5 fantastic reasons to head to Franschhoek

An easy drive from Cape Town, Franschhoek has the makings of a great weekend getaway. Here are some of the top attractions

21 April 2019 - 00:03 By Allison Foat
The Wine Tram.
The Wine Tram.
Image: Leon van Rooyen

1. TO EAT

Franschhoek is not called the culinary capital of the country for nothing. With a string of eateries run by a league of A-listers, the food in the 'Hoek is taken trés seriously and will blow your hair back.

At Big Dog Café and coffee shop, the plated breakfast choices are refreshingly different to the norm and the inclusive menu will sate even the pickiest vegan.

2. TO QUAFF WINE AND MCC

Catch the Wine Tram in town and enjoy a tipple as it trundles alongside rolling vineyards. Hop on and off as you please, stopping at some of SA's most distinguished estates, such as Grande Provence, where you might fancy a cellar tour or a country-style picnic under the oaks surrounded by exceptional art pieces sculpted by the likes of Anton Smit.

Move on to Black Elephant Vintners, where vine rebels Kevin Swart (Black), Raymond Ndlovu (Elephant) and Jacques Wentzel (winemaker) are all about making wine and MCC accessible to anyone who appreciates it. Their innovative unplugged-music-and-wine pairings are a must.

Do lunch at Protégé at Le Quartier Francais, where chef Cameron's flavour spectrums will floor you, and his artistic presentation will leave your Insta followers with a hefty dose of foodie fomo. Save space for dinner at Chef's Warehouse at Maison Estate, a next-level affair. Dave Schneider, in association with the legendary Liam Tomlin, has curated a superior tapas offering that is the perfect finale to a feasting binge in this little corner of France.

3. TO SLEEP

There is variety aplenty at the star rating of your choice and budget, but since you're in one of the oldest towns in the Cape, choose a place with historical gravitas, like La Petite Ferme. It's posh sans pretension and the newly revamped vineyard suites make for a perfect staycation. Take a dip in your private pool, do a vine-orientation tour and walkabout to get a better sense of the estate's backstory, and be sure to try Chef Kyle Norris' new autumn menu. 

A private pool at La Petite Ferme.
A private pool at La Petite Ferme.
Image: Allison Foat

4. TO GET YOUR NATURE FIX

There's no shortage of activities in-between meals and, with such stunning surroundings, getting out into nature is a given. La Motte offers a three-hour sustainability hike, available with or without a guide, along a well-marked 5km trail. The circular route snakes through swathes of fynbos in the nearby mountains that form part of the ancient Cape Fold Belt. At the halfway mark, hikers can take a break at the Lapa and survey the glorious landscapes below over the rim of a glass of bubbly.

Other fun ways to explore the village, vineyards and nature reserves, is via fat-tyre "scooters" and e-bike tours. The emphasis is on fun, and easily navigable paths have been mapped out to accommodate people of all ages and levels of fitness.

5. TO ADMIRE THE ART

Good art by established and emerging creatives is omnipresent - there must be something in the water. On the heritage side, the Pierneef exhibition at La Motte's museum is a national treasure. The collection features 45 of the grand master's artworks produced between 1908 and 1955. Allocate time to be inspired by his phenomenal use of pastel pantones, varied techniques and textures, and afterwards wander through the sculpture garden next door.

For more breathtaking installations, make a turn at Leeu Estates, on the opposite side of the valley, to view Deborah Bell's Artemis and Dogs l-lll, the focal point in the centre of the manicured lawns in front of the Manor House. Take it all in over tea and a feather-light croissant on the patio.

Another great village artist is one Pigcasso, the famous painting pig who was saved from slaughter by animal-rights activist Joanne Lefson in 2016. The Farm Sanctuary SA, which this endearing hog calls home, is where canvas and compassion collide. A visit there should be on everyone's itinerary - it's not every day you meet a fine swine with such deft snout capabilities. Pigcasso's work is for sale and one of her creations now graces a Swatch watch face.


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