The Franschhoek Bastille Festival is a highlight on the Western Cape social calendar. Each year the town and valley are dressed up in the colours of the drapeau français and play host to everyone who enjoys good food and wine. The festivities take place around the 14th of July, Bastille Day, and is a celebration of the valley’s French heritage. But in a year when nothing is normal, the Bastille Festival also had to adapt and while there will be no big festival marquee this year, the valley has reopened for business while a virtual version of the festival opens up this popular celebration to a wider audience than before.
Last week’s blog focused on two typical post-lockdown personalities. The more adventurous You Only Live Once group and the more cautious Life Is Fragile group. Despite all the Covid-induced challenges for tourism and for the wine industry, I am delighted about the Franschhoek Valley’s innovation and the way they incorporate both these groups with the new festival format.
There are two important players in the hospitality game – the host and the guest. While the focus on Franschhoek’s offerings are very much focused on the guests, it is also the locals who miss the interaction. There is the financial element to tourism being slow, but it is more than that. Wine is a social product and tourism is a people-orientated industry. Our chefs cook for families who come to our restaurants, our winemakers want friends to enjoy a glass of wine together, the daily job of most of my team is to make people happy. Covid-19 has taken that from most of them for a long while now and I can see how excited the teams at La Motte and Leopard’s Leap are to be welcoming guests again. There is a new energy – both from the teams on the estate to those manning the digital platforms.
Restaurants and shops are reopening and while we can’t sell or serve wine over weekends and have limitations on numbers, Franschhoek Tourism decided to involve both guests and hosts in a new way. “A first-of-its-kind for Franschhoek, the organisers have called on the support of its members to showcase the valley through the lens of locals.” This virtual journey through Franschhoek started via social media on 1 July introducing some of the uniqueness of the valley – from foraging for mushrooms, horse riding amongst the vineyards, a sunrise sabrage, cooking classes and special offers on local wines, to name but a few.
Those in the mood for a drive out, are invited to coffee and croissant for breakfast, delightful confectionery and French breads from delis across the valley, French-inspired menus for lunch in the local restaurants and to enjoy the fresh air and beautiful scenery of Franschhoek. Those who would rather celebrate from home, can order a French menu for delivery or collection, try one of the many French recipes shared online and open their favourite bottle of Franschhoek wine. Virtual celebrations go further than the sharing of French recipes and wine specials, though, on Saturday, the 11th that would’ve been the actual festival, you can join the programme of activities via social media.
Covid-19 has brought us many challenges. We are forced to do things in a different way. Some of these ways (like wearing a mask, I hope) will not be with us forever, but some of the new ways are here to stay. I guess not many of us will sit in traffic to join a 30 minute meeting anymore, we now know all about virtual meetings. Of course we want and need to socialise in person and perhaps it is not about choosing one or the other, perhaps like this year’s Franschhoek Bastille Festival, you can have the best of both.
I invite you to join in the French festivities – whether it is in the beautiful Franschhoek Valley or from the comfort of home. Follow #FhkBastilleFest on social media platforms and raise your glass to being innovative in tough times.
à votre santé!