Pretension prevention

For no good reason I hadn’t been to Franschhoek for a few years. Now I have a good reason not to return — and another to go back soon.

You can’t call Franschhoek a village any more. It is today a strip of boutique shopping malls. At least three more were going up or being renovated as we trundled down the main road — a packaged, touristy wonderland. I want to write that I have never seen a place more spoilt by tourism but, of course, that is not nearly true — it is just how I feel.

The place clings to its French heritage. The town celebrates Bastille Day. Many of the names are still French. This used to be quaint. But, with the rampant building of artificial-looking galleries and malls, if you didn’t know the history, nowadays the Frenchiness of it has the ring and feel of something recently invented, like a theme park in Japan.

Vietnam, the breakaway squatter camp named by residents after its quagmire conditions, which was next to the main road, was moved several years ago and its denizens resettled. Both sides of the class divide are apparently better off.

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