Review: Franschoek Wine Tram
Over the hills and far away, there’s a magical tram that shunts and weaves through mountains and vineyards, carrying all its passengers to a happy end-destination of free and fabulous wine… Now folks, this is no fairytale, folklore or myth, there is actually an amazing thing called the “Franschoek Wine Tram” that takes travellers through the glorious valley of Franschoek stopping at its famed and age-old wine farms.
Just a bit of fun facts: Franschoek actually has some of the most interesting stories as to its development around. In the 1600s in France, Catholics religiously persecuted the Protestants. The protestants fled to the Netherlands. The Dutch didn’t like hanging out with the French and shipped thousands of French refugees in cargo ships to their colony in South Africa. The colony didn’t want to hold hands and hug the poor Frenchies and decided to ‘give’ them land. This land they of course believed to be a dump and it was mountainous, untamed, dry and elephants roamed in hordes. The French, being sick and tired of all the pushiness around packed their bags and left for the wild. The 9 Huguenot families who ended up staying, saw the land and laughed. It was wine country. Silly Dutch. Today the area is one of the most beautiful, delivering some of the best wine around. So let this be a lesson: before giving land away as a dump, ask the French first what’s really going on.
Okay, so I used a sneaky tactic, the tram actually features very little on the tour, you only use the tram for two stops. To most of your destinations, an open-air bus transports you, think about it, your going into the mountains, trams don’t quite do 4X4 (probably why the Dutch didn’t like the area…) Regardless, it is all still a ball.
On the tour you’ll visit some of Franschoek’s most beautiful and renowned wine farms.
Purchasing a ticket in the quaint town of Franschoek, there are two routes to choose from (the red and blue line). Now it doesn’t really matter which line you choose, as the only difference is that you’ll visit different farms. This will of course only bother snobs who feel really strongly about the fine details. For the rest of us wine lovers, you will stop for an hour at 7 renowned wine farms, whereof three of those stops you receive a free tasting of at least three wines. At all the stops cheese platters, meat platters, bread platters and pairings are offered.
Along the way, the cheese platters offered are nothing short of extraordinary, be sure to that little extra for the experience.
Before you jump on the journey take notice: It’s a long day. I started my tour at 10AM, I was done way after 5PM. The tours start from 10AM, if you take one too late you might only end up going to two farms, and still pay the same price as the seasoned travellers. Don’t think you can rush this one. On that note, at some farms you get up to 5 tastings with generous servings. You don’t have to drink everything, pace yourself. While we are on that topic: thou shalt eat cheese and bread. Most of these farms boast with a five-star kitchen, for example ‘Mont Rochelle’ which just so happens to be Sir Richard Branson’s private wine farm. Make a day out of it, and fork out that extra money, trust me its worth it.
About the tour itself: be prepared to be whisked off to something quite magical. Franschoek is arguably the most pristine and jaw-dropping area in South Africa. Whether you travel by tram or open-air bus you take back roads through the luscious hills and baking vineyards constantly surrounded by gorgeous mountains. At some wine-farms you sit on a cool verandah looking over the valley, and at others you lie on the grass underneath century-old oak trees. Go with friends, lovers or the family (kids go crazy for the tram), the tour attracts a bit of everything. Don’t worry anti-socialites, even though you generally travel with the same group, you don’t ever actually need to interact with them, or heaven forbid talk to them. Or do it, it’s your choice, I don’t judge.
All I’m saying is that I have been in and around Franschoek so many times that I’ve forgotten what an amazing place it is, and after the tour my eyes burned out of my skull I was so starstruck at the sheer beauty of the area.
Average price: Tickets cost R200, cheese platters are about R100 and any other tasting (which is not complimentary) will be between R10-R30.
Atmosphere: Romantic, fun, exciting, relaxing.
They’re two, they’re four, they’re six, they’re eight,
shunting trucks and hauling freight.
Red and green and brown and blue,
they’re the Really Useful Crew.
-Thomas the Tank Engine theme song