When I was studying art I was asked which painting I would like to step inside, if such a thing were possible. My answer then and now is Monet’s Water Lily Pond, because I can’t imagine another place with such a presiding sensation of exquisite quietude. I would love to stand on that bridge beneath the weeping willows and simply stay still for a while, listening with my eyes and watching miniature frogs leap between the lily pads and the light dance across the water’s surface. Today, I experienced the embodiment of this dream as I stepped into a real-life version of the painter’s garden at the Postcard Cafe at Stark-Conde Wines in Stellenbosch.
As Tom and I drove up to the restaurant we were both awed by our surrounds. A crisp lawn rolled down to a sprawling dam edged in deep green reeds dotted with yellow ochre grasses and trees, and framed by a mountain reaching up to a cobalt sky. In the middle of dam there was a island surrounded by willows, with a wooden hut for wine tasting. All around happy little coots ducked beneath the mirror-like watery expanse in search of unsuspecting insects, while children ran and whooped across the lawns.
A number of tables were set out on the hill overlooking the mountain and the dam, and we sat down at one of these and ordered our second breakfast (we had our first one at L’Avenir) – one is obligated to act like a hobbit when on a mini-holiday. Our heart-shaped scones arrived, warm from the oven and accompanied by raspberry jam and cream, and we munched away happily whilst enjoying the view and speculating about the lives of the people around us.
A brief walk around the dam followed, with me stopping to take photos every second to try and take some of the beauty home with us. Photos never quite do justice to the real thing, but I think the suggestion of the postcard-perfect nature of the place is there. My lovely friend Gen had her engagement photos at the estate and these come closer to truly capturing the romance of it. The whole time I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was walking through an Impressionist painting – the dappled light and chaotic tints of greens, blues, yellows and purples smudged with the afternoon haze of the sun was too perfect for most brushes to capture, but I think Monet could have come close.
Some places tug at the soul, and this was one of them. I’m at my happiest in a garden and I think that the Postcard Cafe has instantaneously cemented itself as a favourite place in my heart. It’s the painting I’ve always wanted to live in, and I plan on returning soon.