Are you a student looking for something fun and beautiful to do this weekend? Robyn gives her account on the Franschhoek Wine Tram experience and why you should try it.
I am by no means an expert in wine. I often like to think I am one as I swirl the wine in my glass, take a sniff and then take a small sip while slurping it. I feel badass and hope the people around me are looking at me in awe (that was a bit exaggerated, but you get what I mean). Imagine the excitement I felt when I was given tickets to take a ride on the Franschhoek Wine Tram. Any wine lovers dream come true.
Franschhoek has a pretty diverse history. As a part of it, the first settlers saw the need to build train tracks to get supplies to and from Franschhoek. After many years, the train tracks became redundant and it was never used again. In 2012 the creators of the Franschhoek Wine Tram noticed that many of the wine estates were not being visited due to people not knowing about it or their location. Hence the Franschhoek Wine Tram was started. A hop-on, hop-off miniature train which takes you from wine estate to wine estate. The tram allows you to discover new farms and gives you the opportunity to do wine tastings without the responsibility of driving.
Say Hello to the Franschhoek Wine Tram
D-Day arrives with grey skies and chilly temperatures. With layers of clothes piled on, I rush to fetch a fellow lover of wine – Chris. True to my greatest strength (haha), I completely misjudge the amount of time I have to get there. With my self-proclaimed NASCAR abilities, I zig-zag my way through traffic to make it to the Wine Tram ticket office in Franschhoek just in time to make our slot, while Chris sits white-knuckled gripping the edge of his seat.
Make sure you leave with enough time to get there, find parking and walk to the ticket office in the centre of town. Franschhoek is bustling on Saturday mornings and you may struggle to find parking.
We arrive JUST in time. I am rather surprised to see how busy the quaint, bottle green Wine Tram office is on this chilly morning. It’s located in the Franschhoek Square in the centre of town and is hard to miss. I grab our tickets and we rush off to meet the bus waiting just for us. Eek, clearly we aren’t setting a great first impression for our fellow Wine Tram companions.
I’m delighted as we near the Wine Tram station on the outskirts of town. A small wooden structure gives shelter to the bottle green tram. The platform is paved with bricks and surrounded by plants giving it a picturesque look. Our conductor is waiting for us with a huge smile on his face. We all hop off the bus, return his smile and find seats on the much anticipated tram. It’s all very quaint and something I can imagine in a movie based in the 1800’s.
Chris takes the camera out and starts snapping pictures of our surroundings while I gaze in wonder. Tourists from different countries and cultures are on the tour yet they all have one thing in common – selfies. Everyone is snapping pictures in true selfienation spirit as the tram rumbles to life.
And We’re Off!
When the Franschhoek Wine Tram company elaborates on the beautiful scenery, they’re not exaggerating. As the tram takes us to our first wine estate, we become completely captivated by the views. Selfies are put on hold and silence ensues as everyone takes in the crisp beauty of the valley right in front of us. Mother Nature wins again.
We arrive at our first wine farm, Rickety Bridge. On the yellow route tour, we have 5 stops with an hour to spend at each. There is a list of about 8 farms that you can choose from. Some have complimentary or discounted tastings while others do not.
As all of the farms on the tour are, it’s simply beautiful. The orange and yellow vineyards are spectacular. A driver meets us at the tram station on the wine estate. He’s extremely chipper.
The organisation and timing of the Franschhoek Wine Tram was exceptional. The trams and bus drivers were always on time, extremely friendly and we always knew what was happening and didn’t feel lost or confused once.
A Day Well Spent
We hopped from one wine estate to the next over the few hours. Many pictures are snapped, wine is consumed whole-heartedly and laughs are abundant. Don’t worry, they give you just the right amount of wine during each wine tasting so you won’t get out of control and you’ll definitely remember the experience.
Take note: We decided to skip the last wine estate as I made the mistake of not heeding the Franschhoek Wine Tram website’s advice. I made the rookie mistake of not making a reservation for lunch. I didn’t even research potential lunch spots. So by 4pm, we were starving.
The driver obligingly dropped us off by the ticket office. We walked back towards the car with post-adventure blues. There really aren’t enough hours in a day, especially on weekends.
Tips from Our Tram Experience
Thankfully for you, I learnt many lessons on this excursion. Next time I visit the Franschhoek Wine Tram, and there certainly will be a next time, I will be heed my own advice.
- Take a blanket.
In winter, it’s breezy on the tram, not in a deterrent way.[/su_service]
- Be strategic with your bathroom breaks.
I made the mistake of thinking: “I’ll just go at the next wine estate.” Do not, and I repeat, DO NOT make this mistake. Go as soon as the need arises. The tram and bus rides are bumpy (anticipate bumpy hops off your seat). This does not bode well with a full bladder. Trust me.[/su_service]
- Don’t drink too much.
You actually want to remember the experience and be publicly acceptable.[/su_service]
- Get an early night before your trip.
I made this mistake, I only managed to go to bed at 4am due to a Game of Thrones marathon (fellow GoT addicts, you’ll get me here). It’s a long day, in a good way.
- Spend the evening relaxing.
You might want to have a chilled night afterwards too. I went to a friend’s birthday after a full day out and I ended up leaving early to pursue my bed.
- Take cash with you.
It’s quicker and easier when you only have to pay R10 for a tasting. (Oh and remember to tip!)
- Take snacks with you!
You aren’t allowed to eat on the tram but you could steal a bite or two while waiting at a bus stop. It saves money as well, especially important to a student. As Chris said: “All that sipping works up quite an appetite!”
- Allocate your time well.
Rushing isn’t advised and it certainly isn’t too safe – no matter how good you think your self-proclaimed NASCAR skills are.[/su_service]
- Be aware of children on the tram.
Most parents don’t appreciate foul language or rowdy behaviour in front of their precious kiddies.
Despite my rookie mistakes and poor timing, the day was a keeper. Chris, has this to say about the Wine Tram (we’re pretty on par with our opinions):
“Overall the trip was a good experience. The wines are pretty good and the venues are awesome. I think what made the trip memorable is the way everything is structured. From the trams to the buses, they’ve got a really good vibe going and the timeliness of it all really helps keep things in place as far as destination stops go. All the gents that worked with the various modes of transport were also really friendly and helpful, which made it a very relaxing experience.”
Now I know people often exaggerate these events and adventures. I happen to value the truth. And I like pretty, cute things. The tram made my heart extremely happy. So did the whole experience. I’m feeling rather nostalgic now.
Till the next time, fellow wine lovers.
Instead of giving material gifts, many people have started giving experiences as a gift. The Franschhoek Wine Tram would be the perfect gift for someone who loves wine and being out in nature. It may seem a bit expensive, but the fact that you don’t need to drive yourself from tasting to tasting and you get to experience 5 farms you may never have discovered otherwise, is well worth it. It’s a great way to celebrate the end of the semester.
Book Your Adventure Now!
For more information contact them on:
Tel: 021 300 0338
Or visit their website to view the different tours 🙂