With the spongy green grass of Spier farm beneath our toes and a veritable picnic feast warming our bellies, we couldn't tell if they were shivers of cold from the light breeze rustling through the trees or fear from the otherworldly feathered beings of Stravinsky's Firebird ballet and ghostly lights in the bamboo forest and haunting operatic voices from the Spier Light Art Festival.
Locals often comment, “Nothing beats a stay at Spier.” Well, sorry to disappoint, but I think I’ve found something: A stay at Spier over the festive season, with the addition of a picnic as part of the Spier Light Art Festival…
From the golf carts that zip you around the grounds to the tall, tinselled Christmas trees at reception to the soft sun-loungers calling your name beside the sparkling main pool, Spier in December is a true sight for sore eyes.
Picking picnic perfection
So are the picnics. Gigantic and gourmet, our pre-packed basket was more than enough for the two of us, with each ‘course’ individually packed and locally sourced. You can put together your own picnic from the goodies in the deli area, if you prefer.
Ranging from fresh, crusty bread and melba toast bites with soft dollops of butter and hummus, perfect for topping with thin slices of cold meat charcuterie and gherkins or olives, and gorgeously gooey camembert, or even for mopping up any left-over spicy coronation chicken salad or the smoked corn-green pepper salad my husband declared the winner of the picnic.
Sometimes you just want someone else to do the dirty work when it comes to selecting and packing your picnic basket, that's why we're giving you five top Cape Town restaurants and wine estates that offer readymade and packed gourmet picnic baskets for purchase on their premises...
Ruth Cooper 13 Nov 2018
There was also a bottle of Spier Signature Wine – our choice of red or white, as well as hot buttery gruyere-mushroom individual frittata-style quiches, and rich brownie bricks with a tart summer berry compote for dessert. It was so delicious we even took some of it home for a midnight snack in our suite.
And then it was time for the light art festival to begin…
This illuminates the Stellenbosch wine farm like nothing else, with choreographer and curator Jay Pather introducing the festivities with the Pied Piper-like giant puppet from the Firebird
ballet, which soon had a trail of children bobbing along behind it.
These artworks of light go above and beyond into the realm of theatre by incorporating light and sound. There’s an element of movement too, as you follow the action around the grounds - you're encouraged to stay with the pack, but everything's so intriguing there are bound to be a few stragglers and adventurers on their own mission.
Wander in wonder on a starry, starry night
No quick half-hour sky show, Pather said:
Some of the works are whimsical and flitting, ironic; some may be glimpsed at from a distance and in passing, some will require more time and interaction. These experiences – of walking and pausing, catching a glimpse or settling down to absorb – invite us to be introspective, adventurous and playful in turn.
Absorb they did, with attendees wandering up to the likes of In die sterre geskryf (Written in the stars)
by Berco Wilsenach in wonder.
It was first produced in 2009 as part of a body of work called Project for the Blind Astronomer
. Exhibited outside for the first time, it’s an artistic investigation into different decoding systems to map and explain the night sky to a visually impaired audience, complete with panels lit from within to look like ‘endless space’. The panels are lit from within, creating an effect of thousands of dots floating in midair.
The work was so inspired, I’ll let posts on Instagram from the opening weekend speak for themselves:
The Light Art Festival is family-friendly outdoor fun at its best, with the added benefit of being one of Spier’s Growing for Good initiatives, which empower communities to create positive social and environmental change.
Sparkly lights, stay the night
The festival lasts a good few hours so I highly recommend following our flip flops and booking into one of the charming suites for the night.
Not only do you get a wonderful night’s sleep, complete with all the home comforts like coffee station, hot chocolate sachets, a powerful shower (plugs have been removed from bath tubs as a result of the recent drought in the Cape) and a warm dressing gowns, but you also get to wake up to bird song if you fling open the windows, and fill your belly with a wonderful buffet breakfast before check out.
Our #SpierNewJourney experience started off on rather a damp note - and by damp I mean torrential rain, coal-coloured clouds and significant flooding were in the mix.
Ruth Cooper 22 Nov 2013
We’re talking hot coffees and everything from cereals with yoghurts and crumpets (gluten-free is no problem here) to hot breakfast basics like bacon and eggs any way you like them, and all the accompaniments – fresh fruit spreads, cheeses, sausages and ‘sprinkles’ like syrupy dates and candy-coated sesame seeds. No judgement!
Cycle or walk all around the lovely waterways, do a Segway tour of the grounds, stop to gaze at the ducks and chickens – and cat – walking free, or make your way to Eagle Encounters at the far end of the property.
Although easily accessed via Baden Powel Drive off the N2, the Spier Estate feels like a world away.
Brian Berkman 24 Apr 2018
However you spend your stay, you’re bound to make your way home feeling decidedly more relaxed and festive than before – who knows, we may just pop into Spier again before the Spier Light Art Festival 2018 wraps up on 31 January…*Leigh Andrews was a guest at Spier Wine Farm. While the Spier Light Art Festival offer free entry, there are various picnic basket options. R580 per couple includes two adult entry tickets, a picnic dinner for two and bottle of Spier wine. Alternatively, R200 per adult includes a complimentary glass of wine, or R75 per child under the age of 12. Visit www.spier.co.za for more information.