It hangs in the sky like a giant paper ball. The valley is flooded with the colours of the setting sun behind us, the vineyards bathed in bright green, the mountains tinged orange. Naturally, I have a good glass of sauvignon blanc to hand.
I am at Le Franschhoek Hotel and Spa, the beautiful, sprawling Cape Dutch estate overlooking the valley. Its beautiful gardens are awash with summer blooms. What could be more idyllic?
Le Franschhoek is a four-star estate that offers 61 rooms - standard, family, deluxe and suites - and 18 villas. The staff is friendly. I was welcomed with bubbly on arrival and promptly ferried on a golf cart to my room.
I took a late afternoon stroll through the beautiful gardens and had a quick spruce-up before I drank in the grandeur of those magnificent mountains.
The rooms are simple but elegant and come with all mod cons such as mini bars, complimentary bottle of wine and plate of snacks, espresso pod machines, wi-fi and charging stations. The bathrooms are well appointed.
The hotel has a small but immaculate pool in the rose garden, a spa and four restaurants.
Dish is the signature restaurant, dressed in dramatic, dark colours and embroidered fabric, offering intimate dining from a small, creative and seasonal menu.
I relished a beautiful trio of salmon and local salmon trout served on fine slate plates, which was followed up with a glorious pork belly with baby carrots and super crisp crackling wafers.
Regular food and wine pairings are popular.
Le Pavillon restaurant is where breakfast is served. With glass on three sides, the light floods in, making you feel as though you’re outdoors.
Breakfast was a memorable buffet that took in the best of the Cape with home-made pastries, fresh and preserved fruit, local yoghurts and cheeses. Hot breakfast offered the works, with the eggs organic and beautifully cooked.
Le Verger is a conservatory-style restaurant attached to the spa that is designed to maximise views of the valley below.
There’s also the bar and terrace, which offers a simple, homely menu. High teas are served here on weekends.
Still full from a gourmet lunch in the town, I enjoyed a simple bowl of soup with a toasted cheese sandwich on my second night.
I spent the next day walking the town, perusing the art galleries, book shops and artisanal food shops. It’s an attractive main road, with interesting alleys and byways, the hedges and rose bushes neatly trimmed.
I viewed art from the affordable to the incredible and could only admire a life-sized bronze of a male dancer in full flight that cost as much as a modest house.
I popped into an outlet that specialised in olive oil, infused with every herb imaginable, another dealing in tea, and a chocolate boutique.
As the day heated up, I munched on home-made nougat ice-cream in a Belgian waffle cone.
The Old Corkscrew offers some of the finest antiques and decorative arts in the country. I sighed as I contemplated a second bond, but it’s worth a visit anyway.
When in the valley, wine is the obvious route with many of the country’s oldest estates nestled on the slopes.
I visited La Motte for a tasting, its spicy shiraz viognier blend getting the thumbs up. And I stopped at the estate’s Pierneef restaurant, where the artist’s works were very much on display.
Lunch was another beautifully presented affair with seasonal produce and flair cooking. I tucked into a lovely cold tomato and red pepper soup with yoghurt sorbet, then enjoyed a plate of Cape curried brawn with apple and apricot chutney. Dessert was called the rose garden, a delicious mix of raspberry mousse, macaron, candied rose petals, Turkish delight and raspberry sorbet.
Franschhoek is a vibrant town where there’s always something happening. There are literary festivals, the uncorked festival, events celebrating Cap Classique wines and, naturally in this French corner of South Africa, a festival around Bastille Day.
And don’t forget all the hiking, climbing, cycling and adventure sports activities on offer. For my part, I was just happy to drink in the beauty of the mountains.
Call 0218768900 or visit www.lefranschhoek.co.za