Franschhoek Valley South Africa


Franschhoek Valley

If there’s a “heaven on earth” Franschhoek must be as close as you get! The small traditionally French town is one of the oldest in South Africa. Embraced by three mountain ranges – FranschhoekWemmershoek, and Groot Drakenstein – the beautiful valley is a few miles east of Stellenbosch and Paarl and a one-hour drive from Cape Town. In 2000 Franschhoek became part of the Municipality of Stellenbosch.

Huegoinat Monument

Huguenot Monument

French Huguenot settlers arrived in the valley during the 17th and 18th centuries when France outlawed Protestantism in their homeland. The Dutch government gave land to French settlers in the area originally known as Olifants Hoek (elephants’ corner) because elephants crossed into the valley to calve.

Wemmershoek Mountains

Wemmershoek Mountains

Most wine farms in the valley retained their original French names. The buildings are examples of beautiful unspoiled Cape Dutch architecture. To preserve the spirit of the original settlers, there are restrictions on renovations and new construction. The area has miles and miles of vineyards and Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve with scenic hiking trails and sweeping views of the fertile valley.

Franschoek Vineyard

“The name of the area changed to le Coin Français (the French Corner) and later to Franschhoek (Dutch for French Corner). Many of the surnames in Franschhoek are of French origin and settlers named their farms after the areas in France from which they came. La Motte, Champagne, La Cotte, Cabrière, La Provence, Bourgogne, La Terra de Luc, and La Dauphine were among some of the first established farms.” These farms are now renowned wineries, many with famous four and five-star restaurants.

Cape Dutch Architecture

Got a late start and missed the last “wine tram” of the day. I drove the sometimes isolated vineyard route getting lost on back roads trying to find La Bourgogne’s outside restaurant. Instead I stopped for late lunch at Café BonBon at La Petite Dauphine off Excelsior Road. It was almost 3 pm and only a few people were dining on the peaceful , quiet patio. The food and beautiful scenery were so amazing I lingered for hours!

Dutch Reform Church

Huguenot Monument

To honor Franschhoek’s heritage, the Huguenot Monument stands at the end of the town and a nearby museum chronicles the history of the area’s first French settlers. Each Huguenot farm has a fascinating story.

Wine Tram

In 1904 a secondary train line was built between Paarl and Franschhoek to replace ox drawn carts farmers used to get their produce to market. “Steam locomotives operated along the route until diesel locomotives took over in the 1970s. In the 1990s railway service ended. In 2012 a clever private operator reinstated the tram line. Now known as the Fanschhoek Wine Tram, the renovated tram transports tourists between wine estates in open-sided Brill Trams of circa 1890.”

Cape Dutch Architecture

The popular hop-on-hop-off wine tram is a great way to tour the wineries. The area experienced a boom in the 1990s that never stopped. “Ideal summer weather, snowy mountain peaks in winter, and a location near Cape Town made Franschhoek a sought after address.”

Franschhoek Wine Tram

Franschhoek Wine Tram

Franschhoek Valley has similarities with Northern California’s Napa Valley and boosts some of the top restaurants in South Africa. This, together with “the strong wine culture and pristine natural and architectural beauty,” turned Franschhoek into what many describe as the “food and wine capital of South Africa”.

Franschhoek Valley

Franschhoek Valley

Shops in Franschhoek village include art, antiques, and galleries with restaurants. Cozy cafés line the main thoroughfare. It’s easy to lose yourself in this place. The valley is a “springboard to other wine routes and the Four Passes Fruit Route,” of which Franschhoek is also part. The four magnificent passes include Viljoen’s, Sir Lowry’s, Franschhoek, and Helshoogte.

Groot Drakenstein Mountains

Groot Drakenstein Mountains

Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve

Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve

3 thoughts on “Franschhoek Valley South Africa

    • Didn’t want to leave… Tomorrow going back home for a few months to look after my house, etc. When I return to South Africa next year decided to stay in an outlying area rather than in Cape Town where it is so hard to find good accommodations. Franschhoek is a possibility!

      Plan to buy your book when I get home – as I will be in one place for several months.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well if you don’t need to be in a particular location for work, then you may as well stay in such a sublime place. Will it still be easy to get to those performances you love? And to make a few friends? Hope you find all in order on your return. And thanks for the interest in my book. It did get listed with a publisher in Sth Africa but I don’t think much happened there. I am being told it will be released in Canada in January, not sure about the US. But you can always buy it through Book Depository or Amazon, and of course download as a ebook or audio. Xxx

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