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Fabulous Franschhoek

For the last part of my South African Adventure I headed to Franschoek – approximately an hour’s drive from Cape Town and in the heart of the Cape Winelands, for 24 hours of warmth and relaxation before our flight back to Heathrow and the English Winter!

Franschhoek (or French Corner) has a heavy Dutch influence in its architecture, and the town stretches along one long wide street. The town Is one of South Africa’s oldest settlements, and the Western Capes centre of wine production, with expertise and gastronomic brilliance brought to the area centuries ago by the French Huguenots who were invited to the Cape by Dutch protestants to escape the persecution of Louis XIV.

Our stay was the beautiful Le Cle des Montagnes. 2 minutes walk from the main street and surrounded by vineyards, plum orchards and views of the Mountains. The property comprises of 4 villas which can be hired by the room or outright, and with or without catering. We stayed in “Colonial”, and I was lucky enough to stay in the Garden Suite which opened right out onto the pool and manicured lawn. There was plenty of living space, a generous terrace for relaxing and outdoor dining, and comfortable furnishings, and above all attentive and helpful staff.

That evening our group were treated to a traditional South African “Braii” around one of the pools to celebrate our last evening together, with plenty of local wine to savour – a particular favourite of mine was the Method Cap Classique – a sparkling wine similar to champagne. A wonderful warm evening with new friends in the most beautiful of surroundings to toast the final night of our incredible adventure.

The next morning we had a wonderful breakfast on our terrace – the table was overflowing with fresh fruit, pastries and hot offerings too! After breakfast we visited another one of Le Cle properties, Le Cle Lodge; a rustic yet stylish 5 bedroom villa nestled in a working vineyard complete with its own tennis court and helipad, which can be booked by the room or as a private residence for friends and family. The outdoor space is private and immaculately maintained, with a beautiful cabana overlooking the pool.

I spent some time in the plentiful shops in Franschhoek, where there is an abundance of art, jewellery, souvenirs and crafts to browse with incredibly reasonable prices, along with a busy market – great if you like to haggle! The main street is also home to an array of restaurants and cafes in which to watch the world go by, and also a small “pick and pay” supermarket to stock up on essentials (in my case the hundreds of flavours of Cadburys chocolate we cannot get in the UK!!). Back at Le Cle we had a few hours to enjoy the December sunshine around our private pool before our transfer back to Cape Town for our flight home.

A highlight of any visit to Franschhoek should be a ride on the “Wine Tram” a hop on – hop off narrated tram tour which transports passengers to and from the centre and to the many wine estates that surround the town, for wine tasting, cellar tours, lunches, or simply a stroll through the vineyards. Booking is essential, particularly in peak times. Due to a busy schedule we weren’t able to experience it this time, but it’s definitely going on my list for the next visit!

Le Cle was the perfect place to enjoy the last leg of my South African adventure after a hectic yet magnificent trip to this incredible country. A wonderful town for a few days’ relaxation and wine tasting; I would particularly recommend this for rounding off a honeymoon, safari, or sports tour in style!