Imagine a place where pineapples grow next to zucchini flowers, and row upon row of planters containing brussels sprout and Romanesco broccoli saplings fighting their way sunwards out of the soil, under the protection of a beautiful French greenhouse. Picture chickens scratching around next to ducks and turkeys, before they head into their roost to fall asleep, and then wake in the morning to provide 25-30 eggs in the warm summer days, the freshest eggs you’ll ever eat for breakfast.
Imagine a place where dishes are separated according to colour, where 100% of plant matter on your plate is grown less than 300 meters away from where you sit. Where watermelon sits next to radish, which sits next to plum and then red cabbage.
Imagine waking up in the most incredibly comfortable bed, jumping on your bicycle for a short ride to fresh fruit juices, just-that-morning-baked bread, freshly made preserves, local Serrano-style ham and those aforementioned eggs.
This is all a reality, and a wondrous one for us city dwellers, for many of whom freshness is more often than not limited to what you see at the supermarket, or at best a farmer’s market. It was also the beautiful setting for the wedding of one of my oldest friends, the image and memory of which will not be easily forgotten. In fact, after returning to a rainy Hong Kong after 10 days in the sunny and warm mecca of decadent fun that is a Cape Town summer, I’m seriously considering going again in a few months time.
Babylonstoren is the vision of Naspers (South Africa’s National Press) CEO Koos Bekker and his wife, Karen Roos, former editor of SA’s Elle Decoration Magazine. They both grew up on farms, and initially purchased Babylonstoren as a weekend getaway home. It is a heritage site dating back to the 17th century, and one of the best preserved farmyards in Cape Dutch tradition. A place teeming with life, soaked in history, and what a gorgeous weekend getaway it is! If you want a real piece of the action, limited guest accommodation is available.
Eight acres of the estate is under cultivation. The gardens have been so beautifully planned, so if you visit, make sure you allow an hour or so to take a ramble around the farm to fully appreciate everything it has to offer. They offer guided tours if you are feeling particularly inquisitive.
The vegetable, flower and fruit gardens stock Babel, the farm-restaurant that is a number 1 foodie destination for anyone visiting the winelands. It also serves their 14-room farm-hotel, and the beautiful greenhouse, which also doubles up as a teahouse. And finally, there is a farm-shop that sells handmade preserves, breads, olive oil, wines, and more that are made on the premises.
Babylonstoren is of two different senses. It started as a private property, yet it’s gardens entice one and all. The restored stables, granaries and cellars take you back in time, whilst the cuisine, farming methods and general outlook are very modern. It feels rich, and yet it is decidedly down to earth. But there are no dichotomies when it comes to the feelings one experiences on that farm. At once you feel it’s easier to breathe, you feel free, surrounded by space, one with nature. Perhaps this all sounds a little fluffy and fairytale-like, but remember I am a city girl whose backyard is planted with concrete and steel!
Address: Klapmuts Simondium Road, Franschhoek 7670, South Africa
Tel:+27 (0)21 863 3852
GPS co-ordinates – 33 49′ 21.00″ S 18 55′ 48.00″ E
Open 7 days a week: 09h00 – 17h00
(Babel is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)
Daily Garden Tour, starting at 10h00.
R10.00 entrance fees at the gate are donated to the Babylonstoren Trust.