Franschhoek Mystery getaways: no planning stress, just fab surprises
These luxury weekend breaks are all very cloak and dagger. All you'll receive when booking is an e-mail directing you to the check-in point, writes Carla Redelinghuys
Imagine a luxury Winelands getaway where your weekend has been planned for you from start to finish
I know, it sounds too good to be true. But it’s not. What it is, is the Mystery Weekend and it takes place three to four times a year in the town of Franschhoek.
This bespoke weekend getaway package includes two nights’ accommodation, breakfast on Saturday and Sunday morning, dinner at an exclusive restaurant the Saturday evening, and lunch on the Sunday afternoon before heading home, well-rested and tummies bursting with the most delicious food you can imagine.
In between all of this, there’s a host of fun-filled activities that have been organised for you – you can do as much or as little as you want.
The idea behind the Mystery Weekend is to explore Franschhoek, explains Linda Coltart, the mastermind behind the scenes. Linda came up with the idea eight years ago as a way to attract visitors to the town during the off season months.
“We were looking for ways to attract winter business, trying various offers, discounts, etc. At that time, I used to sit on the accommodation committee. I proposed my idea and was asked to put it together and run with it.”
Eight years later, the mystery weekends have welcomed almost 2,000 visitors to the region. “We’ve tried new ways to present it, but it always comes back to the original idea – great places to sleep, eat and drink with a hint of the experiences and offerings the valley has hidden away,” says Linda.
It’s all very cloak and dagger … You’ll receive an email directing you to the check-in point. That’s all.
Once there, you’ll receive your Mystery Weekend box, containing all the details you need to know – where you’ll be staying, where you’ll be dining, and what you’ll be doing
Once there, you’ll receive your Mystery Weekend box, containing all the details you need to know – where you’ll be staying, where you’ll be dining, and what you’ll be doing.
After checking in to your weekend home, the festivities officially kick off with an informal get-together at an establishment in town (this changes every time) where you can mingle with fellow mystery weekenders.
It’s a jovial affair, the flow of conversation eclipsed only by the flowing of the wine. We share a table with a couple from Joburg who received this weekend as a gift (what a gift!) and another couple who have attended at least one weekend every year for the past four years.
“We do get a lot of repeat business. It’s also been great to see how our market has grown with guests from as far away as Pretoria, East London, and the Free State,” says Linda.
Of course, the biggest part of what makes the mystery weekends as successful as they are, is the participation of the establishments that warmly welcome the visitors. For the July mystery weekend, there were 19 hotels and guesthouses and 20 restaurants taking part. (But the participants change every weekend.)
Our mystery box revealed that we would be staying at the five-star Franschhoek Manor and dining at Foliage on the Saturday evening. Breakfast on Saturday would be at Le Petit Manoir (the best perfectly poached eggs Benedict you’ll ever find), at the guesthouse on Sunday, and lunch at Cosecha Restaurant on Noble Hill Wine Estate Sunday afternoon.
But first, foraging with Foliage owner Chris Erasmus on the Saturday morning. Chris used to head up the kitchen at La Motte before opening Foliage several years ago, to, as he puts it, “put the real Franschhoek on a plate”.
That evening we get to experience Chris’s vision of what exactly it means to taste the real Franschhoek. And it is glorious.
The next morning, I unwillingly tear myself out of bed, we say goodbye to our gracious host, Cindy, and conclude the weekend at Consecha, a Mexican restaurant serving the most delicious, authentic tortillas, tacos and tequilas.
We drive home, back to reality, wishing we could turn back the clock to Friday afternoon.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
The next mystery weekend will be taking place from September 27 to 28.
The Ultimate and Superior packages are categorised according to their accommodation offerings. The former costs R8,200 per couple and will give you the crème de la crème of accommodation in the valley, while the latter is R5,650 per couple and offers a stay in stylish boutique hotels and guesthouses.
For bookings or queries, e-mail Carmen Arendse on firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was originally published in the Sunday Times Neighbourhood: Property and Lifestyle guide. Visit Yourneighbourhood.co.za