Fall in love with Franschhoek

I’ve received dozens of messages from friends asking for travel advice. Everyone wants that first-hand recommendation on places to stay and things to do in certain towns. I’m exactly the same, which is how I’ve discovered so many incredible places. I’m lucky that both Francois and I work in tourism and love traveling, so we often nip away for mini breaks and excursions around Cape Town.

I’ve been to Franschhoek a few times and over the years, and I’ve hand-picked a few favourites. This is also a really nifty little guide to send on to friends who are visiting the area! I’ve included all budgets here, as we’ve been there for different reasons and experiences. Eg, I treated Francois to a weekend’s stay at one fannnncy place as a gift for his 40th Birthday. Other places we’ve stayed at in a quick “We really, really don’t feel like driving home” situation. I love Franschhoek very much, but I would pick these places and activities as recommendations to my friends, and wanted to share it with you!

This is by far the most important part of your Franschhoek journey. There are so many new restaurants on offer in the valley, and they are exceptional. I mostly enjoyed:

Beleef Restaurant: I can’t get over how really cool this chef is. Herman Steyn has created a menu that features traditional South African cuisine with a brand new twist on “boerekos”. He’s so animated and I really, really love what he’s doing with the entire vibe of this restaurant. The food is no frills, no fuss – just really great food in generous portions. He changes menu items weekly and changes the South African dish (Ou Kaapse Kos) daily. On the night I was there, I had the Lamb Tomato Bredie which was honestly *incredible* and is a family recipe from one of the kitchen staff. View the full, standard menu here > Beleef Menu Franschhoek. Honestly, it’s such a great vibe for dinner and they have a special lunch menu too. The cocktails are really tasty (go for the Gin ones) and the atmosphere is great. The walls are adorned with art pieces on sale, with a different artist on rotation. Contact: 1 Place Vendome Huguenot Str. Tel: 010 110 8325. Websiste: http://beleefrestaurant.co.za/ 

Le Petite Manoir: Again, I don’t know which one I’d recommend more out of this one or Beleef. They are both exceptional for completely different reasons so please do both if you can! Such a great chef with an incredibly warm and friendly atmosphere and very experimental food. Not “weird” experimental like “Here is a mapani worm oyster slug wrap with a freshly creamed eyeball”. The Flavour combinations and textures are honestly incredible. I highly, highly recommend the Salmon and the Shortrib. Franschhoek is honestly so spoilt with these two, brand new restaurants on the scene.  Address: 54 Huguenot Road, Franschhoek, Telephone number: 021 876 2110. Website: http://lepetitmanoir.co.za/

La Colombe: If you’ve never had a dining experience like this, then treat yourself immediately. This is a fantastic venue for a fancy special occasion, as the entire experience is quite (deservedly) fancy. The food experience is immaculate. I have never been to a restaurant that had as good service or attention to detail. Everything about La Colombe is… perfect. You will not go wrong by treating your partner to an experience here. You get to meet the chefs, and the dishes flow effortlessly as every plate grips you with it’s beauty and flavour. My food writer friend, Sam recently tried the same menu and let me use some of her pictures. View her full post here. Find La Colombe at the Le Quartier Français Hotel . Website: https://www.lapetitecolombe.com/menus

Le Petite Ferme: If you want beautiful, vineyard views then this is where you want to dine. This restautant is definitely child-friendly if you want to dine somewhere where you can enjoy great food at an incredibly beautiful place but where your toddler can still run around on the grass. I have always loved the food here and their wines are sensational. I would recommend La Petite Ferme as a stay-over or a great place for parents to enjoy a seriously delicious meal outdoors where children can roam free. Pack them a blanket and some lawn toys and you’re good to go and enjoy your lavish lunch in peace. This is where I took Francois for his 40th birthday but more on that just now! Another child-friendly dining spot in Franschhoek is La Motte and Maison if you’re looking for more options.

The Elephant and Barrel: Perfect for if you just want a beer and a lekker plate of ribs and chips. Perfect for when you’ve just stumbled off the wine tram and need a tequila or a burger or maybe both. That’s exactly how I first discovered this fun, easy-going sports bar in the middle of the winelands. Great spot to watch the game too! Highly recommend. Address: Centre du Village, 48 Huguenot Street.  Website: http://elephantandbarrel.co.za/

Chamonix. This is great, great, great for families. This is sooo great for kids! I can’t believe that I hadn’t been to Chamonix before but it really just blew me away. They have beautiful lake houses that you can hire, they have game drives and wine tasting and restaurants and waterfalls and cellar tours and absolutely incredible wine. I saw this little cabin where you have your OWN. PRIVATE. WATERFALL and natural pool outside your door with absolutely zero cellphone reception. If you’re doing a long-stay in Franschhoek then I would definitely recommend this estate. It’s also a very popular honeymoon destination and all-around fantastic place to spend your time. I hear that they’re getting giraffes too, so I’m definitely going back. Address: Uitkyk Street. Website: http://www.chamonix.co.za/

Le Petite Dauphine. Another incredible place to stay at very friendly prices. It’s a big estate with lots of little chalets scattered about, all within walking distance of the main house, restaurant and coffee shop. The estate has loads of long, winding dirt roads so take your bicycles and take your kids. I saw at least two dams and two pools and there is loaaaads of open space. I love the way that the little houses are decorated. Some sleep 2 but there are family units too. This is such a sweet, pretty and comfortable place to stay. I really felt at home here. Address: Excelsior Road. Website: https://www.lapetite.co.za/

Le Petite Ferme xxx I’m not joking when I say that this place has the most beautiful ‘hotel room’ that I have ever stayed at, ever. So beautiful that we’ve stayed there twice. This is where I booked for Francois’ 40th and treated him to the luxury and beauty that is Le Petite Ferme. If you’re looking for a destination to really treat your loved one, then book the Bridal Suite. With your own verandah, pool, gorgeous views of the valley and an incredible restaurant and wine selection – you won’t disappoint. Website: https://www.lapetiteferme.co.za/ 

There are so many other great places to stay and my friends over there have also recommended The cottage at Montpellier, the Lavender farm guest house and to look via Airbnb in the hills.

The Wine Tram. Oh man, Francois and I loved this so much. You will taste plenty of wines. You will have fun. You will get drunk. Enjoy and kind regards. More info here > http://winetram.co.za/

Perfume Museum. This sweet-smelling little building is part of the Huguenot Musuem so just pop in there and they’ll direct you. Their website here: http://www.kumanovperfumery.com/

La Motte Wine Tasting & Sculpture Walk. Find more information here > https://www.la-motte.com/pages/sculpture-walk

Chamonix Wine Tasting & Game Drive

Option 1: R900 per person. Note that there are cheaper options and I highly recommend doing this! It includes:

Game drive and Tasting: Experience starts at Franschhoek Wine Tram; Day ticket on Franschhoek Wine Tram; Premium Wine Tasting at specific vineyards; Game drive.

More on their website over here > http://www.chamonix.co.za/wine_game_drive

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31 is the new 21

I turned 31 yesterday and I’m so excited and relieved. When you turn 30, there’s all this pressure to be new, improved, changed and suddenly mature. Your 20s are flipping hard, and Graeme and I did it with two babies and then toddlers in tow. Somehow. We started playing house from the age of 23, and at 23 you don’t even know a single thing, never mind how run a life properly. We grew, we learned and through all of it we never let go of each other. I’m grateful. I’m proud of us. 8 years and 2 cities later, we have our solid family unit; a beautiful home, established careers and a mountain of things we still want to achieve. Like everything finally fits. So here are a few reasons why I think that 31 is the new 21.

1. I can barely remember who was at my 21st ten years ago, and I’m hardly in touch with most of them anymore. People who I thought were my BEST, forever friends. While most of my current besties are from my childhood, I think you make your solid friends in your late twenties, and another group after you’ve had kids. Friendships change, careers move at different paces and having a family shifts your priorities. When I say “shift”, imagine a construction site and a very large bulldozer pushing your old priorities off a cliff. In my 20s, I let go of BEST friends who weren’t even friends at all. There’s sort of a “ek vat nie kak nie” attitude that comes in your late 20s and you realize that not all friendships will survive these years. And that’s okay!

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2. You have more money. Scraping by in your 20s and sending your parents please call mes to help with your rent is something that most of us went through. The best of us. In your 20s you learn about credit and savings and investing and interest rates, insurance and bonds and taxes. You make some pretty expensive mistakes. I remember I BLEW my first credit card when I was 20 like why would you even give a 20 year old a credit card. I spent years tidying up my credit record and then years trying to build credit to qualify to buy a house. In your 30s everything sort of evens out, you might stop living month to month and debits off your account no longer break your heart. Sometimes.

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3. I am personally in better shape right now than I was in my 20s. I eat right. I care. I train. I run. In my 20s it was all big macs and 24 hour steers and now it’s all juices and water and salads and wholewheat everything. I never cared about my health, I was like WHATEVER I’M YOUNG I’LL EAT WHAT I WANT and now I’m like “Okay so I really want to live a long and healthy life and not get colon cancer.” I’ve also become more responsible. I used to party like a crazy girl and now I’m like “WHAT IS THIS 3 DAY HANGOVER.” Seriously – what is that?!

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4. Your soul sprouts. I was pretty selfish in my 20s with very little regard for others, the earth or consequence. In your 20s your heart will break. You’ll disappoint yourself, and others. You’ll gain an awareness of others that you didn’t think possible. Only when your heart is truly and completely broken will it be vulnerable and susceptible enough to comprehend how you’ve affected others. There’s a sensitivity and humbleness that arrives in your 20s somewhere, and you’ll never shake it. It will make you a better, more sensitive and caring human being.

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5. Your career will change maybe three times. You might not be working in the field that you studied and by now you’ve probably realized that your degree means very little in the greater scheme of experience. I made monumental professional mistakes in my 20s. I took jobs I didn’t really want, I worked insane hours and I said yes to a lot of things that I should have walked away from. You learn that passion is the very core of any kind of success, and you will never succeed at anything unless your heart is in it. At my 21st, I had just left my Journalism studies and I was working in an old age home and night shift at a hospital’s Emergency Unit. I wanted to be a nurse, and work in pediatrics. I wasted two entire years in the medical field, which I would eventually walk away from. I worked as a TV producer and Multimedia Manager until I found what I was passionate about. You will never feel as confused, lost and desperate as you do in your 20s. Eventually you’re like

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6. By the time you reach your 30s you’ve developed your personal style. Sure it might change later, but you start to build a wardrobe. You ignore trends and fashion and focus on yourself, dressing for your body shape and investing in good quality, timeless garments. What looks good in a magazine or on your best friend won’t necessarily suit you. You discover which colours and fabrics and cuts flatter you. I’ve thrown and given away heaps of clothes over the years and I’ve learned that it’s better to buy one expensive item a month than 4 cheap ones that won’t last three washes and definitely not to the next season. You go from cheap clothes to good clothes like

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7. For some of us, we learn about motherhood in our 20s. You learn a love beyond your comprehension or understanding. Your heart and soul leaves your body and probably never comes back. You become a nurturer, not just with your own kids but with all others. You will never walk past a crying child and you will appreciate and understand humanity in a much deeper and connected sense. Motherhood is amazing. It will test, grow, fulfill and break you.

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8. You will fall in love. With yourself. Your body, your heart, your personality. You’ll accept all your own flaws and setbacks and mistakes. You’ll work through your dark bits and you’ll reach a point where you don’t need recognition or validation. There’s a confidence that emerges somewhere along the line that will really change your life. You’ll start saying no to things, you’ll stand tall in your convictions and you’ll appreciate yourself for who you are. I was really insecure in my 20s and I wanted everyone to like me, agree with me, stand by me. As you grow, your confidence does too.

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I usually get sad around birthdays. Another year of life cut short. A year less with my children, and theirs. Another year closer to losing loved ones, but today… I feel good. Relaxed. Like my wild spirit has silenced and evolved in to a deeper consciousness and understanding of everything around us. I feel… satisfied. Now that all those BIG boxes are ticked, I’m excited to start enjoying life more. I want to travel and expand my studies and keep learning about myself and our beautiful world. I want to kick back and really enjoy my husband and focus more on him and watch him go through his own journey. I love that man so much. He fills my heart with a thousand sunny days, ice cream cones, forests and sunsets. I want to watch my children be children and spend less time consumed by my to do lists and deadlines. I want to write books and stories and poems. I feel ready for anything right now and I really do believe that 31 is the new 21, at least today, right now. Happy birthday to me, and happy it is indeed.

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