Affordable fun on the Franschhoek Wine Tram

Posted by Rachel Robinson on 29 May 2013

When you get out of bed earlier on a Saturday morning than you do for work, then you know it’s got to be for something special. In this case it was to get to Franschhoek in time to catch the 10h00 Franschhoek Wine Tram.

Please note: The current price of a Franschhoek wine tram experience is R200 per person. For updated information about the routes and bookings, please go to www.winetram.co.za.

Of course when one arrives in the “French gourmet capital” of the winelands, one simply must have a croissant. We eventually settled on a deliciously flakey pastry filled with solid chocolate from the deli at Salmon Bar. We were so busy scoffing our croissants and browsing through the quaint shops on Huguenot Street that we missed the 10h00 departure (this should’ve been a sign of things to come), but luckily for us the tram-bus departs from the ticket office every hour, so we simply waited for the next one. Exactly one hour later we were all aboard and heading for the first of six stops.

Franschhoek Wine Tram, Franschhoek Wine Valley

The first stop on the tram-bus is the Huguenot Museum.

Stop one: The Huguenot Museum

I am embarrassed to admit that us wine-guzzling lot didn’t get off at this stop as “there was no wine”. Not only did we miss out on learning more about the history of the Huguenots along with various relics and artifacts illustrating their life in the Cape, we also caused the people already at the museum to have to wait another 40 minutes for the next tram-bus. The tram and tram-bus operates on a hop-on hop-off basis, so if no-one hops off and it is full (which it was), then no-one can hop on.

Upon reflection, the Huguenots were responsible for turning the wilderness they were given by the Dutch authorities into the beautiful valley as we know it now, so it was a little rude not to make a turn here! I have made a vow to return to the Huguenot Museum another day to pay my respect to these remarkable families. Tel 021-876-2532, www.museum.co.za

Franschhoek Wine Tram, Franschhoek Wine Valley

Haute Cabrière has incredible views over the Franschhoek Valley.

Stop two: Haute Cabrière

There’s wine here so we disembarked! In addition to wine, Haute Cabrière has an incredible view of the Franschhoek Valley, so we basked in the sunshine and sipped on their Pinot Noir while taking in the various orange, green and brown hues that autumn in the vineyards brings. We were enjoying it so much that the next tram-bus came and went…

Wine tastings at this over-300-year-old wine estate start at R30 per person for 6 wines from their Classic Selection and you will be treated like a king, even if you aren’t quaffing their Exclusive Cap Classique range at R60 a person. If you fancy a bite to eat at this stop, the Haute Cabrière Cellar Restaurant boasts an exciting array of dishes that are available in full and half portions along with wine by the glass so you can indulge in a variety of taste sensations. Tel 021-876-8500. www.cabriere.co.za

Franschhoek Wine Tram, Franschhoek Wine Valley

Wine tasting is included at Dieu Donné.

Stop three: Dieu Donné Vineyards

Wine tasting at this stop is included in the ticket price, so it’s only natural that the first port of call is the tasting room. We were feeling peckish by this stage (croissants are delicious, but not terribly filling) so we bought a cheese platter for R70 along with some extra packets of biscuits for R3 each. Once again, the views over the vineyards were spectacular so we settled at a table on the green lawn outside the tasting room and nibbled on cheese and biscuits from a rather cute heart-shaped cheese board while enjoying a selection of their wines.

If you have a bigger appetite (and a bigger wallet), then have a meal at the renowned ROCA restaurant. I popped in to have a look-see and was most impressed with the design and loved the floor-to-ceiling windows that afford you a jaw-dropping view of the Franschhoek Valley. Tel 021-876-2493, www.dieudonnevineyards.com

Franschhoek Wine Tram, Franschhoek Wine Valley

The tasting room at Chamonix is quite enchanting.

Stop four: Chamonix

The tram-bus driver had cottoned onto us by the time we got to Dieu Donné and told us that if we missed the next departure we could simply take a five-minute amble to the next wine estate on the route. We opted for the walk (luckily it was all downhill) and while we were getting much-needed fresh air, we could enjoy the autumn trees and trickling stream. It was all very pretty, but the best part was yet to come. The Chamonix tasting room is housed in a gorgeous whitewashed blacksmith’s cottage that was built in the late 1700s and we instantly fell in love with it. It was all very cosy inside and within minutes we were tasting our way through their environmentally-friendly wines. We were also warned that the last tram-bus would be passing by fairly soon and if we didn’t catch it the walk into town would be a lot longer than five minutes!

Their award-winning French-style restaurant, Mon Plasir, is an option for lunch and is beautifully situated along a river. You’ll find dishes such as fois gras, Spanish tortilla with smoked salmon and prosciutto and duck confit on their menu. Tel 021-876-8400, www.chamonix.co.za

Franschhoek Wine Tram, Franschhoek Wine Valley

Grab a bite to eat at Paulina's at Rickety Bridge.

Stop five: Rickety Bridge

Thanks to using the two children in our group as tram-spotters, we didn’t miss the pick-up at Chamonix and after a merry little drive through the town we got off the tram-bus and boarded the tram, which has been modeled after the open-sided Brill Trams from 1890. I am not sure if it was the all the wine we had consumed, but we were like a bunch of excited kids! The tram took us through the vineyards on tracks that were built in 1904 as an alternative to ox-drawn carts for farmers wanting to get their produce to the market. The scenery was exquisite and much clicking of cameras ensued!

When we got to Rickety Bridge we were transferred to their vintage Ford open truck (with a canvas canopy) and taken to the boutique estate with its beautiful Cape Dutch style 18th century home. This was our “lunch” stop – even though it was now closer to dinner time – and we happily tucked into various half-portion options on their menu. I had a delicious Franschhoek salmon trout fishcake burger on a purple beetroot roll and it was just enough to silence my grumbling tummy. We were so busy feasting that we almost forgot that a wine tasting at the estate is also included in the ticket. Not being ones to let a good thing pass by, we dashed to the wine tasting room with 10 minutes to spare before the Ford truck was due to leave. Needless to say the tasting was a hurried affair with the wine tram adventure starting to turn into a grape-infused version of The Amazing Race! Tel 021-876-2129, www.ricketybridgewinery.com

Franschhoek Wine Tram, Franschhoek Wine Valley

Grand Provence Wine Estate swathed in autumn hues.

Stop six: Grande Provence Wine Estate

We arrived at this Heritage Wine Estate on a tractor-trailer and I swear they could hear us coming from the tram-to-tractor switch over point. A welcome drink is included in the ticket, which probably should be a cup of coffee! Coffee is available, but the welcome drink is a tasting of their Viognier Chenin Blanc 2012 and it went down very well! We didn’t have time to explore and had eaten at Rickety Bridge, but there is a restaurant here as well as a gallery and a sculpture garden. Duly noted for next time! Tel 021-876-8600, www.grandeprovence.co.za.

After 40 minutes it was time to leave our final stop and head back to the town centre. At one point the tram-bus struggled to get up the hill and it was suggested by a merry passenger that we all breathe into the fuel tank. Luckily we didn’t have to, but I have a sneaking feeling that it probably would’ve worked …

Franschhoek Wine Tram, Franschhoek Wine Valley

Take in Franschhoek in autumn from the wine tram.

About the Franschhoek Wine Tram

A day on the wine tram is probably the most fun I have had in ages. So much so that I am contemplating a re-run on my birthday.

For R150 you get to hop-on and hop-off at six highlights of the valley and there are wine tastings at Dieu Donné and Rickety Bridge thrown in as well as a welcome drink at Grande Provence. You can taste wines, buy wines and choose a place to eat within your price range. You get to learn about the history of Franschhoek and find out interesting facts like why roses are grown in vineyards and who supplies Woolworths with their flavoured water. It’s a fantastic, affordable and fun way to see the Franschhoek Valley.

Franschhoek Wine Tram contact details

Tel 021-300-0338, email [email protected], www.winetram.co.za.

Note:
The service will be undergoing annual maintenance from 26 May to 7 June 2013 and is unavailable during this time.

Franschhoek Wine Tram, Franschhoek Wine Valley

Picturesque Franschhoek from the wine tram.


 

Ed’s note

While the Franschhoek Wine Tram sounds like the perfect way to carve a vitreous path through one of South Africa’s most famed winelands, those wanting to see a little more of Franschhoek itself should check out Adel Groenewald’s list of 10 quirky things to do in Franschhoek. Franschhoek also tops the charts in our list of South Africa’s 45 best picnic spots and the Franschhoek Pass, which cuts through the surrounding mountains before winding down to the coast, has been voted by our readers as one of South Africa’s top 13 scenic drives. It’s a definitely a little town worth a visit and there’s a whole lot of reasonably priced accommodation in (and around) Franschhoek for those looking to stay longer than a day.






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