This was the first year that the Bastille Festival did not clash with the Knysna Oyster Festival which is great for those that enjoy both events (like I do). I’m not sure how this affected the attendance, but I believe it was the busiest festival so far.
We decided to make a weekend of it, rather than just go up for the day. We spent the morning at Haut Espoir estate where Rob took us on a pleasant fynbos walk. He pointed out various fynbos species and explained a bit about them. It was interesting to hear the medicinal/healing properties of some of the plants. Some fynbos is really quite beautiful and on a sunny, clear day with the mountains as a backdrop everything looks even better.
It really was the most incredible weather the whole weekend. It was hard to believe we are still in winter. We then moved from the sunny outdoors to the barrel cellar where we tasted several wines direct from the barrel. This is always an interesting exercise, tasing wines at various stages of development and also comparing the impact of different types of wood on the wines. We were also treated to a taste of the as yet unnamed white version of the Gentle Giant. It’s looking very promising.
After wine tasting we went back into town to join the festivities at the festival tent. Franschhoek was crowded and the tent was packed. I don’t know why they run the festival from midday to 5pm. It’s a really short time and people have to queue for ages to get in. If people are going to drive that far, they should have more time to enjoy the festival. I would have it from at latest 11am and close it earliest at 6pm.
There was a good vibe in the tent with live music and a friendly crowd. There were quite a few food options ranging from the more interesting (pea and salmon risotto) to the basic (burger). Apart from tasting (you get 5 tasting coupons and a glass with your R100 entry ticket), you could buy a bottle of wine or champagne to enjoy at your leisure. Quite a few people went with that option as it’s quite tiring fighting your way through crowds to get a taste of wine.
The queues for the toilets were ridiculous, totally inappropriate for an event that size which revolves around drinking. When we left the tent just after 5pm there were blokes up and down the back street relieving themselves against walls. Not great for the residents I’m sure.
I had a good time in the tent, chatting to people I knew and tasting some wine. But I certainly wouldn’t drive up just for those few hours and pay to get in as well. As part of a whole weekend in Franschhoek, a great addition. On it’s own, not the best value in terms of time and money.
In the morning we had breakfast around the corner at Cafe Bon Bon on Le Petit Dauphine. It was another stunning day and we sat outside in the beautiful gardens, enjoying the sounds of the live pianist. They were unfortunately having power problems but managed to provide us with a good cooked breakfast. I think it was a bit busier than normal too as they ran out of croissants and our waitress was quite apparently stressed. It was too beautiful a setting to get annoyed about the little things so we enjoyed the breakfast.
After breakfast we took a walk through the busy main street of Franshhoek, popping into galleries and shops of interest. By then it was early afternoon and time for us to head back to Cape Town.
We had a really stunning time in Franschhoek. It is truly a little paradise, and even more so when the weather is perfect like it was. I would recommend planning to do more than just the festival to make your visit worthwhile. Visit some winefarms on the way and stay after for an early dinner but do book your restaurant as they are all full.
Photo Credit: Grant Johnson of Silverfox Photography