I have often wondered; why do we experience in different ways? Is this attributed to our sensory makeup, or is it the result of our shared or often contrasted cultural history? Which in turn begs the question, what exactly makes one place or experience seemingly better than the other?
When I set off to the Drakenstein valley on a soft lit Autumn afternoon with a group of friends, I thought about the movie Marie Antoinette directed by Sofia Coppola, conjuring images of young royals exploring and running amuck in the gardens of Versailles. Still wearing my French hat (or should that be powdered wig?) I did a bit of research on the Petit Trianon where Marie Antoinette would not only go to escape the formality of court life, but also shake off the burden of her royal responsibilities. In that instant, I fully understood the desire for abandonment, just like French royals, not that a 17th century French palace is as vibrant and energetic as let’s say, the Sandton CBD. This would in turn explain why every arrival at Babylonstoren is quite a startling experience, and dare I say alien to our city honed senses.
Keeping the mise-en-scene at the height of 18th Century Cape Dutch farm life, Babylonstoren gives its visitors a complete escape from what lies beyond its borders. Volumes have been written about Babylonstoren over the last few years, but as with anything this popular, evolution is still at the order of the day to keep things fresh and relevant. This is especially true in Cape Town where watering holes and restaurants seem to pop up with fervor, and the desire to keep up with the proverbial Joneses ever pressing, so even with a tried and tested recipe like Babylonstoren, evolution is key to survival. Drawn to one of many new additions to the farm we eagerly migrated to the Wine Tasting Room which offered a very cozy pre-lunch sampling of Babylonstoren’s finest. Bargain hunters won’t need convincing to join the Babylonstoren Wine Club, with ample reasons to love the free nationwide delivery, exclusive invitations to cellar social events and launches.
The undisputed heart of Babylonstoren is of course Babel restaurant, which has been enhanced by doubling in its size, and in the process, making the waiting list for reservations less daunting than it used to be. Coming from a branding background, I’m a stickler for the age old “does what it says on the box” adage, and Babylonstoren never disappoints with every touch point being intuitively thought out and executed. What about the food? Amazing as it has always been, with subtle menu revisions to keep things fresh and current. Interestingly enough, the thing that always takes you aback at Babylonstoren are the service levels, deserving of all the airtime it gets. #unsurpassed
Beneath the 18th century façade beats a very modern heart, so for those of us that don’t want to go completely Farmville, Babylonstoren offers an array of creature comforts in the form of the Farm Hotel complete with Spa, modern gym and swimming pool. For all of this though, it is the way that Babylonstoren allows you to dance and Instagram in vegetable gardens with terracotta pot Scarecrows and squad goal like Marie Antoinette through orchards with squirrels that vanish as quickly as they seem to appear. If you ever need more convincing of Babylonstoren’s charms, just see what happens when you leave six adults in their mid-30’s unsupervised at a tree swing. Priceless.
The power of a place like Babylonstoren lies in its sheer ability to surprise, delight and liberate. To answer the question, I asked at the beginning of this post, I believe the reason why our interaction with a place tends to be ‘better’ than the other, is purely because certain places have the ability to bring out the best parts of our personalities, and that is an unbeatable act to achieve, not to mention follow.
Making our way back to Cape Town still basking in the whirlwind, heat and flash of the afternoon, I was fixated on a line said by the duchesse de Polignac in the aforementioned movie, which was as relevant that afternoon as it was in the 1770’s at Versailles:
“Oh, look, the Chickens are out. Fabulous”.