October 2008

Franschhoek Reviewed – Heads we take the N1, Tails the N2

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One sunny morning, two national highways that lead you to Franschhoek and three reasons to visit; in order of appearance scenery, wine and food. Be warned though what starts as a happy breakfast in a little town whose name translates to “French Corner” will evolve into an even happier lunch and a borderline ecstatic dinner. All accompanied by the continuous reappearance of the very same three reasons you decided to visit; the view of the Gods, the juice of the Gods and the food… oh my God!

Franschhoek is known as the gourmet capital of the Cape and even has its own three sources of natural spring water that is bottled in the valley. It is not unusual when dining at any of Franschhoek’s world class restaurants to see framed accolades and reviews taking residence on the walls as a mark of international recognition of cuisine excellence. Four courses in and phrases like ‘I couldn’t possibly fit another bite in’ morph themselves alongside a bottle of delicious local vintage into ‘well you only live once’. Savour local game dishes glazed with a French signature from eight of South Africa’s Top 100 restaurants (some located on wine farms and some on the Main Street).



Do not blame yourself when you wake up unplanned in the quaintest little B&B the following lavender filled morning, blame the French. They are after all the masters of seduction, in fact the French Huguenots that settled in this particular valley over three centuries ago were banned from France they were so seductive. There are beautiful museums that serve as monuments to the said French Heritage that crossed the deep blue with vintage and twine. The architecture they left behind stands as proud as the mountain ranges that halo their valley of vines.

Only an hour’s drive outside Cape Town city and tourists and locals alike flirt with the idea that this is Europe’s claim on African soil. Of course for those that prefer to descend into the landscape by helicopter there are landing pads available at select venues and you’ll save on having to tip the car guard.

This valley shares mountain ranges with Stellenbosch and Paarl and memories with many newlyweds who chose this landscape to celebrate their wedding day. Should the romance of this valley encourage the spontaneous… there are exclusive Franschhoek diamond dealers and jewellery designers at your disposal.

Over 25 wine farms engulf the region of Franschhoek most offering wine tasting and tours. Local wine-makers passions have collected coveted Gold and Double Gold National and International awards. Gourmet picnics baskets are also available at select wine farms to be enjoyed with a purchase from their cellar on a piece of their lawn. The friendly local tourist bureau will gladly provide you with a map and assist you with contact information and the relevant hours of trade.



The main street, Huguenot Road, hosts deli’s, art galleries, boutique clothing stores, general grocers, African curio crafters, decor shops, coffee shops, an oyster and Champagne bar, many fine restaurants, liquor stores ripe with local wine splendour; a Belgian chocolaterie and even a local post office to send off a ‘wish you were here’ or two. You will use all of the above to strengthen the sudden need you have to invest in a wine farm (or at least a cottage) you saw in an estate agents window while strolling through the town.

For those needing pampering there are Spa facilities. For those needing to stretch their legs; a few holes on the Jack Nieklaus signature golf course or the option of playing boules (Le Cochonnet). For the Historians; Drakenstein Prison, the site of Nelson Mandela’s release. For the equestrian; wine tasting tours on horseback. For the angler; fly-fishing. For the outdoor adventurer; hikes and mountain biking trails. For the brave; paragliding. For the artists; inspiration. For the lonely; a second serving of Créme Brûlée. For those who need to return home elsewhere… may I recommend at least one case of the favourite for good measure.

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Christine Searle


One of the original founders of SA-Venues.com, Christine enjoys spending time with her family and her fur-kids, Dexter, Sherrie and Hercules. Her love and interest in flora and fauna is evident in her stunning garden which has been carefully designed and well maintained. Christine loves her work and is keen to show others what South Africa has to offer. When she is not working she likes to relax at home in the garden or enjoy her favourite hobby, photography.

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