The trip was planned for 11 days. To ensure I maximised the time available, I planned an itinerary which allowed me to fly into Johannesburg, visit the Kruger National Park for 3 days, fly to Cape Town and spent 3 nights in Camps Bay, and spend 3 days in Franschhoek, a spectacular valley in the winelands region.
I didn't really know what to expect before travelling to South Africa. I had done research into accommodation and transport, but I never dived to deep into the culture. I wanted to save that for when I landed.
After experiencing a fantastic safari in the Kruger National Park, followed by a relaxing three days on the beach and eating amazing seafood in Camps Bay, Franschhoek had a lot to live up to.
It didn't disappoint.
|View of Franschhoek (from Dieu Donne)|
WHAT MAKES FRANSCHHOEK SO AWESOME?
As you drive over the train tracks and turn the corner into the Franschhoek valley, you are struck by its beauty. Lush green countryside, mountains on either side, wild flowers and vineyards as far as the eye can see.
There was some luck in the choices of accommodation, restaurants and trips, but everything seemed to be incredible and near perfect.
For accommodation, Val d'Or guest house was chosen, and it was even more remarkable that it's website pictures lead you to believe. A stunning country house set on an estate, surrounded by greenery, with an incredible view of the surrounding mountainside.
|Val d'Or Estate. Photo from Jeff Browning|
A short drive East along the R45 brings you into the main area of Franschhoek, with it's many restaurants and yet more wineries.
I'll go out on a limb and say the food I had in Franschhoek was some of the best food I've had in the world, and that includes many Michelin starred restaurants in the UK.
La Petit Ferme came strongly recommended, but sadly the gorgeous, country-cottage style restaurant that serves up hearty, home-cooked food was completely booked out.
Franschhoek has a very laid back atmosphere. Everyone that visits Franschhoek is there to relax, enjoy the sun, enjoy the wine, and enjoy the food. In turn, that contributes to bringing a smile to a lot of faces.
The views from some of the wineries are spectacular. My favourite was probably from Haute Cabreire, situated towards the North East of the valley. Here you have panoramic views of the valley, which are pretty spectacular.
|The view from Haute Cabriere winery|
For all intents and purposes, I'd never ridden a horse before. The safety briefing was limited (much like the disclaimer form), the walk through of how to ride a horse was basic, and to be honest, it was the best thing I did in Franschhoek.
|Check out me and my trusty steed!|
Once my important organs had made their way from my throat back into my shorts, I eventually got into the rhythm, and with the sun beating down on the valley, it turned into an incredible ride.
|View of Franschhoek from Mont Rochelle winery|
Wine tasting by horseback was an incredible experience, and one I've recommended to many friends and colleagues since!
Did I mention the cheese platters available in the Franschhoek valley by the way? They are pretty incredible too.
As we left Franschhoek, I had a very odd feeling of calmness, and a sense, that one day, I would be back to see another amazing sunset.
|Sunset over Franschhoek. Image from Marc De Vries|
Don't just take my word for it, even former Olympic champion Kelly Holmes agrees Franschhoek is awesome.
Not sure where to stay in Franschhoek? Check out this range of hotels and guest houses - http://www.booking.com/searchresults.html?city=-1228880