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Issue 5
Africa Travel> Issue 5
UPDATED: July 30, 2014
A Grande Experience
In the heart of South Africa's wine country you can step back in time into 18th century splendor
By Jo Kromberg

Dining in style at Grand Provence

A drive through the breath-taking beauty of Franschoek near Cape Town must surely rate as one of life's great pleasures. And this is where we find ourselves on a beautiful, bright winter's afternoon in the Western Cape, on the way to the splendid Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate.

Grande Provence is something to behold. Her lush vines spread across 30 hectares with gentle vistas over the valley floor, at odds almost with the rugged mountains beyond. This is the heartland South African wine country.

In terms of the design, the honest simplicity of its Cape Dutch architecture, in harmony with the precision and clarity of modern design, brings a new pièce de résistance to the Franschoek valley.

Framing the entry road are rows of vineyards. The centrepiece governing the setting is the 18th Century Manor House, while The Owner's Cottage welcomes guests to boutique accommodation. We feel like we have landed in the middle of a French country movie set from the 1800's. Five sumptuous rooms provide a quiet and intimate repose and the tranquil lake close by shimmers silvery in the afternoon sun. The Owner's Cottage at Grande Provence is an eclectic mix of old and new; Spartan and luxury; rustic and urban. Comprising the beautifully appointed cottage are four rooms - a deluxe suite, conservatory, lounge, swimming and spa pool area.

"Even though the rooms are homely, they also house discreet technology," says Virginia Fisher, New Zealand-based interior designer of this beautiful abode.

Lush lawns edged with dark green hedges contrast with creamy travertine tiles and inset pebbles, while white walls delineate the deck chairs and lounging areas, juxtaposing the cool and crisp swimming pool. The spa pool punctuates the landscape with a stunning, elevated view of the surrounds. Harmony permeates every angle.

While the 18th Century Manor House and The Owner's Cottage reflect their Huguenot heritage, The Restaurant and wine-tasting area of Grande Provence project a chic industrial presence.

Steel joinery, galvanised metals and skylights distinguish this design approach. "In essence, Grande Provence is an estate of senses, providing guests with a full working farm experience, with spaces to be used and spaces to be admired, and these expanses of space allow us to do that. The two design styles are harmonised by a complementary palette, but time separates them," explains Me Fisher and she has taken the words right out of my mouth.

Grand Provence has all the ambience of 18th century Western

High-backed chairs upholstered in white leather draw the eye to the centre of the deep blue-grey Restaurant, while deep, slotted windows frame the picturesque view from the interior. The menus exude culinary excellence, with the signature dishes of The Restaurant hitting all the right notes – honest, fresh and delicious. Prepared from local fare and flavoured with global influences both modern and classical, the cuisine is characterised by a philosophy of innovation through passion and simplicity.

Leading off The Restaurant is the welcoming wine-tasting area. The bar dominates the centre of the room - striking in galvanised steel with black strapping.

We had a wonderful time at Grande Provence but the price tag is not for the faint-hearted. And if you consider that lunch is not included in the rate, well, with the current South African Rand exchange rate, foreign currency would be seriously advised…

The Cape Dutch architecture of Grand Provence

Fact file:

* Grande Provence is a working wine estate comprising of The Owner's Cottage (5-star), The Restaurant, The Winery, The Gallery (where art exhibitions are also held regularly) and The Jonkershuis.

* 5-star graded, The Owner's Cottage provides luxurious and exclusive en-suite accommodation for a maximum of ten guests within a setting of historical Cape Dutch buildings.

* The Conservatory at The Owner's Cottage is ideal for entertaining a private group of friends or for an intimate board meeting.

* The manicured gardens boast a private swimming pool and secluded Jacuzzi overlooking the vineyards.

* A beautifully appointed loggia and entertainment area adjacent to the pool is perfect for alfresco dining, with a state-of-the-art stainless steel portable barbeque.

* Children of all ages are welcome at Grande Provence however parental supervision is required at all times and responsibility for their safety and well-being is that of the parents. Children up to 12 years of age are welcome to share a room with their parents at no charge. Children over 12 years of age are charged the normal rate for a room.

* Breakfast and dinner can be served in The Owner's Cottage by the chef; alternatively guests can dine in The Restaurant or the Angel's Tears Garden.

* The Owner's Cottage is fully air-conditioned and boasts under floor heating.

* The surround-sound stereo system is individually controlled in each room and a comprehensive CD library enables guests to create an atmosphere of their choice.

* A wide selection of DVDs is on hand for your personal TV in your room that includes a selection of satellite channels.

* Grande Provence boasts a helicopter pad for those guests who prefer to use the fly-in option.

* Activities can be organised via the manager or an industry expert will tailor make your activity plans in the comfort of The Owner's Cottage.

Go to http://www.grandeprovence.co.za/ for more information, rates and reservations.

Getting there: There are no direct flights between any cities and China and Cape Town. Cathay Pacific has daily flights between Hong Kong and Johannesburg. Flight duration is 12.5 hours and the planes used are Boeing 777-300ER and Boeing 747-400s. Go to http://www.cathaypacific.com/ for schedules and bookings.

South African Airways operates the Johannesburg-Beijing/Beijing - Johannesburg route non-stop three times a week using its Airbus A340-600 long-haul aircraft. Flights between Johannesburg and Beijing take on average 15 hours, and flyers will be able to make use of the Air China Lounges in Beijing. Bookings through travel agencies and www.flyssa.com. Once in Johannesburg there are a couple of low-cost airlines between Johannesburg and Cape Town, operating throughout the day. Once in Cape Tow, Franschhoek is about an hour's drive so renting a car is the most convenient and cost-effective.

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