After one of the most scrumptious breakfasts we have ever had, we grabbed some bicycles from the patio of La Fontaine and headed out to explore the beautiful town of Franschhoek.
A town that is known for its wine and food scene, boasting some of the most magnificent wine estates and restaurants in the country.
As we cycle through the town, time seems to stand still. The clean, crisp breeze is refreshing against my cheeks. I cycle into the wind and can hear the sound of the bicycle’s wheel against the tar road. Swish, swish, swish. There is something very tactile about exploring this way that heightens one’s senses and gives you a deeper awareness of the present, while at the same time, connects you to another era.
The huge and impressive mountains in front of me are the same mountains gazed upon by generations that have lived, loved, and played here before. I can’t help but think of all of the history here. Our very own South African slice of France.
Our first stop is the Huguenot Memorial Museum to learn about the French Huguenots who found refuge here after fleeing France due to religious persecution in the late 17th century – but more about that later.
Franschhoek is steeped in history and there is a poetry about it that calls to my soul. I love exploring it and long to explore more of it.
Yet after all is said and done, coming back home to La Fontaine to enjoy a cocktail by the pool was a great way to end a great day.
For our two-night stay in Franschhoek, we checked into the lovely La Fontaine Boutique Hotel.
One of my favourite things about La Fontaine was just how unique it was in terms of design and decor. There are 17 suites and every room is completely different with vibrant colour schemes. It is bold and demands attention and I haven’t seen many hotels play with such bold colours before.
We had the opportunity to stay in both the Mountain Suite and Room 8 which is a Luxury Suite near the pool. Both lovely rooms!
My favourite things about the Mountain Suite: You can sit on the balcony and admire the stunning view of the Franschhoek (Jonkershoek) Mountains or you can do what I did at night and sit in the bath with the doors wide open leading out onto the balcony so I could see the stars. Pure bliss (If I’m being honest, I’m just hoping nobody else could see in… but I highly doubt they could. Either way it was worth the risk!)
My favourite things about Room 8: Room 8 felt separate from the main hotel, offering us a lot more privacy, and the garden patio is really peaceful, we even ate our breakfast there one morning (NB!). It’s also very close to the swimming pool, making it convenient for swimming, catching a nap on the red recliners and then moving that nap over to your patio couch! Oh, and there’s a fireplace for when the weather is not swimming-friendly.
La Fontaine Boutique Hotel offers an incredible dining experience.
It is super fitting since Franschhoek is known as the food and wine capital of South Africa and, funnily enough, at first they used to only offer breakfast, but now (after lockdown) you can indulge in dinner too. See? Good things came from lockdown!
We can testify 100% that Chef Ashleigh puts together the most scrumptious breakfast spreads that are totally mouth-watering!
Fresh flapjacks and whipped cream, berries, jams, honey, and yoghurt. Warm croissants, salmon, cheeseboards, and salads, and then even a hot breakfast made to order if you can fit that in too!
You know what else? She made identical vegan options for me too! They were so delicious, I couldn’t decide what to eat first! So Byron helped by eating ALL of his flapjacks and then proceeded to eat mine – I had to quickly get one or two down before they were all gone!
Even her fine dining dishes looked identical, we had to be told that one was vegan and one was not. She really, really put in a lot of effort.
This paired with Kim’s amazing hosting and sommelier skills made our feasting in Franschhoek truly worth the title of being “the food and wine capital of South Africa”.
I would say that depends on what you are looking for.
If you are looking for lovely weather and no crowds, October is the perfect time to come.
However, you could also plan your trip around certain festivals that Franschhoek hosts – of which they have quite a few!
To name a few: The Bastille Festival, Franschhoek Uncorked, Franschhoek winter wines, Franschhoek Literary Festival, and more.
Summers (November to Mid-March) are hot and dry.
Autumn (Mid-March to April) are warm in the daytime, while a little cooler in the evenings.
Winter (May to Mid-August) Cold & wet, especially June & July.
Spring (September to October) The winters have passed and the flower season is in full swing!
I love personalized touches and this was a cool touch: You don’t need to go to reception to ask for a pool towel because the pool towels are already in a beach bag waiting for you in your room, so all you have to do is grab your bag and head down to the pool. There is also sunblock laid out for you to use.
Kim, the manageress, has some awesome sommelier skills and can really help you find the right drink for any occasion! Before she served us different wines and ports with our 3-course dinner, we first visited her in the bar to taste and try some of the different drinks she recommended and made for us to enjoy.
Did you know?
La Fontaine used to be a girl’s boarding school and while undergoing renovations, they found a letter in what is now the bar area, written by a girl named Rachel. The letter was addressed to her best friend. So now in honour of Rachel and her BFF, you can now sit and chat it up with a gin or cocktail in “Rachel’s Bar”.
La Fontaine has a shuttle service and can arrange bespoke tours just for you. So all you need to do is put your interests forward or just ask Kim or Justin for their recommendations, they literally know all of the best spots. Kim even has her top picks listed on their website.
We love the outdoors and happily went on a guided tour with Justin, the manager, who took us on a hike along the Berg River Dam.
Spending time with Justin was a pleasure as he spotted and identified different birds and flora in the area for us.
At one point we came to a section of the dam where the pathway was covered by water due to some flooding and Justin, using dried branches and trees that were lying around created a pathway for me to cross the dam. Thank you Justin!
Whilst on our hike, we were able to fill up our bottles with crisp and clean mountain water straight from a stream! Yum!
Finally, we reached the dam wall and relaxed there as we enjoyed a lovely packed lunch that La Fontaine had provided.
If you are craving a little more independence and would like to explore the main town of Franschhoek, take one of the bicycles from the front porch.
We decided to do this and go on a history tour, it was so fun! We visited the Huguenot Memorial Museum, the Huguenot Monument and the perfume shop (which by the way, if you book ahead, you can learn to make your own perfume! AMAZING!)
Being on the bike was just so freeing, I don’t think I had ever just explored while casually riding around on a bicycle.
They are also so darn cute with the baskets in front. Perfect as a shopping basket if you are popping into a café and need a way to smuggle home your croissants or a bunch of flowers. (I’m not sure why you would bring home flowers… but it seemed to fit the picture in my head.) Oh, I heard they have a farmers market on Saturdays, maybe that’s when you would need to bring home flowers or other trinkets…
Overall you can do quite a lot at the hotel. Here are some of the things we didn’t do this time, but you could:
You can enjoy a high tea, indulge in a G&T or whisky tasting, or you could even organise for an in-room spa treatment from an on-call mobile beauty salon.
You could even get married at La Fontaine! Check it out on SA Weddings.
First up, Franschhoek is a great place to explore. It is surrounded by the most beautiful towering mountains and lies within the heart of the Cape Winelands.
The town is also full of history as it was founded in 1688 by the French Huguenots. They were a group of people who were forced to flee from France or face the religious persecution of the time.
The Dutch East India Company encouraged the Huguenots to come to the Cape and establish an agricultural base; which they did, and settled along the Berg River with next to nothing and began farming.
It is thanks to them that the town is now bustling with world-class vineyards and restaurants!
To honour those who began the town, I think it’s only right that you pay homage to its founders with a trip to the museum.
They have a walking timeline along the museum walls so you can track the steps of the war and how they emigrated to the Cape, with a twelve-week journey on a ship! You can watch an informative video and see some historic artefacts left behind by the Huguenots themselves.
There was one quote on the wall that really stood out to us and gave us goosebumps, it said, “You have to understand that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”
On the same premises as the Huguenot Memorial Museum, you will find the First South African Perfume Museum where you can see a collection of beautifully preserved antique perfumes.
However, what is insanely cool is that you can do the Kumanov Privé Perfume Workshop. A workshop where you can learn all about the power of smell and creating a good alluring scent, and then using original oils imported from Grasse, France, you will make your own perfume and body cream.
If we had known about this when planning our trip, we would definitely have done this! We were so bummed because we were out of time!
Apparently, it used to be held in the museum itself, but now has moved down the road, but if you go to the museum they can give you a pamphlet.
I’m telling you I will be back to do this!
A short 25-minute drive takes you to the Spice Route Destination in Paarl.
A gorgeous property that hosts many different restaurants, cafes, distilleries, breweries, and artisan shops.
It makes a great weekend adventure! Also De Villiers chocolate has some amazing chocolate that is free of all things gluten, artificial ingredients, palm oil and hydrogenated vegetable oil, they are non-GMO and are ethically and sustainably sourced.
They even have a vegan range!
Babylonstoren is awesome. It is one of the oldest Cape Dutch farms in Franschhoek and you can do a lot here.
You can walk through their beautiful gardens, do a wine tasting, visit their restaurant Babel – which uses a farm-to-table method – and visit the greenhouse or the bakery. They host workshops that I am dying to visit, like how to make your own soap, or learning to make your own juices, learning about growing your own seasonal vegetables etc.
*Which we haven’t done yet but is still very much on our bucket list! Honestly, there is so much to do in Franschhoek, we have to go back and spend a good long while exploring.
If you have any recommendations for our next trip, leave them in the comments!
How long should you stay? That, I’m afraid, is up to you. La Fontaine is great for a weekend getaway, a long weekend, or however long is needed for you to fully explore Franschhoek.
Time to get in the car, because it is only an hours drive from Cape Town!
La Fontaine Boutique Hotel itself is located a block away from the main village. So you will be in the hub of some of the coolest restaurants, coffee shops, gift shops, and historical buildings around.
Also if you are arriving from the Cape Town International Airport, the hotel’s shuttle service can pick you up and bring you straight to the hotel. #Bonus
The Oyster Collection have various accommodation options throughout the country, ranging from boutique hotels to luxury guesthouses to self-catering cottages and whole-house rentals.
Here are some of their other properties that we have stayed at:
Ah, Franshhoek. Every minute we were on the road we were spotting new places we wanted to explore, new farms we wanted to visit and new restaurants that had our mouths watering.
Luckily Kim and her team at La Fontaine did everything they could to ensure we had the best “Franschhoek” experience we could in our short time with them. (They made us promise to come back. No arguments here!)
We just really want to give props to everyone at La Fontaine: Kim, Justin, Ashleigh, Washington, you guys made our stay so memorable and we honestly had such a great time with you. The dedication you show is amazing.
Little story time: When we were staying at the Milner in Makhanda (about 9 and a half hours away from Franschhoek) we randomly bumped into Kim and Ashleigh from La Fontaine (and some other important players from Blackheath Lodge). Firstly I felt like I had run into family and secondly, Kim still made an effort to ensure our stay in Grahamstown was equally as amazing and booked for us to visit a vegan restaurant in the area. AMAZING!
Disclosure: We received a sponsored stay at La Fontaine Boutique Hotel in exchange for this written article and inclusion in our video travel guide series. We always give our honest opinions and beliefs on products and services; our views, reviews and opinions are entirely our own. See our Disclaimer Policy for more info.