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.
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.