Elegant Places

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Franschhoek's Cape Dutch Homes

In April 1688, the first 270 French Huguenots settlers arrived in Saldana Bay, South Africa. Exiles from their country, persecuted for their Protestant faith, they left France in search of tolerance and freedom, bringing with them a significant knowledge of viticulture.

The first farm in the Franschhoek valley was granted to Swiss colonist Henrich Mòller in 1692 and named Keerweder .  In 1694, Governor of the Cape Simon van der Stel welcomed more Huguenots and the skills they brought with them. In October 1694, nine French Huguenots and a Prussian family were granted farms in Oliphantshoek, an area frequented by herds of elephant. The settlers set about naming their farms in memory of their distant homeland.

By 1713 the valley was being referred to as "de France Hoek", or "the French corner". In 1805 "Franschhoek" became official. Local  legend has it that in 1836, the last elephants, a mother and calf, were seen leaving the valley on what is today the Franschhoek pass.


Fredericksburg lies at the foot of the Simonberg Mountains. It dates to 1690, when brothers Jean and Samuel Nortier settled there as farmers. The Nortier brothers officially laid claim to the land in 1694.
"Willersdorf" Bo La Motte

"Willersdorf" Bo La Motte is a portion of one of nine original historic Huguenot wine farms. It is a working farm nestled under Middagkrans mountain, commanding an astonishing view of the valley. In 1709 Pierre Joubert named his farm La Motte after his home village in France; "La Motte d'Agues". "Bo" meaning "up" in Afrikaans, locates this historic ground as "upper La Motte". No wonder, as it is located up the Franschhoek pass on what was once the old elephant trail.
Babylons Toren

Babylons Toren is a historic working fruit and wine farm situated on the slopes of Simonsberg in the heart of the Cape Winelands. Of special note is a fantastic slave bell.

La Brie

La Brie was granted in 1689 to Jacques de Villiers. Its present day homestead was completed in 1787. The farm is adjacent to La Bri and like it, surrounded by the imposing amphitheater of the Franschhoek mountains.

La Bri

La Bri is a wine estate and has been the source of fine wines for centuries. La Bri welcomes visitors to the wine estate and promotes the history of the farm.
Burgundy Bourgogne

Burgundy Bourgogne was established by Pierre De Villiers in 1694. Pierre De Villiers named the farm Bourgogne after his home town in France. The main homestead was built in 1791 and features a unique holbol gable design.

L' Ormarins

L’Ormarins received its name from its original owner Jean Roi, a French Huguenot. In 1694 he named it after his hometown Lourmarin in French Provence. L’Ormarins  enjoys a number of thatched Cape Dutch gabled out buildings, all surrounded by the Groot Drakenstein mountains .


Boschendal is one of the most imposing farmhouses in the Cape. The farm was granted to Jean Le Long in 1685, making it one of the oldest farms in the valley. The front gable, with its wavy outline ending in urns, reflects both the baroque and neo-classical tradition of the Cape.  Boschendal, enjoys a number of thatched Cape Dutch gabled out buildings. This one is known as the Boschendal Waenhuis. The name Boschendal means "wood and dale", a broad wooded lowland valley. In 1897 Boschendal, Rhone and several other farms were bought by Cecil John Rhodes to form Rhodes Fruit Farms. In the last few years has it become known collectively as the "Boschendal Estate".


Rhone was granted to Jean Gardé in 1691. Gardé was a Huguenot who acquired the adjacent farm Languedoc from Pierre Bénézet in 1700. Neo-classical elements can be seen in the triangular pediment, fluted pilasters and the true fan-light over the front door.


The farm was the very first to be allotted to a European in the Franschhoek Valley by the Dutch East India Company. It was granted to Henrich Mòllern in 1692 by Simon van der Stel. Mòllern came from Basle in Switzerland. When the Huguenots settled in the area in 1694, Keerweder had already been cultivated.

The name Keerweder originates from the the high mountains surrounding Franschhoek which were insurmountable obstacles for travelers, who could not pass over them and had to turn back. (In Dutch 'turn back' is 'keeren weder'.)

Basse Provence

Basse Provence is a four star rated country guest house situated on an historical working wine farm in the picturesque valley of Franschhoek. This landmark Cape Dutch manor house sits invitingly amongst the vines and 300 year old oak trees. The interior is a fine blend of traditional Huguenot heritage and South African culture.

Dieu Donne

Dieu Donné is a working wine farm situated high on the steep southwest facing slopes of the Franschhoek mountains. Dieu Donné enjoys multiple thatched gabled homesteads.

Grande Provence

Grande Provence estate wears her 300-year history with dignity. Lush vines spread across 30 hectares with gentle vistas over the Franschhoek's valley floor. It boasts both an art gallery and restaurant to die for.

La Dauphine

La Dauphine is one of the most strikingly beautiful Cape Dutch homesteads in the Franschhoek valley. It is a working farm and has been so for centuries.

La Motte

La Motte is an emulate wine estate with a number of thatched gabled homes, the oldest erected in 1751. The land on which La Motte is situated was awarded to a German immigrant in 1695, but in 1709, sold to Pierre Joubert. Joubert named the farm after his home village in France; La Motte d'Agues.

Plaisir De Merle

Plaisir de Merle dates to 1687 when the French Huguenot, Charles Marais and his family were granted the land by Governor Simon van der Stel. They named the farm Le Plessis Marly after the small village from which they had come in France. Over time, the pronunciation changed.

Vrede en Lust

Vrede en Lust was established by French Huguenot Jacques de Savoye in 1688. The name is derived from Dutch "Peace and Eagerness". Vrede en Lust is nestled beneath the Simonsberg mountain range.

 The historic farm buildings have been restored with respect to their Cape Dutch origins and all new buildings have been carefully designed to harmonize with the existing environment.

Zandvliet - Solms-Delta

Zandvliet is currently named Solms-Delta. We determined the free black farmer Christoffel Snyman and his French wife Margo, as Marie-Madeleine then called herself, became the second owners of the farm Zandvliet. After Christoffel died, Margo married into the Viljoen family. One of Margo and Christoffel’s daughters of mixed race, married her step-father’s brother and had a number of Viljoen children. A failed attempt was made to learn more from Dr. Solms about the farms early days.

To find out where to stay in this beautiful part of the world, visit www.elegantplaces.co.za or enquire@elegantplaces.co.za

Elegant Places is a luxury travel agent that specialises in establishments that are Cape Dutch in style. These are the true 'gems' of the Cape, where you get access to the finest manor homes and farm houses. Such consistency and high degree of standardisation of architecture is seen on where else in the world.

Source: http://www.ezakwantu.com/Gallery%20Franschhoek%20Cape%20Dutch%20Thatched%20Gabled%20Homesteads.htm

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Tulbagh Valley of Abundance

Click the above map to see full sized image

There are so many lovely things to do on the Tulbagh Wine Route. It is a picture perfect town with many of the Cape Dutch buildings restored to their original structure. Only 2 hours away from Cape Town, it is the perfect weekend break.

We stayed at Oudekloof Luxury Guest Farm which is a restored Cape Dutch Farm House. Built in 1754, the farm is almost 300 years old. The Cape leopard has been spotted in the surrounding hills who roams freely and uninhibited. Inside the house there is a beautiful big kitchen, dining room and sitting room where you can sit in front of the fire with a glass of wine from the Tulbagh Wine Route.
The rooms are spacious and comfortable with gorgeous linen. The bathrooms are modern with a jet bath perfect for long bubbles baths for two. Some of the rooms have their own fireplaces, so enquire which you prefer. In the morning, a farmhouse breakfast was served by host Louise Vally, who made us feel most welcome.

The next morning we embarked on our day trip around the surrounding winelands. The weather in autumn is very temperate unlike the very hot summer months. It is the ideal time of year to visit this little town. The fields are green with the vines changing their colour palette to vibrant oranges and reds.

The first winery we went to was Rijk's Private Cellar & Country House. Such a tranquil setting, it is no surprise that it is such a popular wedding destination.
Next was Twee Jonge Gezellen - The House of Krone. They pick their grapes at night to keep all the bubbles in for maximum effect. In December they host a Summer Elegance party which you must be sure to put in your diary as the coolest 'Cap Classique' event of the season. 
Further on, is Saronsberg which is a modern winery and part of the portfolio in the lovely Quiver Tree publication. The art is a main feature of the winery both inside and outside. The high windows, impressive architecture and views are to be admired.
It is worth a visit to De Oude Drostdy especially to see the cellar below, with its narrow stairs and low doorways. In the tasting room there are spitoons made of brass that look like relics from the past. The Chinese vases brought by age-old ships from the far east are spectacular.
We then headed to historic Church Street, to Paddagang Restaurant & Wine House. We sat in the courtyard surrounded by peacocks. They seem to simply glide on the expansive lawns under the cool shade of the oak trees.

For desert we went to the Moniki chocolate shop who make Belgium and Dutch styled chocolates. Be sure to get yourself a 'letter' of your first name as done by Dutch children for Sinterklaas Eve parties. The Netherlands is the only place with a St. Nicholas chocolate initial letter tradition and hopefully it will become one in South Africa too. The Christmas in Winter Festival this year will transform Tulbagh into a winter wonderland. The winters in Tulbagh are known to have snow at the top of the Winterhoek Mountains which is a delight to local and international visitors.

Church Street is lined with Cape Dutch gables of all variations, each with its own unique style and taste. Reader's Restaurant in particular, in my opinion, is a very pretty building to visit which opened its doors for the first time to the public in June 1997. We ate there on the Saturday evening and the cuisine is outstanding by Carol Collins – Silwood trained Cordon Bleu Chef. The kudu fillet with Cape gooseberries was uniquely divine. The dishes are done with flair, love and attention to detail. The trio of ice-creams with unique tastes leaves your imagination wanting more.
On our way back to the comfort of Oudekloof, we encountered the Chapel at Montpellier, which is subtly lit up at night and truly makes the Tulbagh valley feel like a fairy tale.

Elegant Places recommends the finest places in Southern Africa. We offer exclusivity at pre-negotiated rates at selected establishments. Email enquire@elegantplaces.co.za to find out more.

Note: For those in the art world; You can view some incredible art work from the likes of artist Jan Vermeiren 'Blue Ladies' at Monbijou.