Some of world’s most glamorous country hotels await in the Franschhoek (French corner); one of the oldest towns in South Africa and a mere 1 hour’s drive from Cape Town. Whether you visit this idyllic town for a wine tasting or a weekend getaway, or even plan to spend a summer vacation in South Africa’s Western Cape, rest assured that Franschhoek lives up to its reputation as a world-famous wine region filled with luxury hotels and award-winning restaurants.
Why choose a luxury hotel?
For me it’s different from the next person as I work in hospitality. It’s about the element of intuitive service that the hotel provides and the escape from the real world for a few days. The reason for paying for 5-star leisure accommodation is the idea of staying somewhere that is better than your own house (and they even make the bed for you), allowing you to relax and unwind. Over the years I have noticed my travel style has evolved. I tend to choose unique hotels for our trips that is special in some way, whether that be the locale or the style of accommodation.
I can find a million excuses to plan a getaway and picturesque landscapes is usually a good one. Towns like Stellenbosch, Paarl and Gordon’s Bay are closer together than you might think and getting to the Cape winelands is easy from Cape Town International Airport. Unlike most of my readers, Franschhoek is just a short distance away from my house so a quick Sunday drive for breakfast is a regular occasion.
I recently discovered a 5-star luxury country hotel located on a farm in Franschhoek – La Residence (by Royal Portfolio). This hotel is not your average country hotel; it was recently voted as one of the top 100 hotels in the world. This is just one of the awards that the hotel has raked in over its 10 year existence.
At first glance, it’s definitely on my list of return hotels. There are a few 5-star luxury hotels in the Franschhoek valley, yet La Residence sets the bar for a luxury country stay. The hotel is located in the heart of this historic town.
From the moment you arrive, be it by car or helicopter (yes the hotel also has a helipad), you are greeted with a backdrop of green vineyards and springbok grazing in a field along the roadway toward the main building. From the moment you step through the doors of the hotel you feel welcomed and looked after.
One of my favourite moments at the hotel was when a peacock gracefully walked through the lobby and no one even reacted. I later realized that the sight of peacocks on the hotel grounds is not something out of the ordinary. These elegant birds graze the ground become one with the opulence of the hotel.
Owned and operated by the Biden family, the hotel’s 11 suites are individually decorated with only the finest linen, extravagant furniture and a fully inclusive offering, from the minibar to laundry service. Each suite in the hotel is a piece of art. The furniture, the accessories and the artwork are all carefully selected to create an exceptional visually appealing experience for its guests.
Luxury tea and coffee were provided as well as bottled water. The suites’ kitchenette was fully appointed and included a coffee machine, polished fresh fruit as well as a jar of biscuits – It’s the small details that makes the difference.
One of my favourite things in the room is the beautiful bathroom with its Victorian bath and luxurious amenities. The suites’ high ceilings, balcony with sun loungers and magnificent views of the valley is the ideal space for a breakaway surrounded by nature. All suites are also decorated with fresh flowers daily adding that extra touch of perfection to your stay.
The large rooms overlooked the tranquil pond and tea garden below and had a beautiful and most importantly comfortable king-sized bed. There are plenty of storage space to stow your luggage and hang clothes. In the cupboard you will also find a safe, essential amenities, slippers and bathrobes.
The hotel also offers 5 vineyard suites set in the estate’s 30-acre grounds. These lavish 2 to 3-bedroom suites coupled with its own private pool and garden is the hotel’s prime suites and perfects for guests who don’t mind paying extra for privacy and the tranquility of nature. A stylish decorated lounge and pool area is available in the vineyard for suite guests to enjoy a cocktail or dinner from the deck overlooking the farmlands with a friendly team of staff attending to your every need.
Experiencing the town of Franschhoek
As you walk the streets in the centre of town, you will find craft chocolate shops, patisseries, small cafes serving the most delicious meals and treats and ofcourse wine shops stocked with local wines from the region.
Some of the top restaurants in Franschhoek include the following:
Wine & Dine at La Residence
This elegant hotel offers a selection of top wines including their own on their wine list. Guests can experience a tasting in the comfort of the hotel and may also be paired with a dish from their menu. La Residence also grows and bottles their own wines on the estate which is available complimentary in all guestrooms.
The seating area overlooks the infinity pool with its vineyard and mountain backdrop. My first impression of the hotel’s lobby and dining area was “Am I still in South Africa?”
The splendor and opulent furnishings and décor set this hotel apart from any other in South Africa. The resemblance to the iconic Silo hotel in Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront is noticeable yet different, seeing that it’s their sister hotel. You cannot help but admire the artwork, large Indian chandeliers and the amount of detail that went into the overall design and decoration of the building.
The restaurant’s cuisine emphasizes fresh, local ingredients, many of which are grown on the estate. From the moment you are seated, you immediately notice the staff’s strive for excellence in their food, wine and service in the hotel’s opulent atmosphere. The general manager personally meets most guests in the hotel which shows the hotel and brand’s commitment to quality and service.
One of the luxuries of hotel stays is arriving for breakfast in the morning. At La Residence guests can enjoy the buffet breakfast of fresh fruits, cereals, pastries and eggs and bacon on the lobby terrace, . It was also possible to order breakfast to our apartment.
Wine Tasting in the valley
According to my sources, this is the proper way of doing a wine tasting is:
Contrast the wine’s colour against a white background.
Give the wine a quick swirl around the glass to check its legs;
Begin to taste the wine by swishing it around in your mouth
Evaluate the finish of the wine. There shouldn’t be an alcohol taste.
Visitors are able blessed with an abundance of wine estates in the area that open their doors to the public for tastings, pairing and even invite guests to their restaurants. You can also book through many of the tour operators in the area.
One of the most unique ways of visiting the exclusive wine estates in Franschhoek is by boarding the Franschhoek Wine Tram hop-on hop-off service. Visitors get to experience the splendor of the Franschhoek valley while sipping some of South Africa’s best wines, stopping at a range of top wine estates. Wine estates in this region sells their produce at around $25 per bottle and even ship to your international address.
Just a few minutes’ walk from the historic heart of the town, the hotel is a convenient base to explore Franschhoek. It is an easy walk to the main attractions including a range of boutiques, restaurants, galleries, book stores, and more.
The Franschhoek Motor Museum is a mere 15 minutes’ drive from and offers visitors a look back at more than 100 years of motoring history with its unique and exciting collection of vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles and memorabilia in the magnificent setting of L’Ormarins. Bookings can be made online in advance.
While guests can enjoy a family stay, La Residence would be the perfect getaway for couples or friends. Discover the best of the winelands in a relaxing and welcoming environment. Judging by the hotel’s reviews on TripAdvisor; it explains why the hotel is a popular choice for travellers visiting Franschhoek.
La Residence Hotel | Elandskloof Road, Franschhoek, South Africa | www.laresidence.co.za