A small town I have always wanted to spend more time exploring is Stellenbosch – we’ve been lucky enough to visit on 2 previous occasions but each time we visited for 1 night only and without the kids (not that I’m complaining) So when the invite came through for us to spend a weekend as a family at Life & Leisure Guest House in the heart of Stellenbosch I jumped at the chance. Unfortunately our schedules meant we had a to wait a few months before we could find a free weekend and when we finally did at the start of the recent school holidays it couldn’t have been better timing because…
Springtime in Stellenbosch is something to behold
On our weekend visit the sun was warm enough to wear shorts and dresses, the “leiwater” channels were gurgling with fresh mountain water, the oak leaves were bursting with spring green life, and the birds and insects were making merry with the abundance of beautiful blossoms and blooms displaying their pretty colours to the world. Every garden seemed to be competing with the next for the most sensorial experience from the riot of colourful flowers to the sweet scents filling the air.
We headed out to Stellenbosch on the Friday evening, getting delayed by the terrible traffic and arriving after dark. Fortunately our accommodation was very centrally located which meant we didn’t need to get back in our car to go out for supper, we could just walk down the road to find a family-friendly eatery which we did in the form of the Thai Cafe.
The next morning we headed out early to fully utilise the bright blue skies…
Stellenbosch is a university town and, walking the oak-shaded streets, I could totally see the appeal of choosing it as a place to spend 4 years. The small town has a central campus making it easy for students to cycle or walk between lectures and their accommodation. It seems highly likely that were I to have studied here I would have done no work at all with all the amazing coffee shops, restaurants, open park areas and friends within a few metres. But obviously I’ve not had the first hand experience of living and studying at Stellenbosch so maybe my view is highly romanticised… I’d love to hear from you about your experience of student life at Stellenbosch if you were lucky enough to study here!
Just a 10 min walk down the road from our accommodation we found ourselves in the centre of town, bustling with Saturday morning busy-ness.
Apart from admiring the historical buildings, towering oak trees and plentiful curios, we loved popping in and out of the beautiful boutique stores lining Church Street, treating ourselves to a delicious Pastel de nata at the Boschendal deli and admiring the public artworks and private galleries.
This is a city with a creative heart and it was freshly inspiring for me to see such gorgeous art on display at every turn, and equally lovely to be able to expose my kids to various styles of art. My favourite was the Gavin Collins gallery!
A secret Stellenbosch gem that we had not previously heard about, let alone visited, was the Botanical Gardens, which we stumbled across by accident while walking in the town… isn’t it incredible what you miss in a car?? I LOVE walking a city. You discover so much more about it’s essence. Walking allows you to take things in at a much slower pace and gives you time to soak in the unique light, sounds and, even, smells that each town offers!
Our discovery of these compact gardens proved to be a highlight (as I think so many unexpected moments in travel often turn out to be!) they house an enormous diversity of plants, both indigenous to South Africa as well as exotic.
I think much of the appeal of our visit to the Stellenbosch Botanical Gardens, the oldest university botanical garden in South Africa, must be attributed to the fact that it was bursting with bright Spring life…
Sunlight streamed through the tall trees highlighting the brilliant oranges, reds, pinks and purples of the flowers all blooming beautifully….
After spending time in what we thought was the entire extent of the garden, we followed a shaded pathway of Clivia only to discover another whole section of shade loving plants, and then another, and another! A tropical greenhouse, an arid desert-scape, a bonsai emporium, a fairy-land forest of ferns as tall as trees! My kids were in paradise running through the overgrown pathways and discovering leaves larger than their heads. The R10 entry fee per person was well worth it for a morning’s entertainment surrounded by nature at it’s most bountiful.
After a busy morning it was time to slow things down and head somewhere peaceful for lunch ( and a spot of wine-tasting too, we were in wine country after all!)
Keeping things as central as possible we had decided that we would focus on enjoying the wine farms that were all within 5 mins of our guest house (and the centre of Stellenbosch town) which meant we headed to Lanzerac.
One of the oldest wine farms in the region, Lanzerac recently suffered a devastating fire at their hotel and this had led many people, myself included, to think that the entire estate was closed. The good news is that it hasn’t closed entirely. Yes, the hotel is undergoing reconstruction, but the wine-tasting area, the deli and the restaurant are all still fully functional.
Sitting outside on the terrace under the Pin Oak Trees we enjoyed a very civilised wine-tasting of Lanzerac’s superb wines, including their Pinotage. Lanzerac is known as the historical home of this uniquely South African grape varietal and it was apt to be enjoying it on the Lanzerac estate just a few weeks before International Pinotage Day on 14 October. (click the link to find out more about Lanzerac’s amazing specials and activities on offer to celebrate the day!)
While we enjoyed a variety of Lanzerac’s wines we were also able to order some lunch from the Lanzerac deli and we weren’t disappointed. At the deli, breads, cakes and pastries are baked daily, and delicious home-made jams, chutneys and sauces are on sale. Diners can create their own sandwich or platter for lunch from the selection of charcuterie and cheeses on offer and picnic baskets are also available to be enjoyed in the Deli’s garden overlooking the vineyards.
The burgers, open and closed sandwiches on offer were all generously portioned and deliciously tasty. All 4 of us sampled each other’s order and agreed that our favourite was the Ciabatta Roll with Spicy BBQ Pulled Pork, Coriander Salad, Cabbage Slaw & Sesame Mayo, followed closely by the Stellenbrau Beer Bread with Cider Roast Ham, Young Boerenkaas, Blackened Apple, Rocket, Gooseberry & Rosemary Butter. Both were priced at R79 and are pictured below.
It was hard to leave Lanzerac after our chilled out afternoon in the Spring sunshine but my husband, The Wine Amateur, was anxious to taste a few more wines and so we headed to another nearby wine estate…
Glenelly Estate is also located just 5 mins from the centre of Stellenbosch which convinced us of our next location.
While my ‘wino’ headed upstairs to the modern tasting area I took the kids down to discover the glass collection collected by the estate’s 92-year-old owner, Madame May de Lencquesaing who has had a lifelong passion for rare and contemporary glass.
One of the largest privately owned collections in the world, ranging from the 1st and 2nd Century to modern classics, it includes pieces by Salvador Dali and Lino Tagliapietra and is a unique journey through the history of glass making.
Myself and my kids were fascinated by the beautiful and unique pieces in the collection and enjoyed finding out more about some of the special pieces as well as watching a short video on how glass is made. We were kept busy for at least an hour while my husband enjoyed some solitude.
The glass collection is open Wednesday to Saturday from 11am to 6pm and Sundays from 10am to 3pm the collection is well worth a visit (unfortunately photographs are not permitted!)
After a morning of exploring and an afternoon of “wine-ing” it was time to relax, properly, so we headed back to the haven of our family suite at Life & Leisure to put our feet up and watch the rugby, followed by X Factor, all together on the king sized bed – a real treat for us all!
The family room at Life & Leisure is located adjacent to the guesthouse. It consists of three bedrooms in a private upstairs wing of the building – a main bedroom with a full en-suite bathroom and not one but two additional rooms both with King-sized beds and DSTv (my kids thought they were in actual heaven with the novelty of a HUGE bed all to themselves AND a private TV in their room!!!) These 2 rooms share a separate bath, shower & toilet. There is also a private balcony.
After a good night’s rest and recovery from our busy Saturday, Sunday dawned equally bright and beautiful so we decided to make the most of it and headed out to explore 2 more wine estates… this is the winelands after all 🙂
Again we opted to choose an estate that was within 5 mins of our accommodation and headed to Rustenberg. We’d visited this estate years ago with our boy toddler (now almost 11!)
The garden had made such an impression on me back then that I knew it needed a revisit. It proved to be a very good idea as you’ll see from the photos below!
For those of you keen to visit this exquisite garden you might like to make a note of the following dates for their Open Gardens event happening at the end of October.
Our final destination of our stay in Stellenbosch was located a short drive from the heart of the town, but as we would be heading home in the same direction it didn’t really matter anymore to keep things local so we headed out towards Somerset West.
Peter Falke Wines was the place to wind down our Stellenbosch experience and we chose to sample their wines while snacking on a shareable cheese platter while the kids tucked into a plate of cheese nachos.
The terrace we sat at is surrounded by billowing magenta bougainvillea and our vantage point offered us gorgeous views over the lavender and rose garden towards the Helderberg mountains beyond.
Unfortunately we hadn’t planned for the intense heat of Stellenbosch in Summer (it’s only early October!), so, as our spot under the umbrella started to heat up we got a bit envious of those enjoying their lunch spread out on the grass. The large cushions spread out under the trees looked very inviting indeed and I would recommend booking one of these spots instead of on the terrace for the ultimate relaxing Sunday afternoon. (The only downside to this arrangement is that you can’t do the wine tasting on the grass so you’ll have to go inside the tasting room!)
There is a small kiddies play area right down at the bottom end of the grass, but this is definitely aimed at toddlers. For our slightly older kids this wasn’t the most entertaining wine farm option – they prefer space to explore and this is limited here. I would say that Peter Falke is probably better suited to couples or groups of adults, possibly families with babies or toddlers who don’t wander off too far.
Peter Falke Wines is certainly a very beautiful spot to enjoy a leisurely lunch or a lazy afternoon with friends enjoying the relaxing setting, just remember to pack a hat and some sunscreen as deep shade is minimal.
For a bit more of an insight into our weekend wanderings around Stellenbosch you might enjoy these 2 short videos I made about our experience…
Life & Leisure Guest House
Tel: +27 (0) 21 886 6955/(0) 82 045 3509
Email: [email protected]
Stellenbosch Botanical Gardens
Tel: +27 (0) 21 887 1132
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +27 (0) 21 809 6440
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +27 (0) 21 809 1200
Peter Falke Wines
Tel: +27 (0) 21 881 3677
Email: [email protected]
Images, Words & Videos: Kathryn Rossiter
Disclosure: 1 for Life & Leisure, Lanzerac & Peter Falke.