Saturday, August 29, 2015

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO SOUTH AFRICA, Babylonstoren

Ever exploring to find the best and the different, we discovered this farm hotel saturated with the Fairest Cape's ambience of vines and oaks. Own wine label, own voluptuous organic garden, and the cutest cottages for guests...


Charming Babylonstoren, with its vineyards, organic restaurant and authentic guest cottages, dates back to the 1600s when Franschhoek, Paarl and Stellenbosch were founded. The Dutch first set up a halfway station at the Cape in 1652.

They then  developed the fertile Winelands to provide food  and wine for the ships going past the Cape. When ships came in, a cannon would be fired, which could be heard from Babylonstoren. Wagons would head off for Cape Town harbour loaded with fresh produce and took 2 or 3 days to get there. Now it takes 45 minutes to an hour.


Farm cottages for guests in a typically Cape oak-lined street

The farm has a real old Cape feel  with its long white buildings surrounded on the one side by Vineyards and the other by its famous organic garden and orchard. The cottages and rooms are built in authentic Cape style in a street lined by oak trees. Each has its own little garden at the back where you can sit at a wooden table, sip Babylonstoren wine and watch hens peck around sweet smelling orange trees. The jagged Cape mountains smudgy blue behind the orchards.


Beyond the magnificent gardens the hazy blue peaks of the Cape fold mountains


It is 5 km from Paarl, 23 km from Franschhoek and 15 km from Stellenbosch. A taxi would cost 1200 zar to Franschhoek.

Who to stay


For relaxed people who see quality in terms of charm, space, authenticity and natural beauty - and appreciate organic food. Especially adorable place for those who like a farm atmosphere with chickens running around, and/or have a family who love freedom and the big outdoors. If you want to stay more than two nights it is best to have your own (hire) car. 


Shop in original old gable building, selling wines and farm produce, fronted by earth where chickens peck


Rooms


There are 12 roomy cottages with one or two bedrooms built in authentic Cape style in a simple and beautiful  street environment. Some face the vineyards and some the organic garden.

Some of the cottages have glass walled extensions with a  kitchen. We stayed in a cottage that faced the orange orchard with our own sparkling kitchen where there was a pile of freshly picked veggies waiting for us, and pots and pans and modern glass topped stove. We were told you  can go out and pick fruit and veggies from the organic garden for a meal.

The accommodations are all in white. calming, simply elegant  and spacious. A top-to-toe in white comfortably furnished lounge had fireplace, and  arching white wooden roof. White bedroom with four poster – and extensive white bathroom with Victorian bath and shower cabinet.  And fresh herbs by the bath to throw in as bath essence…






All in white with white painted timber ceiling

A bottle of Babylonstoren from the room, enjoyed in the garden



The sparkling kitchen waiting for do it yourself enthusiasts

A present of local organic fruit and veggies in the room - to encourage cooking and experimentation

We could sit at a table inside or in the garden, where little squirrels nibbled at acorns in an oak tree and wide winged birds (Hadada Ibis) wheeled and called "Ha-da-da..."



Further accommodation is being created by turning an existing building into a hotel annex (9 rooms), which will have another shared swimming pool.

Restaurants


There are two restaurants. The increasingly famous Babel organic restaurant is a popular destination for lunch (hotel guests will get a place but for outsiders it is booked up a year ahead). Babel is open 4 nights a week. Babel celebrates the farm’s own organic vegetables with simple nutritious cooking, often leaving them in their skins – it was super delicious. On two other nights there is gourmet pizza and on another night Italian.

The second eatery is a daytime snack bar really – but serves mountainous fresh salads and gigantic boerewors – absurdly big sausages, within large fresh rolls the size of loaves. Guests are mostly outside  visitors who have come to do a garden tour.



Breakfast buffet


Part of the breakfast buffet


A delightfully fresh and very reasonable organic salad at the lunch restaurant

A vegetarian dish at Babel - but there are plenty of meat choices
Dessert in Babel

Facilities

Spa, gym, swimming pool.

The organic garden


This is a 10 acres garden laid out by a French designer – in squares that each are surrounded by taller bushes that provide shelter and different environments. There are 300 species of edible plant there. From tropical bananas to stevia and chamomile, peaches, aubergine…tree tomatoes … name it.

To avoid insect infestation they spray with garlic and lemon, plant rows of flowers the insects don’t like, and rotate crops year after year. They also have lots of useful pecking hens feeding on insects, an insect hotel – designed to attract spiders and insect predators…

You learn all this and more on a guided tour with a horticulturist. The hotel runs tours of the garden and the farm – free for guests.


Grape vine trellises form a charming walkway through the organic garden

Aubergine - one of many vegetable types grown in the hundreds of squares sheltered by shrubs

Fruit picking  - guests can help themselves

One of the many insect eaters in this huge organic garden - there has to be some way to get rid of insects without poison

Insect hotel - to encourage spiders to live on the property and demolish insects
Among the ornamental features that make a garden walk so enjoyable

Pond with trout in the garden at Babylonstoren