Knowing that La Residence has recently been ranked by Condé Nast Traveller as the #1 hotel in the world, I had high expectations for this small hotel. With only 11 bedrooms set in the heart of the South African Winelands in Franschhoek, this was a wine lover’s Napa Valley meets South African paradise. For someone who does not drink wine, I wondered if I would enjoy the Winelands as much, but found there were still many lovely things to do during my stay from classic cars to chocolate tasting.
It was a welcoming touch that Garth, my driver, kept telling me along the way to the hotel that we were “almost home.” La Residence, after all, feels like a fully-staffed private home, personally decorated by the owner in the most eye-catching, eclectic, luxurious and plush way. The décor is grand, colourful, whimsical and highly romantic. The views of the mountain and vineyards are nothing short of spectacular. Each room has a fairytale bathroom which invites an evening soak in the claw foot tubs drawn at nightly turndown. I had a tour of the spacious new villa style suites which are perfect for families visiting Franschhoek, each vibrant in décor and a central pool for guests.
There are so many wonderful things to do for those who do not participate in wine tasting. On my first full day, I headed to Huguenot, the only Belgian chocolate shop in South Africa, for a short tour and tasting picking up a few treats to take home. One of the staff members gave an informative background of the history of chocolate and we sampled the shop’s milk, dark and white chocolates. Nearby, there are many little boutiques where you can find ostrich leather good, African crafts, diamonds and art. We then headed to the Motor Museum for a spectacular tour of 80 classic cars from vintage Bugattis to Ferraris and Aston Martins. The owner’s private collection is beautifully displayed in four elegant buildings and touring the buildings was a feast for the eyes for car lovers alike. Every six months, the cars are rotated out and a new collection is displayed so you can keep visiting the museum over and over.
Even though I was not into wine tasting, I made a short visit to the charming La Motte winery where there is a lovely little art gallery, farmer’s shop and a wine tasting room. The art gallery showcases the life and art of one of South Africa’s greatest masters, Jacob Hendrik Pierneef. There is also contemporary art by other distinguished South African artists. Browsing the barrels of wine on display and touring the setting was just as fun as wine tasting for me and a worthwhile visit. The restaurant inside, Pierneef, also seemed to be a popular place to dine. In Franschhoek, you can also arrange cheese tastings, which I would plan to do on my next visit.
After returning from a wonderful afternoon in Franschhoek, I had a lovely lunch at the restaurant. Dining at La Residence is overall a very nice experience. The Chef uses locally sourced ingredients in the seasonal menus for both lunch and dinner and guests with fresh herbs and produce from the nearby garden. There is a fabulous chef’s table as well where the chef will have personalized cooking demonstrations for guests. Before dinner guests can enjoy canapés and aperitifs in the plush living room by the fire. The restaurant allows one table nightly for outside visitors, otherwise the restaurant is exclusively for guests. I highly recommend a table close to the dining room’s fireplace.
There is a spa treatment room at the hotel, so I booked a relaxing one hour Swedish massage, just what I needed after long airplane rides and hours on game drives at Royal Malewane. By the time I was finished, the sun was setting over the gorgeous vineyards and landscape and the hotel’s ponies and springbok had quietly retreated for the night.
In the summer months and warmer weather, you can relax by the pool and take in the landscape views of the salvia flowers, orchards and olive trees. You’ll be inspired to take up painting with those kinds of views or simply read a good book. La Residence is a perfect complement to a stay at Royal Malewane.
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