Nestled between towering mountains in the beautiful Cape winelands lies the magnificent Franschhoek Valley. It is reputed to be the food and wine heartland of the country with its splendid wine estates and top chefs create world-class cuisine. The scenery is breath-taking on a grand scale.
Spectacular vineyards cover the mountain slopes and the valley, settled more than 300 years ago by the Huguenots, who brought with them their age-old French wine and food culture.
Arriving at Val d’Or Wine estate we are drawn into a beautiful and tranquil setting at the foot of the Klein Drakenstein Mountains. The reception area of the main house is pleasantly cool as we check in. We are shown to the villa, a serene and spacious building looking out to the vista of Groot Drakenstein Mountains on the other side of the valley. Nick and I have a calming green bedroom which acts as a conduit to the hues of the foliage of plants, shrubs and trees and to the lush lawns of the garden outside our French doors. The grounds are laid out to lawn, flower borders, shrubberies with two ponds adjacent to a swimming pool. We are going to ‘eat in’ so Charlotte and Ryan drive along to Franschhoek to buy meats for a braai and salads. We have the bubbly that we bought at Vergenoegd. In the mellow warmth of the early evening, we eat by the pool.
We wake on our first morning in this idyll and since we are in wine country a winery visit or two must be made. But first we walk up to the main house to eat omelettes. Thence into Franschhoek town which strikes me as oh so French and I then learn that the town’s name means ‘French Corner’. Here there are lovely shops including several art galleries. Teddy poses with another outside one of them.
In one of these the Perrymans find a pair of pictures which are, in fact, photographs with much of the detail stripped out. One is of elephants, the other is a hippo. They will sit very happily alongside other Africana that they have in their home in England. In the same shop I see a occasional table which I like very much, made as it is out of plate glass shelves and driftwood.
We have a drink in the bar which is the old Railway Station then visit La Motte which is one of the wineries on the main road into the town. Seated at hand-made tasting tables, a welcoming tasting counter or on comfortable sofas, visitors have an unimpeded view of the working and maturation cellars through large glass panels. We paid a sum to taste seven different wines, probably drank far too much of each and ended up ordering two of the whites and one of the reds. Forty-eight bottles between us. A bonus was that we could pay in Euros, which gave us a cheaper price and the wines could be delivered from Germany to France.
Back at the villa we rested and then spent some time around the pool, accompanied by the lovely dog, Bagel, who belongs to the owner of the estate. In the evening we went to a restaurant in Franschhoek specialising in South African cuisine. Aptly named Ryan’s Kitchen the establishment rates no. 2 out of 51 on Trip Advisor. Ever intrigued by new dishes I chose the Prawn Tapioca “Pudding”, prawn crackers, chopped chives, charred lemon gel to start with.
I think I am probably one of the easiest people to feed that I know, but I did have to admit to myself that I found the frog-spawn appearance and imagined consistency a bit unnerving! I know I am on safe territory when I choose Roast Duck Breast, Honey and Dukkah glaze, spiced chocolate & cashew nut puree’s, roast Kohlrabi for my main course.
The following morning we must check out and return to Cape Town to take a flight to Johannesburg. The next stage of our holiday is going to begin. Before we leave Val D’Or I take a walk around the grounds and take some photos. The most appealing area is focussed around the pond where there are numerous weaver bird nests suspended in the trees.
With my passion for basketry in all possible materials I find the bird-made structures beautiful. I’d willingly give one houseroom.
It’s time to give thanks and move on………………