Yesterday I went to Babylonstoren for my second visit. If you haven’t been there, and you love all things green, natural and gardening, you must take the opportunity to experience it. The Cape Dutch Architecture is one of my favourite and the farm offers a shop where you can buy freshly baked breads, cheese, delicious preserves, herbs, candles, glass preserving bottles, wine to name a few. The garden is layed out in sections of fruit trees, vegetable patches, the puff adder berry walk, clivias (we unfortunately missed the flowering, but apparently it is awesome). You can meander endlessly through the gardens and take in the aroma of all the different herbs, flowers and fruit trees. At one section there is a climbing rose over a large pergola and as you walk under it you are enveloped in the wonderful perfume of roses. There is a walled off orchard of mulberry trees which create a children’s paradise and a feeling of going back in time to childhood stories. At one section there are flowering trees which attract the beautiful honey birds which is quite a sight to see. The chamomile lawn is the perfect place to send your over active children to roll in. It is soft and bouncy and offers a calming effect to ones senses. The garden would be incomplete without chickens and an apiary.
The Glass Green house Tea Room offers teas and light lunches and for tea we decided on the delicious carrot cake which is laden with nuts and scones which come in little glass jars. All their preserves and jams are made on the farm. For lunch we had the rye bread and cheese, which comes in a beautiful wooden box, a salad from the garden in a jar (with the added colour of edible flowers), chutney and farm made salad dressing. In the glass green house there was a a jug of rose water juice made from the petals of fragrant roses, rose pelargonium, honey and another ingredient from the garden to give the beautiful rose colour (the name escapes me now). Now this may sound strange, but you cannot leave without experiencing the restrooms alongside the green house. There are two which are very aptly named i.e. restrooms as when you step into them, you feel as if you would like to do just that i.e. rest. They are large and elegantly decorated with photographs on the walls, a chair in the corner and give a sense of peace and calm.
We were very lucky to have a perfect day weather wise, not too hot and not too cold. If you are planning to visit in mid summer, I would advise that you go as early as possible, as it can get very hot mid day. The entrance fee is only R10 per person which makes if very affordable for all to experience this wonderful farm.
Babylonstoren is one of the best preserved werfs (farm yards) in the Cape Dutch tradition. Not only the manor house from 1777, but pioneer structures all the way back to the founding of the farm in 1690. The Koornhuis (for storing wheat and hay) and the old cellar are exceptionally fine. An ornate fowl house, pigeon loft, leaning bell tower and historic gates embellish a traditional courtyard surrounded by a low, whitewashed wall.
The History of Babylonstoren
The Drakenstein Valley was inhabited by nomadic Khoisan communities for tens of centuries. In 1692, when the borders of the Cape Colony expanded after the arrival of French Huguenots, the farm was granted by Governor Simon van der Stel to the burger Pieter van der Byl. He laid out the first vineyards and altered water courses to provide irrigation. The oldest buildings on the farm went up. Shortly after, Pieter and his wife were to play a role in the downfall of Simon’s son, the gouging Governor Willem Adriaan.
The days are intentionally unscripted at Babylonstoren, leaving guests free to do as they please. Stroll out onto the farm of 200 hectares and see fruit being picked in the orchards or vines being pruned – depending on the season. Enjoy a walk in the remarkable fruit and vegetable garden (guided if you feel like learning, or unguided for relaxation). Pick your own salad or enjoy a meal in the superb restaurant. Perhaps a massage in the spa after lunch? Or a stroll along a clivia lined stream? Then a swim in the farm dam or a bout in the gym, before sundowners at a picnic spot? Or rather sample some of the excellent wines grown on the slopes all around the Simonsberg, possibly the finest terroir for wine in Africa? You can choose. Or simply lounge and read, in summer in a hammock strung among tree trunks, in winter curled up before a fire.
Babylonstoren lies in the Drakenstein Valley between Franschhoek and Paarl. Surrounded by the Simonsberg, Du Toitskloof and Franschhoek Mountains, Babylonstoren is in the heart of the Cape Winelands. It is some 60km from the city of Cape Town and an easy 45 min drive from Cape Town International Airport.