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A Whistle-Stop Tour Of South Africa

By Hayley Groves

Travel Consultant

Posted: 24 April 2014
Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa

Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa

Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa Rovos Rail One&Only Cape Town Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel Cape Grace
Cape Grace: Bar and Lounge La Residence La Residence Rovos Rail: Mountain Scenery Rovos Rail

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Hayley’s South Africa trip began in Johannesburg where she stayed at the luxury Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa which she liked for many reasons. It’s located in the private and upmarket suburb of Sandhurst, it boasts ten peaceful acres of gardens and it has an African contemporary style with art from local and international artists on display. On top of this, it’s also where Nelson Mandela edited his autobiography and, rather fittingly, there is a suite named after him. Hayley recommends spending a couple of nights here as a stopover to recharge after a busy itinerary, or a luxury safari, and do make sure that you treat yourself to the wonderful High Tea during your stay – there is an amazing choice of teas, savouries and sweet goodies.

Saying goodbye to Johannesburg, Hayley transferred to Pretoria for her two-night Rovos Rail train journey to Cape Town. Each guest is greeted in the luxurious Rovos Rail Lounge where drinks and snacks can be enjoyed while Mr Vos formally welcomes everyone. On boarding the train, which is one of the most luxurious in the world, you notice the classic feel of the refurbished carriages, as your Host shows you to your cabin – all of which have an en suite bathroom with shower. Guests are in for a culinary adventure inclusive of all food and drinks – with lunch and dinner served silver-service-style in the two dining carriages – as well as all excursions. Hayley visited Kimberley – home to the ‘Big Hole’ where diamonds were discovered in the 1870s and the Diamond Mine Museum – as well as the Victorian village of Matjiesfontein where she was quite surprised to see a big red double-decker bus!

When it comes to sightseeing, Hayley says that no visit to Cape Town would be complete without taking the cable car to the summit of Table Mountain where there are incredible views. Taking a boat trip to the World Heritage Site and Museum at Robben island, which was the main prison in South Africa from the 17th to 20th century and was where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, is another ‘must do’. Hayley also enjoyed wandering around the V&A Waterfront, which is just as great to see at night as it is during the day. You can also take day trips to surrounding beach areas, scenic helicopter flights, stroll around the museums and art galleries along Museum Mile, visit the vibrant and cosmopolitan areas of Downtown Cape Town where Kloof Street and Long Street offer a variety of bars, restaurants and bustling markets. Eating out is very good value and Hayley said there is no trouble finding meals that use quality local produce including fresh seafood and fish.

On arrival into Cape Town, Hayley checked-in to One&Only Cape Town and was impressed by its excellent central location on Victoria and Alfred waterfront overlooking Table Mountain. She says that the resort-style feel is great for families and there is a buzz about the hotel, so perhaps it wouldn’t suit those looking for a particularly quiet retreat. Hayley loved the urban chic style and the contemporary decor which is infused with plenty of local African character. Facilities include a pool, the fabulous One&Only Spa on Spa Island and the KidsOnly club, while the excellent restaurants include Nobu (the first Nobu in South Africa) and Rubens which serves excellent cuisine. The Wine Loft – an enormous tri level wall of wine – is also worthy of a mention, while drinks at Vista Bar overlooking Table Mountain are a must.

Hayley also stayed at one of her old favourites, Cape Grace, which also has an excellent location on the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront with a fascinating working harbour to one side and a multi-million yacht marina with views towards Table Mountain beyond to the other. This boutique hotel exudes traditional Cape culture and hospitality, and has a classic style, but with all the modern comforts that any guest could possibly need including an outdoor heated pool and sun terrace, fitness centre, spa and special touches including a Cape Orientation and wine-tasting. During your stay, Hayley says that you should visit the legendary Bascule Whisky Bar where you can taste some of the 500-strong selection of whiskies and dine at the wonderful Signal Restaurant. Needless to say, Cape Grace still remains one of her favourite hotels in Cape Town.

Next on the tour was Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel situated on the edge of Downtown Cape Town. This historic little gem, which opened in 1899, is elegant in style and is famous for its delightful Afternoon Tea. There are nine acres of lovely gardens offering plenty of space to relax and Hayley didn’t feel like she was so close to a big city, even for a minute. With something for everyone, guests can enjoy heated outdoor swimming pools, the spa, the fitness centre, tennis courts and the Nellie and Nelson Activity Centre which is for children aged 3 to 12 years old, while there is a Teen Lounge for 12 to 18-year-olds. Amongst Hayley’s recommendations are the amazing passion fruit mojitos at Planet Restaurant and Bar where the centre piece is the incredible carpet with the pattern of the galaxy on it and planet-shaped chandeliers twinkle above – the place really comes alive at night. The bar also has a conservatory and outdoor area which is perfect for sipping cocktails on warmer evenings.

Hayley’s trip ended in Franschhoek which is the gourmet capital of the Cape and about an hour’s drive from Cape Town. The village offers cafe culture, art galleries, colonial buildings, shops, and of course, numerous gourmet restaurants and wine shops. Hayley stayed at La Residence, the ultimate romantic hideaway surrounded by breathtaking green scenery, where the vibe is one of pure opulence with all rooms individually themed. It’s an absolutely stunning hotel and perfect for relaxation. Small, but perfectly formed, it features a gym, spa treatment room and a pool, while guests can also while away many a pleasant hour cycling or walking around the stunning estate. Golf, trout fishing, quad-biking, paragliding and hot-air ballooning are also available nearby, but you must visit some of the region’s wine estates. Hayley says you can even go on a horse-riding tour of the wine farms, or take a ride on the Franschhoek Wine Tram. She particularly recommends booking Le Pique Nique at Boschendal Winery – collect your picnic basket and pick your wine, then enjoy lunch in the estate’s beautiful gardens. It’s a lovely day for everyone to enjoy, especially for a special occasion.

About Hayley

During my time at Elegant Resorts I have travelled extensively and have specialised in Africa, Asia and Australasia. As well as beach holidays, I love organising the more adventurous holidays, such as safaris and Far East touring.

Read More About Hayley

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