Stellenbosch is one of our favourite towns to visit. Filled with rich history, old Cape Dutch style buildings (which we absolutely love) and a laid-back vibe that I crave for every now and then. Everything seems a little bit slower there. The people there have mastered the “no rushing” thing, something I can definitely do with more of. So much so, that one of my personal goals for 2017, was to take the busyness of my life down a notch. To breathe. To have more fun. To keep me sane. But most importantly, to connect with more of what matters to me and my family. But this is proving to be challenging at times, although, I’m sure that Noel will agree, I have definitely improved on this front.
Apologies, I digressed, but it’s okay 😊. We’ve probably visited Stellenbosch a hundred times before, but didn’t ever notice the Stellenbosch University Botanical Gardens nestled nicely between some of the businesses in Plein Street. This was such a pleasant surprise, when we “accidentally” stumbled across it whilst exploring this place that has a special place in my heart. We seriously never get tired of roaming the streets of Stellenbosch – the history, the architecture and the food! Little bistros on every corner – what is not to love!?
When we entered the garden, it didn’t look any different to any other garden, but as we walked further, what captivated us, was the design of it. It’s small and compact – no space goes unused. Everywhere you look, it’s just beautiful greenery. I had serious sensory overload because with the vast variety of species, all squeezed together. This meant a different shade, a different shape, a different experience… all…the…time! It is fairly quiet in the garden too – people feel the need to whisper – why, I don’t know – maybe they feel that a garden is a sacred place? No matter what the reason is – this added to the serenity of it all. You connect with nature without the “noise” we have come to know.
There are these little pebbled paths that each lead you to a little piece of botanical heaven. Although no picnics are allowed, there are small open grass spaces that make for the perfect spot to reflect on everything around you or to even get in a few chapters of your favourite book. While you relax and forget your troubles (for a little while at least), your little ones can explore and have their own adventure. The petite size means they can’t get lost, so you have nothing to worry about. I suggest you visit the garden after you filled your tummy at one of the many eateries in this quaint town (this is another reason we love visiting Stellies), then just relax and take in all that nature around you.
A beautiful pond showcasing some of the biggest water lilies I’ve seen, adds to the magic. There is also a graceful waterfall down one of the paths – standing there, all you hear is the water flowing gently down and the hiss of the insects in the foliage. Peaceful… Magical…These are a few of the words that come to mind when I remember that moment. There are also green houses displaying beautiful species of succulents. We love succulents. We are suckers for succulents 😊.
Another reason to visit this garden is the impressive collection of Bonsai trees it exhibits. One of the oldest and biggest Bonsai trees call this place home. Most of the collection was donated to the garden and the name of it’s previous owner is actually displayed for each tree – I thought this was a special touch. I’m not aware of any other garden in Cape Town or surrounds that offers such an impressive collection. If for no other reason, go visit the garden to see these beautiful trees for yourself. It might take you back to your Karate Kid days – it did for us 😊.
After being “lost” in this enchanted space, we retreated to the little café in the middle of all the greenery. The café offers small meals and a range of sweetness – cakes, muffins, scones, milkshakes – there is something for everyone. The fact that the café is smack bang in the middle of the garden is a big drawing card, because it felt as if we were eating in a tropical rain forest or someplace exotic like that.
Our visit to this little haven was just what I needed to practise some “no rushing” and capture some beautiful memories. Sadly, I lost all of the photos I took along with some others, so we headed on back to the garden so I could really show you the beauty you would see. But Murphy’s Law – it rained today, so it wasn’t the greatest day to capture the beauty, but I hope these will do.
The next time you are looking for something to do over the weekend that your kids will love too, take a mini-road trip to Stellenbosch and make sure that the Stellenbosch University Botanical Gardens is on your to-do list – you will not be sorry! Here’s an idea I know you will like – go for some wine tasting at one of the many wine estates along the Stellenbosch Wine Route, then head on into town for a lovely meal and end your day off with a visit to this graceful garden :).
More about the garden
Entry to the garden is currently free (a R10 fee will be charged sometime in the future) and it operates Mon to Sunday from 9.00am to 17.00pm. This is also the time that the café inside closes, so make sure that when you visit, you have enough time to explore all that the garden has to offer and still have time to sit back and enjoy a meal amidst the beauty. There is also a curio shop that sells books, seeds, coffee beans and natural beauty products if you are keen on a keepsake. I even got myself a herb starter pack so I can grow my own herbs 😊.
For more information, visit Stellenbosch University Botanical Gardens website by clicking on the link: http://www.sun.ac.za/english/entities/botanical-garden/visitor-information.
” A garden is a friend that you can visit anytime.” – Anonymous