In early October of 2014, I had my first real acquaintance with the beautiful, picturesque town of Paarl, apparently the third oldest town and former European settlement in South Africa (after Cape Town and Stellenbosch) and the largest of the Cape Wineland towns.
Translated from Afrikaans, Paarl means ‘pearl’ and though its name is drawn from its well-known, unique granite rock outcrops, in particular three rounded outcrops that make up Paarl Mountain (also known as Pearl Mountain or ‘Paarl Rock’), it is nevertheless a fitting name for, with its beauty, magnificent surrounding mountains and natural rock formations (the second largest granite outcrops in the world) and wonderful, internationally-acclaimed wine estates and Cape Dutch-style buildings to name but a few of its treasures, Paarl is indeed a pearl of a place and is great to visit, if only for a day.
When we visited, we left Cape Town bright and early and were blessed with a real scorcher of a day, despite it being springtime. It was amazing what we managed to fit into one glorious day visit and even more surprising when our day ended up being anything but rushed. 🙂
Truthfully, it’s one of the best trips I have stored away in my travel memory banks and I have decided it is time to share some of my personal highlights from it to point out some must-see places for visitors to check out in pretty Paarl.
Though each of them deserve their own post, I hope that, through the photos I have amassed from our trip and my individual place summaries, you will have enough to whet your travel appetite!
First up is the wonderful Fairview Wine Estate.
To get there, we took the back route, near Malmesbury and, although we were afraid we’d wind up lost and miss our lunchtime booking, we made it with time to spare (though it took a little longer than the usual 50-60 min. trip from C.T. :P) and relative navigational ease.
Fairview is really well-named and is one of the more beautiful farms I have ever had the pleasure of visiting.
With it’s bright orange, crane flowers (otherwise known as strelitzia) to one side of the smooth brick-paved drive and a spacious parking area to the other, and famous Goat Tower and gardens before you, you’re likely to be charmed by the estate from the moment you enter into its confines.
The walled, fairytalesque Goat Tower (built in 1981), where its equally famous bearded inhabitants reside in lieu of a princess, is one of the main highlights and is sure to delight both children and adults alike. Plus, it must be lovely to watch the goats going up and down their winding wooden staircase from the shelter of The Goatshed… they were smart enough to mainly stay in inside when we visited.
This third-generation wine and goat farm owned by the Back family, who first introduced the goats to Fairview in 1980, is home to some 1000 does (female goats) who alternatively reside in grassy pastures and their huge, sprinkler-equipped sheds (to combat Paarl’s devilishly hot summer climate) and provide the milk for the estate’s Vineyard Cheesery.
I can personally attest to the excellence and variety of Fairview’s award-winning, beautifully packaged cheeses, which can easily be found in most leading shopping markets. Their flagship Roydon Camembert has won five gold World Cheese Award medals and the first goats’ milk cheese- in their Chevin with Garlic & Herbs – to win ‘Product of the Year’ at the S.A. National Dairy Championships.
As for The Goatshed and the estate’s magnificent grounds (which are complete with a fancy fish pond, rolling lawns, bed upon bed of flowers, a crocodile dam and delightful pathways through the trees and herb gardens. You can even see some quirky, rusty farm implements outside its Tasting Room and Shop & Deli), there’s so much to see and enjoy and the old-fashioned, relaxed country atmosphere is sure to delighted.
(A word of caution: prior booking is essential if you plan on enjoying Fairview’s The Goatshed Restaurant. On weekends, especially Sundays as we found out, the place is packed and rightly so!)
Although there’s much to enjoy at The Goatshed (open 7 days a week from 09:00-17:00), which is slickly well-run and has an amazing, easy-going family atmosphere, whether you sit indoors, out on their veranda or at one of the tables beneath the lovely vineyard pergola, and the most wonderful views of the farm’s main grounds and above all, the Goat Tower.
We were fortunate to have a perfectly positioned table nearest the Tower where we enjoyed a most tasty selection of their famous produce when we ordered cheese and bread platters, which included some of their tastiest freshly baked breads, an assortment of top Jersey cow- and goat-milk cheese (with some of my favourites having sweet chilli, fig, black pepper and even cranberry inside them), paired with a glass of rich, ruby red Fairview wine – and honestly, the entire Goatshed restaurant experience gets a 10/10 restaurant rating from me.
Virtually everything from the herbs used in the Goatshed’s dishes to the famous wine and cheeses, with their iconic goat-inclusive label, is produced locally on the farm (or sourced from other local farms) as Fairview strive to be ultra eco-friendly in its farming methods.
It is open daily, from 09:00-17:00 (except on Good Friday and over the entire Easter Weekend, I think) and can be found at Suid-Agter Paarl, Suider-Paarl.
Fairview is one of the Cape’s finest offerings and comes highly recommended with a firm 10/10 overall rating! I loved every single minute spent there – and if you visit, I’m sure you will too. 🙂
For more info., please contact Fairview on +27 (021) 863 2450 or email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(For The Goatshed bookings and enquiries, please see their website: http://www.goatshed.co.za, email them at: email@example.com or call them on: +27 (021) 863 3609.
Many thanks to the excellent Fairview Wine Estate and their smart www.fairview.co.za for the wonderful experience and additional info. used in this write-up.
After that, we drove a short distance along the backroads of Paarl as we headed to one of South Africa’s oldest and most internationally-renowned wine estates, Nederburg Wine Estate, which ,with its excellent wines and time-honoured wine-making methods, has won more wine awards than any other estate in South Africa.
According to http://showme.co.za, Nederburg was established in 1791 by German settler, Phillipus Wolvaart and changed hands quite a few times before it was significantly purchased in 1937 by Johan Graue, whose “forward thinking approach and new techniques established Nederburg as the leading producer of quality wines in South Africa.”
Furthermore, winemaker Gunther Brozel is the only S.A. winemaker to have won the ‘International Wine and Spirits Competition Winemaker of the Year’ award.
The estate, with its wonderful plethora of Cape Dutch buildings, lovely circular rose garden, expansive grounds, ancient oak trees and perfectly manicured grass lawns and lime-green vineyards in front of its Visitors Centre, is afforded truly gorgeous views of the imposing Drakenstein mountains and the sights from the magnificent, Cape Dutch-style thatched Manor House (finished in 1800 and recognised as a National Monument in the late 90s) – and the bistro-style Red Table Restaurant that now has its culinary home there – are quite breathtaking and make for a truly memorable visit and photograph or two.
(Another annual draw card is Nederburg’s New Year’s Eve fine classical music celebration.)
Again, we had booked in advance and, after taking some great photos of the grounds and the timeless, beautifully maintained (both inside and out) Manor House, we sat in dappled sunshine at our decidedly red-themed table and chairs on the lovely terrace. Children seem to really delight in the giant Jenga, croquet, skittles and swings on-site.
Because it was a stiflingly hot early afternoon by this time and we were still suitably stuffed from our Fairview lunch, we ‘cheated’ a bit and just ordered some chilled white wine and cordials, which we enjoyed with our complimentary pita bread and basil pesto dip, before two out of three of our trio, myself included, ordered some mouth-watering and fast-melting Sinnful ice-cream. (Desserts are about R35, whilst wine by the glass or by the bottle varies in price.)
The Red Table Restaurant’s Andrea Foulkes and her staff’s service was good and as such, I award it a 8/10 rating. To contact them for bookings or enquiries, please call +27 (021) 877 5155 or email them at: theredtable.co.za
As for the magnificent Nederburg Wine Estate itself, which also has an Old Cellar Museum for visitors to explore, I truly adored its old-world charm and beauty and award it a 10/10 overall rating too.
It is open Monday to Friday from 08:00 to 17:00 and on Saturdays from 10:00-16:00 during November to March. From April to October, on Saturdays, it’s open from 10:00-14:00 and from 11:00-16:00 on Sundays (during Nov.-March) and is open on all public holidays, except Good Friday and Christmas Day.
For more info. and the available tours, please contact them on +27 (021) 862 3104 or see http://www.nederburg.com (you must be 18 years or old to access their website and social media) or find them at: Sonstraal Road, Dal Josafat, Paarl.
After that, we drove from the outskirts of town back into town and headed along Paarl Main Road before we found a pretty, scenic dirt back road (it’s not too bad as ‘farm roads’ go…), which I later discovered is in fact the rather famous Jan Philips Mountain Drive (opened in 1928 and built by famous wagon builder, Jan Philips in partnership with the municipality) and which, according to http://www.fodors.com , is halfway down the road from the Afrikaans Language/Taal Monument and which leads up to Paarl Mountain that was declared a National Monument in 1963 and offers wonderful places to visit such as: the Paarl Nature Reserve and Meulwater (Mill Water) Flower Garden.
Along the way, we passed one of three reservoirs and turned right at the fork in the road there, after which time, we reached the top and stopped just before the Reserve’s entrance to take photos – and wow, were the views of the picturesque Berg River valley, encircled by majestic mountains, from up there something to behold!
After that, we entered the Reserve (entry fee: R45 per vehicle and R15 per occupant; open during summer (1st October-31st March) from 07:00-19:00 and from 07:00-18:00 during winter (1st April-30th September) and on all public holidays) and enjoyed exploring the beautiful Meulwater Flower Garden and braai-picnic site.
There, you can see fifteen varieties of protea flower (look out for the informative little garden cabin that gives samples and info. on many of the flowers) and birds such as the sugar- and sun-birds. With the unique granite boulders that edge the pretty (especially near sunset when we visited), flowing water and interesting garden paths that wind through the fragrant, beautiful natural shrubbery and flowers, I felt a bit like Alice In Wonderland as there really is a kind of magical feeling about the place that gently breathes beauty, tranquillity and above all, a prevailing sense of calm. 🙂
Due to its beauty and safe, family feeling (it was pretty crowded when we visited but still we were able to find our own private spots and I was fortunate to have a close encounter with a lovely and surprisingly tame sun-bird as it drank the ‘nectar’of a protea) on that particular late afternoon, I would give it a 10/10 overall rating.
For more info. on the Paarl Nature Mountain Reserve or the Meulwater Flower Garden, please visit: http://www.paarlonline.com or contact Louise de Roubaix on: +27 (082) 744 5900.
Many thanks to the following sites for the additional info. used in this write-up: www.paarlonline.com, www.sa-venues.com, www.sleeping-out.co.za, http://m.wikipedia.org, www.fodors.com and Deon Naude of Lemoenkloof Guesthouse via Catherine Sempill.
After that, we quickly nipped down the road and (I think the road connects with Gabbema Doordrift Drive after a short distance but not dead certain) on to the Afrikaans Language Monument, otherwise known as the ‘Taal Monument’.
According to www.paarlonline.com , the Taal Monument was built in 1975 by Jan van Wijk and “acknowledges the influence of a variety of languages such as Dutch, Malay, Malay-Portuguese, Arabic, French, German, English and the indigenous Khoi and African languages, on the development of Afrikaans.”
You can visit it with a tour group (though the 20-minute-long guided tours are free and available daily between 8:00 and 11:30 or 14:30 and 16:45, they are available upon request via pre-booking only) as our fellow tourists did when we rather luckily entered in the final half an hour before closing (and thus, the last permitted entrance time) but it’s good fun to enjoy with friends and loved ones.
Within you will find an “exotic garden”, rolling green lawns, the Volksmond Coffee Shop (there are also picnic baskets available for purchase; full moon picnics and stargazing evenings are popular events here), telescopes and raised wooden decks for viewing, as well as the main monument itself and its two amphitheatres.
With its unusual water features, flute-like shapes and giddying height and size, the proud, swirling monument is a wonderful and truly interesting structure to explore.
I don’t really like man-made heights so I’m not sure I’d climb it quite as adventurously as I’ve seen other people do on social media but I didn’t mind taking the steps up. 🙂
I particularly liked the inside, which, right up to the top of its chimney-like opening, offers a pretty lighting pattern, especially as the day draws to a close.
As we discovered on the day, as a couple was having a photo shoot near the steps, the venue is excellent for all kinds of private and commercial photo shoots alike.
The Taal Monument was an unexpectedly beautiful place and although it was last on our list, it was certainly worthwhile and it gave us the most breathtaking views of Paarl and indeed, my beloved Mother City away in the distance.
It is well worth a visit and sometime I’d like to go back and check out the Taal museum and the little coffee shop, which was sadly closed when we visited. With the slanting sun’s golden rays and the breathtaking views witnessed through and around the sturdy structures, our visit was certainly golden and as first-time visitors, we were blessed with the best.
I do need to explore the Monument and its attractions more fully in the future as I mentioned before but, based on what I saw, it easily deserves a 10/10 overall rating.
The Taal Monument is open Monday to Sunday from 08:00-17:00 (April to Nov.) and from 08:00-20:00 during summer (Dec. to March). (It is closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day.)
The entrance fee (as of April 2015 to March 2017) is R25 per adult (this fee includes both museum and monument), whereas for S.A. students (with valid student cards) it’s R10 and R5 for children 6 years and old (kids under six get in free) and for pre-booked school groups pay R2 per learner.
For more info., please call: +27 (021) 863 4809/0543, email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org visit the website: www.taalmuseum.co.za.
Thus, our wonderful visit to the beautiful Paarl Valley drew to a fitting close as the sun began to set and we enjoyed a quiet evening drive back to Cape Town… There are so many sights and places to take in when you visit Paarl but these are surely some of the best! 🙂
Many thanks to my amazing 2014 travel companions and loved ones, Ash and Lies, for the additional photos used in this post. For more great photos and wonderful blog posts from places the world-over, you can also check out Lies’s excellent travel blog at: www.nonstopdestination.com.
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Author: Tamlyn Amber Ryan
Tamlyn Ryan is a writer and blogger, who runs her own travel blog, called Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust. Despite a national diploma in Journalism, her preferred niche remains travel writing. She is a hopeless wanderer, equipped with an endless passion for road trips, carefully planned, holiday itineraries and above all else, the great outdoors.