If your ideal image of winter is cuddling up in a blanket by the fire, sipping creamy hot chocolate and tucking into anything that sizzles or steams, go ahead and add the glamorous little town of Franschhoek to your travel list this winter.
“With its fine mix of local vineyards, mountain views, heart-warming cuisine, and Bastille Day festivities from 13- 14 July, it’s easy to see why many South Africans escape to the Cape Winelands during the colder months,” says Sharmilla Ragunanan, Marketing Manager for Dream Hotels and Resorts, which manages Le Franschhoek Hotel & Spa.
One of the oldest and certainly most beautiful towns in South Africa, Franschhoek’s picturesque vineyard-clad landscape was once the haunt of vast herds of elephant.
“Centuries on, the only trampling you’re likely to experience here is that of wine-stomping as the Franschhoek valley has emerged as one of the Western Cape’s main wine-producing regions, thanks of course to those persistent and resourceful French Huguenots whose heritage continues to run deep throughout the town,” she adds.
If wine and history tick your boxes, along with off-peak accommodation rates and comforting winter treats, here are a few more picks from Ragunanan to add to your Franschhoek itinerary.
Lunch in a glass ‘igloo’
Enjoy a lunch with uninterrupted views from the inside of an unusually and exquisitely crafted glass house. Le Franschhoek Hotel and Spa’s Le Verger (The Orchard Restaurant) provides an unforgettable setting where you can try familiar winter favourites such as classic beef burgers and steaming malva puddings. It’s in a conservatory-styled environment, so you get the full atmosphere of the Cape Winelands without the chill. If you can drag yourself away from all of this, it’s just a five-minute drive to the main street, lined with more restaurants, stylish shops and sidewalk cafes.
Chocolate to warm the heart
While visiting Franschhoek this winter, indulge in delectable, hand-crafted Belgian chocolate infused with exotic local flavours at Franschhoek’s Huguenot Fine Chocolates, a boutique chocolaterie run by two, qualified Belgian chocolatiers. Try the Amarula, Pinotage or Rooibos and honey options, or participate in The Chocolate Experience, a half-hour chocolate tasting and demonstration that is guaranteed to leave you wanting to buy every chocolate you can see.
A winter trot on your trusty stead
There’s no better way to get around the area’s most popular and distinguished wine farms than hopping on the fabulous Franschhoek Wine Tram Tour. But, for a unique experience this winter, saddle up for a horseback wine-tasting tour. Don your winter attire and saddle up for a leisurely ride through some of Franschhoek most renowned vineyards on on purebred Arabian Horses. Beginners and experienced riders are welcome.
Local brew to keep the winter blues at bay
If you’re a beer connoisseur, make a beeline to Tuk Tuk Microbrewery on the Main Road. A collaboration between the Leeu Collection and Cape Brewing Company, it is a unique space with an industrial-style interior of exposed brick and copper fittings. Take a seat indoors by the heater for tastings and a chance to watch the fine craft beer expertly brewed. Try the Mexican chilli bean soup, and finish off with churros dusted in cinnamon and drizzled with chocolate sauce.
Heat up at Camelot Spa
Camelot Spa at Le Franschhoek is a complete sensory experience, offering both traditional and contemporary treatments. Couples’ treatments, teen’s treatments and a gentleman’s executive package are also on the menu, as well as the option of booking a ‘Spa-ty’ for groups of three friends or more. The Grecian liquid-sound flotation room, the Moulin Rouge colour therapy adventure, the fragrant herbal sauna and steamy Swiss shower are just some of the cutting-edge therapies to try this winter season.
Celebrate Bastille Day
Save the date for South Africa’s very own French-inspired 26th annual Franschhoek Bastille Festival, which takes place at the historic Franschhoek Huguenot Monument over the weekend of 13 and 14 July 2019. A social calendar highlight celebrating good food, wine and heritage, this two-day event is guaranteed to bring out the Parisian in you.
“Think warm hospitality, world-class cuisine served around the fireplace and verdant vineyards flanking rustic farm roads, and you’ll certainly include Franschhoek in your winter holiday this year,” concludes Ragunanan.