Grande Provence Estate wears her 300-year history with dignity. Sitting in the magnificent Franschhoek Valley in South Africa’s Western Cape, her lush vines spread across 47-acres with gentle vistas over the valley floor, with the rugged mountains beyond. This is heartland South African wine country at its very finest.
This old estate has a contemporary, artsy feel to it, and its stunning French Huguenot-style buildings are complemented by loads of interesting modern art and sculpture pieces dotted all around its stunning restaurant and tasting centre areas.
We opted to have our tasting session outside, and with weather as perfect as it was, this was the right choice. Shady trees, stunning art – an absolute treat for all the senses!
The wine was great (as expected), but sadly the lady taking us on our wine tasting tour not so much, struggling with a lot of the questions that we asked of her. Sadly, if it wasn’t on her script then it wasn’t going to be forthcoming.
Nevertheless, Grande Provence was an absolute treat and I’m certain we’ll be finding ourselves there again in the near future! :)
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High class indeed.
Related Link: Grande Provence
From the website: “The Franschhoek wine estate, Rickety Bridge, has a winemaking history dating back to the 17th century.
It was once part of the original La Provence farm granted to the first French Huguenots who settled in Oliphantshoek and renamed the area, Franschhoek. Over the years La Provence was subdivided and in 1797 the land which is now known as Rickety Bridge wine estate was granted to the widow, Paulina De Villiers.
Rickety Bridge wine estate is situated less than 3 kilometres from the centre of the quaint Franschhoek town and nestles against the slopes of the Franschhoek Mountains overlooking the majestic Wemmershoek Mountain range. This position gives the estate a range of aspects and soil types for growing different varieties of grapes.
The lower flatland of the estate is covered by sandy soils being close the Franschhoek River which crosses in front of the estate’s lower border. The hillside provides the wine estate with decomposed granite soils which are ideal for growing high quality red grapes required for producing premium red wine.
Rickety Bridge wine estate is 50 Hectares in area of which only 15 Hectares are currently dedicated to vineyard, with a further 6 hectares under development. The remaining 35 Hectares are made up of buildings, dams and pine forest.”
Although smaller than most of the other wineries around the area, Rickety Bridge’s setup is very professional, and the lady that took us through the tasting course had to be on her toes (and was!) thanks to the multitude of questions we threw at her (basically, we’re first timers, so we have a LOT of questions about everything wine related!).
The wines were particularly good, as expected, the views stunning, and overall, a very polished and welcoming experience.
Needless to say, this was a great start to our wine tasting day! :)
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Related Link: Rickety Bridge Wine Estate
Franschhoek is undoubtedly the crown jewel when it comes to South African wine regions, based entirely on just the sheer number of successful and historic wine estates packed into this fertile valley. One of the best ways of seeing and tasting all this splendour is by hopping on the Franschhoek Wine Tram, a tourist operation that transports guest between the various wine estates on a hop on/hop off basis.
From their website: “Passengers aboard the hop-on hop-off tour will experience a unique and leisurely way to see the Franschhoek Valley as they journey through rolling vineyards in an open-side tram and open-air tram-bus stopping in at some of South Africa’s oldest and most distinguished wine estates.
A combination of tram and tram-bus transports passengers around a loop of stops allowing them to hop-off at each stop and experience the activities on offer, be it wine tasting, a cellar tour, lunch or simply a stroll through the vineyards and when they are ready, hop-on to continue the tour.
The tour takes passengers right into the heart of the Franschhoek Valley, with a narration focusing on the history of Franschhoek and wine cultivation in the valley, complimentary wine tastings and unparalleled views of the valley and vineyards.”
The Wine Tram operates a number of busses and a single tram (the busses are all modelled to resemble the tram, itself modelled after the open-sided Brill Trams of circa 1890), and essentially runs two lines – the Blue Line which visits the following estates: Mont Rochelle, La Couronne, Holden Manz, La Bourgogne, La Bri, Rickety Bridge and Grande Provence, and the Red Line which visits the following estates: Maison, Eikehof, Leopard’s Leap, Dieu Donne, Chamonix, Rickety Bridge and Grande Provence.
With no need to drive yourself around, this is the best way to be carted about, take in the magnificent scenery and surrounds of all these historic wine estates – and of course taste, drink and buy as much wine as your head and wallet can handle!
All the busses and tram have storage facilities whereby they will transport any wine purchases back to the ticket office for you, meaning that you never have to lug anything around with you, a big advantage as you can well imagine.
Most of the estates visited have some sort of special deal for guests using the Wine Tram, be it free tastings, discounted wine purchases, or free wine pairing sessions.
A day out and about on the wine tram is definitely not something to be missed, particularly if you love fine wine!
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(All of these photos were grabbed from our recent trip to Franschhoek in case you were wondering.)
If you love your motor history (or just motor cars in general), and find yourself in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa, then you simply HAVE to take the trip out to the picturesque Franschhoek to visit Johann Rupert’s sublime Franschhoek Motor Museum situated on the stunning L’Ormarins wine estate.
As Franschhoek Motor Museum puts it:
“Across the length and breadth of Southern Africa, only one place can adequately portray the evolution of the automobile, The Franschhoek Motor Museum. The museum’s collection exceeds 220 vehicles – ranging from a 1898 Beeston motor tricycle to a 2003 Ferrari Enzo supercar – and more than 80 exhibits will be on view at any one time, displayed in four de-humidified halls with a total floor area of 2700 m².”
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All of the vehicles belong to Johann Rupert, and the sheer monetary and historic value of the collection is simply put, staggering, when you consider just how rare most of the exhibits actually are! All brands and ages are representing in this one of a kind collection, from your antique, veteran and vintage rides, all the way through to your post-45, post-60 and of course, modern motors.
Classic Bugatti, Ferrari, Mclaren, Bentley, Ford, Alpha Romeo, Mercedes Benz, BMW – well you get the picture – make a showing, and needless to say, there is no way you can step away from this without a massive grin on your face!
As mentioned, only a portion of the collection is on display at one time, with regular rotation meaning that you can visit the museum more than once and come away with something different each and every time. There are four custom built barns, and each showroom barn is then usually set up to follow some sort of theme.
On our recent (and first ever) visit, the four displays were as follows.
First up was the classic elegance theme, which saw beauties that included rarities like the 1904 Oldsmobile Curved Dash, 1905 Mars Carette, 1914 Humberette, 1922 AC Royal, 1931 Bugatti Type 49, and a 1936 Auburn Supercharge Eight amongst others!
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Building 2 housed a homage to Ford, with classic Ford Model A (1903), Ford Model T (1911), Ford Model A Roadster (1931), Ford Convertible Club Cabriolet (1937) amongst those making a showing.
Of course more recent Ford vehicles were on display as well, like the Ford GT40 (1967), Ford Mustang (1968), Ford Fairlane (1970) and the 1971 Ford Capri Perana.
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Barn number 3 housed the Italians in the form of Alpha Romeos, and the Germans in the form of Mercedes Benz.
So, so many fine European specimens.
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Finally, Building 4 played host to the speed demons, some circuit racers included. Porsche, Jaguar, Aston Martin, Maserati, Austin Healey, and of course the bright red of Ferrari are all front and present, and anyone with even the slightest love of fast cars is guaranteed to walk out of this particular showroom in total seventh heaven bliss!
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The Motor Museum does of course have a small little eatery attached in which you can enjoy something to eat, but more importantly, you can actually book a tour guide for the visit – which is exactly what did. This adds a lot more to the visit, and more importantly, allows you to get a little more up close and personal with the cars than what the general public is allowed.
And the icing on the cake? You can actually also organise a trip around the estate in a classic car (they have a list to choose from). This isn’t a heavily advertised feature, but it is certainly worth doing – which is exactly what we did in a classic 1959 Cadillac Series 62 convertible!
In other words, if you are in Franschhoek then you should definitely not miss visiting this extraordinary shrine to automobiles.
Related Link: Franschhoek Motor Museum
Billed as Franschhoek’s famous Belgian chocolate shop, Huguenot Fine Chocolates is a tiny BEE producer of fine handcrafted Belgian chocolates. Located in the main street of Franschhoek, the self proclaimed gourmet capital of South Africa, this boutique chocolaterie offers a delicious range of chocolates, made from the finest imported Belgian chocolate.
Business partners, Danver Windvogel and Denver Adonis are Belgian-qualified chocolatiers, and their chocolate work is world class, making them and their chocolate a popular stop in the tourist heavy Franschhoek.
The shop / work area also plays host to “The Chocolate Experience” a half-hour long programme of tasting, demonstrations and chocolate history – interesting if you don’t have any clue as to what exactly chocolate is in the first place!
(Although not a “must” experience as we discovered on our most recent trip to Franschhoek, the information provided is pretty interesting if you are coming in with no prior knowledge, you do of course get to taste chocolate in its various states, and pleasingly, you get handed two little chocolates at the end of the talk.)
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Chantelle and I are rather fond of this beautiful tourist town of food, art and wine, and needless to say, Huguenot Fine Chocolates is a stop that we pretty much never miss when we’re in town! :)
Related Link: http://www.huguenotchocolates.com/
The fact that I was going to be away for business in Sandton for my birthday back in May, meant that Chantelle and I bumped things up a little and headed out to breathtaking Franschhoek the weekend preceding Monday the 11th, free of the kids (thanks grandparents!) and ready to take in some culture!
Early Friday afternoon saw us hit the road, and the impromptu decision to head out to Franschhoek by looping around Viljoen’s Pass and then Franschhoek Pass was a good indicator of how the weekend was going to be. Relaxed, fun, and full of beautiful things.
An unplanned stop at the Peregrine Farm Stall resulted in some delicious coffee and cake to start things off, and then it was back on the road for what was one of the more scenic drives that I’ve enjoyed for quite some time!
The guest house that Chantelle had picked out for us (she organised the entire weekend mind you!) was a place by the name of Maison d’Ail – a luxurious guest house nestled under the Franschhoek mountains, fronted with a beautiful pool and even more majestic views. Given that there weren’t any other bookings for the weekend, the owner graciously upgraded us to his luxury suite – which came with its own little balcony and even more views of Franschhoek mountains!
The guest house was perfect, the food great and the accommodation comfortable – not that we spent all that much time there mind you. This was to be a proper weekend of being out and about! :)
Chantelle and I enjoyed a relaxing stroll around Franschhoek before heading out to supper on Friday evening, picking out the French Connection Bistro as our place of choice for the evening. As expected, both the food and wine was excellent, and seated outside for the view and fresh air, we were treated to a fantastic night out and about in Franschhoek.
Saturday morning was an early start, as we raced away after a hearty breakfast to an undisclosed location, me genuinely excited at not knowing where we were heading or what my big birthday surprise was meant to be, Chantelle super excited by the fact that I was both so excited and clueless at the same time!
Sadly for her though, her big surprise was ruined, when, after arriving at the Stellenbosch Flying Club (my mouth was hanging on the floor at this stage), a young pilot let us know that due to the overcast conditions at all the other landing strips, my intro flight had to unfortunately be cancelled. Absolute devastation.
Shame, Chantelle was literally in tears! (Note: a lot of rescheduling later, I did eventually go up in a Cessna Skyhawk – it was awesome!)
So it was a sad drive back to Franschhoek for Chantelle, but thankfully our next stop was exactly what was needed to bring back a little cheer to her face – the ‘chocolate experience’ tasting and informational session at the Belgian-trained chocolatiers, Huguenot Fine Chocolates.
Following that, we strolled around Franschhoek a bit, taking in the great sunshine and atmosphere, stopped for some coffee at Sacred Ground (the coffee shop / bakery that Chantelle used to supply with cupcakes and cakes back in the day), and booked our tickets for the Wine Tram experience on Sunday.
With that done, it was on to the next site for the day: Johan Rupert’s fabulous Franschhoek Motor Museum at the L’Ormarins Estate. Chantelle had organised a tour guide for the session, and we spent the next couple of informative hours strolling through the four massive barns filled with some of the most beautiful classic cars you have ever seen – an experience which even load shedding couldn’t take the shine off of!
And then the day got even better.
As we stepped out of the front door following our excursion, I was greeted by a beautiful 1959 Cadillac Series 62 convertible – to which Chantelle then strode and climbed in!
Yes, Chantelle had organised for us to be driven along the estate, stopping for a light snack in between. What a fantastic experience!
The excitement of the car museum behind us, we then decided to head out on a bit of a drive, and made our way through to the Hillcrest Berry Orchards for some scones and tea – a personal favourite of Chantelle and something we do without fail at least once or twice a year! :)
Relaxed, full and rather content with life in general, we finally headed back to Maison d’Ail to put our feet up for a little bit, before once again heading into Franschhoek, our goal the fabulous Roca restaurant perched on the top of a hill on the Dieu Donne wine estate.
Needless to say, the food at this particularly cosy and majestic eatery was absolutely brilliant!
Sunday was to be the day of wine, and following a good night’s rest and a great breakfast, we packed our bags, bid farewell to Maison d’Ail and headed off to the pickup point for the Franschhoek Wine Tram, looking forward to our first ever taste of their hop-on hop-off tour.
We selected the estates that we wanted to visit (in the end, we only made it to three of the six on our particular line!), and off we went, the cute and clever little tram and busses shuttling us off to the most wine tasting sessions we’ve ever experienced in a single day!
Rickety Bridge, Grande Provence, La Couronne – we had an absolute blast, took in some beautiful views of both landscape and art, enjoyed particularly good wines, experienced a cellar tour and even paired chocolates, cheeses and wine!
An absolute stunning day out which I can only but highly recommend to anyone who enjoys drinking wine!
And that was that.
The weekend was over and reality returned, meaning that after a quick stop for a bite to eat and coffee to rid us of the last tipsy effects thanks to all the wine, it was off to Bellville in order to pick up the kids and then finally back home.
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Without a doubt, a birthday weekend to remember! :)
We enjoyed a nice weekend of family, friends and braai this weekend I must say, so feeling refreshed and raring to go, overjoyed too by the fact that now with school holidays in effect, my drive through to the office is a whole lot smoother as well!
The weekend was kicked off with a Friday visitation from Monty and Cheryl, and after Cheryl finished helping Chantelle with her baking work (you should see the awesome paintbrush cake these two whipped up!), we sat down to enjoy a delicious ostrich noodle dish for supper. Saturday, after my morning walk, Jessica and I joined Chantelle on her delivery to the always delightful Sacred Ground deli in the picturesque Franschhoek, and after a bit of a stroll around (and hugging the giant teddy, and stopping in for artisan chocolate), we enjoyed a light lunch outside the bakery.
Sadly, late afternoon saw Chantelle struck down by her first proper bout of morning sickness, which meant that Jessica and I was tasked with heading out for an extended shopping trip, eventually returning home to put on the fire for a pork and boerewors braai, followed by a delayed watching of the South Africa versus Samoa rugby game on SABC 2. Oh, and because Chantelle was out of sorts, I finished up the night by challenging Ryan to some FIFA (Sadly, it again didn’t go my way).
Sunday saw us start the day off (well, after my early morning walk – been good with those this week) with a cleaning whirlwind around the house, followed by a quick supply run to the shops, coming home just in time for the arrival of Mom and Dad, Evan, Natasha and little Evalynne, who joined us for a leisurely afternoon braai, made even more interesting by the fact that I was asked to prepare a smorgasbord of meats on the day! (Seriously, on the grid I had pork, boerewors, chicken, blesbok, turkey and rump steak!)
Entertainment for the day was seen to by the antics of Jessica and Evalynne (who eventually managed to play together in semi-harmony of sorts), as well as an enjoyable round of 30 Seconds in which Chantelle, Dad and myself narrowly beat out Evan, Natasha and Mom for the win! Oh, and Evan and I capped the evening off with a couple of excitable rounds of FIFA 13.
After all was said and done, Chantelle found ourselves looking at our house and deciding that there was just no way we had the energy to tackle the hurricane mess left by the day’s visitation that late in the evening, meaning Chantelle vegged out in front of the TV before slinking off to bed, while I again got a hiding at FIFA from Ryan. Sigh.
So all in all, a pretty enjoyable weekend of family, friends and braai was had!
On Saturday Jessica and I joined Chantelle on her cake delivery to the Sacred Ground deli in Franschhoek, where we enjoyed a bit of a stroll through the town, stopped in for some artisan chocolate, hugged a big teddy bear and enjoyed a light lunch out in front of the deli!
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It was pretty hot and humid last weekend, pretty much keeping pace with how the rest of the week was, meaning that Friday evening was even more of a loss than normal, with Chantelle and I watching Big Bang Theory, eating Ostrich Mince Wraps and dealing with a fairly unsettled Jess during the evening. Saturday morning saw the three of us stock up Chantelle’s car with all the neatly boxed cakes and cupcakes, and then make the long drive through to Franschhoek for the usual Sacred Ground Deli delivery.
Whilst Chantelle was organising things at the deli, Jess and I took the opportunity to stroll down Franschhoek main road for a bit, visiting the giant teddy sitting in front of one of the stores (which Jessie was absolutely thrilled to see), ambling through the bustling Saturday goods market, and finally snack on some delicious pancakes we grabbed from the aforementioned market! On our drive back we spotted on of those newly disguised speed cameras which look like green power utility boxes coming into Stellenbosch (very sneak), and at the last minute we decided to pull off at the Root 44 market at Audacia to get a feeling of what the atmosphere is like on a Saturday. Turns out that it is pretty much the same as on a Sunday! (Shame, while we were walking around, Jess must have slipped and fell, because she ended up with a nasty, bloody injury at the back of her head!)
Back home it was back to baking for Chantelle, who needed to finish a Strawberry Shortcake decorated Chocolate Cake for Annelie’s little girl’s birthday party the next day. Meanwhile, Jessie and I nipped out to the shops and stocked up for a braai, which in the end turned out pretty damn nice if I say so myself! Annelie loaned her Lollos DVDs to Jessica who turns out to be a huge fan, which pretty much kept her occupied until bedtime, meaning that I was left free to plonk myself down and watch the all important Bafana Bafana AFCON game against Mali, which sadly we lost in the end but not for the lack of trying I must add! (Shame, the unpleasant heat must have again been too much for Jess, as she again had a rather unsettled night).
Sunday say Chantelle, Jess and myself nip out early to the mall in order to purchase a few odds and ends that I needed, before returning home to welcome the Montgomery clan who stopped by for a quick visit before their luncheon date out in Botrivier. The afternoon arrived and once again we headed out towards Stellenbosch, this time to meet up with all the friends on an outing to Wakaberry, a delightful frozen yoghurt (froyo) bar that allows you to put together the yummiest of desserts! A seriously kid’s friendly location and outing, which also just happened to sport a foosball table which proceeded to keep the guys occupied for what felt like hours (even with all the foraging for 2 Rand coins!).
From there the group took a stroll to the quaint Stellenbosch Botanical Gardens, and as the day was beginning to wind down for the little ones, we grabbed a quick drink from the little restaurant before making our exit (which was initially thwarted by the locked gates which was a little scary truth be told) and heading back towards Gordon’s Bay. Not feeling like the effort of making supper or stopping at the shop to purchase something to eat, we made a snap call to pull in at the McDonalds at Somerset Mall, a decision we later regretted, what with having forgotten just how bad McDonalds “food” actually is!
Back home it was the usual bedtime routine for young Jess, followed by some viewing of the original X-Men movie, and finally a tasty little dose of ice-cream, before hitting the sack to bring to an end yet another busy weekend.