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With its stunning mountain backdrop, beachside location, inventive cafés, incredible restaurants, boutique shops and markets galore, you could very well visit Cape Town and never leave the city. But tear yourself away from the thrill of South Africa’s chicest skyline for a couple of nights and a charming and equally satisfying retreat awaits in the form of Babylonstoren.
One of the oldest Cape Dutch farms in South Africa, Babylonstoren dates back to 1692 and sits about 45 minutes outside of the city in the spectacular Cape Winelands. On approach, the grimier outskirts of the city turn to motorway as the towering Franschhoek mountains beckon in the distance. Before long, the roadsides blend into farmlands and luscious rows of grape-filled vines are visible as far as the eye can see.
It is here, nestled down a dirt track amidst of opulent organic fruit and vegetable gardens, that you will find Babylonstoren. And it’s these very gardens – spanning eight luscious acres – which attract the bulk of visitors each year, be it to wander the curving paths with juicy oranges drooping overhead, explore the prickly pear maze or greet the free-range chickens roaming through the grounds.
With its focus on wellbeing, delicious food and fresh produce, it’s easy to while away the hours between the restaurant, state-of-the-art winery and spa. And while the buzz of Cape Town’s city life doesn’t stop drawing you back, you’ll appreciate some blissful respite away from the metropolis.
It’ll be no surprise that owner of Babylonstoren is the former editor of a South African interior design magazine when you step foot in the new farmhouse accommodation. Up a swirling spiral staircase the Queen Bee loft suite is the perfect combination of rustic, modern and chic. There’s a sizeable ceramic-tiled wood burner in the centre of the room, crisp white linen adorning a four-poster bed and wicker hanging chair to boot. Between the walk-in wardrobes is the entrance to the bathroom: home to a classic roll-top bath, white-tiled walls and chunky farmhouse sink. Although all rooms at Babylonstoren are subtly different, the feel of homely comfort with modern finishes resides throughout.
What’s for breakfast?
Breakfast is a work of art. A central table is adorned with a feast of home-grown fruit: halved peaches to giant plates of grapes, sliced oranges, luminous-green kiwis and cerise watermelon chunks. Accompanying it are a range of organic yoghurts, honey and glass jugs of every type of milk you can think of. And that’s before you’ve even looked at the cooked breakfast menu.
How about lunch and dinner?
The Greenhouse restaurant is a favourite for lunch, tucked away in the middle of the gardens and serving ‘honest food with no fuss’, from warm freshly baked olive bread to cheese, chutney and cake. Dinner is served at the award-winning Babel restaurant – once a cattle shed and now an inventive contemporary restaurant with white-washed brick walls, glass sides and an open kitchen. The menu is seasonal, but be sure to try the famous red, green or yellow salads all year around.
Is there a bar?
Being in the heart of the Winelands, you’re never short of fantastic places to drink at Babylonstoren. Try the elegant new winery: a beautifully light room with wooden floors and glass walls where you can taste a range of Babylonstoren’s own wines. Then there’s the Butterfly Room: the bar-cum-lounge in the Farmhouse which is a charming place to spend the evening tucked up by the fireplace with a new book plucked from the towering library shelve, complete with a glass of chilled wine.
The Farmhouse has its own private spa with heated pool, salt room, sauna and steam room, while there’s another spa on site with its own private sunbathing area. Near the reception you’ll find a selection of mountain bikes – grab one and go exploring.
Things you should know
There’s a lot more to the Cape Winelands than just Babylonstoren (although it is perfect enough to never leave). Nearby are the quaint towns of Stellenbosch and Paarl, as well as a range of other award-winning wine farms, so do explore the region while you’re there.
Within a short walk you can find…
A beautiful dam where you can take a canoe out on the water, go for a picnic, get stuck into a book or enjoy an evening drink. To make the most of this wonderful spot, sit and watch the light bounce off the water as the sun cascades behind the mountains below. Unbelievably romantic.
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