Imagine. You’re sitting in a patch of sunlight in a garden of almost Biblical beauty. A small stream runs alongside you. The bricks beneath your feet are warm from the heat of the day, but the glass of white wine in your hand is cool. A duck and her ducklings—their soft baby down fuzzing them to appear out of focus—wander out from a stand of towering purple Agapanthus. It’s nearly sunset; the sun is sinking behind the mountain’s hulking shoulders, shifting the light from the harsh brightness of the afternoon to a sensuous, buttery blanket. Families and couples sit on a wide lawn, their voices and laughter muted in the wide expanse.
Flowery language is the only way to talk about one of the world’s most beautiful botanical gardens. Nestled in the lap of Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is the largest botanical garden in South Africa and internationally recognized for its beauty. The garden’s sprawling 528 hectares contains multitudes both artistic and educational—an ornate sculpture garden, neatly groomed perennial beds, areas of wild nature reserve.
Typically Kirstenbosch closes at 6:00pm during the winter (Apr-Aug) and 7:00pm during the summer (Sept-Mar), and costs 65R to enter. That changes if you have dinner at Moyo’s—a charming restaurant nestled at the foot of the park. Serving a buffet of traditional dishes from around the African continent, Moyo’s provides delicious eats and Afro entertainment in the shadow of one of the new Wonders of the World. Best of all, if you choose the buffet option, you can enter the garden after hours and for free.
Tim had been to Moyo’s on a previous South Africa trip, and raved about the experience (which includes a little face painting). So when he said he had a date night surprise planned for me, I could hazard a guess where it might be. But I wasn’t expecting to the Off-Road Polo to sweep up such a gorgeous drive, or for the patio of the restaurant to open into such a stunning garden.
We asked for a bottle of white wine to go and strolled beyond the patio, wandering the stone paths into Kirstenbosch. We walked past wild violets and banyan trees, thorny acacia and stands of African mahogany (the story of whose name greatly entertained us; European settlers asked what the name of the tree was and the locals replied, “Mahogany”, which means, “I don’t know.”). We stopped to crush herbs in the traditional medicine garden, where you are invited to sample plants used as remedies for everything from headaches to burn wounds. And we finished our walk along the curving canopy trail, which took us level with the treetops as we polished off the last of our Sauvignon Blanc.
Dinner and flowers? These are strong bones for a date night. Add in Cape Town’s perfect summer weather, the unbelievable harmonies of the Moyo’s entertainment troupe, and the spectacular rays of a fading sun above Table Mountain…I can’t guarantee you’ll get lucky, but you sure as hell will feel like it.
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