The sleepy, small town of Franschhoek (literally “French corner” in Dutch) in South Africa’s Western Cape is one of the oldest in the country. While it’s less than 75km from Cape Town, it feels world’s away from the urban hustle. Crossing the border into Franschhoek, there’s a palpable difference in the pace and tenor of life – time seems to slow down a tick. There’s a distinct whiff of “What’s your hurry?” in the air.
Franschhoek from Above
The ideal summer weather, snowy peaks in winter and proximity to Cape Town have turned Franschhoek into one of South Africa’s most sought after residential addresses.
Indeed. With its ubiquitous wine estates, colonial architecture, gourmet restaurants, art galleries and curio shops, it’s a place anyone would want to call home or at least … stop over for a while.
It’s no surprise then that South Africa’s Royal Portfolio (the same folks behind the stunning Birkenhead House in Hermanus) chose to open a stunning hotel here as well. But where Birkenhead is barefoot, contemporary, seaside luxury, La Residence (often called “La Res” for short) is well-heeled, rural country elegance with a slight hint of modernity.
Sweeping View of La Residence Hotel, Franschhoek
In their own words, La Residence is:
… in a class of its own. Located in the beautiful Franschhoek valley at the heart of a private 30-acre estate, this is a haven of luxury on every level. Surrounded by vineyards and plum orchards, with a stunning mountain backdrop, La Residence enjoys breathtaking views of the unspoilt rural surrounds and an atmosphere of complete tranquility.
Step into the main hall and be transported to a world of exquisite beauty, opulence and grandeur in this luxury Franschhoek hotel. Glittering Indian chandeliers hang from the vaulted ceiling; original artwork and huge mirrors grace the walls; furnishings are plush, colourful and stylish. Elegant antiques and exquisite flowers create a feeling of refinement and sophistication.
Such is the “palette” and the visitor experience at La Residence.
Features + Amenities
I’m unaware of a word that accurately describes how over-the-top beautiful the guestrooms are at La Residence. Opulent is somehow inadequate. Each room is individually decorated and personalized with a unique character and flavor.
Chambre Bleu Suite, La Residence
My ground level Chambre Bleu Suite was decorated in bespoke Provençal antiques, velvets and silks. And a four-poster bed that was so high, it could very well have featured its own elevator for easy access (thankfully a footstool was provided). As a corner suite, it looks out onto the property towards either the perfectly manicured lawn to the dam or the onsite olive grove and mountains.
Bathroom of the Chambre Bleu Suite, La Residence
The bathroom was an affair unto itself – two massive his/hers armoires, a desk, sitting area, ample soak tub, private veranda … I could go on but you get the gist. (It’s worth noting that I’ve lived in apartments that occupied less space …)
Activities + Experiences
For anyone who actually wants to leave their room, La Res offers a variety of activities – both onsite and nearby.
During the warmer months, take a dip in the stunning infinity pool or chill in a sun-lounger on the guest patio (or your own private veranda). There’s also a hotel spa offering a variety of treatments and massages. Or you can cycle or hike the estate grounds and take in the stunning landscape of olive trees, rose vines, and the winelands beyond.
Visitors can also play golf, go trout fishing or quad-biking, paragliding, hot-air ballooning or take a horseback tour of the surrounding wine farms. For a more relaxing excursion, check out the horse-drawn carriage ride through the local village or a ride on the Franschhoek Wine Tram.
When winter (or what passes for “cold weather” by South African standards!) hits, relax with a book at the hotel library while enjoying a coffee or cocktail (or both) by the fire. La Res also offers complimentary transfer service into the nearby village where you can dine at any number of local gourmet restaurants. Or, for a truly posh Franschhoek experience, ask about their exclusive, private wine and cheese tastings at one of the nearby winelands.
I’ve had the fortunate of visiting some pretty swank hotels around the world. But never have I called room service where they’ve responded, “Well … to be honest. We don’t really have a fixed menu. What do you feel like having tonight?” Then the chef came down for a personal visit to discuss options with me. Yeah … it’s that kind of place.
Lemongrass Creme Brulee at La Residence Hotel, Franschhoek © Mike Richard
I opted for an insanely fresh fish and vegetable dish with some of the simplest, most delicious ingredients. For dessert, I rounded things out with a lemongrass creme brulee presented on a gold table. Not unlike how I imagine the pharaohs ate in ancient Egypt.
La Residence offers a variety of guest room configurations, from single rooms up to and including the entire house. Rates start at R4,390 (per person, double occupancy in winter/off-season).
Franschhoek is easily accessible by air via Cape Town CPT (located just 75km – 45 minutes) from downtown.
From there, grab a rental car or, better yet, arrive in style with Avis Chauffeur Car Services. If you’re planning a vineyard vacation already, why not go the distance and hire your own private chauffeur to cruise the countryside in a brand new Audi, BMW or Mercedes?
The Bottom Line
I think we can all agree that everyone should own a South African vineyard estate once in their lives. Right? Or enjoy a few nights at La Residence – it’s the next best thing.
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