What a treat and a privilege to be able to visit some extraordinarily talented displays whilst on our working-holidaying-working-adventure. Currently in South Africa, we decided to relocate our office to a more satellite position for the day, doubling up on a visit to two remarkably creative outlets.
The first being the most favourite of mine in the Western Cape, discovered many years ago, shortly after they opened to the public, Babylonstoren. The gem that is this beautiful wine estate is found in a remarkably wine-rich triangle between Franshoek, Stellenbosch and Paarl, on the Simondium road.
What makes this estate more than a wine estate is it’s incredible kitchen gardens. I believe that they extend over eight acres with more than 300 varieties of plant being edible. They supply their own kitchens for the hotels and spa guests as well as their fabled Bable fine dining restaurant and the delightful greenhouse coffee shop style eatery.
These incredible gardens are nothing but a joy to stroll around and through. Water ways are immaculate and efficiently feed the various beds, orchards and venues on the estate. They are a wonderful example of self sufficiency and eco sustainability. Their unparallelled beauty, structure and order is a treat for the designer eye and discerning shopper of all things fine, beautiful and foodie!
Obviously all things that are grown, especially for food, require sunshine. This is something that the area is more than wealthy in. Summertime in this valley is dry, hot and very sunny! I’ve long learned to arrive with a hat and a fan, along with a towel and a book, the first two items one is able to purchase in their fabulous shop, in the event that you’re not as well prepared as I’ve learnt to be. The latter two items are for my personal enjoyment as I am always reluctant to leave these beautiful gardens, even when I have tramped through every broken peach pip strewn pathway, every crushed perlemoen shelled walkway and every vine covered pergola. That is why a towel and a book are necessary: find a reclining chair in the shade of a large tree or a patch of shady thyme or camomile lawn, stretch out for a nap or a read, surrounded by beauty and bounty – happy sigh indeed! However, if it’s satellite office space one seeks, as in our case, the cool of the greenhouse cafe is the place to be. Under the fine water misters and hanging ice balls, the air is cool enough and the wifi strong enough to get on with a chunk of work that a weekday holds.
The counter wine estate treat is the very first one in the history of the country, that of one of the original Dutch colonial settlers, Vergelegen, located outside of the town of Somerset West. This exquisite property is a heritage site steeped in tales of tragic settler and slave encounters, of which the museum is beautifully, sadly detailed. The history is evident, not only in the sad colonial legacy, but also in the magnificence of the trees.
The trees are the reason that I mention this estate as a “counter” experience to my favourite, Babylonstoren: it is shady, cool and thoroughly tranquil. To sit under the remaining camphor trees, originally planted by Simon Van Der Stel, more than 300 years ago, is to marvel at the foresight of those who plant trees for future generations to enjoy.
From the bounty of the wine estates, we found ourselves fortunate to secure a booking for a remarkable artistic talent, one Dylan Lewis: sculptor, ceramicist, artist, landscaper extraordinaire.
With a very thin thread, I felt somewhat “tied” to this gem through the highschool friendship with this famous artist’s wife and sister. Needless to say, I was delighted to have been made aware of this hidden nugget.
What Dylan and his equally talented wife, Karen have wrought from the natural topography and indigenous vegetation is truly a work of art, in magnificent proportion!
Dylan Lewis’ sculptures range from the delicate miniature to the massive monolith, all very carefully and deliberately positioned within natural gardens, against the backdrop of majestic mountains and around ponds of water fowl.
This artist is world renown for his series of sculptures depicting the wild cats of South Africa. Leopards lunging in for the kill, cheater in full-speed flight, lions proudly stalking his lioness. These, along with buffalo, rhino, elephant and wild dogs, not only grace his gardens but can be found in some of the most exclusive hotels, in some of the most iconic capitals of the world.
Interestingly, his human forms take on the inner torment that so many talented artists wrestle with: the constant battle between the angelic and the evil in us human beings. As a result, he adorns many of his figures with the horns of animals and the wings of birds. Others he fragments in order to depict, what I assume to be an inner conflict. (I cannot be quoted on this as it is my impression alone and, as mentioned, my “thread” to this man is not a personal one.)
Hi bio is interesting and impressive and thus more than worth the visit to this remarkably unassuming place of great beauty and inspiration.
The privilege to encounter the beauty of God’s creation in both the natural and man made talent, thank you South Africa!