In the shadow of the Simonsberg lies one of the most remarkable destinations in the winelands. If you’re going to visit just one wine farm on a day out from Cape Town, make it Babylonstoren in Paarl.
At Babylonstoren the first pleasure comes in confusion, because once you’ve parked your car beside the whitewashed farm wall you’ll hardly know where to start.
Admire the rejuvenated historic farm buildings? Stock up in the deli and farm bakery? Burn through your credit card in the stylish décor boutique?
But leave all of those for later and start with the garden: this remarkable food garden draws inspiration from French monastic gardens, as well as the Company’s Garden in the centre of Cape Town, and is a remarkable example of the edible made art. Fruit trees line scenic pathways while carpets of chrysanthemum throw their heady scent into the summer air. Your best bet is to book a spot on the daily walks guided by the garden horticulturist.
With the gardens visited it’s time for wine. A brand-new wine tasting experience has transformed the offering here, with well-informed guides taking guests through the olive press and wine cellar before finishing in the striking new wine-tasting facility. Cellar master Charl Coetzee crafts particularly good Shiraz, Viognier and Chardonnay. If you’re after a bottle to take home for the cellar, make it the flagship Nebukadnesar red, a striking Bordeaux-style blend.
The estate also boasts two wonderful restaurants, with laid-back lunches at the Conservatory and upmarket farm-to-fork cuisine at the modern bistro, Babel.
If you can’t bring yourself to leave after all that, book a room at the stylish farm hotel in one of the gorgeous suites that overlook the garden.
Only about an hour’s drive from the centre of Cape Town, the Garden Spa at Babylonstoren will make you feel you’ve gone even further, and stepped into a secret fantasy garden.
While the middle of the Cape winelands is an odd place to find a hammam, or Turkish bath, the hammam at the Babylonstoren Garden Spa near Franschhoek doesn’t at all feel out of place. Tucked away in an enclosure of trees, the hammam, with its beautiful blue mosaic ceiling, is the perfect spot to let go of tension…and inhibitions.
The degree of nakedness required for this treatment — not to mention some of the intimate stretches — could be awkward in the wrong hands. Happily, the therapists at this spa are adept at putting their clients at ease.
The 60-minute water ritual in the steam-filled hammam involves a full-body exfoliation, some passive stretching and a magnificent body-butter massage. The scalp massage and cool water rinse at the end leaves you revitalised and ready to tackle the post-treatment fruit salad and freshly squeezed juice that’s waiting for you.
Who knew you could work up such an appetite being pampered?
While the private hammam water ritual is the Garden Spa’s signature treatment, a variety of other massage treatments, wraps, facials and manicures are also on offer, all incorporating fresh herbs picked daily from the estate’s extensive gardens.
You’ll find the usual spa amenities here: a sauna, steam room and heated plunge pool. If the weather is good you can have your treatment in one of the private outdoor treatment areas and in summer you’ll want to spend some time relaxing next to the pool.
Some of the treatments include — soba noodles with wild mushrooms and a coriander and miso dressing, for example — but, if not, you’re spoilt for choice between the estate’s Greenhouse and Babel restaurants.