01 Jul2014


A must see, period. If you enjoy food, phenomenal produce, beautiful settings, casually but intentionally styled order, design and nature, this is the ONE PLACE, if you could ONLY visit ONE PLACE in the Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek area of South Africa to visit. It is also a testament to what folks with a huge fortune can do with their money in such a short time for the benefit of others. Now if only someone left me a couple of billion dollars in their will… :)


We had heard quite a bit about Babylonstoren from friends, internet research and our guide made it the final stop to an already wonderful day of wine tasting. The farm is owned by a billionaire media mogul with interests in South Africa and around the world, including Asia, and signs on the property give directions in Afrikaans, English and even Mandarin. This leads some locals to think it was acquired by a wealthy Chinese owner (I looked it up) but that isn’t the case at all. The media mogul, Koos Bekker and his wife, Karen Roos who was a previous editor of Elle Decoration, have combined exceptionally good taste, keen eyes and vision and lots of money into something truly special.


We went to just visit the gardens and the farm shop, but I wish we had asked to see the stunning rooms as well as their well-regarded restaurant Babel that gets most of its ingredients from the extensive gardens.


The Bekkers purchased the huge farm a few years ago, and over the course of three years, renovated or updated all of the farm buildings, converted some into rooms and villas with kitchens and dining areas, as well as reconstructing a classic Cape garden (to mimic one from several hundred years back when ships from Europe needed to stock up on food provisions when they were about to round the Cape).


Our photos just simply don’t do justice to the place, so you may also want to check out this, this or this link for a clearer picture why I am blathering on and on about Babylonstoren. I would definitely like to spend a few days here if I get a chance to return to the region. And I would cook one meal a day (they allow you to take whatever you desire from the gardens) and eat in the restaurant the rest of the time.


Converted farmhouse buildings are repurposed as rooms, villas, a shop, restaurant, etc. Then gardens are sectioned off, and filled to the brim with produce, even when we visited which was late Fall, early Winter for the region. Ponds, fields of lavender, huge bushes of rosemary in one part of the extensive gardens…


Rows upon rows of vegetables common and not so common.


The mountains in the distance. Trellises, garden walls, bushes to break the winds, all add up to a wonderful and utterly fascinating vegetable garden.


I can only imagine how much more lush it would be at the height of summer or in late summer.


Colorful chard.


Lemon trees just CHOCKFULL of lemons… and across the path…


…tons of guava trees just heavy with fruit! And it all looked utterly spectacular, and I suspect, all completely organic too.


We saw just a small fraction of the farm and gardens in just half an hour of strolling…


…and caught this photo of a rooster just wandering around, nibbling on anything it fancied. Gardeners harvested produce for their shop and restaurant, and many of the dishes in the restaurant are made with things that were still in the ground a an hour or two beforehand.


Scarecrows made out of terra cotta pots, kind of like the clay equivalent of the Michelin man.


Rows of bok choy and other asian greens… this made me think the story that the owner was Chinese had some truth to it… only to debunk the story later.


The lushest rosemary bushes I have seen in a long time.


The public baño. Seriously. I loved this place. Loved it. Go to the links above for better photos.

Or visit their website, here.



  1. bearhug0127 says:

    Thanks for the post MM. Now, to go visit the links.
    (Why? I just have the habit of being the first to comment in a few recent posts!) :)

    Jul 1, 2014 | 7:06 pm


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  3. millet says:

    even the chickens look so……cultured.

    Jul 1, 2014 | 9:31 pm

  4. Debbie says:

    This place is breathtaking!

    Jul 1, 2014 | 10:56 pm

  5. Natie says:

    The fearless chicken, up close!

    Jul 1, 2014 | 10:57 pm

  6. Marketman says:

    Natie, hahaha, it took many attempts to get that photo, I must have 14 “discards”… :)

    Jul 2, 2014 | 12:41 am

  7. marilen says:

    Paradaisical – love this post.

    Jul 2, 2014 | 1:33 am

  8. Thel from Florida says:

    My kind of place also–truly beautiful place in South Africa! MUST SEE alright.


    This farm in Cavite has a restaurant and also serves produce and gourmet coffee from their garden. I would love to visit there someday when I go back to Pinas.

    Jul 2, 2014 | 1:57 am

  9. Footloose says:

    What was paradise, but a garden full of vegetables and herbs and pleasure? Nothing there but delights.
    Wm. Lawson, 17th-century writer

    I imagine this is how it could have turned out if God, at that precise moment of creation, had the money, a stylish trophy wife giving him advice in matters of taste and a crew with an effective strategy for screening out seductive serpents, thieving magpies and the ever encroaching rabble from spoiling the idyllic setting.

    Jul 2, 2014 | 8:25 am

  10. ami says:

    Wonderful! Hard to believe that this only took 3 years but if you had loads of money then anything is possible I suppose. Personally, I’d love to ramble thru Martha Stewart’s Bedford estate.

    Jul 2, 2014 | 9:58 am

  11. Khew says:

    Perhaps it’s for the best it isn’t Chinese owned. Otherwise, you might have a stunningly kitsch replica of the hanging gardens of Babylon, breathtaking only in terms of the multi million$ spent.

    I noticed the South African colonial architecture have one thing in common – very flat and plain facades at entrances or reception points.

    Jul 2, 2014 | 10:50 am

  12. Ling says:

    Gorgeous. Glad it isn’t Chinese-owned.

    Jul 2, 2014 | 4:37 pm

  13. Footloose says:

    Providing signs in Mandarin would theoretically cater to 1/5 of mankind. We associate cheap and poorly made items with China now but unbeknownst to the casual observer, they actually have a long tradition of aesthetic and technological accomplishments in porcelain, metal and wood that remained unrivalled in the West for over a thousand years. Their furniture design and construction alone provided inspiration and exemplars for the great craftsmen of Europe from Chippendale through to disciples of Bauhaus and down the proponents of Scandinavian modern design. Besides, their tawdry gewgaws are aimed primarily at Western consumers.

    Jul 2, 2014 | 7:53 pm

  14. bagito says:

    love the rooster pic. very vivid, i didn’t even know roosters have a yellow “patilla”-like thing on the side of their head. great shot!

    Jul 3, 2014 | 11:37 am

  15. Marketman says:

    Footloose, I agree, they are the source of much of the world’s greatest inventions from thousands of years back. I think the current sinophobia is partially skewed to their expansionist stance in the South China Sea, as well as the more recent proclivities for producing much of the world’s commercial basura.

    Jul 3, 2014 | 3:46 pm

  16. Footloose says:

    Meanwhile, when all our attention is diverted to something else, look who’s buying luxury condos in Manila: https://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/rich-asians-buy-upwardly-mobile-manilas-luxury-condominiums-052903632–finance.html
    rich Asians, i.e. Chinese. What caught my attention is not the wheeling and dealing but that one of the buildings will feature designs by Versace and Paris Hilton that is sure to be condign antidote to those who despair of Chinese chintz. I have a good slogan for them, from Prof. Henry Higgins, “so deliciously low so horribly dirty.”

    Jul 3, 2014 | 10:27 pm

  17. marilen says:

    Footloose, your observations are always interesting and so diverse in scope, much to learn from this tertulia that MM has sponsored – to the delight of all of us. Thank you.

    Jul 4, 2014 | 1:10 am

  18. Marketman says:

    Footloose, spot on, and EGADS to the Versace interiored buidlings. They come from the same developer that touted Missoni and Armani as well. When PH came to Manila for the first time, I hear she nearly went ballistic when she found out the “beach club” that was to be named after her and its apartment complex was in fact built beside the south super highway and had trucked in sand. Yipes. To offend PH is really scraping the bottom of the barrel.

    Jul 4, 2014 | 6:47 am

  19. Blaise says:

    What a well manicured farm! Talk about incredibly good taste.

    Jul 4, 2014 | 5:23 pm

  20. Betchay says:

    Mr. and Mrs. Scarecrow amused me! :) I love the smell of lavander and rosemary!

    Jul 6, 2014 | 11:02 pm

  21. Corrine says:

    MM, you can replicate that place.

    Jul 13, 2014 | 3:27 pm


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