WE pulled up, somewhat sheepishly, in our rattling Toyota hire car.
Within seconds, it had been whisked away and we were handed a glass of perfectly chilled rosé.
“Welcome to La Residence!” beamed our chirpy and cheerful host Abre.
From the outside, the spectacular hideaway in the heart of the South African winelands is reminiscent of a Provencal home, but as Abre led us into the magnificent Great Hall, it looked more like the inside of an English stately manor.
It was a majestic sight of crystal chandeliers, vast fireplaces and beautiful black and white marble tiles, set under a magnificent beamed and thatched vaulted ceiling.
Still gawping at our opulent surroundings, we were taken to our room – one of 16 gorgeously decorated suites at the hotel.
From an exotic Tibetan suite decorated in a riot of orange and maroons, to French boudoirs with Provencal antiques, every suite is unique and lovingly designed by owner Liz Biden, who previously worked in the fashion industry.
One room is referred to as the “Elton John suite”, as it’s designed to suit the style and tastes of the Rocket Man singer for when he comes to stay.
We were allocated the “Armani suite”, a super luxurious room with a “modern classic” twist and an impressive painting of a ballerina hanging from the wall.
There is an enormous Persian rug, sofa, cushy armchairs and a bed so comfy it’s like falling into a bed of feathers.
And then there's the palatial bathroom with a freestanding bath-tub and walk-in shower, and piles of fluffy white towels and posh potions.
Pampered guests (myself included) have the option to have their clothes laundered and then return perfectly folded in a box, wrapped like a gift.
A set of French windows can be thrown open to reveal a stunning view of the hotel grounds, a lake, the mountainous landscape and a field of springbok and sable antelope.
It was this breathtaking scenery that inspired Liz to convert the former plum farm into a luxury hotel 12 years ago, when she stumbled on the area while out walking her dog.
La Residence is set on a private 30 acre estate, surrounded by vineyards planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz grapes, olive groves and plum orchards, with a dramatic mountain backdrop.
Lounging by the infinity pool in blissful tranquillity, with only peacocks and expensively manicured guests for company, it’s hard to believe La Residence is less than an hour from the hustle and bustle of Cape Town.
Service is impeccable and staff are friendly but not obtrusive – which can be a difficult balance to strike.
If you can peel yourself away from the poolside, there’s a feast of food and drink on offer.
There is an extensive buffet selection for breakfast, as well as a cooked option.
The lunch menu is designed to make guests feel “at home”, with a delicious range of comfort food favourites.
Dinners served in the magnificent Great Hall is a snazzier affair, with a four-course menu served up by chef Lennard Marais.
Ideally located just a short walk from Franschhoek town centre, La Residence is perfectly placed to explore the surrounding vineyards.
The hotel gives guests the chance to do this via helicopter.
Sadly, we had to opt for the less extravagant “wine tram” that stops at a selection of vineyards on a designated route and sees tourists turn from timid to tipsy in the space of one jolly afternoon.
As we checked out, I leafed through the guest book – it had been signed by the likes of Lionel Richie and George Clooney.
Right at that moment, our Toyota hire car was returned and we were brought, with a bump, back to reality.
16 suites, which includes five vineyard suites.
Double rooms from £563.92 (ZAR10,289), including tax at 15 per cent. Rates include breakfast, a complimentary mini-bar as well as house wines and local beverages.
The nearest airport is a 45 minute drive away in Cape Town.
Kids over the age of 10 are allowed in the main hotel, while children of all ages are welcome in the five vineyard suites.
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