Travel Photographers Elisha Dibakoane, Avril Maharaj and Omphile Setiloane spent the weekend at Franschhoek’s Grande Provence. They spent the time exploring vineyards and eating gourmet food. They share their getaway diary with us.
IMPRESSIVE: The entrance to the Grande Provence Restaurant.
It was a Friday afternoon as we negotiated tight, nail-biting traffic after leaving behind the hustle and bustle of Cape Town for the green valley and tranquil wine paradise of Franschhoek. Away from our professional day to-day routines, we set ourselves up for a weekend getaway at the food and wine capital. Reception and hospitality We arrived at Franschhoek Valley and were taken to our home for the weekend, the Owner’s Cottage of the magnificent and classical Grande Provence. The cottage exudes period grandeur and contemporary luxury. It comprises a deluxe suite, lounge and conservatory leading out to the soothing pool area set in a country garden. We were ushered into the villa’s two stylish, exclusive en suite bedrooms, with a shared lounge leading on to a relaxing outdoor terrace, pool and jacuzzi.
Our favourite spot was the communal lounge with a large fireplace that kept burning right into the early hours to chase away the winter chills. Surrounded by opulent vines and picturesque views, this is the perfect private getaway for honeymooners, couples, families or close friends. Night of wining and dining After we were mesmerised by the awesome reception and beauty of this gem of the valley, it was dinner time and, yes, I could not wait any further. After all, we were at the wine and dining darling of Africa. We headed to the restaurant and deep down I felt like my weekend was about to begin.
SIP: Omphile Setiloane enjoying the Grand Provence Zinfandel red wine.
Grande Provence is a unique destination with a host of exceptional experiences, including award-winning wines and fine gourmet cuisine from executive chef Darren Badenhors. It is one of The Huka Retreats, a collection of properties offering the ultimate in understated luxury to discerning travellers in New Zealand, Fiji and South Africa. Munashe, the sommelier, greeted us with a glass of Zinfandel with which we toasted and declared the night still young. We sipped our wine as the conversation deepened and the fire gained heat. Early morning shenanigans As if the valley had not entertained us enough, the sun shone above the tops of the valley, some birds gently sung and there was a pleasant breeze. Breakfast After breakfast, we collected our tickets and headed to the wine tram station in the heart of the village. Parking is available next to the information centre and at the wine tram hop-in spot. I highly recommend the hop-in hop-out wine tram and cannot imagine a more exciting and funfilled way to experience the wine valley. They offer a variety of carefully planned and comprehensive wine-tasting routes and we chose the green line.
The tram made its first stop at a Rickety Bridge, from which we did our first wine tasting. You can taste from three categories: white wine, and aged reds. Although this may differ from farm to farm, you can add a platter of cheese or some chocolate to the tasting. After an hour, we moved on to Grande Provence, where we sipped some award-winning wines paired with food. An exquisite start to our meal was the first course, a six-hour cured, 30-second seared and nine-minute cold smoked trout, harissa, yuzu pearls, with dill cucumber and candied lemon, followed by four equally exquisite courses. The food was presented as pieces of art on our plates; almost too beautiful to eat. But after staring at our plates, we indulged. Oh what an experience! The different textures and flavours of the meal were beautifully paired with the Grand Provence sauvignon blanc.
ART: Slow-cooked Karoo lamb neck, roast garlic and parsnip puree, minted halloumi and charred baby broccoli.
Every dish was indeed a story-telling experience. Our meal was finished off with a cheese course (we won’t ruin it for you, rather taste it yourself), a new alternative to a dessert which was absolutely delicious. The service in the restaurant was excellent, as both the waiter and the sommelier attended to us for each course. It was such a treat to be served by people so passionate about their jobs. We ended the night by driving back to the cottage, where we unwound in front of the fireplace and shared a bottle of zinfandel 2015 before retiring to our rooms for the night. What I like most about the wine tram system is its flexibility and convenience.
To enjoy this experience to the fullest, we recommend you visit with your loved ones over the age of 18 who can enjoy drinking or tasting wine. After such an exciting and fun but short day, we found ourselves having to pack our belongings and, with heavy hearts, leave our newfound love, Franschhoek. And so with a greater deal of reluctance we dragged our feet and chased the setting sun. We looked back on a weekend full of fun and agreed to bid this amazing town goodbye.
* Connect with Dibakoane on Instagram @dudefromsa . Avril @avril_m_photography and Omphile @omphibear