Changes & choices

Lifestyle choices are frequently understood to be the decisions which affect one’s health, especially later in life. But health has now grown to not just be about biology. There’s mental and emotional wellbeing too.

Sweet sugary treats, chocolates and desserts are a direct route to the development of type II diabetes when consumed in excessive amounts over a long period. And as America’s surgeon-general has determined and warned for years, smoking is bad for you because it kills!

The 25th edition of the Michelangelo wine awards was held at Pearl Valley outside Paarl recently, and idly swirling a glass of really good Chardonnay, my mind and eyes wandered over the manicured golf course, flanked by spectacular indigenous landscaping and equally impressive architecture. I’d not driven the road to Pearl Valley for some time so doing it four days on the trot meant I saw things afresh each day – and that’s what sparked this blogpost.

Boschenmeer golf residential estate requires more than one entrance: it’s huge! And once past the sprawling development, motorists then pass signs heralding new residential developments, Zanddrift and Bretagna being just two I took note of. A few hundred metres from the entrance to Avondale wine farm there is a brand-new petrol station – and across the road a mini shopping mall is under construction. That’s before you arrive at either Val de Vie with its polo fields and hundreds of luxury homes, or Pearl Valley with its hotel, spa and golf course.

Paarl is obviously quite the hot spot for property development! And why not? Talk about the ultimate lifestyle choice: Paarl central is well stocked with all the requisite shops, there are great schools with well-established academic and sporting reputations, Franschhoek is a 20 minute drive away, Stellenbosch is around 30 minutes away and Cape Town 45 minutes.

On the proverbial doorstep for these residents are fantastic wine farms aplenty, more-and-more with attractive restaurants. Avondale is the obvious one with its biodynamic and eco-friendly farm-to-fork dining and edgy wines. (This was the first South African producer to import and utilise Georgian clay qvevri – and a tasting of the first experimental Chenin blanc with Johnathan Grieve remains a standout for me.)

Fairview was the second to ship in a container of qvevri – and if geeky wine doesn’t appeal, any visitor to neighbouring Spice Route need not move far to enjoy beer, cheese, chocolate, ice-cream and even distilled spirit tastings!

 Left: Ever wondered about the shape of a qvevri? A miniature version of Avondale’s unique clay vessels demonstrates the distinctive teardrop base.

Babylonstoren and its fabulous gardens, restaurants and café, olive oil and more are mere minutes away, as are Plaisir de Merle, Noble Hill, Rupert & Rothschild, Glen Carlou, Anura, Dalewood Fromage, Backsberg… the list goes on and on!

Talking to a winemaker friend he revealed that these estates have become a fertile market too. He’d just presented an exclusive tasting on a Saturday afternoon for some frequent clients of his. The retired couple are from Dubai and spend four months of every year here. The husband is golf mad and gets to play a range of excellent courses while also indulging his love of wine and food, inviting and entertaining friends and family during their sojourn.

But it’s not just about the attractions: it’s also about the surroundings. Sitting there with my glass of chardonnay, hearing the odd ping of a club connecting perfectly with a golf ball that flew down the manicured fairway, itself set against the backdrop of the Simonsberg in the distance, how could one not be impressed? It’s the sort of idyllic vista and lifestyle most people would aspire to.

With no-one unaffected by the crazy times we’re living in with political, economic, social and health turmoil, being able to make the ultimate lifestyle choice of being somewhere which does your soul and mental wellbeing good, why wouldn’t you aspire to Paarl’s many charms?

- Blog by Fiona McDonald