It would be easy to laze around on a trip like this and become increasingly indolent. If you weren’t travelling with Ishbel, that is. So it was that, for Saturday we agreed that we would do a tour of some of the wineries for which Franschhoek is justifiably famous. To get round those wineries closest to town, we decided to rent a couple of bicycles. After picking up our laundry at the appointed time, we made our way along to Franschhoek Cycles, where we had arranged our rentals the previous day. We were supplied with a carefully annotated map, a couple of helmets and, of course, a bike each.
Off we set along the mostly flat main road to our first target: Grande Provence. The driveway up to the main estate buildings is picturesque, rolling through the vineyards that provide the harvest for their wines. Their buildings include a large art gallery but also something of a surprise: a cheetah sanctuary. As we arrived and saw the signs, it was obvious that we would be seeing the cheetahs before anything else.
At the Cheetah Outreach Centre, they also offer what they call ”encounters” where you can enter the enclosure and get up close to an animal. This held no attraction for me but Ishbel liked the sound of it.
The outreach centre takes in animals from captive breeding programs and supports the maintenance of a DNA database that identifies breeding opportunities to maintain a diverse gene pool.
After that, we deserved a wine tasting and duly partook of three of the vineyard’s finest tipples. Once that was done, it was back on the bikes and a quick 5km back through town and out the other side to La Bri estate. La Bri offers some interesting pairings, so we each tried a different one. Ishbel had three wines paired with Turkish Delight and I had three paired with chocolate. Very nice.
Just a short ride back towards town and we stopped at La Couronne. We only had a two wine tasting here as we still had to get all the way back through town again as we had decided that we liked the look of Mont Rochelle for lunch. Mont Rochelle is a vineyard and hotel owned by Richard Branson. How do I know this? He doesn’t exactly make a secret of it…
We decided we were somewhat underdressed for the gourmet restaurant on the estate but had a very nice lunch on the terrace of Country Kitchen, their more casual option. Interestingly, this is the first place in South Africa where we had access to free wi-fi without actually being a paying guest. It’s odd when something that you now take for granted at home becomes a bit of a luxury.
After lunch, we decided we should hand back the bikes while we were still sober, and headed back to relax at the hotel.