Original source: www.leeabamonte.com
Franschhoek is a small town in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. It has a population of about 15,000 people and is one of the nicest towns I’ve been to in South Africa.
Franschhoek is about 75 kilometers from Cape Town and just past the more famous wine town of Stellenbosch. But that’s OK, Franschhoek has kept its secret and remains a lesser-known destination that will surprise and delight the visitor. I was pleasantly surprised and that doesn’t happen to me that often!
Originally settled by the Huguenots back in the 17th century the town still stays true to its French roots, even having a big Bastille Day celebration each year. There is also a massive Huguenot Memorial at the end of town.
The main street in town is a treat to walk through. Little shops, restaurants, cafes and galleries dot the charming street and give a picture perfect look and feel to Franschhoek.
You can spend hours strolling the one street and stopping into each little coffee house, café and art gallery. Each shop has a story. For instance, a chocolate shop opened after the owners went to Belgium to learn their craft and now it’s quite popular.
Another art gallery features local artists and a certain coffee shop features ‘bloody great coffee’! This is all mixed in with local handicraft markets along the road to remind you you’re in Africa. It even has a really good gelato shop to mix in with expensive jewelry shops selling tanzanite and other precious stones.
There is also a church in the center of town that is lovely to see from botht the outside and inside. It is the centerpiece of town, in true European style, and is offset nicely by the mountains behind it.
Franschhoek has the feel of Europe. It feels like a small Mediterranean town surrounded by mammoth mountains and colorful wine lands. Franschhoek is a great place to relax for a few days and feel like you’re not in Africa.
I stayed in a place called La Residence. I was blown away by how nice it was. I am not one to gush over hotels but between the setting, room, service, people working there and the food: I was really impressed and felt right at home.
La Residence is like a Tuscan villa, a Corsican house or a Mallorcan finca in Franschhoek. It was a reprieve from what I was expecting and delivered on all accounts. It truly enhanced my stay in Franschhoek.
My room was decorated in a Mediterranean style with a neo-classical feel. The bed was elevated and open to the room and the amazing views outside.
The bathroom was open and included a sitting area and a tub in the middle of the room. The windows were accessible to the outside and vice versa but it was as if you didn’t care because the views were so good. It was perfect.
Not to mention the grounds included a nice small pool overlooking the mountains, a duck pond and a farm which included ponies and a bunch of springbok-which I am not ashamed to say I had for dinner at their gourmet restaurant.
Mix springbok in with world-class oxtail tagliatelle and many other fresh culinary creations that I never would have put together and it made for an amazing luxury villa experience. La Residence gets high marks in my book and I highly recommend it. It makes the charms of Franschhoek come alive even more.
So as you peruse the town of Franschhoek and its interesting history and vineyards, remember that it is a town for all budgets. Guest Houses dot the back roads and many vineyards offer cheaper accommodation as well.
But do go to Franschhoek. I had never heard of it until a few days ago and I already long to go back. The drive out alone is breathtaking and the time there is precious. Savor the moments in Franschhoek and get the most out of a true hidden gem.
Disclaimer: I was comped my stay at La Residence with no promise of anything in return. This has not in any way affected my post and/or thoughts on the town or hotel.
About the blogger:
Lee Abbamonte is the youngest American to visit every country in the world. He’s visited a total of 307 countries and is one of the world’s most-traveled people. He is a travel writer, travel expert, travel television personality and global adventurer. To read more about his travels, visit his website, www.leeabbamonte.com.