This is part of a series of travel stories from the launch of Influence Tours, a tour operator that organizes upmarket tours for small groups where all profits will go to charity and development in South Africa. Influence Tours only work with partners that share their vision of using tourism as a vehicle to make South Africa a better place. (read part one, two and three). I feel very privileged to be their Product Manager; responsible for developing all itineraries.
On day four, we set our sights on the Cape Winelands. First stop: Franschhoek. This is where the almost 200 French Huguenots (escaping religious persecution in France by fleeing to Holland, who promptly offered them a new home in the Cape Colony that was desperate for more settlers) were granted land in the late 1600’s. The name means “French corner” in Afrikaans. Wine farms like La Motte, La Cotte, Cabriere, Provence, Chamonix, Dieu Donne and La Dauphine still keep the memory of the ancestors of Franschhoek alive.
Franschhoek has long been called the “Culinary Capital” of South Africa, and although other parts are catching up quickly there is still a very high concentration of fine dining restaurants here. One of the best-known is probably The Tasting Room at gorgeous Le Quartier Francais hotel, where Chef Margot Janse creates innovative dishes based on locally sourced produce.But Chef Janse is much more than one of South Africa’s best chefs; she is also an incredibly driven woman that works hard to improve the situation of children in the Franschhoek area. Through the Isabelo feeding scheme and the Kusasa Breakfast Club, she helps to feed close to 1,500 kids every school day.
One of many positive things that tourism can help contribute towards is conservation of local heritage. We got to experience, and taste, this at the Fyndraai Restaurant at Solms Delta Wine Estate.
Fyndraai’s standard menu is a fusion of three culinary traditions of the Cape: the Veldkos of the indigenous Khoe and San who inhabited this region thousands of years ago; Cape ‘Malay’ cuisine (foods created by slaves of Indian, Indonesian and East African origin) and Boerekos (the cuisine that European settlers developed in the Cape).
This Heritage Menu does not fuse and re-invent these traditions, but rather allows you to experience them just as they would have been prepared in the past. In each of the three courses, you are given a taste of authentic Boerekos, Cape Malay and Veldkos dishes.
Later in the afternoon, we checked in to stylish and sophisticated Spier Wine Estate and Hotel. I love the contemporary art around the sprawling estate (one of the biggest private collections in South Africa), much of which comes from local artists supported through the Spier Art Academy. We visited the organic farm, where free range cattle and chickens are reared and organic vegetables and herbs grown. Once again, we sat down to dinner that evening knowing exactly where our food had come from, and how much love had gone into producing it!
Eight is a farm-to-table eating experience. The produce used at Eight is either grown on the farm or sourced from nearby farmers. Natural and organic ingredients are preferred, creatively combined to create nourishing, healthy, and delicious food. Like its name, the restaurant is an expression of balance, cycles, harmony, infinity and abundance.
Our Influence Tours launch tour was drawing to an end that night. During four intense days we had experienced the best South Africa has to offer, but also seen the difficult situation that many people live in here. But most importantly, our guests had learned how tourism can help uplift and empower people. It may sound like a cliche, but your holiday can quite literally change peoples’ lives for the better if you make a few conscious choices. Imagine if we all decided to Travel With Impact!