7 Feb 2017

Travel Diaries #7: Babylonstoren

Travel Diaries: Babylonstoren on vickiarcher.com

Babylonstoren, you took my breath away.

In many ways, South Africa, you took my breath away.

My last stop in Cape Town was brief and I managed to see as much as possible in my rapid transit through town. I didn’t experience the city, which must wait for another time, as my destination was the wine growing regions of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.

I think I am spoilt spending so much time in France and being a witness to geographical beauty first hand. (France I think there is a little competition out there. I am not being disloyal, as my heart is true but I would be remiss if I did not wax lyrical about the landscapes in these areas so close to Cape Town.)

I was reminded of France and our Alpilles in Provence and yet the scene was larger, so much more bold and impressionable. I was reminded of Sonoma and Napa Valley in the United States; again the scale is larger. The manicured gardens, the perfectly aligned vineyards and the quaint shopping streets with boutiques and galleries had a Hampton-esque feel and yet still uniquely South African.

It is difficult to put into words.

Cape Town felt familiar. You know that feeling when you see someone, you think you know him or her but you aren’t quite sure. That is how I felt. The one thing I do know is Cape Town is magnificent. The reputation as such is well deserved and doesn’t disappoint.


One not-to-be-missed stop on my journey was Babylonstoren, one of the oldest Cape Dutch farms in the area. I am sure many of you are familiar with the property and have either dined, stayed or promenaded in the magnificent gardens.

I was told the farm would resonate with me; an understatement.

The day we visited was my birthday and if the calendar must keep turning; there was no place I would rather have been.

What was it that impressed me so?

The physical beauty of the location certainly is awe-inspiring but what held me was the attention to detail in all endeavours of the operation. I took away so many ideas I would love to implement in France and I feel truly inspired. The way of life in Europe can become a set piece and it is easy to forget how much the ‘new world’ can show us.


I adore detail.

I think I am a small picture person in many ways. I know we must see the larger whole but I do like the finer points. Babylonstoren managed to conquer the grand and celebrate the small. Their plantings in the prickly pear maze had me screaming with delight; their stream and Clivea walk almost teary.

I was taking detailed photo after photo with no thought to composition or light; simply idea after idea to show the French fellas back home. The plantings are similar, the climate simpatico but it was the pairings that intrigued me. Why have I never thought to under-plant our olives with wild rosemary? We have both in abundance.

The Cape Dutch decor, all white and pristine was simplistic in style but immaculate against the dramatic landscape. An emphasis on old botanical prints permeated throughout the farm; from fabrics, to paintings and packaging. Their shop was filled with exquisite printed linens; it was pure torture leaving those behind. I am already regretting the fabulous fabric panels that would have worked so beautifully at our farm. Yet, another reason to return.

From Madikwe on the edge of Botswana, through Kruger Park to the edge of Mozambique and beyond to the western Cape; South Africa you have style in spades.

To be so inspired and take away such beauty in my mind’s eye was the best birthday gift of all. xv

images, babylonstoren

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Taste of France

Linens and fabric are such a great souvenir! They pack well and won’t break en route.
I know what you mean about that grandeur. Everything is big, or at least feels that way.
Looking forward to more photos and your impressions.


I seriously regret not stocking up… I think I was overwhelmed and couldn’t really think properly!
Mistake… Big mistake !!

Zeynep Sultan Uzun

Hi Vicki,

Beautiful article! I live 5km away from Babylonstoren :) I will be in France between 25 September -2nd October. Would you like me to bring you a nice linen that you liked? Let me know



So glad you got to visit Cape Town too Vicki. I live in Stellenbosch and Babylonstoren is also one of my favourite spots. Thanks for all your kind words about our beautiful and fascinating country!! We feel very blessed to be living here :) xxx


It’s a beautiful area Cecile.. I also had the pleasure of visiting the Dylan Lewis garden… that also drew a few deep sighs :)


oh yes, wanted to add you can buy those beautiful linen tablecloths online from their store!


My husband always spoke fondly of a short visit to Kruger Park, many many years ago.
I agree, all the beauty for a birthday present … how perfect .


I was spoilt… and admit I loved every second of it :)
I believe memories are what I want to hold on to and take with me into my future.. these are truly wonderful ones…

Vivienne Ghyoot

Vicky, how wonderful to hear you being so complimentary about our country. We love it too, and think there are a few little hidden spots that should almost be kept secret, yet when something works well, it is marvellous to share. Babylonstoren is a masterpiece of Karen Roos’s own making.
You have no option – you will have to come again. Vivienne

david terry

So, they have an entire “clivea walk”???? Here in the American South (where I was born, raised, and live), all I ever knew of Acanthus and Clivea was that they were both VERY RARE plants, pampered by the cognoscenti, scarcely-ever available, and beyond-precious.

Then?….I recall my first trip to France, when Herve and I visited his great Aunt in Perpignan. I offered to take some trash out to the back alley behind her old house on the outskirts of town. I got to the bins, where it took me a while to realize that I was looking at an entire alley/backstreet BURSTING with all-too-healthy acanthus plants in both ditches. I excitedly mentioned this when I went back into the house, and the great-aunt just sighed and apologized for not keeping the “weeds” down in her old age.

Similarly (and your remark about a “clivea walk” reminded me of this)?….I’d been raised to regard Clivea as though the plant were as rare/precious as diamonds. I knew only two or so friends who had one or two….which they made a great, fastidious point of moving about in the house for the “best” sunlight all winter long. then?….I went to Barcelona for the first time, and I saw them growing in all the gutters and neglected side-pockets of dirt……they grew and bloomed as wildly as dandelions or pokeweed, and no one paid a bit of attention them.

Of course, and given the comparison I just made, it occurs to me that diamonds aren’t exactly rare in South Africa, either.

Babylonstoren does look quite beautiful, obviously.

And here’s wishing you all the best on the Anniversary of Your Blessed Nativity, Vicki….

David Terry


David.. this Clivea walk was beyond.. I dabbled with them when I lived in Sydney, they were the only decent plant I could get to work in a very shaded and damp area.. but these were so thick and prolific to be something else…

Babylonstoren is well worth the long flight.. I promise :)


Happy Belated Birthday! ­čÄé Thank you for the wonderful pictures and travel log of South Africa. Every picture…every day seems to be better than the day before. We, your readers, are so very Blessed to have you share your “Magical” life with us.
Thank for being an “Everyday Day Brightener.”ÔŁĄ´ŞĆ


My life too is brightened by all of your beautiful words… so it’s a very equal exchange :) Thank you…

Stacey Bewkes

Vicki – I have always wanted to go to Babylonstoren! I was following along on Instagram and your trip looked amazing. What a wonderful place to celebrate your birthday. All best for a wonderful year ahead – Best, Stacey


Thanks Stacey,
It is an incredible place and my words don’t really do it justice… I didn’t explain well enough all the thought that must go into creating a magnificent enterprise like that. :)

Terrel Drendel

Vicki, Welcome home. I have been taking notes about your African Travels. I will also be going to South Africa for my birthday this August. Our first time to visit and I am soooo excited after seeing the information that you shared. If I might ask, did you use a travel agent or special company to help plan this trip? It seems you went to the very spots we want to go, but we would add a few days in Capetown and probably start off at Giraffe Manor in Kenya. Any information you can provide to us would be greatly appreciated. Happy Birthday!


I have emailed you the name of my friends who helped plan our trip Terrel.. they are amazing and very knowledgeable about all aspects of African travel…


Vicki, so thrilled that our beautiful city captured your heart and you celebrated your birthday in the jewel being Babylonstoren, a veritable garden of Eden and then some! Debbie Tenquist of Botanica Trading (Serena Crawford’s sister), has an online store where she sells the most exquisite hand printed linen tablecloths, she gifted Serena one for her birthday. Look forward to seeing more of your travels!

Bronwynn Joubert

Thrilled to know you visited our beautiful Cape…Babylonstoren takes our breath away too…thank you for your enthusiasm!

Jean Wethmar

What a shot Vicki.. thank you for sharing your love for South Africa so beautifully.. you make me want to return there NOW.. did you get to taste Green Fig preserve?.. its an amazing product purchased from Babylonstoren store.. oh, and Pinotage Wines from Stellenbosch, Franschhoek.. now we’re talking.. x j

Susie Martin

What a fabulous trip! Thank you for sharing and so glad you had the best Birthday ever!! Here’s to many more!!! XX

Anita Rivera

Darling friend, what a gorgeous landscape of quiet majesty. Happy birthday and many more wondrous ones to come!


I have been TWICE and YOU are right it RIVALS FRANCE BUT BIGGER!

Deborah Peterson Milne

You & Cape Town were meant to be. Perhaps you and ‘she’ had a history in a former life! Thank you Vicki for sharing all of it’s glory. I am so happy your birthday was truly one for the record books.



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