Why is Babylonstoren on Conde Nast's Gold List for 2017?

Albee Yeend By Albee Yeend
17 Feb 2017
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Babylonstoren has to be my favourite place in The Winelands, so I'm delighted that it has been chosen as one of the Best Hotels in the World by Conde Nast Traveller. It lies in the picturesque Drakenstein Valley between Franschhoek and Paarl and is surrounded by the Simonsberg, Du Toitskloof and Franschhoek Mountains.

Featured on the Conde Nast Traveller’s Gold List 2017: The 20 Best Hotels in the World, Babylonstoren is a working wine farm approximately a 45-minute drive from South Africa's Cape Town International Airport, set within eight acres of cultivated fruit and vegetables, which are all immaculately laid out.

I was lucky enough to stay there the day after it opened and have watched with interest over the last six or so years as the owner Karen Roos is always coming up with fabulous new and innovative ideas, and therefore Babylonstoren never rests on its laurels!

The scenery is simply breath-taking and Babylonstoren is one of best preserved werfs (farm yards) in the Cape Dutch tradition. You will find yourself trying to catch glimpses into the past on casual strolls through the garden as you glance at white-washed walls, ornate gables and thatched roofs - all a remembrance of an era long gone.

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The formal gardens are watered by irrigation waterways and yield over 300 edible plants. You will also spot bees, chickens, ducks, turkeys and donkeys. You can view the “insect hotel” and if you are very lucky you might spot one of their hedgehogs, including white ones! My friend had the most beautiful wedding here, surrounded by masses of white ducks whilst taking her vows!

You can go on guided walks around the farm, through the orchards, vineyards and up to the koppie, plus you can also cycle around the farm, or go fishing and rowing/canoeing on one of the farm’s dams. At 10am every morning they offer the most fascinating garden tour, which I can highly recommend and this is led by either Gundula and her dog or one of the other gardeners.

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You can even pick your own salad from the kitchen garden for your lunch and the seasonal produce is used in the exquisite meals presented by the hotel’s restaurants, Babel and The Green House, plus the Wine Cellar.

The food at Babylonstoren is very much based upon the seasons and what is currently abundant in the garden. The food is simple but with an innovative edge.  Fresh fruit and vegetables are collected daily from the garden. Homemade muesli and farm honey add just that extra homely touch to your stay.

In the winter hearty homemade meals are ready to warm you up whereas in the summer substantial fresh salads underneath the shade of an olive tree will be waiting for you after your morning stroll. Babel is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, whereas The Greenhouse is open from 10:00 to 16:00.

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At the Farm Hotel some of the existing farm buildings have been converted into refined guest accommodation. With a maximum of just 22 guest suites, the tranquillity and simplicity remains perfect and guests are left to explore to their hearts content.  The suites are gorgeous, simple and elegant perhaps with a hint of nostalgia. 

Styled around the Cape Colony of the 17th and 18th century, the rooms echo Cape Dutch farm buildings - whitewashed walls, thatched roofs and intricate ornate gables, they are pleasantly cool in summer and warm and cosy in winter heated by open fireplaces. The interiors showcase a combination of heritage and modern living.

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There are three one bedroom cottages, as well as six one-bedroom suites and four two-bedroomed cottages. The one and two bedroom cottages have a lounge area and simple kitchen. The newer Farmhouse suites include nine one-bedroom suites, which all have access to an outdoor swimming pool plus a hot spa area which includes a sauna, salt room, vitality pool as well as a lounge area.

The Garden Spa offers a range of wonderful treatments, including massages, wraps, facials, pedicures and manicures. All the treatment rooms are housed in the pavilion, which comprises a gym, Hammam, plus a chill room. You can also have a light lunch here including wonderful salads made with fruit, salad and vegetables all freshly picked from the garden.

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Babylonstoren has 178 acres under vine and produces 13 different grape varieties. If you fancy a wine tour, then cellar tours start at the Tasting Room every hour on the hour between 11h00 and 15h00. This can be followed by a delicious platter, with pâté, charcuterie, cheese and fresh vegetables and fruit from the garden in the Tasting Room, which lies adjacent to the Wine Cellar.

I was in South Africa in December, so popped in for a delicious lunch with the manager Dalene Claassens and saw their stunning new garden, which is a sensory experience full of different herbs, which all have medicinal purposes. I also did a spot of shopping in their fabulous shop, which stocks a range of wonderful goodies including Babylonstoren wine, olive oil, rooibos tea, not to mention fabulous bowls, table cloths, cheeses and soaps.

Babylonstoren is the perfect place to wander through the grounds, along the secluded oak-shaded paths, letting your soul soak up the tranquillity of this incredible location.

Images courtesy of Babylonstoren.

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Posted by: Albee Yeend

Posted on: 13th February 2017

Read more: Posts about Africa

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