Can’t get to France? Just go to Franschoek.

I’m not from the Western Cape so when I go there I’m just as much of tourist as the countless tourists that come from far and wide. I might even appreciate the area more than a foreigner because it is a corner of my country where (in a nutshell) things function. (This province is run by a woman- do what you want with that information.)

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A late sunset is typical of the Western Cape. Here its being enjoyed by diners at La Petite Ferme

Functionality aside, places like Franschoek are just breathtakingly beautiful. There are few places where I find myself amazed that in every direction, around every corner, through every window and doorway, I see a view to behold. Most of these vistas are available from the countless wine farms. The Western Cape is known as being south Africa’s Wine Country, and Franschoek is arguably the best of the best.

The view as seen from the tasting room of Porcupine Ridge.

The view as seen from the tasting room of Porcupine Ridge.

Through the vines at Dieu Donne wine estate. Arguably the best views on offer.

Through the vines at Dieu Donne wine estate. Arguably the best views on offer.

The history of Franschoek, which means French Corner, is not only rich but also very evident. It was once the settling ground of French Huguenots who left their motherland 300 years ago. Their reformed religious convictions were outlawed in France so they set sail for the Cape to join Dutch settlers who shared similar religious beliefs. 

A dominant feature in the center of town- a church in true Cape Dutch style

A dominant feature in the center of town- a church in true Cape Dutch style

If you, like me, were unaware that some of the most prominent and dominant Afrikaans surnames are deeply rooted in France then you will learn something here today. Surnames that are directly linked to French settlers include:

Cronje (Cronier), de Klerk (Le Clercq), Visagie (Visage), de Villiers, du Preez, du Plessis, du Toit, Fourie, Fouche, Giliomee (Guilliaume), Gous / Gouws (Gauch).

This list is by no means comprehensive. Basically, if you can think of an Afrikaans surname- that surname was probably originally French. And here I was linking all South Africa’s Dutchmen to the Dutch. 

Part of the list of original French Huguenots in the Huguenot museum

Part of the list of original French Huguenots in the Huguenot museum

Now when I say that this history is evident, I don’t only mean that there is a great Huguenot museum in Franschoek. Every street name, every restaurant, wine estate and shop are all, if not mostly, French. Bon-bon this, petit that. 

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‘The Main Drag’. Notice the ‘Bijoux’ Chocolates.

These days Franschoek is known for its gastronomy and is undoubtedly the gastronomic hub of South Africa. It is home to some of the country’s best restaurants. So if you’re a food lover, wine lover, history lover or even just a beautiful landscape lover, Franschoek has something for you. 

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