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Do it like the French... in Franschhoek

2017-07-09 00:00

Freedom, equality and fraternity

This is what a small group of French Huguenots were after when they settled on the southernmost point of Africa in the late 1600s.

And what better than a weekend in the Western Cape’s winelands to make you feel free, with food fit for connoisseurs in a tent where everyone is equal and a few glasses of wine to affirm the brotherhood between friends and strangers.

At just R280 for an entrance ticket to the food-and-wine tent at the DStv Franschhoek Bastille Festival between July 15 and 16, you get far more than just sustenance. Indeed, while you can taste the wines that 19 wine farms have to offer and dishes from many of the town’s best restaurants, you also experience a feeling of community. More than one local resident describes the DStv Franschhoek Bastille Festival as “the weekend with the best atmosphere in Franschhoek”.

The marquee tent where most festivities take place, is – quite appropriately – set up next to the Huguenot Monument at the top of the town’s main street. Everyone agrees that the entire town and surrounds should celebrate the Bastille Festival on that weekend.

Taste and ride

A big treat is DStv’s Joy of Life experience, which combines the food and wine festival with cycling – à la French Champagne and the SuperSport Joy of Life Mountain Bike Tour. These riders really get spoilt. On Friday, they ride 30km in the mountains around Franschhoek.

“The riding is tough, but not undoable. There’s a lot of single track, a lot of rocks and quite a lot of climbs – there’s this one steep concrete path, we call it ‘white death’. But it’s picturesque,” said Linda Coltart, the organiser.

On the Saturday, the riders take a picturesque and less challenging route from one wine farm to the next, all along the Dassenberg.

You start out with coffee and rusks at the first wine farm, and then stop again for a wine cellar tour and a tasting. Next up, after another bike ride, is a vertical shiraz tasting, which means you start out with a relatively young wine and then taste the same cultivar in older forms.

After another few stops with great experiences, the riders can recharge with date balls, pinotage hot chocolate and mini pork rib calzones at Bread & Wine on the Môreson wine farm.

Unfortunately, these exceptional experiences are already sold out, but avid cyclists can still enter Sunday’s competitive races over 20km and 40km. There’s also a 13km race for children.

Entries cost R295 (20km), R395 (40km) and R100 (13km).

Riders start from Old Bell’s Lodge on the banks of the Bergrivier Dam. You can enter online at energyevents.co.za.

By foot

If cycling isn’t your thing, but you still want to get rid of some of those calories before they take up permanent residence on your hips, you can enter the Salomon Bastille Day Trail Run. There’s a 15km, 25km, 35km and 50km trail. The 15km is described as “moderate”, the 25km as “not for beginners”, the 35km is only for the mountain goats among us; for the 50km, you have to “pack a lot of food”. This event can also be entered online at energyevents.co.za.

If you’re not in the mood for competitive joggers, but still want to do something active, you can purchase a R40 day permit from the tourism office on the main street to go and explore one of the many walking trails at the Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve.

There are 10 routes you can choose from and they range in length from a few hundred metres (for those who may already have tasted a wine or two) to 13.6km.

Scootours is for those who want to be outside but who don’t want to work for it.

You are picked up and taken to the top of a hill, from where you ride a non-motorised scooter down the slopes without having to do anything. You just stand and give the occasional push.

There are rocky routes for those who are more adventurous and wide dirt roads for families.

Visit scootours.co.za for more information.

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September 17 2017