A garden is a place of refuge, a place to forget our worldly cares and remove ourselves from "real" life, albeit temporarily. Babylonstoren is the absolute epitome of this.
The rustic-luxe Babylonstoren is one of the most beautifully curated experiences in the Cape Winelands; a working farm with eight acres of cultivated fruit and vegetables, a boutique hotel and winery, with verdant gardens featuring 300 types of edible plants, that supply their acclaimed farm-to-fork restaurant Babel, all are backdropped by the magnificent Simonsberg, Du Toitskloof and Franschhoek Mountains in the heart of the Cape Winelands.
Babylonstoren is the gastronomic, wine, and lifestyle destination for anyone in the know-with a cult following of return visitors. It offers a multi-sensory experience that celebrates all of the senses. There is so much to see, smell, and taste in this botanical wonderland that is bursting with history, fragrance, and flavours.
In our visually led world, smell often takes a lesser role - not here at Babylonstoren, however, and the sensorial heart of the farm is the Scented Room, a modern-day aromatic apothecary dedicated to the distillation of essential oils from the fruit, vegetables, and other edible plants cultivated on the farm. It is truly a place to fully engage with the garden's fragrance.
Vintage pharmacy drawers and antique glass pharmaceutical bottles lining the walls are filled with gorgeously decorated and scented soaps, creams, and lotions. Their delicious lingering scents permeate the air.
The distillery's clean industrial design is visible from the Scented Room looks and smells like a scented laboratory. Here the essential oils are extracted from the organic produce grown on the farm, and where the soaps are made. Guests are invited to tour the Scented Room to see ‘and smell’ the distillation of the essential oils and soap making process. The tour ends with the opportunity to blend your own bath salts, body scrubs, and face masks with essential oils of Rose Geranium, Lavender, and Lavandin, a naturally occurring hybrid that is 10x more pungent than English Lavender. Bath salts are made with a mix of sea salt, honey, brown sugar, poppy seed, charcoal, and rooibos tea.
The most popular fragrance here is waterblommetjie, an indigenous water plant that grows in the ponds by the hotel reception, it is also harvested as a foodie delight and served at Babel restaurant.
Rosemary, lavender, and lavendin are harvested in the season for their essential oils, and Babylonstoren's vibrantly coloured lavender fields are breathtakingly beautiful, they transport you to the South of France as they fill the air with their delicious scent, and the steady hum of happy bees.
Lavender is a darling of the floral kingdom, its essential oil derivative has been used for centuries, from embalming mummies and beautifying to treating allergies and anxiety, fungal infections, insect bites, insomnia, indigestion, and eczema. As well as scenting laundry and warding off plagues and evil spirits. Babylonstoren uses several lavender varietals, including French and Spanish ones, for their aromatic, oil-giving properties.
Deliciously scented hand on workshops are held regularly throughout the year based on what is growing on the farm. In February, you can "Craft your own homemade soaps," with Bev Missing, the founder of the luxury bath and body brand Rain and author of The Rain Book of Natural Soapmaking. After harvesting fragrant herbs such as rosemary and rose geranium Bev will take you through all the skills necessary for soapmaking.
In April, you can capture the season's scents through fragrant herbs with Babylonstorens gardener Gundula Deutschländer and floral artist Constance Stuurman. Firstly you will join Gundula in harvesting and steam-distilling essential oils. This is followed by exploring the garden with Constance to collect and make a tussie-mussie to take home with you - these are small round bouquets of herbs and flowers handpicked and bound daily by the garden team for hotel guests to add to their bathtub, that envelop you in a warming, heady embrace of fragrance.
All the workshops include a lunch at the Greenhouse where unlike the refined experience at the estate’s Babel restaurant, here its all about relaxed picnic-style dining. Dishes arrive in wooden boxes and the zingy gazpacho and salads come fresh from the garden in glass jars.
Gundula Deutschländer's Healing Garden layout follows the form of the human body with medicinal herbs planted in the corresponding part of the Bobby they are known to heal - form the feet to the head. Guests can pick and blend herbs from the garden to make a unique healing herbal tea infusion to sip in the shade under one of the contemporary bamboo structures within this magical scented garden.
Like everything at Babylonstoren, the Garden Spa links back to the garden. Nestled in a wonderfully tranquil setting the spa sits in a sun dappled bamboo forest in a bamboo pavilion. Fresh Rosemary, lavender, and lemon thyme are picked each day for use in the spa. Cocooning treatments start with a "voetbossies," a wonderfully relaxing herbal foot ritual that soothes, heals and relaxes. A taster of the good things to come.
Babylonstoren is all about abundance and generosity aligned with incredible attention to detail. Nothing is overlooked in making your visit special whether you are a day guest or a hotel guest.
Babylonstoren is an adventure for all the senses and should be at the top of your list for when our skies re-open.
IMAGE CREDIT: ACID+ / Babylonstoren
This article first appeared online, on Home Journal's website, on January 7, 2021.