Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Vergelegen ..... Mum .... and memories

If I had known ...
.. that I was starting a blog a few months ago, I would have taken lots more photos of Vergelegen Wine Estate on digital, during recent trips, rather than reproducing my 'snaps' to share! It's one of my favourite places in Somerset West at the foothills of the Hottentot Holland mountains (Western Cape) ...

Brief History .....

Vergelegen was granted ownership to Willem Adriaan van der Stel in 1700 when he became Governor by his father Governor Simon van der Stel on his retirement. "The younger van der Stel transformed the uncultivated land into a veritable paradise." "In 1917 the property was purchased by Sir Lionel Phillips for his wife Florence, who restored the old homestead, library and gardens."

Now it's a popular tourist attraction with the Wine Tasting Centre, Octagonal Garden, Homestead, open for public viewing, guarded by two enormous Camphor laurels (Cinnamomum camphora) planted by Willem van der Stel in 1705 ... and they are enormous !! There is also a restaurant .. the 'Lady Phillips Restaurant' which serves the most delicious meals, and the Rose Terrace situated at the Rose Garden where they serve light lunches. It's only open in summer though as the Cape winters are pretty awful - rainy and cold! Picnic baskets are available and they have picnic tables scattered under huge trees. The Library built in 1816 is open for public viewing and well worth a wander through as is the main Homestead.

The Library

There have been recent devastating fires in the Somerset West area threatening the wine estates and farms, Vergelegen being one of them ... making me think that I need to share this beautiful place with you all, which was saved by dedicated fire fighters. ( Janet recently posted an entry on the brave fire fighters and volunteers). My brother in England hadn't known about the fires as he said it was never reported on any news bulletin .. I wonder if that's the case in other countries.

Vergelegen holds a few poignant memories for me ... that was the place my brother and his family took me for breakfast when we went to scatter our Dad's ashes on the side of a mountain .. we climbed up as far as we thought my Dad would love to forever watch the breathtaking view of False Bay (one of his favourite places) ....

When my Mum first went to the Old Aged Home in Somerset West in 2005 ... that's the first place I took her for an outing as she loves ... she really has\had a passion for gardens, gardening, flowers and floral art and Vergelegen has the most beautiful gardens. At the entrance area there is the White garden - all white flowers contrast with the green leaves with two ponds surrounded by the old Dutch gabled buildings. There are the vast Camphor trees at the entrance to the Homestead and beyond the trees is a large lawned area. In front of the Lady Phillips Restaurant there is a croquet lawn. Lovely to wander down the lawn surrounded by large trees and shrubs.

On the one side there is the camellia garden - quite a recent project with some shrubs being huge - obviously the older ones - and latetly lots and lots of new varieties have been planted. There are all colours and all sized flowers. Further down, beyond the lawn and shrubs the Lourensford River gushes through the grounds. Near the Picnic area there is a wetland project over which are wooden walkways for meandering.

Picnic area

Outside the Wine Tasting Centre is the Margaret Roberts Herb and Vegetable Gardens established in 1993. Walking to the centre to the wine tasting .. which is a must !!! ... the path leads through the herbs .. lavenders, rose geraniums etc.... so by the time you get to the wines you are nice and relaxed ready to enjoy every sip!!!!

Wine Tasting Centre

Whenever I took my Mum to Vergelegen, I could never do the 'wine thing' as it was not a good idea to mix wines with her medication (!) .. can you imagine the looks I would get bringing back to the Home this little old lady stumbling and slurring her words - with a broadest of grins on her face !!!!! . ... although I used to buy her a glass of wine with our lunch .. which she relished with every sip !! .. and why not .. medication or not .. one glass would do no harm!!

My rosey-cheeked Mum after sipping her wine at the Rose Terrace - 2005

We took a few friends on a wine tasting weekend last year and Vergelegen was one of the stops. Absolutely recommended!!

Now that my Mum's condition has worsened, I don't take her out anymore when I visit. I miss those days .. she used to love going 'out and about' and especially to Vergelegen because of the beautiful gardens. We would stroll down the lawns, meander through the trees and shrubs, stop to smell the roses ... in full bloom are a magnificent sight! ... wander along the edge of the river and along the wetlands wooden walkways ....

Photos taken 2005\6\7 ...

Mum with one of the large camellias ...

.. haven't spoken to Mum for a while now - she is battling to hear and I spend most of a phone call shouting down the phone to which she replies .. "I can't hear you ... are you there ..." and lately the sisters don't bring her to phone because she's always asleep when I phone. Waking her up makes are very disoriented so they leave her to sleep. I tried again yesterday afternoon, thinking the afternoon would be better. "No" she said, "I'm not going to wake her up - she's having a bad day today and waking her up will make it worse." Apparently she is going to have blood tests today as "she has blood under the skin". (All the nursing staff at the Home are Cape Coloureds and sometimes their English is a little strange!!!! ) Not sure what that's all about - I have asked my sister in law to find out. .... but .. I think I need to pop down to the Cape for a visit soon.

One of my favourite 'every day' wines is Mill Race .... but it's not on my frequently-visited-supermarket shelf very often ... :( ... so I have to make a special trip to a bottle store or go further afield ... the Cabernet Sauvignon's and Sauvignon Blanc's (dryish white) are superb and yummy as are their other wines ..

Oh yes - next door to Vergelegen is Morgenster - no gardens for strolling but the most magnificent view of the Hottentots Holland mountains and superb wines .. and olives .. well worth a visit too. I shall do a separate post on that!


  1. Lovely post Mom!
    You should have linked to the wine estate's website so that your blog readers can buy some wine directly ;)
    That's very worrying about granny, hope she's ok!

  2. So sorry to hear about your Mum! Not an easy time!
    What a lovely post today about Vergelegen - it really is a beautiful place. We love it too! Thanks for the memories!