When I think of a dream getaway, I imagine four things; gawking at amazing scenery and views, drinking from an endless fountain of top quality wine, indulging in mouthwatering food and curling up in the lap of luxury at the end of the day. The truth is that we all lead pretty busy lives and sometimes, you don’t have a long time to have a good time. But not to worry, in just 24 hours in Franschhoek you can cram in enough views, wine, food and luxury to last a lifetime (or at least until your next visit).
Franschhoek is a historic winemaking town in the heart of a beautiful valley in the Western Cape. Its name translates to French Corner, and the rich French heritage adds loads of charm to the town and surrounding wine farms. I’m pretty sure that if you rolled down your windows and played the soundtrack to Amelie over your stereo, you could easily lose yourself in a French countryside fantasy.
What makes Franschhoek even more appealing, is the South African warmth that you’ll find everywhere you visit. The South African wine industry is dead keen for young wine drinkers to learn and ask questions and expand their knowledge, so it’s the ideal place to visit if you love wine and want to know more about it. In my opinion, winter is the best time to visit, since it makes for the most dramatic views and it means that all the restaurants and tasting rooms that are normally packed over summer have tables available and often, even winter rates.
We love a good weekend getaway in the Franschhoek Valley and I’ve written about little trips here and here before. Recently though, we were invited to experience an all-out 24 hours of the most exquisite offerings the valley has to offer. Here’s my guide to the most luxurious winelands weekend I can imagine.
The Ultimate 24 Hours in Franschhoek
Day 1: Saturday
Lunch – Babylonstoren
Imagine the best garden and decor magazines in the world came together to curate one postcard perfect wine farm. That’s Babylonstoren. Start with a walk through their edible garden, which at this time of year is punctuated with pops or yellow lemons and orange persimmons hanging heavy from wintry branches. Don’t forget to stop by the cactus garden, which is a photographer’s dream. For lunch, sit down to a feast of fresher-than-fresh seasonal produce which would have been harvested only a couple of hours before being exquisitely plated and laid out in front of you.
The restaurant’s red, yellow and green salads are famous – and for good reason. An artistic showcase of what’s in season, these plates are basically nature’s way of showing you what tastes good together. The salads are huge, and we shared the yellow plate of granadilla, persimmon, carrots, gooseberries and calamari. For mains, I had the most beautiful risotto I’ve ever laid eyes on and Keenan had a beef fillet on the bone with a side of roasted winter vegetables and potatoes. Of course we had a couple of glasses of Babylonstoren wine too.
Open every day, 8am – 5pm
Wine Tasting – Mullineux & Leeu
The newly-opened Mullineux & Leeu is a very welcome addition to the Franschhoek wine route. Here, you can taste award-winning Mullineux wines, which are a true showcase of South African Chenin Blanc and Syrah. The tasting room is elegant and the staff are very welcoming – and there’s a fireplace for those rainy days too. Their dessert wine is particularly special, so even if you’re not normally a sweet wine drinker, don’t leave without tasting it.
Open every day, 10am – 5pm
Spa Treatment – Leeu Estates
For me, there’s no better way to unwind than with a massage. It’s my number one ultimate indulgence. The Spa at Leeu Estates is calm and serene, with a splash pool overlooking the vineyards for the summer months and steam room facilities for the colder days. It’s not a given that a massage will get you that sweet spot between being awake enough to enjoy it and yet relaxed enough to feel like you’re dreaming – but our couples massage was so good and relaxing and I felt like jelly when the 60 minutes ended.
Dinner – Boschendal
One of my favourite restaurants in the winelands and one that I always take visitors to, Boschendal is a must-visit. As with Babylonstoren, everything you eat is grown right there on the farm and plated as if for a magazine. Though we had reserved a table, by the time dinner came around, we were still full from our lunch, so we decided to just have some tea for dinner. Next time, I’ll plan better so that I can enjoy more while I’m in the area. This would definitely be my recommendation for your own wintry Franschhoek weekend.
Open every day, 9:30am – 4pm
Accommodation – La Residence
La Residence has a reputation as being one of the premier luxury properties in Africa and it has always been my dream to spend a night there. This is the kind of property where the gate radios the office upon your arrival and when you pull up to the door the team is ready and waiving, waiting to valet park your car while a glass of red wine made right there is placed gently in your right hand. You’re then shown around your room, where a bottle of bubbly waits on ice, to be sipped overlooking a view of the mountains and vines. I’ve been watching a lot of Versailles recently, and the room had a very distinct royal feel.
All beverages are included in your stay, so we enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine and whisky in front of the fire in the common room. Underneath glistening chandeliers, Keenan tried (once again) to teach me how to play chess. I ordered tomato soup from their light meals menu when I felt a few late-night hunger pangs and we slept sweetly on the four-post bed as the rain fell down outside.
This is one of those places that makes you feel like a different person while you’re there. It’s the kind of place you do not want to leave.
Bubbly Tasting – Le Lude
After breakfast at La Residence, a bubbly tasting at Le Lude is the perfect mid-morning treat. The tasting room is just beautiful, with a bright white dining room and chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. If you enjoy Champagne or sparkling wine, you really can’t visit Franschhoek without stopping by Le Lude. Their bubbly is made with the utmost love, care and respect for the art, and as a result, it’s deliciously drinkable. There are a couple of tasting options, so if you’ve skipped breakfast, it’s worth opting for the canapé and bubbly pairing.
Open every day, 10am – 5pm
Chardonnay Tasting – Môreson Wines
As an impassioned Chardonnay lover, this is one of my top recommendations for fellow fans of this golden girl. We sat down to a special tasting in the cellar and were taken through several different Chardonnays that I would happily drink for the rest of my life. For die-hards, the FYM is particularly worth trying and is honestly one of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying. It’s very rich (having spent 12 months in new French oak) yet has enough freshness to balance it out. If you’re not driving, I’d recommend following up the whites with the farm’s reds too.
Open every day, 9:30am – 5pm
Lunch – Bread & Wine
Bread & Wine has long been one of my favourite restaurants anywhere. Their menu is always changing and I have enjoyed every meal I’ve ever had there. I’ve recently stopped eating meat just for the sake of eating meat, because I feel it’s unfair to push up consumption and then complain about the effects on the environment and the unethical treatment of animals.
But I felt comfortable eating the incredible charcuterie prepared by chef Neill Jewell. I’ve always admired and believed in his ethos of sourcing ethically raised animals and treating the consumption of meat with respect, but that ethos has become all the more important to me now. Not only does it makes ethical sense to me, but I believe it makes for a far superior product.
We followed up with a creamy leek, hazelnut and goat’s feta risotto and a warming sweet potato curry. The menu reads simple, and doesn’t give away some surprise elements like a deliciously crunchy cucumber pickle hidden beneath the curry. This is a great restaurant for a long winelands lunch or family get-together and their current offering of 2 courses for R360 or three courses for R398 is well worth it.
Open every day, 12pm – 3pm
This is the kind of weekend you dream about for ages and ages, long after you’re home. It’s the perfect way to see the best of the best of this valley, or celebrate something special, like a honeymoon or anniversary. If you can’t wait, the good news is that the valley is open for winter!
*Our weekend was hosted by the Franschhoek Tourism Board. As always, all opinions are my own and recommendation are 100% genuine.