Franschhoek Bastille Festival 2011



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.


5 responses to “Franschhoek Bastille Festival 2011”

  1. Guy Kedian

    I agree completely. Having just the tent makes it the same as any other festival and doesn’t showcase the many attractions franschhoek has to offer. Also, the tent is so busy that visitors can’t really interact with the locals in a maeningful way. Spot-on as usual, Dax.

  2. emilee

    Hi Dax, I totally agree! We spent the weekend in Franschhoek, arrived on Fri night and left Sunday afternoon. Saturday we spent most of the afternoon in the marquee, we had a lot of fun but it was very crowded. On sat morning we spent the morning walking around the town and we did the same thing on Sunday afternoon, it was fantastic, such a vibe and so enjoyable. I think they should ditch the marquee completely and just have stalls and areas set up along the main road, and they should maybe close part of the main road to traffic. that would be really fantastic. sitting squashed between loads of other people in a packed marquee area, with over zealous security guards could definitely be improved upon. franschhoek is such a pretty town, why sit facing a big plastic white tent?

  3. This year was certainly different! I got to enjoy the tent and the surrounding restaurants and parties on offer! It’s such a great event each year and I always end up seeing so many old friends! We got a group of 10 and organised a small bus through. It was the best decision as no one had to limit the wonderful wine intake whilst still being responsible!

  4. I must admit, I didn’t really make it past the main marquee… mainly because I had to much wine! haha. But I will definitely do a bit more exploring next year. We went on the Sat and that marquee was extremely packed. I also thought they could do with more food options – like there was only one cheese stand, why? I love cheese & most other people do as well. I was also hoping to taste yummy olive oils and pestos and such. We were lucky enough to get a table outside the marquee, which was pretty cool. But if we hadn’t been that lucky, I think it would have been a different story. Had an amazing time there though – I love that town.

  5. Have to keep in mind that although the weather was fantastic this year, it is the middle of winter and usually cold and wet.
    Festivals like this is planned well ahead and the organisers have to keep the weather in mind.
    But I have to agree, the tent is overcrowded, too hot and too loud. Much more fun outside.
    Your suspicion about the Franschhoek tourism is pretty much on the money,I’d say.