By Joanna Hurlston
I was lucky enough to live in Franschhoek for two years before moving to The Mother City, and I was completely in love from day one. I frequently return and fondly reminisce, and I’m pleased to say that it hasn’t lost any of its magic over the years.
The valley was originally settled in 1688 by French refugees, many of whom were given land by the Dutch government in a valley called Olifantshoek (Elephants’ corner), because of the elephants that used to roam into the valley. The name of the area soon changed to le Coin Français (The French Corner), and later to Franschhoek (Dutch for “French Corner”).
La Motte, Champagne, La Cotte, Cabrière, La Provence, Bourgogne, La Terra de Luc and La Dauphine were among some of the first established farms, most of which still have their original Cape Dutch farm houses today.
Franschhoek is the food and wine heartland of the country, brimming with warm hospitality, world class cuisine and the finest wines – and the scenery is absolutely beautiful. I love how even through the town has grown drastically, it still maintains its rustic small town charm with its gorgeous original Dutch architecture. Throw in the sweeping, lush vineyards, and you’ve got paradise!
There’s so much to see, taste, and (ample!) wine to drink. Here’s a few of my Franschhoek favourites:
Franschhoek is known for being home to a variety of exceptional art – from contemporary, to classic, and everything in between. There’s nothing that I enjoy more than a good Saturday stroll from gallery to gallery. These spots should definitely be on your go-to list:
- Holden Manz is a contagious hub of colourful prints, South African realism and eye-catching oil landscapes.
- Delfthuis is neatly tucked at the back of an airy courtyard, and is an antique lover’s dream come true. They specialise in Delft porcelain from the Netherlands, China and Japan. The owners have loads of interesting stories about the history of the pieces, and they also specialise in antique Hermes scarves from Europe.
- The Vineyard Gallery is located in a renovated Victorian home and has a unique air of charm and elegance. It showcases exquisite locally-sourced artwork, and is invitingly bright and airy. A must!
WINING & DINING
This spot takes the cake, because it (quite literally) feels like home to me. I’ve spent many lazy Sunday afternoons there, sipping crisp white wine with loved ones.
It’s nestled in the Drakenstein Valley, surrounded by grand mountain landscapes and beautiful lush gardens. They’re dedicated to serving wholesome farm-to-table food, sourced from their veg gardens and free range, pasture-fed herds of cattle. Yum!
This little gem is absolutely to die for. They serve delightful meals that taste like home, generous in size and packed with homely flavours. Café Bon Bon has it all: from the detailed wine list, to the warm authentic service, and of course, the food. And there is also a rather handsome resident cockerel – much to Pepe’s displeasure. Try the decadent honey glazed melt-in-your-mouth short ribs or the seared farm lamb with Greek flavours.
Foliage is the new go-to for delicious freshly foraged treats, straight from the hills of Franschhoek. This niche yet super popular spot is making waves and attracting a wildly enthusiastic audience from all over the show. For this reason, booking is essential!
Many of the dishes are packed with delectable elements of sorrel and basil, forest mushrooms, wild herbs, river greens, nettles and pine rings. The “natural” theme is continued through methods of slow smoking, charring and glazing, and a strict free-range and pasture-fed meat policy. This is definitely one treat not to miss.
WHERE TO STAY IN FRANSCHHOEK
When you visit this magical little town, we’d love to have you! We have plenty of properties on offer, but these are on the top three on my list:
16 Cabriere is set in the heart of Franschhoek and overlooks gorgeous mountain, cherry blossom and vineyard views. It’s built in the classic Cape Dutch Style, complete with thatched roofing and rustic charm.
Amelie is plush, luxurious and homely, with a contagiously calming energy.
It’s located close to the center of Franschhoek, amongst the bustle of the town. This country-styled home has stunning mountains views and is exceptionally well looked after. The pool and garden area are absolutely breathtaking!
The most spectacular feature that Villa Apaltha has to offer is its magnificent mountain views – plus, it’s on the doorstep of a few amazing wine estates! It’s tastefully decorated with immense attention to detail. Homely, relaxing and very spacious, it’s ideal for families and friends who want a relaxing and luxurious stay in a stunning location.
And there you have it. I hope this blog will persuade you to head on down to Franschhoek and experience the magic yourself!
Until next time. Salut!