I am at Le Franschhoek, the beautiful, sprawling Cape Dutch estate overlooking the Franschoek valley. Its beautiful gardens are awash with summer blooms. What could be more idyllic?
Le Franschhoek is a four-star estate that offers 62 rooms - standard, family, deluxe and suites - and some 18 villas. The staff are friendly and one’s welcomed with a cocktail on arrival. And then I’m promptly ferried off to my room on a golf cart.
I take a late afternoon stroll through the beautiful gardens and have a quick spruce up before I drink in the grandeur of those mountains.
The rooms are simply but elegantly appointed and come with all mod cons like mini bars, complimentary bottle of wine - I’m busy enjoying it - espresso pod machines, wi-fi and charging stations. There is a complimentary plate of snacks in the room too. The bathrooms are well appointed. And then there’s the veranda from which to take in the views.
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. Followed up with a glorious pork belly with baby carrots and super crisp crackling wafers. The dishes were beautifully presented and all spoke to first-class cooking. Regular food and wine pairings are popular.
Then there’s the La Pavillion restaurant where breakfast is served. With glass on three sides, here the light just floods in making you feel like you’re outdoors. Breakfast was a memorable buffet that took in the best of the Cape with home made pastries, fresh and preserved fruits, local yoghurts and cheeses etc. Hot breakfasts too, took in the complete 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. Then there’s the bar and terrace, which offers a simple homely menu and the good company of the many guests in this large establishment. High teas are served here at weekends.
I relished a simple bowl of soup with a toasted cheese sandwich on my second night here as I was still full from a gourmet lunch in the town.
I spent the next day walking the town, perusing its art galleries, bookshops and artisan food shops. It’s an attractive main road, with interesting alleys and byways, the hedges neatly clipped, the rose bushes neatly topiaried.
I take in art from the affordable to the incredible. I can only admire a life-sized bronze of a dancer in full flight. It costs in the region of a modest house in a modest Durban suburb.
I pop into an outlet that specialises in olive oils, infused with every herb imaginable, another dealing in teas, and a chocolate boutique. As the day heats up I eat 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. Again I sigh as I contemplate a second bond, but it’s worth a visit.
And then, when in the valley, wine is the obvious route with many of the country’s oldest estates nestled on the slopes.
I stop in at La Motte for a tasting, their spicy shiraz viognier blend getting the thumbs up and I stop at their Pierneef restaurant. The artist’s works are very much on display here.
Lunch is another beautifully presented affair with seasonal produce and flair cooking.
I tucked into a lovely cold tomato and red pepper soup with yoghurt sorbet, and 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 little town in which there’s always something happening. There are literary festivals, the uncorked festival, and events celebrating Cap Classique and naturally, in this very French corner of South Africa, a festival around Bastille Day.
And then don’t forget all the hiking, climbing, cycling and adventure sports activities on offer. But I was just happy to drink in the beauty of those mountains.