Travel: Gardens Highlight of South African Farm Hotel

June 27, 2013 by

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Imagine a self-sustained utopia laden with delicious food and drink, set amidst sandstone mountains and lush winelands. In South Africa, within an hour from the Cape Town International Airport, this utopia exists.

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Babylonstoren is an historic Cape Dutch farm built in the 17th and 18th centuries that hosts guests in charming cottages, some of which sit beside a garden where 300 varieties of edible plants grow.

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While the place is physically stunning, surrounded by whitewashed walls and dotted with thatched-roof buildings, the true beauty at Babylonstoren is the hotel’s mindset: a back-to-the-land philosophy that propels guests to tend the eight-acre formal gardens, stroll the farm and vineyards, and explore nearby rivers and dams by canoe.

babylonstoren-chickens Other draws? The farm’s prickly pear maze, lazy orchards, and chickens and ducks ready for you to feed.

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The only place to wind up at the end of a day outdoors is over a meal at the onsite restaurant, Babel, which exclusively uses fruits, vegetables and herbs from the onsite garden and farm.

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Fresh juices, homemade ginger beer and fruity herbal teas wash down colorful, produce-centric dishes–last summer, the menu featured grilled lamb with roasted plum-coriander pesto, pumpkin fritters atop yellow vegetable and fruit carpaccio, and fresh summer fruit with gorgonzola ice cream.

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The Garden and Far
The hotel invites guests to help harvest, prune and pick the garden’s bounty, from nuts and spices, to seasonal vegetables and fruits.

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Measuring eight acres, the garden is lined by a limited number of cottages and fertilized with compost collected at the hotel.

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The ten-hectare farm occupies a transitional zone – between Swartland Alluvium fynbos and Boland Granite fynbos–an area of intense biodiversity maintained by frequent clearing of alien vegetation to halt spread of invasive species. Babylonstoren uses hydroseeding to control dam erosion, and a variety of tree species indigenous to the Southwestern Cape have been introduced, as well.

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The Vineyard
Land around the farm hotel is laced with grape vines. Babylonstoren’s Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, Mourvedre Rose, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Viognier are cultivated here.

Babylonstoren-harvesting-urbangardensweb Whites are fruity and summery, with notes of ripe peach and apricot, melons, guava, red berries and citrus. Reds are deep and spicy with white pepper and liquorice flavors, melded with black current and rose.

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For more farm stay options around the world, check out the Concierge list of the world’s best, including Babylonstoren, and New York Magazine’s take on farmstays in bucolic upstate New York.

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