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Ripe for Exploration

by Elyse Glickman

Aug 2, 2019

Elyse Glickman

Age Specific / Adult Children

Although Stellenbosch is known worldwide for putting South Africa on the map, Franschhoek (which translates to “French Town” in Afrikaans) is deservedly a favorite weekend haunt for Cape Town. While it delivers plenty of grown-up and sophisticated wine experiences, many of its wineries and businesses recognize oenophiles may have kids in town. Here, you will find successfully cultivated attractions and activities intended to engage curious young minds and expand young palates.

Nothing epitomizes this more than Babylonstoren, a complex of Cape Dutch houses and barns dating back to the 18th century. Guests are greeted by geese, chickens, ducks and turkeys at the edge of the parking lot. Once inside, they will encounter the resident tortoises and donkeys, as well as native wild steenbok and some of the 78 bird species spotted on the property and documented over the years.

Franchhoek Babylonstoren animals.

Franchhoek Babylonstoren animals. Photo: Elyse Glickman

Beyond animal sightings, however, the heart and soul of Babylonstoren is its exquisitely landscaped garden, modeled after the Company’s Garden of Cape Town, established in the 17th century to supply the crews of passing commercial ships with food. The garden tours, which begin at 10 a.m. on most days at the chic Farm Shop, are led by a knowledgeable gardener-guide who will not only explain the practical organization of the expanse (which today supplies the the farm’s two restaurants: Babel and Greenhouse). Tasting or smelling certain things in season is often encouraged, as the guides discuss the origins and uses (culinary, aesthetic and medicinal) of the different fruits, vegetables and herbs.

After the family gets the lay of the land, kids can be enrolled in a variety of activities to further explore the inner workings of the farm, including feeding the donkeys, collecting eggs, harvesting fruits and vegetables, and helping on-site bakers with kneading and baking fresh breads. There are also scavenger hunts, and for young people 10 and older, a tea ceremony in the Healing Gardens on Tuesday mornings.

Franchhoek Babylonstoren Farmhouse

Franchhoek Babylonstoren Farmhouse. Photo: Elyse Glickman

While a Babylonstoren visit can be adapted for a full-day trip or part of a day, families looking for a full-blown country getaway can book space at the property’s Farm Hotel, and add such outdoorsy activities nearby as rowing, seasonal fly and bass fishing, and using the property’s bikes for adults and kids to further explore the property.

Franchhoek’s small village center, meanwhile, bursts with cute shops and inviting art galleries (The Vineyard, The Moor, and Ebony Curated), and many casual dining options such as Lust Bakery & Cafe, Bistro Bon Bon, Cafe des Arts and Marigold (an Indian restaurant opened by Analjit Singh, founder of the prestigious Leeu Estates winery).

Franchhoek Leeue View.

Franchhoek Leeue View. Photo: Elyse Glickman

While the Bochendal Wine Estate is known for its world-class wines, The Werf Restaurant is a fabulous extension of the winery, providing the perfect backdrop for a special occasion family dinner. Every diner gets to craft their own three- to five-course degustation menus. The space, built into the original cellar of the winery’s manor house, overlooks the Werf Food Garden. Here, executive chef Christiaan Campbell and his team pick and choose seasonal ingredients at the peak of flavor (proteins and vegetables). The regularly changing menu features three to five dishes per category (Garden, Ocean, Pasture and Sweet) so everybody can enjoy the local bounty on their own terms.

Mullineux & Leeu and Leeu Estates offer another luxurious slant on the winery as a lifestyle experience. Why settle for a tasting at a counter or display in a wine shop when you could book one of three bespoke wine tastings (Mullineux Signature Tasting, Mullineux Single Terroir Tasting, Leeu Passant Tasting) in The Wine Studio, designed by noted Spanish architect Tomeu Esteva as the ultimate living room. The Dining Room and spa restaurant inside The Manor House at Leeu Estates are feasts for all of the senses between the Dassenburg mountain and valley views and statue and rose gardens lining the property.

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