Sunday, April 22, 2012

Exploring Franschhoek

This is a continuation of our Munich & South Africa trip. You can find the full trip itinerary here.

Downtown Franschhoek

Franschhoek is one of the beautiful cities in South Africa's Cape Winelands. It is the foodie capital of South Africa. The name Franschhoek means the French Corner in Dutch. There's a LOT of Dutch influence in South Africa since they historically occupied the country for quite some time.

The "downtown" area was quite small, we probably drove through it in 3-4 minutes. There's a lot of cute furniture stores, cafes, restaurants, and shops along the street. Parking was free but there were these random parking attendant guys also along the street which was a little weird (reminded Dan of Jakarta).

I would recommend spending some time walking up and down the strip, checking out the different stores, and enjoying a snack or meal at one of the various great restaurants.

I got a coffee smoothie at a random cafe and it was so good and refreshing on a sunny day!

Farmers Market

We happened to be in Franschhoek on a Saturday where they usually held Farmers Market (or Village Market as they called it). The setup was very similar to what we're used to in the US. There were vendors selling fresh fruit, cheeses, wine, cooked food, as well as crafts.

It was quite small so we walked through but didn't buy anything since we had lunch plans.

Chocolate tour & tasting at Huguenot Fine Chocolates

Huguenot Fine Chocolates is a chocolate store on the main strip. They had daily chocolate tours/tastings at 11 AM and 3 PM for 35 Rand each. We just happened to walk in the store just before the 11 AM and decided to do it.

The store was decked out in Easter decor and there were lots and lots of chocolates everywhere. I almost bought a chocolate truffle until I realized that we would be tasting chocolates on the tour.

The tour was pretty informative. Our guide showed us actual cocoa beans and explained how it got processed to become chocolate as we know it. Here are some interesting tidbits from our tour:
  • Cocoa beans used to be traded as currency.   
  • Chocolate used to only be served in liquid form and the solid chocolate "bar" was not introduced until some time later. 
  • Cocoa butter is the most expensive part of the cocoa bean. 
  • White chocolate is not "real" chocolate as it is made mainly from cocoa butter. 
  • Good chocolate has that "snap" sound when you break it.

Holding cocoa nibs

We were excited to finally try the chocolate! There were bowls of dark, milk, and white chocolates.

They passed the bowls around a couple times so we really did get to enjoy a lot of chocolate! Our favorite was the dark chocolate!

We enjoyed the tour and of course the tasting! If you happen to have a free hour in your schedule, this might not be a bad way to spend your time.

Wine Tasting

A lot of the buildings around Franschhoek had the Dutch colonial influence which was just beautiful. The scenery around the winelands was also absolutely gorgeous.

We actually didn't do that much wine tasting; we only went to two places. The first one was at Bergkelder in Stellenbosch. I booked this tasting since it was marketed as a candlelight tasting, which turned out to not be 100% true.

The tasting was done inside a wine cellar which was cool, and we moved between cellars for each tasting which was unique. The wines themselves were a bit too strong for our liking, but their dessert wine was really good!

Our second tasting was at Haute Cabriere in Franschhoek. The view from the winery was just so beautiful since the winery was located on a hill. It was so pretty!

We shared one tasting, and it was definitely enough. It was a bit warm outside so we sat inside the cave cellar.

Le Pique Nique at Boschendal

Some wineries around the Winelands offer picnic lunch baskets for around 130-150 rand per person. Advance reservations are typically required at least 24 hours in advance. The picnic at Boschendal was set up in a large grassy area with tables scattered throughout the field.

We were welcomed by our host and allowed to choose any table we wanted. We chose a table under a tree and then ordered our drinks (which was an additional cost). Dan ordered a glass of white wine, and I ordered my drink of choice, Grapetiser.

There was a set menu for the picnic, which included cold deli meats, chicken curry, pâtés, vegetable slices, potato salad, cheese and crackers, one large baguette loaf, and brownies for dessert. The waiter brought our picnic basket to us, and we were excited to finally try it!

The contents of the basket were so much! It was so nice having a picnic like this especially one we didn't have to prepare ourselves. :) We were actually wondering why places in Napa don't do something like this. 

We definitely enjoyed our meal. It was so relaxing, and we love picnics. A couple other wineries around also had something similar: ailee blue, solms delta, etc. We really enjoyed our picnic and would recommend this as an activity when in the winelands.

Spa Day at Le Franschhoek Hotel & Spa

When we're on vacation, I always try to fit in 1-2 massages. :) This time was no exception. Especially considering that spa prices in South Africa were relatively cheaper than in the US.

I surprised Dan by booking us a three and a half hour massage package. We usually only do a 60 minute massage, so this was definitely a splurge and a new experience for us. I booked the package at the Camelot Spa at the Le Franschhoek hotel.

We checked in and filled in a couple forms regarding our preferences and basic health information. We were then shown to our respective changing/locker rooms.

The spa seemed a bit older, and the bathrooms could probably use some refurbishment. We changed into our robes and then waited in the lounge where a cup of tea was waiting for us.

There were also fruit, muffins, and juices available which was nice. It proved to be useful when we got hungry in between our massage treatments.

There's also an outdoor seating area which was nice and relaxing.

Our treatment was as follows:
60 minute aromatherapy massage
30 minute head & scalp massage
15 minute snack break
60 minute facial
60 minute Camelot massage

It was heavenly and very, very relaxing. We're looking forward to our next vacation where we can have another 3.5 hour spa treatment. :)

Next Post: Food in Franschhoek


  1. Replies
    1. Oh, it's the name of the signature massage at the place that we visited. The name of the spa was "Camelot" spa at the Le Franschhoek hotel, so they named their signature massage the Camelot massage. It reminded me of a deep tissue massage.