No I’m not talking about France (although I wish I was), I’m actually talking about the festivities that take place every 14th of July in the quaint little town of Franschhoek in the Western Cape of South Africa. Franschhoek, which is Afrikaans for “French Corner”, is one of the oldest towns in South Africa and was first established in 1688 when the French Huguenot refugees began to populate the valley. The town celebrates its French heritage in every way as can be seen by the Huguenot Monument which stands at the end of the town. It also embraces French traditions, one of which is celebrating the national day of France aka Bastille Day!
It’s one of the best times to visit Franschhoek as the whole town gets decorated with French flags and banners creating the most enchanting atmosphere. Looking around all you see is red, white and blue as well as the stereotypical French Beret being worn by all the locals and visitors alike. As you drive down the main road you have a sense of being transported to a different continent and leaving South Africa behind.
The festival takes place over the whole weekend and you can purchase yourself a Saturday pass, a Sunday pass, or if you’re feeling really enthusiastic you can even purchase both! I would recommend buying a Saturday pass and then spending Sunday exploring the town and enjoying the many amazing wine farms in the area.
We drove up on Saturday, dropped our bags off at our AirBnB and walked to the festival (luckily it was close enough!). The setup is incredible, the floor gets covered with wood chips and all the wine and food stalls as well as the main stage and dance floor are underneath a huge white marquee. A live band plays on the stage as everyone walks from stall to stall tasting the various wines on offer. There is also lots of mouth-watering French themed food you can purchase to keep you fueled up for the day! A day pass gets you a free wine glass which you get as you enter, as well as five free wine-tastings and R20 off a bottle of wine. The best thing about the experience is that the festivities continue late into the night at various restaurants and bars. We wondered off and headed to Station, a restaurant/pub that had transformed itself for the occasion, with a stage and dance floor setup we knew it was the place to be. We danced into the night and collapsed into our beds exhausted but content.
The next day, after popping a few pain killers to nurse our aching heads, we decided to stroll into town and enjoy breakfast at one of the many beautifully quaint cafes dotted along the main street. With food in our bellies and feeling far better for it we ambled along the main road exploring the numerous art galleries and boutique stores that one can only find in Franschhoek. We decided to make the most of our time in the area and stopped and the spectacular Vrede en Lust wine estate on our way back to Cape Town. I am a complete wine enthusiast and as I had never been before I was really looking forward to experiencing something new! Walking through the estate I was absolutely blown away by the beauty of the place. The tasting room looks out onto one of the estates glorious vineyards with the snow-capped mountains creating a picture perfect back drop. With the fire roaring, we settled down and enjoyed the tasting which was really incredible. Having never tasted their wines before I was blown away by the depth of their flavour and I loved every one! We also decided to order a cheese and charcuterie platter from their restaurant which was not only easy on the eyes but was probably one of the best I’ve had in my wine tasting adventures.
What a perfect weekend!