Valley of Wine and Roses.
Cape Town is probably the easiest place in the world to escape the city crush. Maybe that’s because there isn’t that much city and what there is, is right on top of a whole bunch of nature. Last weekend the family decided an outing was a good idea and ended up at Chart Farm.
The drive there is probably the best example of how easy it is to escape to the country – one minute you are on a freeway, the next, you’re on a goat track.
Finding the farm is easy; it’s right next to the freeway we take into town every day. Finding the entrance requires determination. After negotiating the winding back roads of Wynberg, you end up turning from a well paved suburban road onto a dirt road from the 1930s.
From this point on the experience becomes quite surreal: driving beneath ancient, over-hanging trees along a track that seems it might die out before reaching its destination; while no more than ten metres to your left traffic roars along a dual carriage way.
The feeling that you have stepped into a parallel universe is complete when you climb out of your car. The view is staggering and nothing in it indicates that you are still in the 21st Century.
Peace reigns and thanks to the crest of the hill that stands between you and the freeway, the noise of traffic is no more than a rumble.
The whole point of a visit to Chart Farm is to have tea, or breakfast, or lunch, depending on the time of day and how hungry you are. The restaurant is simplicity itself, with no quarter given to modernity. This is real deal rustic. Even the name is short of frills: “The Terrace Coffee Shop”.
Clearly one of the original farm buildings was commandeered for the restaurant with the catering facilities a bit of an afterthought. But the atmosphere is beautiful; you can almost feel the ghosts of previous times drifting across the covered veranda.
Look out from the terrace or the veranda and you are met with acres of roses in vivid bloom reaching down to vineyards and orchards which fall away into the valley and a green haze that seems to promise eternity.
The feeling of peace and security is enhanced by the Constantiaberg range that looms up to form a rugged backdrop and complete the tableau. Once again, those ghosts are right there; you can hear the laughter and chatter of bygone family gatherings and know that those ancient eyes were also drinking in this wonderful scenery.
In keeping with the general rustic feel of the place, the food was really good. The tea and coffee were perfect and there was no mention of that South African horror: hot or cold milk with your tea? They brought cold milk straight off the bat.
Of course, the main attractions are the view and the sense of tranquility that abounds. It is wise to find a table with an uninterrupted view of the valley. If you don’t, you will leave with a stiff neck.
As there were no tables in the shade on the outside terrace, we found a perfect spot on the veranda. The furnishings were wonderfully comfortable; generously stuffed cushions on sturdy rustic furniture
Being a working rose nursery, it follows that roses are king. The flowers are not just for looking at; containers and secateurs are available so visitors can wander off into the gardens to pick roses for themselves – for a small fee. We didn’t indulge in this, choosing to wallow in the endless scenery.
For an outing, Chart Farm is a total escape. There is no touristy element and everyone seems to be there with the same thing in mind: to take in the view and the tranquillity. There is no feeling that a tour coach is about to round the bend and flood the place. For a meeting venue, it’s probably a bit too laid back. There will surely be a problem if you want to maintain a sense of urgency.
Chart Farm is a gem. The need to go back there for another dose of the simple life is already haunting me – somewhat like those friendly ghosts I thought I sensed on the terrace.