Franschhoek is full of gems but La Clé des Montagnes is one of the largest historic farms within a few minutes’ walk of the village, combining the best of peaceful country living with the charm of Franschhoek with its superb restaurants, galleries and boutiques. A stay at one of its cottages, Galerie, feels like coming home to family: it’s so relaxed and entirely up to you whether you want to be pampered with massages, have bbq’s prepared in the evenings or be left in peace to read or enjoy a cosy fireside glass of wine. On hot days, you’ll swim till late and then drift up the road to the village for a meal and saunter back when you’re ready – in fact, if you arrive by car, you’re bound not to use it for a while as practically everything’s within walking distance here. Families find that their team is fabulous with kids and Melanie Shepherd, the GM, is also an accomplished chef who effortlessly creates unfussy, delicious meals with quality local produce.
Of the four villas overlooking the plum orchards and vineyards, Galerie is the smallest of the four, but much-loved by guests who return year on year. They all have private swimming pools set in their own gardens with ever-changing mountain views, but Galerie certainly packs the biggest punch in terms of art and lives up to its name. It's literally a gallery of owner Michael Pawlowski’s favourite works, beginning with the entrance hallway which is lined on both sides with photography and paintings. Several Marc Stanes chromogenic prints of flowers are juxtaposed with more colourful works, including an early oil by Ayanda Mabulu – known for his often-controversial figurative paintings.
Dominating the living area is a striking bronze of a horse, but it’s the ‘Mythical Landscape’ oil on canvas by Peter van Straten over the royal purple Chesterfield sofa that draws the eye and soul, perhaps more hypnotic than ‘Scrubbing the Whale’, on the same wall. A coffee table piled with art books invites an evening of reading and good wine in front of the fire – everything from Dalí, Picasso and Lindström awaits. Bedrooms are also infused with colour: Beezy Bailey’s ‘Tropical Boat’ is the focus in one, and in the other you’ll find Zundi Stozana’s intriguing ‘In the Hole’.
Galerie’s diverse collection makes this cosy bolthole a favourite with locals during the spring when the plum orchards are awash with blossom or winter when Franschhoek is often blessed with crisp, sunny days and sometimes snowy peaks.