On the last day of the Garden Route, we planned to drive to the Cape Winelands/Franschhoek Valley to experience its famed vineyards before heading to Cape Town the following day for the last part of our trip. The drive from Brenton Haven to our hotel was about 280 miles (about 450 km), a drive of just under six hours. We followed the highway N2 for as long as we could until we had to part ways close to the valley. Until Mossel Bay, this route hugs the coastline, and the views were great. Past Mossel Bay, the route runs deeper inland, and while the vistas were picturesque, they were not quite as dramatic as say, a drive in Hawaii.
Our biggest mistake that morning was leaving without a proper breakfast. We figured we could get something close to George, but before we could reach a consensus, we were past George and headed to Mossel Bay. En route, we tried to find places to eat at, but each attempt failed. Either they weren’t open yet, or did not have vegetarian options, or perhaps, we weren’t the right color. A small restaurant in a small town seemed to be open, but the owner refused us admission stating they were too full. We suspected our darker skin had something to do with the refusal since there was no person of color in that bustling restaurant. I believe that’s the first time we’ve had that experience in all our travels.
Past Mossel Bay, we found a gas station with a rest area where we settled for muffins and coffee/ beverages. We picked up some bagged snacks for the road and set off. Not surprisingly, what should have been a five and a half-hour drive turned out to be much longer, and it was almost half-past three by the time we got to the Franschhoek area hotel.
Today, my post will focus on Le Franschhoek Hotel and Spa, which was our home for the night. Driving into the Franschhoek Valley, we were already enthralled by its verdant richness and the surrounding majestic mountains. Once in Franschhoek, the hotel completely took us by surprise.
Surrounded by mountains on three sides, the hotel is built in the Cape Dutch architecture with whitewashed walls. At once, the charm and elegance became apparent. As we drove in through the gates, the guard checked our reservation, waved us through, and we pulled into the parking lot. At the reception, we were efficiently checked in by the staff. The only issue was that we had two rooms booked, but they were on the opposite ends of the hotel. And since the guest list was long that weekend, no other rooms were available. The kids, of course, didn’t mind a room far away from us. So the matter was settled. We were offered age-appropriate beverages to quench our thirst.
The bellhop carried our luggage to the upper floor where our room was located. We felt terrible for him as the room we were assigned had narrow stairs that he had to navigate. And there was no elevator access to the room. The kids’ room was on the other end of the same floor.
The room was a standard one but elegantly furnished. The vaulted ceilings, the windows on both sides of the room, allowing bright light, and the fantastic views outside, all added an exquisite aura to it. The en-suite bathroom was equally well lit by outside light and had great views as well. The children’s room was also well decorated, but the views weren’t as great!
Downstairs, the lobby led to a long hallway with the lounge and bar area. Here again, the ambiance was the right mix of functionality and elegance with access to magnificent views. There was a formal restaurant on-site. But the real winner was the outer gardens and vistas. Just outside of the lounge area is an outdoor dining terrace. And just beyond that, the pool and steps leading to the villas. Surrounding the entire property were huge trees and neatly manicured gardens that just transformed the area from a hotel to a relaxing escape. The profusion of blooms, the scents of the lavender, and the beautiful architecture that blended so well with the surroundings, created a heady feeling.
The hotel offers a total of 79 rooms, including standard, standard family rooms, deluxe rooms, suites, villas and lavish villas. The last two groups are tucked away amongst the serene settings. The Camelot Spa offers a great place to unwind but, unfortunately, we had no time to explore it.
The formal dining happens at the Sauvage restaurant. Since we had other plans for dinner, we did not eat here. La Pavillion is where we had a sumptuous breakfast the next morning. True to the rest of their standards, breakfast offered a wide variety of foods, from cereals and breads to hot meals. We enjoyed the fruits, juices, coffee, as well as their muffins and omelets.
The lounge had a piano where a staffer was played lovely music. It was a great place to unwind after a busy day or a long drive. The terrace and the garden were very relaxing, as I have already mentioned.
After the Conrad Rangali and the Fairmont, this would easily be the most elegant hotel we have stayed at. The simple lines of the architecture, the white walls with the black thatch roofs, the blooming flowers, the sun-kissed landscape, the beautiful mountains, and the excellent service make this hotel a real winner in our books.