After six weeks in South Africa, I had mistakenly thought that I had the diversity of the country figured out. There are the Afrikkans, the English, the Xhosa, the various other native South African ethnic groups dispersed throughout the country. This multicultural entity lives and breathes the rainbow nation, despite inefficiencies of the system. However, I had not accounted for one group that evidentially has a long history in the Western Cape: the French of Franschhoke.
Franschhoke, otherwise known as the French corner, was a colony created by French Protestants escaping persecution from the Catholics in the late 1600s. These French citizens traveled to the end of the world, and wound up in beautiful wine country. That being said, when Bastille day rolled around, Franschhoke pulled out their blue, red and white flags to celebrate their distant French heritage with a French wine festival.
I drove the hour to the festival with Luke, my roommate Sahar, and my two new favorite MSU alumni that I had met at the alumni event. Franschhoke is in a valley, surrounded by mountains, and the drive took us past numerous wine estates, many of which we have tried wines from. A few of the estates even had French flags draped over their signs and Bastille Day specials. The town of Franschhoke is small and quaint (Williamston??!). Throngs of well-dressed people wearing scarves, mustaches and berets walked the road to the main tent. After stopping to buy a beret for camouflage, we cut the line to get into the wine tasting tent.
There was an overwhelming amount of people in the tent, but with five free samples the possibilities were endless. Tents of local wineries and small food stands lined the walls, as we tasted some of the most incredible wine in the region. Finding a table right by the stage playing live music, we shared seats with a colored family. Needless to say, by the time we slid into the booth, they were all inebriated. These new middle aged friends took us under their wings, bought us wine, and told us stories of South Africa.
When it was time to leave our wine, food, and new friends, we headed back to Stellenbosch to our new MSU alumni friend’s home. I have been so lucky in the last year of my life to travel as extensively as I have. I do not get homesick, because I know that at the end of my adventure, my family, friends, bed, and a fully stocked fridge. But, living out of a suitcase and the promise of a plane ticket home is exhausting, and has made me appreciate feeling at home. My apartment is comfortable but it is not home. It was so nice to return to a real home for the night, where I could put on some sweatpants, and watch criminal minds with my new friends until I drifted off to sleep in a huge, comfortable bed. The morning light broke through the blinds and I was greeted with a breakfast that put every breakfast I’ve had to shame, made that much better enjoyed after a real shower (our shower has been broken since the day that I arrived) and good MSU conversation.
Sunday was again a day to feast. Returning from Stellenbosch just long enough to grab my bag we took a taxi to our new favorite Sunday hangout, Mzolis. Bringing even more MSU students this time around, we enjoyed our braaied steaks like a local, and passed the entire afternoon eating, dancing, and talking in the township butchery.