Today we can announce that we have accepted an offer for our Whale Cottage Franschhoek, in a drive to reduce the size of our guest house property portfolio.
Eleven years ago we bought the house of the late artist Errol Boyley, who with his wife Joyce used the house both as their home and as a studio for each of them to paint in. Mr Boyley loved music, so had a music room built with double glazing, so that he could play his saxophone and keyboard without disturbing the neighbours.
Franschhoek had never been on the map for the Whale Cottage Portfolio, after opening Whale Cottage in Hermanus 19 years ago and in Camps Bay 17 years ago. While we regularly drove to Plettenberg Bay to find a property for a guest house there, my son and I fell in love with Franschhoek, bought the Akademie Street property, and created a whale water-feature above the pool, to justify the Whale Cottage name!
The purchaser is eager to make some alterations to the property, and will take occupation shortly.
We have had good times in Franschhoek, and have made friends with some lovely people in the village, including suppliers, and owners of restaurants and wine estates. We were delighted that Reuben’s and much later Foliage restaurants opened so close to our guest house, of benefit to our guests who did not want to drive to restaurants for dinner.
But we soon saw the ‘political’ side of the village, and what resentment and rudeness was directed at ‘Uitlanders‘, coming from Cape Town or other parts of the country to open businesses. The old guard clearly felt threatened, and that they owned the village, and ‘protected’ it from any new thinking and input. I will never forget seeing Susan Huxter, owner of Le Quartier Français and Chairman of the Franschhoek Wine Valley (FWV) Tourism Bureau at the time, clutching about 30 proxies in her favour, for the vote of new Directors of the Board, controlling one-third of the vote! Needless to say, none of the new tourism players made it onto the Board!
Over time an increasing number of international players bought into Franschhoek, buying wine estates in particular, alongside Sir Richard Branson who bought Mont Rochelle, and Analjit Singh from the Leeu Collection, who has already bought Rusthof, as well as Von Ortloff, Dieu Donné, and Dassenberg, to create Leeu House and Leeu Estates, respectively.
The power and presence in Franschhoek of the old guard, under the ‘leadership’ of Huxter, has reduced dramatically, to the relief of most tourism players in the village! Even as Chairman of the FWV Board, Huxter would not ‘lower’ herself to get to know or greet small B&B owners in Franschhoek, being her members, even going as far as banning Franschhoekers she did not like from her establishment! Huxter would tell journalists in interviews that she was the ‘unofficial mayor‘ of Franschhoek, but no such position has ever been held by anyone, the Mayor of Stellenbosch officiating in Franschhoek, when required. She took the role of marketing Franschhoek upon herself in early days, and always featured The Tasting Room in the publicity for Franschhoek, but this no longer happens as FWV has its own marketing staff! Huxter no longer chairs the Board, but still is a Board member (surprisingly alongside a number of Board members who have sold their businesses or resigned their jobs!)
Whale Cottage Franschhoek joins a number of other guest houses which have changed hands in Franschhoek recently, including Akademie Street Guest Houses, a few houses along our street, which has been sold by Arthur McWilliam-Smith, as has Ashbourne House, Rusthof on the main road, and Auberge Bligny. It would appear that more properties are likely to change hands in this sought-after village.