Franschhoek, South Africa

Photo: N. Preseault
Photo: N. Preseault

It’s been a lazy morning. Light started to stream through the curtains a few hours ago, but between the peaceful silence and a snuggly down duvet, it didn’t matter. When you finally decided to move, it was only to the bathroom. The heated floor kept your feet warm, while the oversized bathtub filled with water. It was only after you soaked until your skin began pruning that you finally pulled apart the curtains, opened the French doors, and brought your Nespresso cappuccino out to the patio.

It’s one of those perfect mornings. The bright sun has already absorbed the dew on the grass, birds are chirping out of sight, and you have a postcard-worthy view of plum trees, grape vines, and ragged mountains. You’re at La Petite Dauphine, a fruit-and-wine farm in Franschhoek, South Africa. Nine suites–though they’re more like private cottages–are scattered around the grounds. On your walk to breakfast at Café BonBon, you pass a small pool, a pond, and rows and rows of vines. Hendrik, a cockerel that acts more like a house pet, greets you at the door. You select an outside table and pick at cheese and a croissant from the buffet until your Nutella-filled crêpes arrive. The combination of the delicious food and the still-stunning view makes you ready to move right in.

Franschhoek, which is located about an hour outside of Cape Town, was first settled by French Huguenots after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, which outlawed Protestantism in France in 1685. The Dutch government gave the Huguenots land previously occupied by elephants. Today, the elephants are gone, but vineyards, fine-dining restaurants, and British tourists have taken their place. The small town is just outside of Stellenbosch, a well-established wine region. The main road, Huguenot Road, is filled with little cafés and chocolate shops; vineyards can be seen climbing the hills around town.

Photo: Franschhoek Wine Tram
Photo: Franschhoek Wine Tram

To get to know the area–and it’s wines–buy a ticket for the Franschhoek Wine Tram. On the first half of the tour, an open-air bus drops you off (and later picks you up at designated times) at wineries north and east of the center of town. Visit the Huguenot Memorial Museum and the Huguenot Monument to learn the history of the area. Wet your palette at Haute Cabrière with sparkling wine and a view over the valley. Taste Chardonnay and Pinotage in an old blacksmith’s cottage at Chamonix Wine Farm. Stay for lunch among the trees at Racine. And then board a tram, which utilizes old tracks that ran between Franschhoek and Paarl, for the second half of the tour. Sit on the deck at Rickety Bridge Winery and try their Blanc de Blancs and Cabernet Sauvignon. For dinner, watch the sun set over the valley from Mange Tout’s circular dining room at Mont Rochelle. Try West Coast crayfish and grilled kabeljou, while listening to Alfio play classic tunes on the piano.

Tomorrow, there’s more eating and drinking to come. Browse the local crafts and the produce at the Franschhoek Market. People watch while drinking espresso at Essence Coffee Bar. Sample marzipan and truffles at Bijoux Chocolates. Take a break with a Jack Black Pale Ale at the Elephant and Barrel Pub, the only English pub in the area. And, of course, there’s more wine. Môreson Wine Farm is a small vineyard with interesting names, like Knoputibakfor their wines. Say the name slowly after tasting the white blend, and you’ll understand. And Anthonij Rupert has some of the best wines in the area. Bring home as many bottles of Syrah and Merlot as possible. If you can possibly eat anything else at the end of the day, book a table at Le Bon Vivant in the center of town. It’s almost hard to eat the artful plates, like springbok, at this Dutch restaurant.

Happy and completely stuffed, return to La Petite Dauphine and light a fire in your suite’s wood stove. It’s not even that cold, but the crackling logs and the glowing light seem like the perfect way to end the day. Plus maybe one more glass of wine.

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