Franschhoek Bastille Festival review

This was the first year that the Bastille Festival did not clash with the Knysna Oyster Festival which is great for those that enjoy both events (like I do). I’m not sure how this affected the attendance, but I believe it was the busiest festival so far.

We decided to make a weekend of it, rather than just go up for the day. We spent the morning at Haut Espoir estate where Rob took us on a pleasant fynbos walk. He pointed out various fynbos species and explained a bit about them. It was interesting to hear the medicinal/healing properties of some of the plants. Some fynbos is really quite beautiful and on a sunny, clear day with the mountains as a backdrop everything looks even better.

It really was the most incredible weather the whole weekend. It was hard to believe we are still in winter. We then moved from the sunny outdoors to the barrel cellar where we tasted several wines direct from the barrel. This is always an interesting exercise, tasing wines at various stages of development and also comparing the impact of different types of wood on the wines. We were also treated to a taste of the as yet unnamed white version of the Gentle Giant. It’s looking very promising.

After wine tasting we went back into town to join the festivities at the festival tent. Franschhoek was crowded and the tent was packed. I don’t know why they run the festival from midday to 5pm. It’s a really short time and people have to queue for ages to get in. If people are going to drive that far, they should have more time to enjoy the festival. I would have it from at latest 11am and close it earliest at 6pm.

There was a good vibe in the tent with live music and a friendly crowd. There were quite a few food options ranging from the more interesting (pea and salmon risotto) to the basic (burger). Apart from tasting (you get 5 tasting coupons and a glass with your R100 entry ticket), you could buy a bottle of wine or champagne to enjoy at your leisure. Quite a few people went with that option as it’s quite tiring fighting your way through crowds to get a taste of wine.

The queues for the toilets were ridiculous, totally inappropriate for an event that size which revolves around drinking. When we left the tent just after 5pm there were blokes up and down the back street relieving themselves against walls. Not great for the residents I’m sure.

I had a good time in the tent, chatting to people I knew and tasting some wine. But I certainly wouldn’t drive up just for those few hours and pay to get in as well. As part of a whole weekend in Franschhoek, a great addition. On it’s own, not the best value in terms of time and money.

After the festival we went back to our accommodation, the Villas at Le Franshhoek. After freshening up we went for dinner at Mon Plaisir, the French restaurant on Chamonix. The meal was excellent.

In the morning we had breakfast around the corner at Cafe Bon Bon on Le Petit Dauphine. It was another stunning day and we sat outside in the beautiful gardens, enjoying the sounds of the live pianist. They were unfortunately having power problems but managed to provide us with a good cooked breakfast. I think it was a bit busier than normal too as they ran out of croissants and our waitress was quite apparently stressed. It was too beautiful a setting to get annoyed about the little things so we enjoyed the breakfast.

After breakfast we took a walk through the busy main street of Franshhoek, popping into galleries and shops of interest. By then it was early afternoon and time for us to head back to Cape Town.

We had a really stunning time in Franschhoek. It is truly a little paradise, and even more so when the weather is perfect like it was. I would recommend planning to do more than just the festival to make your visit worthwhile. Visit some winefarms on the way and stay after for an early dinner but do book your restaurant as they are all full.

Photo Credit: Grant Johnson of Silverfox Photography


  1. Candy July 22, 2010 at 9:12 am

    Nice review Dax, thanks. We also went up for the weekend and fortunately bought our tickets online so the web tickets queue wasnt too bad. I did feel sympathy for the folk queuing to buy tickets though, in that heat! For what it’s worth, my two cents re: the event: why, for a french inspired and themed event, did they have a rock band playing loud 70’s pub style music in the tent? Surely some French cafe, accordion or loungey jazz would have been more appropriate? For me, it gave the tent a “varsity beerfest” feel. 🙁
    And then, why doesn’t Franschhoek Tourism offer a shuttle service for transport around town – from one end to the other, every hour or so, allowing visitors to enjoy and indulge with the option of a cab/shuttle home? This is also revenue generating. So many visitors would make use of it instead of driving. I suggested it last year at the Champagne Fest, so let’s hope they get it right this year. I’m looking forward to it !! 🙂

    1. Dax July 23, 2010 at 1:05 am

      Some very good points. I agree completely, where was the cheese? Also, the music was definitely not in theme and it does create a bit of a beer tent vibe.

      I also think the shuttle service is a great idea, even a park and ride service as well. So instead of having to drive into Franschhoek and get stuck in traffic and try find parking, you park before Franschhoek and catch a shuttle.

  2. Iknow this little place in Cape Town July 22, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    And where o where was the cheese???????????????????