Residents and visitors to this picturesque French Huguenot settlement, will soon be exploring one of Southern Africa’s most revered wine regions, as passengers on the unique Franschhoek Wine Tram.
This new addition to Franschhoek, one of the Boland’s many places of distinction, was achieved by tram owner David Blyth who was also responsible for obtaining the Spoornet lease on the rail section. Bearing the resemblance of a traditional wine tram, it was dropped onto the railway line at the central location of the town’s wine cellars. It was designed and constructed by a local team of engineers to be propelled by a diesel engine at the leisurely speed of 18 km/h. The tram is fitted for all weather conditions with roll-down awnings, and seats approximately 30 passengers on eight comfortable benches, six of which have flipped-over, tram-style seatbacks to allow viewing in both directions. Scheduled to embark on its maiden journey in September, the Tram will provide a safe method of travel and narrated tour focussing on the heritage and wine cultivation of the area.
Another of the town’s recent claims to fame is the new Afrikaans cinema production Semi-Soet, that was filmed at the Vrede en Lust wine Estate at the foothills of the Simonsberg mountains. This age old estate dating back to 1688, relates the history of French Huguenots settlers and Dutch architecture of this period.
Such are the hallmarks of the picturesque Franschhoek Wine Valley, that locals say it is their town’s small village atmosphere that holds a particular attraction to artists. Interests here vary from the visual arts and crafts to literary and musical talent, where newcomers are assured of a well rounded lifestyle, much like the fines wines they have become accustomed to.
To take a trip down memory lane, a list of offerings await, including a number of museums and estates depicting the history and culture of bygone eras. Many of SA’s oldest wine estates, which were mostly French Huguenot settlements, reflect the Cape Vernacular architecture of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. And the Huguenot Memorial Museum located in the centre of the village is home to some beautifully preserved artefacts shedding light on the domestic lifestyles of this period.
Perhaps a lesser known fact is the entertainment for vintage motoring enthusiasts, who can enjoy a fine collection of vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles and memorabilia depicting more than 100 years of motoring history, at the Franschhoek Motor Museum at L'Ormarins wine estate.
For those interested in the anthropology of the area, the Museum Van de Caab at the Solms- Delta Estate offers an authentic rendition of the historic slave trade and affected families during this period. For horse and polo lovers there is the Val de Vie Polo and Wine Estate that hosts a number of polo competitions, and produces wines inspired by the French region of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. For open air musical entertainment, La Motte wine estate is renown for its Classical Music Concerts.
Most notable is how Franschhoek exudes the pride of its residents and property owners, constantly striving to enrich their lifestyles with local and continental flavours.