Hotels

Babylonstoren Unique Farm Hotel in Drakenstein Valley, South Africa

November 21, 2011 by

Babylonstoren is one of the oldest Cape Dutch farms. It has a fruit and vegetable garden of splendor and variety, exceptional lodging, fine food and a sense of happiness.

Babylonstoren is found in the Drakenstein Valley between Franschhoek and Paarl. Enclosed by the Simonsberg, Du Toitskloof and Franschhoek Mountains, Babylonstoren is in the heart of the Cape Winelands. It is about 60 kilometers from the city of Cape Town and an easy 45 minute drive from Cape Town International Airport.

Cape Dutch architecture is named for the style of the 17th and 18th century Cape of Good Hope. Characteristic features include: soft, whitewashed walls of stone or primitive brick, ornate gables and thatched roofs.

Babylonstoren is one of the finest conserved werfs (farm yards) in the Cape Dutch tradition. Not only the manor house from 1777, but pioneer structures all the way back to the origin of the farm in 1690. The Koornhuis (for storing wheat and hay) and the old cellar are extraordinarily excellent. An elaborate fowl house, pigeon loft, leaning bell tower and historic gates elaborate a conventional courtyard surrounded by a low, whitewashed wall.

Their guest suites echo Cape Dutch farm buildings. The style developed in the Cape Colony of the 17th and 18th century: outer walls are whitewashed and decorated with complex gables and thatched roofs. Interiors are pleasurably cool in summer and are heated by open hearths in winter. Babylonstoren has an exceptionally well-preserved werf. It consists of a main residence, old cellar, koornhuis and row of service buildings, bell tower, ornate fowl pen and dove cote surrounded by the traditional low whitewashed walls. Some of these have been transformed into guest accommodation, while a disused kraal was turned into their restaurant, Babel. The food leans towards minimalism, but with an edge. Meals are imaginative though always clear in makeup. Vegetables and fruit collected daily from the garden are often served with their skins on. Helpings are liberal and meals may be taken either in the glass enclosed restaurant or under the Plain trees in the courtyard, depending on the weather.

The days are deliberately 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, of course. Enjoy a walk in the extraordinary fruit and vegetable garden; guided if guests feel like learning, or unguided for leisure. 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 taste some of the outstanding wines grown on the slopes all around the Simonsberg, possibly the premium terroir for wine in Africa? Guests can choose. Or relax and read, in summer in a hammock strung among tree trunks, in winter curled up before a fire.



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