South Africa Part 4 – Swellendam to Franschhoek

Swellendam is the 3rd oldest town in the Republic of South Africa and has over 50 provincial heritage sites, most of them buildings of Cape Dutch architecture. Here are some samples of this architecture.

The Olijfkrans college, established in 1825, deserves a special mention for it’s symmetry:

Early travellers and explorers who visited the Cape in the 16th century traded with the Khoikhoi people who lived on these shores and in the interior. When the Dutch East India Company established a replenishment station at the Cape in 1652, trade continued inland as far as Swellendam. In 1743 Swellendam was declared a magisterial district, the third oldest in South Africa, and was named after Governor Hendrik Swellengrebel, the first South African born Governor, and his wife, Helena Ten Damme. Swellendam was the last outpost of Dutch civilisation on the eastern frontier.

Swellendam has a superb museum, the Drostdy museum, which was built by the Dutch East India Company in 1747 to serve as residence and official headquarters for the Landdrost (magistrate). Soon after a prison, a house for the secretary, a mill and various outbuildings were erected.

On the one hand, the fully preserved magistrate’s house:

On the other hand, the prison, where all the prisoners were obliged to partake in activities to occupy their days and to earn them a wage:

We had a superb dinner at La Sosta restaurant, which is Michelin star quality food and wine, without the prices to match. It’s a family run restaurant, with both husband and wife as chefs in the kitchen, and the wife’s father being our host and sommelier. The restaurant has only 18 seats, so it’s a must to reserve in advance.

We also spent an afternoon at a beautiful game reserve near Swellendam called Bontebok national park. The scenery, with the clouds almost touching the earth, was truly sumptous.

The next day, we left Swellendam for Franschhoek (French Corner), which is a village in the Cape Winelands of South Africa, and is known as the country’s food and wine capital.  Here’s an impression of the scenery during the 2 hour drive:

It’s almost impossible to take bad pictures in South Africa, even with an iPhone, which is what I used for all my pictures.

During this entire trip, I kept thinking each day that I had seen the most beautiful places and things; till the next day, which surpassed what I had seen before.

Franschhoek lies nestled in a valley, and the drive down to it is especially beautiful.

Here are some impressions of our hotel in Franschhoek, which was situated in it’s own vineyard with stupendous views:

The hotel came with a resident peacock family. Here’s the male trying to impress the female (it didn’t work).

A few impressions of Franschhoek, which is basically one main street (Huguenot street), with shops, art galleries, restaurants, hotels, wine shops, and the Huguenot church, which is a reminder of the French influence in this area.

We left Franschhoek for Stellenbosch the next day but, as I wasn’t very impressed by Stellenbosch, I won’t be blogging about it. The next stop will be cape town, where we spent the last few days of our vacation.

On the way to Stellenbosch from Franschhoek, however, is the Delaire Graff estate, one of the best wine estates in South Africa. The estate also has a hotel and restaurant, so we dropped in there for lunch. Surrounded by live music, sunshine and beautiful scenery, we had a delicious lunch before driving on to Stellenbosch.

My next and last section of the blog will be about Cape Town, which you can read here as soon as I post it:  South Africa part 5

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