I’ve attended the Franschhoek Bastille Festival for several years now (here are the links to my review for last year and the year before), and was invited to attend again this year. I went on the Sunday because I knew the Saturday would be jam packed and I’m not a fan of having to squeeze past people to get everywhere. The tickets for Saturday were sold out several days in advance, while I heard from people with stands at the festival that Sunday was about half the number.
This year’s festival was great because it wasn’t all about the main marquee. For the first time, Franschhoek businesses took it upon themselves to create alternative pockets of activity in various spots around the town. In fact, I had friends who went to the festival even though they didn’t have tickets for the marquee and had a great time wandering around the town and enjoying what was on offer.
We did the same thing. Obviously the focus is the marquee where you will find most of the Franschhoek wine farms represented as well as an abundance of food offerings and live music (too loud). We spent about an hour in the marquee and tasted a few wines and grabbed a bite to eat. We enjoyed sitting at the tables outside in the glorious sunshine and chatting to a few people we knew.
Then we decided to take a walk up and down the main road of Franschhoek, and that’s when we really started to enjoy the festival. It’s such a quaint little town and just walking along the main road on a sunny afternoon is an enjoyable experience. We popped into galleries and wine shops, we bought some chocolate to nibble on. We stopped to listen to bands playing at the various pubs and restaurants, we tasted more wine and chatted to friends we bumped into.
Then we connected with some friends and went to dinner at an Italian restaurant, Allora. A great end to the day before driving back to Cape Town.
I suspect that Franschhoek tourism would prefer to keep the focus on the marquee, but I think that would be a mistake. The marquee can only hold a certain number of people, why limit the festival like that? Some people don’t like the tent at all but are looking for an excuse to visit Franschhoek. By distributing the action around the town, it’s better exposure for the shops and restaurants.
Everyone I have spoken to enjoyed walking around the town and not being stuck in the tent the whole time. This is definitely the better way of doing it for the visitors and the locals alike. What do you think? Please share your experience and opinion in the comments section below.