There is a small little town in the Western Cape that is famous for being the French district in South Africa—Fransschhoek.
Therefore it is just natural that on 14 July, Bastille Day in France, this little town becomes buzzing and busting at the seams with not only people from all over the country but also activities, including wine-tasting and typical French games, like boules and the barrel competition.
I didn’t have a glue what to expect when deciding to go, but I honestly did not expect to find the little version of France, Franschhoek transformed itself into for the weekend. Painting itself literally red, white and blue—the French flag flying all over.
Bastille Day is the name given in English-speaking countries to the French National Day, or as the French know it, La Fête Nationale, commemorating the 1790 Fête de la Fédédation, held on the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille in 1789. A symbol of the uprising of the modern nation, during the French Revolution.
This day in South Africa, commence the first French Season in South Africa. With 10 winemakers from the Rhône-Alpes Region in France showcasing their wines alongside our own made this a great opportunity for the Valley to celebrate the centuries-old French Huguenot heritage and show what it has to offer.
The day started out cold and rainy and I was suspecting we and a couple of other desperate people might be the only ones coming to the festival.
We had a cappuccino in front of the fireplace in Kalfi’s to warm ourselves up while waiting for some friends. When we finally decided to brave the weather I realized I was obviously not giving these people enough credit. In the time we were attaching ourselves like tics to the table in front of the fireplace the streets became active with people also in search of some French culture.
We watched the Franschhoek minstrel parade and since the Food and Wine Marquee only opens at 12pm, we browsed around the flea-markets and shops in spite of the muddycircumstances with the rain and sun playing hide and seek.
Finally we joined the growing queue for the Marquee. Of course this will be the time when the sun completely gave up on the game and left us with only pouring rain.
Playing hop-scotch with the rainwater-rivers flowing down the streets and cramming four people under an umbrella while waiting for one person to scan everyone’s tickets were not a lot of fun. On top of realizing the entrance fee of R150 into the marquee includes only five tastings and a wine glass was a bit disappointing. Even though the gourmet sandwiches, mussels and pancakes were quite delicious the fee didn’t include any food, and therefore the whole day might make a little ditch in your wallet.
Other than that I loved the atmosphere of the day. I liked the fact that this wine festival is the only one with a theme. Seeing how everyone joined in the festivities by dressing the part with berets and dressing in the French flag colours were very contagious and soon the I found myself swaying along on the French live music in the background with a glass of good wine in my one hand and a baguette in the other…
Now I know what the French are always talking about: this is the good life!