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Travels in the Western Cape

General — By Josh Steinitz on December 30, 2013 at 1:56 am
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Arriving at our private villa, we were incredibly impressed with the tastefully-designed and large main room, incorporating both the sitting room (with fireplace) and bedroom in one, along with a very large bathroom with uncluttered lines and attractive stone colors. Outside our room, we had a plunge pool inset into our private deck, and enjoyed a view across a small lagoon to the rocky mountains beyond the vines. After a bit of relaxing in the afternoon, I attempted to burn off some food and wine calories with a trail run through the rugged terrain of the Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve, accessible from the top of Franschhoek Pass above town.

Sunlight through the coming storm clouds, Mont Rochelle Reserve

Sunlight through the coming storm clouds, Mont Rochelle Reserve

Knowing the rains were coming, we explored the town the following morning, and after lunch at La Petit Ferme, the skies indeed opened up. As it turned out, a massive storm system out of the southern Indian Ocean was moving across the Western Cape, and the  area was hit with record rainfall, leading to localized flooding, washouts and landslides, and quite a bit of natural destruction. Luckily, we were hardly roughing it. Even a direct lightening strike on La Petit Dauphine didn’t set us back too badly (other than waking us with a massive crack), and the generator kicked on power only seconds after the mains went down.

Cape Dutch architecture in Franschhoek

Cape Dutch architecture in Franschhoek

The next day the high winds, thunder and lightening gave way simply to solid, steady rain, and we resolved to sample some of the region’s finest wineries. Overall, we were highly impressed with both the quality and value of the local varietals: tastings were friendly, non-stuffy affairs, amazingly affordable, and different and unique between each locale. In particular, we noted that a number of blends and uniquely produced varietals were available, many in forms not typically seen elsewhere—Pinotage, unwooded Pinot Noir (resembles a rosé), Shiraz Viognier, to name a few—along with quality chardonnays, sauvignon blancs, and cabernets. We particularly enjoyed La Motte, Haute Cabriere (with gorgeous views over the valley), Grand Provence, and Chamonix.

Overlooking the Franschhoek Valley from La Petit Ferme

Overlooking the Franschhoek Valley from La Petit Ferme

With one final day in the area, we moved from luxurious to truly opulent, spending a night at the amazing La Residence, just on the other side of town in Franschhoek. With only 11 rooms and a small number of private villas, the place exudes the ambiance of luxury, from the breakfast spread to the chandeliers and flower arrangements to the obsequious staff. It’s not exactly the relaxed luxury of La Petit Dauphine, but for those who want no shred of doubt that they’re in a 5-star property, it’s a perfect fit.

Opulent bathroom in one of the suites at La Residence

Opulent bathroom in one of the suites at La Residence

Each room is individually decorated in impeccable fashion around a specific theme that may be regional (Indian, African, etc.) or natural (hibiscus, frangipani), and accoutrements of the room have been thought through down to the last detail — each room (and bathroom) is really a sight to behold. At dinner, the sommelier offered helpful suggestions on wine pairings, and even followed up after we left to inquire about purchasing some muscat we enjoyed on our behalf.

View from our private patio at La Residence

View from our private patio at La Residence

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