I love Franschhoek. The small town makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a très chic corner of Paris, France – not like you just drove 82kms out of Cape Town. That, the sidewalk cafes and the little trinket shops give the place a relaxed ambience – a certain je ne se qua.
I have only ever been to Franschhoek on day-trips so when I spotted a Groupon special for a stay at the Klein Oliphants Hoek Boutique Hotel in the town, I nearly tripped over my feet to get out my credit card. Before I punched in the secret digits though, I took a look at Tripadvisor to see what the place was really like. I found that most of the reviews were very positive but there were three people who rated it as ‘terrible‘. I figured most people couldn’t be wrong so I went ahead and made the booking.
Six months later the time for our holiday had finally arrived. We left straight after work on a Friday afternoon and found we hit some major traffic heading out of Cape Town. The drive was easy despite it being windy and wet and we got into town in an hour. Furthermore, with Franschhoek being as small as it is, it was easy to find the hotel – in fact, it was a very short walk from the main road.
My first impression of the Klein Oliphants Hoek Boutique Hotel was that the place did not seem that great – it looked like a pretty normal house from the main entrance. I was also not that impressed with the off-street parking but I suppose that Franschhoek’s kitchyness is complemented by the fact it appears quite safe, so such Woodstock-y matters aren’t too much of a bother. I was pleased to see that the interior of the hotel was very cosy. There was a nice fire going, just perfect given the dreary weather.
We were given the Courtyard Room which was pretty standard. I didn’t like the fact that there was no bar fridge. However, to be fair – it was spacious, nicely decorated, had heated floors and led out into the small garden.
The bathroom had a shower and a bath which I couldn’t wait to try out. Again I was left unimpressed! The damn shower wouldn’t drain and it felt like you were taking a bath in a pothole!
Funny enough, one of the ‘terrible‘ reviews on Tripadvisor also complained about blocked drains!
The breakfast area is really, really pretty – it has a lovely view of the large garden that leads out to the restaurant called Reubens. To my surprise, we were told that as part of the Groupon special, we were only allowed to eat the ‘The Continental Breakfast’ and by “continental,” they meant cold. We could pay extra if we wanted the ‘hot breakfast’ (with eggs) but I refused to be fleeced out of any more money and opted for the cold breakfast. I ended up having a piece of plain toast and that served as a lesson well learned: always read the fine-print on Groupon specials.
Out and about
On our first night we took a drive around town to see if we could find some budget-friendly food. We figured we had all weekend to go to the fancy places and a KFC Twista would have done fine for that night. Of course, there is no KFC or fast food outlet in Franschhoek as that would ruin the hip vibe. In fact, the petrol attendant laughed at us for even asking, telling us “daars net fancy plekke om hier te eet” (“there are only fancy places to eat here“). The moral: be prepared to only eat at fancy places if you go to Franschhoek.
During the day we strolled through the main street in Franschhoek and stopped in at every shop. Interspersed with many, many coffee breaks (Editor: because Franschoek coffee is awesome coffee), that can take quite a few hours interspersed. There’s also, well usually, a Saturday market. Unfortunately, it was cancelled that week due to the bad weather.
My favourite part of the trip was the Chocolate Workshop. With the Groupon special, we got a 50% discount at African Chocolate Dreams and paid R150 per person to attend. The booking was made through the hotel so it was easy and convenient.
I still smile widely just thinking about all that chocolate! I am a lover of dark chocolate and in the workshop we got to taste every type of chocolate imaginable! We also learnt about the discovery of cocoa, how it is made today and how it was made back in the dark ages. It was all informative and interesting but learning is no substitute for chocolate and the best part was just eating as much chocolate as we could.
So. Freaking. Delicious.
I felt a bit ill after the workshop. I guess it is true what they say, too much of a good thing and all that!
But do yourself a favour and check out the workshop at African Chocolate Dreams.– Rif
PRO’s : Central, nice pool, heated floors
CONS: Feels like you are in someone’s house, issues with the shower (in the Courtyard Room – may already be resolved), no bar fridge
When spotting a Groupon deal, phone the hotel before you buy the voucher so that you can find out if the dates you want are available. Also, ALWAYS read the fine print!
If you want something more luxurious in the same area, check out our post on the Sante Hotel Resort and Spa.Need to know: African Chocolate Dreams Shop no:2 Huguenot square, 7690 Franschhoek, Western Cape Tel : +27 82 898 5070 firstname.lastname@example.org