A sense of magical realism, of falling with Alice into Wonderland, or flying with Peter Pan into Neverland, pervades a stay at Le Grand Jardin in Stellenbosch’s peaceful Devon Valley. Le Grand Jardin’s calling card is its extensive garden, an artistic canvas of sorts – an escape designed to delight children as well as adults, the owners’ collections ranging from South African artworks to a vintage 1930s fairground carousel and showman’s caravan in the meadow. Nearby a pirate outpost overlooks a lily pond, in the middle of which is an eco-swimming pool. ‘If your kids are happy, you can relax – that’s the philosophy,’ says owner, Sue Fontannaz.
The sense of discovery enjoyed in the gardens flows into the manor house, the architect a student of Sir Herbert Baker interpreting the Arts and Crafts movement along generous lines. The garden serves as inspiration for the home’s interior aesthetic. The walls of the double-volume entrance hall, covered in De Gournay ‘Amazonia’ wallpaper, act as an exuberant welcome and invitation to enjoy the garden that offers an intimate private world of escape. There’s a playful reflection of the garden squirrels in the study, which finds its expression in a red ‘Kirkwood’ wallpaper by Thibaut. The main en-suite bedroom offers a wild celebration of Henri Rousseau’s jungle scenes, crafted by African Sketchbook, an enterprise working with self-taught artists from local communities. The In Full Bloom suite showcases a wall of giant blooms from Cara Saven Wall Design’s ‘She’s No Wallflower’. Other designs include the green and blue pomegranates of ‘Carnival’ by Christopher Farr and the bright ‘Portofino’ range by Thibaut, while a sense of play is illustrated in Ardmore’s Savuti design for Cole & Son, which brings monkeys, chameleons and birds inside the Into the Wild Garden suite.
As your eyes tune into the quieter elegance of the living and dining room, the art collection of South African landscapes and portraits comes into focus – Alexander Rose-Innes and Sydney Carter, Gregoire Boonzaier, Adriaan Boshoff are a few of the artists on the walls, who capture Sue’s memories of growing up in Africa. A Robert Leggat bronze of meerkats peeks out through a living room window, and a collection of Linnware delights the eye on the deep verandah.
The blue bar, decorated around a striking triptych by Lionel Smit, is a warm adult sanctuary, while kids of all ages are overjoyed at discovering Tintin’s rocket and vintage ride-in cars in one of the pool pavilion bedrooms, where also hangs Jürgen Schadeberg’s iconic 1956 photograph of musician Hugh Masekela with the trumpet given to him by Louis Armstrong. A fabulous Victorian-style glass house built around an ancient oak tree seems designed for entertaining and makes a glamorous backdrop for impromptu outdoor movie screenings. You’ll discover so many more delights - pizza oven, spa, Jacuzzi, secret tunnel, ice cream trolley and more, that it’s easy to forget about the outside world, and even the attractions of nearby Stellenbosch might not tear you away from this mesmerising wonderland of alternate reality.