I picked up the flyer while I was waiting at a counter. It said Keep calm and drink wine. Personally, I think the keep calm trend is overrated and outdated but I do like wine and after all, wine is what I came to Stellenbosch for.
Drinking wine or going to university is one of Stellenbosch's main attraction. Mind you, I also have family there and just a deep appreciation for this little Winelands town. Stellenbosch has been overrun by tourists and chain restaurants in recent years but that doesn't really diminish its charm. At least not by a lot. It does, however, mean that you have a lot fewer options on where to find a decent local meal to go with that wine.
Charming it still is though, proudly showing its heritage as the second oldest European settlement in South Africa. Cape Dutch houses, tree-lined streets, and unbeatable mountain views all around - Stellenbosch is pretty picture perfect.
Perfect also for a mini, romantic mid-week getaway and to check how much wine one can
sample drink in 24 hours.
Alex, he is the romantic part in that story, and I started at one of my favorite places which is not technically in Stellenbosch, but a perfect summer day's lunch option: Babylonstoren.
Here you dine color-coordinated in their beautiful restaurant, Babel, before taking a stroll in their infamous gardens.
Even with very few options, it was perfect for a gluten intolerant eater, Alex, and a hater of celery and chocolate, me. I even had dessert which made me realize that I actually do have a sweet tooth when there is no chocolate involved.
Where to drink in Stellenbosch
As we enjoyed our wine pairings we decided to go for wine tasting as well and I was pleasantly surprised by the setup. Usually, wine tasting is done either outside - often too hot because Stellenbosch gets toasty - or in a cellar where you see none of the surrounding glory that is the Winelands.
Babylonstoren combines the best of both worlds - you sit in a climatized glasshouse with a mountain view.
While I thought their bubbly was overpriced we both loved the rose and the viognier and took a few bottles for the road.
From one glorious place to the next we moved on to Spier, one of the oldest wine farms in the area.
We were invited for a wine and chocolate pairing, which I chose for Alex's sake as he is a chocolate believer; I planned on consoling myself with more wine. In hindsight, the irony about my earlier statement isn't lost on me - the waitress had to stop me to not eat all slabs at once.
Spier has their own chocolatier who came up with perfect combinations to go with their wines. We started with two red accompanied by a slab of malted dark chocolate.
From red, we moved on to white and rose - the intensity of the chocolates dictates the order you drink. White was combined with white chocolate infused with star anise and passionfruit and the roses with a fiery white chocolate with pepper. For the first time in my life, I preferred chocolate over wine and I am not ashamed to admit that I bought a whole lot and ate most of it myself (when Alex wasn't looking).
Where to sleep in Stellenbosch
In my eyes, Stellenbosch has two suitable options when it comes to sleeping. And one, you may have guessed, involves a family member of mine. Unlike all the other times when I tell you great things, I do with my family in South Africa only to crush you and say "sorry, but you cannot just come to my cousin's deck and hang out with Archie the bulldog" this time is different. My aunt and uncle live in a beautiful historic house on Dorp Street (the main road in Stellenbosch) and have turned some of their rooms into an Airbnb. So yes, you can come too.
Use this link to get €35 off your first booking.
I might be biased but they are lovely as is their house and the very enchanted garden. Also, my aunt makes mean breakfast eggs, is full of stories and has just taken in three kittens which makes the whole experience even better in my books.
Alas, we didn't stay there as... well, to be honest, because I would have felt just a tiny bit awkward staying with my aunt and uncle and a guy I hadn't seen in ages. Let's just say that we wanted some privacy and so we just popped in for a coffee before heading to Majeka House.
Majeka House is option number two if you are looking for a great place to stay in Stellenbosch. Just a few kilometers away from the center you are greeted by green and a whole lot of Majorelle Blue. Yves Saint Laurent has inspired the outside area while the inside is dominated by pigs. Gold pigs, ceramic pigs, big pigs and small pigs - it is obvious what the owner's favorite animal is.
Before dinner, we took a nap in our cloudlike bed which quickly moved to the top of my 'top beds around the world'-list. Thanks to palm trees on the ceiling!
Where to eat in Stellenbosch
For dinner, we were invited to eat at their in-house restaurant Makaron. To be honest I am usually not a fan of hotel restaurants. They are mostly a letdown, even in the fanciest places. However, Makaron restaurant is supposed to be a Stellenbosch highlight according to people who know such things.
While the setting and the acoustics at Makaron were not really cozy nor made for easy conversation, the food was excellent. We started with a box of bread, gluten-free options for Alex, followed by several courses of deliciousness highlighting local specialties like springbok and ostrich. While every dish was really good we agreed that a pre-dessert of carrots and white chocolate was our hero.
For a nightcap, one can either go to the piano bar covered in more pigs or retire to the room for a sneaky glass of wine. Sneaky that is if you have snuck any in, of course (Babylonstoren's Viognier is excellent for sneaking in...just saying).
The next morning we were tired thanks to our feast and the sneaky wine and even I did not head straight for the bubbly which Majeka House offers for breakfast. Can you even imagine? Instead we opted for a
hangover hearty breakfast and homemade smoothies for some detox.
On the way home we were both a bit more quiet than usual. Whether it was the fact that the mini getaway was over or that each of us was pondering if that was going to be the first of many mini getaways together. I think it was the latter. After all, there is that nice saying: Wine. Because no good story ever started with someone eating a salad.
Disclaimer: Thank you Majeka House for hosting us and for Spier for helping me discover my inner chocolate lover!