In contrast to the busy days on safari drives, a nice change of pace is relaxing in the beauty of the South African winelands. Just outside of Cape Town, some of the world’s best wines are grown in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. We stayed in Franshhoek, a town originally founded in the 17th century by French Huguenot refugees who were given the land by the Dutch government. (Franshhoek is Dutch for “French Corner.”) The French influence is apparent in the architecture, the food, and of course the wine.
Where to Stay
We stayed at Franshhoek Country House – an adorable five star hotel in the heart of the Franshhoek valley. Adorably French, and complete with a heated AND a non-heated pool, this was a Pinterest-worthy hotel overlooking the vineyards and mountains. Our room had two stories – with a patio and two balconies – and had a switch for turning the fountain on and off. (We visited during a severe drought so it stayed off.) The complimentary breakfast had a full buffet as just an appetizer, and a delicious meal to follow.
My new favorite wine is one I had never heard of prior to traveling to South Africa: Pinotage. It’s a cross between Pinot Noir and Hermitage. As someone who doesn’t particularly care for Pinot Noir, this was a wine I couldn’t get enough of.
What to Do
In any wine region, the top activity is obviously to visit vineyards. But Franshhoek does it best – they have a wine trolley that runs along the most popular vineyards and drops off winos wine enthusiasts at the winery of your choice. Certain stops include tastings while at other stops wine can be purchased for just a few rand. (We met a fun group of South Africans who had experience with the wine trolley, so we followed along and missed several of our pick ups, and had to wait for the next train.)
The trolley picks up from the center of town, where there are plenty of shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants to keep you busy while you wait (or greet you upon your return).
Where to Eat
Franshhoek is one of those areas you can wander into a place off the street and you will most likely get an amazing meal. We took some recommendations from locals and had some delicious dinners worthy of the praise. (It’s also probably not necessary to note, but in Franshhoek the wine lists are all extensive.)
Monneaux – This award-winning restaurant was attached to our hotel, so it was easy to get a good meal. A self-described “Cape culinary classic”, the menu features various small plates that were reasonably priced, and every one better than the last. We ended up being a little over indulgent and had to cancel our last course because we were so stuffed.
The French Connection – Recommended by several people, this bistro was the best place to get a good steak, or any French classic you crave.
Elephant & Barrel – Just behind the French Connection is the only English pub in Franshhoek. Grab a beer to start (or end) the night either in the bar or out in their courtyard.