It became very windy and dark as we approached the Franschhoek pass. Having spent a few days in the mountains the week before we were well accustomed to how rapidly and aggressively the weather would change. Having put our blind faith in Google Maps (not always a great idea, that we've learned) we trudged along against the wind until we met the righthand turn that would lead us to the pass necessary to reach Franschhoek. The wind was borderline insane and it was so dark that it felt like 8pm at 2pm. Once we passed the flats that led to the river dam, the wind calmed a bit and the sky brightened enough for us to feel relatively safe in our little Honda. Here's a time lapse of the less apocalyptic part of our drive.
Driving through the mountains will never get old. We finally arrived at our guesthouse, which was a small lodge near the riverbanks behind several vineyards. It was the only budget option in Franschhoek but we were pleasantly surprised! They had a resident great dane named Ben! This was confusing for a few moments during check-in when the owner kept yelling at Ben to sit down but eventually we all reached the same level and went on with our lives.
Fun fact: our accommodation was randomly across the street from Richard Branson's winery (why?) and all we could see was a lone white horse that occupied the field adjacent to our cabin. I didn't get a photo because I was too cold each time we passed him that my hands were either in my pockets or in my armpits.
Once we checked in and freshened up, we set off (headlamp in tow) towards the town that was a 15 minute walk away. Franschhoek is known for it's world class restaurants, especially when it comes to French food. We didn't feel like spending world class dollars so we chose a mid-range Italian place instead. All of this is relatively unimportant because the exciting part has everything to do with the wine tram we had booked for the next day. Stole this photo below off Google because I forgot to take one BUT LOOK AT HOW AWESOME THIS IS:
8am rolled around and it was time to get ready for wine tasting! I felt like I was in university again, getting up so early to drink - like it was St. Patrick's Day or Oktoberfest... but this time, I told myself, would be classier. It was WINE. Though, I don't think I'll ever be one of those people who is cool enough to swish and spit when it comes to wine tastings. It still feels very offensive to me to waste it. Anyway, it was so cold that morning that I got dressed under the covers like a child. We walked back into town to the ticket booth and claimed our passes for the yellow line on the wine tram. There are something like seven lines to choose from and they operate on an hourly schedule, allowing you to hop on and off as many as 5 or 6 times over the course of the day. We chose the yellow line BECAUSE it was the only line with passes left that day.
Our first stop was Rickety Bridge on the tram and then from there we went to Eikehof, Leopard's Leap, Chamonix and ended at Dieu Donne. Each winery was distinct - some, like Eikehof, were small and rustic, and others, like Leopard's Leap, were big and commercial. We sampled wines at each place (obviously) and I had a list of the ones we tried but as the day progressed....... Here are a few snaps from the day. If you have the pleasure of following me on Instagram, you may have seen a rather haphazard story develop over the course of the day as well.
It was MARVELLOUS. It didn't even matter that we ended up sharing the wine tram with a massive group of uni students from Stellenbosch who had matching bucket hats with a shared hashtag on them. Their singing was eventually drowned out by the bliss that is wine in the sunshine paired with getting off at different wineries when at all possible. We walked from the second to last winery to our final stop and ended our tour at Dieu Donne, which is home to this amazing view:
Franschhoek is perfect. We loved every second of it. I was even able to embrace the hangover I had the following day because I knew it happened in such a beautiful place.
After sourcing some breakfast, we hopped in our rental car for a quick 25 minute drive to Stellenbosch, where we would be spending the next night. We didn't have big plans for Stellenbosch, mostly to relax, shower and meet up with some friends of a friend of ours. The downtown was pretty cute - it had a nice balance of university town vibes and somewhere you could actually live as an adult. We liked it.
I won't go into too much detail but we woke the next morning to find that our car had been broken into overnight. WE MADE IT 13 DAYS (out of 14) without a single incident involving the rental and here we go, the night before we were meant to drop it off. Luckily our rental company had a small office directly below the apartment we were staying at (thank you, universe) so we were able to get the ball rolling on filing a claim and getting a new vehicle to continue our journey to Simons Town. In the end it only took a few hours to file a claim with the company and the police and we were well on our way by lunchtime. I wished we had spent more time in Stellenbosch because now this is really our only memory of it - but it doesn't matter because Franschhoek stole my heart and I will always remember our time in the Cape Winelands fondly! Also, let's be honest, this is one corner of the universe that we are definitely returning to!