What do you do when you and your partner want different holidays?

Do you and your other half disagree on what holiday to book? This is the time of year, when the days are long and dark, when most people are looking into booking their big holiday for the year. It’s hard enough trying to decide where to go and how much to spend but it can be a total minefield if you and your partner want completely different things.

Hands up – who wants to lie on a beach but has another half who wants to be active? Who wants to enjoy fine food and drink in a luxury hotel but your partner wants to rough it in the great outdoors? Does one of you hanker after bright lights and city breaks but the other prefers fantastic scenery and wildlife?

Well I have the perfect solution for those of you with this dilemma – South Africa!

It may be a cliché but South Africa really does have something for everyone. If you want a city break with luxury hotels, fine food and wine, nightlife, shopping and galleries then Cape Town is the place for you. Cape Town is not only a vibrant and exciting city but it is also surrounded by amazing scenery. Accessible from Cape Town is a wide range of scenery from mountains to vineyards, beaches to bush and incredible wildlife including whales, sharks and dolphins. While you are relaxing on the beach, visiting galleries, enjoying a superb lunch or shopping your partner could be sailing, fishing, shark diving, taking a helicopter flip, whale watching or golfing. You see what I mean? There aren’t many places in the world where you can do all this in one place!

If one of you wants great beaches and the other wants to go on safari then this can also be done easily in South Africa. (Actually Kenya or Tanzania are also good options as you can easily combine a safari with a beach stay on the coast or on Zanzibar.) The world famous Garden Route is chock full of beautiful beaches and you can stay at Knysna or Plettenberg Bay two small but lively beach towns surrounded by amazing scenery. Combine this with a few days on safari in one of the 5 star private game reserves in the Eastern Cape and you can both be happy!

If one of you wants to experience the great outdoors then staying in a tented camp on safari or a lodge tucked up high in the stunning Drakensberg Mountains are both excellent choices. If you are is super sporty then you can play golf at one of the numerous golf courses all over SA, go surfing at Jeffrey’s Bay on the Garden Route, go shark-diving in Cape Town, mountain biking, horse-riding or hiking in the Drakensberg Mountains, fishing, whale watching, dolphin spotting all along the Garden Route – the list is endless. If the other half is not so keen then there are plenty of alternatives on offer in all of these places.

If you also cannot decide on what kind of accommodation you both prefer perhaps you could mix and match and combine both your preferences? If you do one of our wonderful self drive holidays you have a huge range of choice. You can stay in everything from private luxury villas to boutique bed and breakfasts. We have eco-lodges, luxury hotels, self-catering apartments, safari lodges, city hotels, beach resorts, bed and breakfast accommodation, country houses, vineyards – the list is endless. You can find our full range in the Lodge Library.

If you would like to talk to one of our experts about your holiday dilemmas then just give Paul, Helen or Lily a call –we are very good at finding the perfect solution!

Posted by Ruth Bolton

 

 

 

South Africa’s Top Foodie Getaways

If you are a food lover then Africa may not be the first place that springs to mind but South Africa can compete with the best countries in the world. South Africa is at the forefront of the modern culinary revolution and offers too many fantastic foodie destinations to mention them all. You can dine in trendy restaurants with the latest in cutting edge cuisine, you can dine in more traditional fine dining establishments, you can sample local produce at fabulous farms and vineyards, enjoy a brai at the beach or dine under the African stars at a top safari lodge whilst listening to the lions roar!

There are lots of incredible restaurants in South Africa especially in Cape Town and Franschhoek in the Winelands where you are spoilt for choice. However we have narrowed it down to some great restaurants which are part of hotels so that you can book a holiday and actually stay at some of these places without having to book a taxi home at the end of the night. Because don’t forget that South Africa is also home to some world class wine as well!

1. Franschhoek, Winelands

The pretty and historic town of Franschhoek in the heart of the beautiful Cape Winelands deserves a mention on its own as it is one of the best places to base yourself if you love good food and wine. In fact it is often claimed to be the culinary capital of South Africa and few would argue with that. There are amazing places to eat dotted about (as well as lovely hotels) including the world famous The Tasting Room which regularly features in the Top 10 South African restaurants lists. It features an 8 course South African menu but you can also enjoy a lovely lunch at its sister restaurant, Bread&Wine if you are just passing through for the day, although you must book in advance! We have a wide range of accommodation in and around Franschhoek and the Cape Winelands so there are plenty of options, including Akademie Street Boutique Hotel and La Fontaine in Franschhoek itself. In neighbouring Stellenbosch, another pretty Winelands town with great restaurants, we have Wedgeview Country House and Hawksmoor House.

2. Babylonstoren, Franschhoek

One of the most recent additions to our accommodation portfolio, the Babylonstoren combines a working farm, a 5 star hotel and a fabulous world class restaurant, Babel. The team behind Babel have a very modern outlook on cuisine and they focus on using their own produce from the stunning kitchen gardens which guests can wander around. They “pick it, clean it and then serve it” focussing on the pleasure of the fabulous produce and simple dishes with an edge.  The bountiful breakfasts at Babel are also another fabulous treat if you are staying at the hotel or exploring the Winelands.  The hotel is very chic with beautiful white luxury rooms in the old Cape Dutch farm buildings dotted about the farm and beautiful views over the surrounding valley.

3. Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, Gansbaai, the Garden Route

Grootbos Private Reserve is a lovely private nature reserve made up of fynbos and woodland with stunning views over the coast and plenty of wildlife. This area is close to Hermanus on the Garden Route and Grootbos overlooks the beautiful Walker Bay which is a fantastic place to see whales, especially in our autumn months.  The two restaurants at Grootbos are the Garden Restaurant and the Red Indigo Restaurant which both offer sophisticated cuisine created from the finest local ingredients which in this part of the world includes incredible seafood and excellent wine.  A lot of the organic produce used in the kitchen also comes from their community project , Growing the Future. There are beautiful views from the restaurants as well as the guest accommodation and guests can also enjoy exploring the beautiful landscape on the nature reserve and perhaps work off some of that food! This is a fantastic spot for honeymooners. You can order a luxury picnic for two to take to the beach or book an even more romantic outdoor candlelit dinner set under the rare milkwood trees at Grootbos (see photo at bottom).

4. Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse, Drakensberg Mountains, Kwa-Zulu Natal

The Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse is one of our most romantic and scenic hotels. It sits on the edge of beautiful lake surrounded by the stunning Drakensberg Mountain range and its own pretty gardens.   One of the main draws of this hotel is the gourmet menu which makes the most of the local produce available in South Africa and from further afield. If you are lucky enough to stay here you will be treated to a 7 course dinner but any meals are a treat – have you ever had a 3 course breakfast? The food here will set you up for the day which you could spend hiking or exploring the incredible scenery of the Drakensbergs including many important rock art sites.

5.  Cape Grace, Cape Town

The Signal Restaurant at the Cape Grace has a lot of stiff competition it is true but we can happily recommend it as one of the best places to eat in Cape Town. The Cape Grace is a stylish and luxurious 5 star hotel situated right in the heart of the world famous waterfront and the buzzing heart of this vibrant city. The hotel offers fabulous views over the marina and the luxury yachts as well as towards Table Mountain.  The restaurant matches the hotel for style and finesse and it gets its name from the spectacular views towards Signal Hill, an iconic Cape Town landmark. There are taster menus for both food and wine and the restaurant specialises in creative Cape cuisine that’s fresh and inventive. There is a nod to the past with flavours from nations that have passed through Cape Town but there is an emphasis on fresh, local produce from local farms and fabulous seafood straight off the boats in the harbour out front. As you would expect the menu changes seasonally, but a common factor is the quality of ingredients and a distinctively South African flavour.

So have I whet your appetite for an indulgent trip to South Africa? If you fancy sampling some of these amazing places yourself just give us a call. You could book a long weekend in Cape Town or the Winelands or something longer if you have the time to take in the Garden Route or the Drakensberg Mountains.

Posted by Ruth Bolton

 

Spring in the Garden

It’s at this time of year when the trees are full of blossom and the sun is warming up the earth that we turn our thoughts to the summer ahead in our gardens. I don’t know about you but I love this time of year when I can re-engage with the natural world and get my hands all dirty weeding and planting up my seedlings. And judging by the queues at the garden centre I am not the only one….

South Africa is a place famous for its beautiful scenery and it is also home to some very fine gardens. If you are a fan of gardens then it makes for a fantastic holiday destination. Just remember that belonging to the Southern Hemisphere their spring is our autumn and vice versa! In fact there is even a stretch of coastline called the Garden Route famous for its stunning lush green scenery along the way. The Garden Route stretches all the way from Cape Town in the west to Port Elizabeth in the east and it takes in pretty towns and villages along the way including Hermanus, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay. The maritime climate means that it is a green and verdant land filled with gardens, farmland, meadows and forests all full of beautiful flowers and trees.

Another great place to soak up some garden time and perhaps have a picnic is on one of the wine estates not far from Cape Town. Boschendal near Franschhoek is one such estate which offers beautifully landscaped grounds and a top of the range picnic served in a wicker hamper. These are very popular for engagements and special occasions as they have such a lovely backdrop. The rest of the Winelands are also very much worth exploring and not just for the food and wine! There are also lots of pretty towns and villages with Dutch colonial cottages and delightful gardens to explore too.

You cannot visit South Africa without seeing the fynbos which makes up part of the Cape Floral Kingdom. This is a unique type of heathland which can be found on the western cape of South Africa. It is famous for being home to a vast range of bio-diversity and endemic species of plants. There are in fact over 9,000 plant species in the fynbos of which 6,200 can only be found there. Table Mountain itself supports 2,200 species of plants which is more than the whole of the UK! This kind of bio-diversity is usually only found in rainforests and the fact that the South African fynbos is a dry, Mediterranean climate makes it unique and very special indeed. The fynbos covers about 6% of the area of southern Africa but it is actually home to half the species on the entire subcontinent and a fifth of all the plant species in Africa.

One place you mustn’t miss is the world famous Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in Cape Town. These stunning gardens sit at the foot of Table Mountain and they are filled with many rare and unusual plants as well as beautiful vistas at every turn. There are 1,300 acres of gardens to explore with different themed areas and glasshouses. It is home to the fynbos and over 22,000 indigenous plants making it a great place to see many varieties of the South African national plant, the Protea, in all its various colours.  Kirstenbosch is part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004.  You can even go back in time some 3.2 billion years ago in the Gondwanaland Garden which displays types of plants that evolved way back when there was only one continent on Earth, Pangaea. Kirstenbosch  truly is one of my favourite places in the whole of South Africa!

Posted by Ruth

Paul’s South Africa Diary – The Cape and Hermanus

Continuing my journey around South Africa as I check out over 70 properties in Cape Town, the Cape and the Garden Route.

(The sea view from the Auberge Burgandy in Hermanus)

THURSDAY   16TH  MAY     

This morning after a delicious breakfast we said goodbye to Keith and Cindy at our home for the past few nights,  An African Villa, and drove for about half an hour to the area known as Sea Point to visit a new property called Winchester Mansions.

Winchester Mansions

This is our first visit to Winchester Mansions and we were overall very impressed. The downside with this hotel is the endless number of different room categories which can be confusing. However it is a stunning property with lovely sea views and a large heated swimming pool. We were greeted warmly by Vanessa before heading off to look at the rooms. The rooms are large and even the most basic entry level rooms are adequate – some have a partial sea view. The selling point for this hotel is the large bathrooms all with separate shower and bath. The hotel is also ideal for families as one of the suites offers 3 bedrooms no less. On a Sunday in the courtyard you can enjoy Sunday brunch with a jazz band. The hotel also has a small spa. The Classic Rooms are classic in style and the Modern Rooms are decorated in Antique/Double Grey and white. The hotel also has parking which is important for all our clients doing self drive holidays. We both loved this hotel and would highly recommend it. The hotel is situated between Camps Bay and Cape Town.

The Radisson Blu Waterfront

This is a stylish hotel with an open foyer leading to the Tobago Restaurant. Unfortunately only one room was available for us to see and this was a standard Mountain Room with a partial view of the stadium. The hotel has a new Spa. It also has a small long swimming pool overlooking the sea by the Tobago Restaurant. In the restaurant area you will also find the modern looking bar. The terrace area is lovely with views over the marina and waterfront in the distance. The hotel has ample parking.

Meeting our team in Cape Town

After our inspection on the Radisson Blu Waterfront we headed to the V&A Waterfront were I met Collin and Fasiega for lunch. It was great to see Collin again and to meet Fasiega who receives my hundreds of emails! We had a lovely lunch and it was brilliant talking about all the properties John and I have seen.  After lunch we headed to Albatros’s new offices to meet the rest of the team. It was an absolute pleasure to meet everyone as always and I am so proud to be working with such a great team of people in Cape Town. Many thanks to Collin and everyone at Albatros for the lovely gift – it was very much appreciated.! After seeing the Albatros team we then headed for Chapman’s Peak for the stunning drive to Afton Grove.

Afton Grove Guest House

We were met on arrival by two members of staff and were shown to the Executive/Honeymoon Suite and were offered tea or coffee that was brought up to the room. In the room we had some flowers waiting for us from Chris and Louise welcoming us back to Afton Grove. We then met up with Chris for pre-dinner drinks. It was so great to see him again. This delightful guest house is made up of semi-detached Garden Cottages that overlook the manicured gardens.  The guest house also offers two self catering cottages and breakfast can be added to the rate. We had dinner at the guest house with Chris and Louise and the meal was typical Cape Malay cuisine. The guest house has a lovely little pool. Chris is a keen birder so it’s great for clients with this interest. They can also arrange horse riding on Noordhoek Beach. Highly recommended for budget to mid price clients especially if they are staying in the Cape for over 4 nights.

FRIDAY  17TH  MAY               

After a delicious breakfast at Afton Grove of omelettes and pastries we carried on looking around the rooms. The best room is the Family Self Catering Cottage as it has a large seating area, a small kitchen and a lovely bedroom and large bathroom. We then said our goodbyes and travelled via Fishhoek and Bettys Bay to Hermanus. The drive took  approximately 2 ½ hours mainly due to there being a diversion just outside Hermanus which held us up!

Quarters, Hermanus

This is a beautiful modern property with 18 rooms. There is a small reception area that again has a modern design. Breakfast at Quarters is taken at Oskars Restaurant which is opposite the hotel. The standard rooms are quite small however the Superior rooms are huge and we would certainly recommend this room category. The Superior room has a large lounge area, a nicely equipped kitchen and a good size bedroom and bathroom. Some of the rooms are inter-connecting with a standard room making this an ideal option for families. They even hosted us for lunch at Oskars Restaurant which was very nice of them considering we have not worked with them before. I would highly recommend this property and will be using it in the future.

Auberge Burgundy, Hermanus

This hotel is very pretty with its lovely yellow  façade and true to its name it has a real French feel to it. At Auberge we were allocated a twin suite which is huge, airy and bright. The subtle coloured sofa and wicker chairs are very nice as is the white bedding. There is a balcony that we can see the ocean from and with the windows open I can hear some delightful Ibiza tunes! The Suite also overlooks the pool. The Auberge Restaurant across the road opens for breakfast and lunch however closes in the winter from dinner. Overall this is a very nice property. We had a fabulous dinner at Lemon Butta. The Sushi to start with was one of the best we have ever had. The service was fantastic. This was our dearest meal so far at R530.00 (£38.00) including a 10% tip and wine and water. Highly recommend this restaurant to clients if they love seafood. It was awesome!

Posted by Paul Hickey-Fry

 

Paul’s South Africa Diary – Cape Town Part 2

Tuesday 14th May

After a good night’s sleep we were up early for a morning photo shoot of Table mountain. John is a professional photographer and Cape Town is truly one of the most photogenic places on earth so it was important not to miss out on a beautifully clear morning with perfect blue skies.  Then after a delicious breakfast we headed back into Cape Town for our next set of hotel inspections.

Harbour Bridge

This property is set just off the actual V&A waterfront but has the added bonus of water taxis from the hotel to the waterfront until 5pm in winter and 8pm in summer. The hotel is very close to the Cape Town Convention Centre making it popular with business travellers. This hotel is mainly used for corporate clients and is functional with modern style bedrooms in duck egg and cappuccino. The bathrooms are integrated into the room although there is a wall and a roller blind can be pulled down to save blushes if you were sharing with friends! The Harbour Bridge is approximately a 20 minute walk to the waterfront.

The Lawhill Apartments

Stunning! – We loved these huge self catering apartments that come with fully equipped kitchens. Zak who showed us around was fantastic and extremely enthusiastic about the property. The apartments are also set on a huge waterfront development.  Six Superior Apartments have small plunge pools and these can be requested at the time of booking. The Presidential Suite is ideal if you have three couples travelling together and is set over two floors. The views are to die for overlooking the  V&S waterfront and the canal. The apartments are next door to the One&Only (hotel) and clients can take a discounted breakfast in the hotel if they do not wish to cater for themselves. To get to the waterfront there is a short walk along the canal through the gardens of the One&Only next door which takes just over 5 minutes. There is also plenty of parking for those guest on self drive holidays.

The Cape Royale

This is a  really nice property which I would class as an excellent 4 star plus option. The reception is in black, silver and burgundy. It is very impressive and the staff were extremely friendly. The two bedroom Luxury rooms are perfect with spacious living areas, kitchen and bedrooms.  The pool area and bar are amazing and have the most incredible view of Cape Town. They also offer sushi for lunch which would be a lovely option. The main dining room called Grill1800 is known for its fabulous steaks. The hotel also offers a gym and spa. They were offering a two course lunch for only R99.00 which is excellent value for money.

The Sugar Hotel

I loved this small and intimate property which is in the same road as the Cape Royale. The hotel has seven tastefully decorated rooms in earthy colours, the rooms are quite small but I would say this hotel stands out over the Dock House and it has a really friendly atmosphere about it with boutique hotel style. The manager Nkosi was so welcoming and enthusiastic he really made a great impression.  The restaurant is light and airy with a nice view over the small pool. The owner Marc is a cordon-bleu chef and normally makes all the breakfasts for his clients. The Sugar Hotel also offers a wellness room. We both loved this little hotel so much.

Protea Hotel Victoria Junction Waterfront

This is a good 4 star option that has recently been refurbished. I liked the style with the exposed brick interiors creating a warehouse effect. The hotel also has a gym. My favourite rooms were the loft style rooms which were set over two floors (mezzanine). They have a small kitchen area, dining table and fabulous views. The upstairs part of the room houses the bedroom and bathroom. The walk to the waterfront isn’t too far and at night they offer a complimentary shuttle service to the waterfront. This might not be necessary as there are many restaurants in the immediate area.

Wednesday 15th May

This morning started with another great breakfast at Melissa’s. We checked out and drove for 20-25 minutes back to Cape Town and arrived at An African Villa mid morning.

An African Villa

We met Keith and Lindsey who took us on a  brief tour of this wonderful guest house. The guest house is really inviting and the décor is deep red, white, black and brown in the communal areas which gives it a true African style. There are lots of fun, quirky style elements to the place including ostrich eggs and paper animal heads that light up in the evening! Some of the rooms also have a private patio area which is a nice surprise.  We then headed out to see some more hotels. All the properties we visited today accept for The Table Bay Hotel are situated in the CBD area of Cape Town.

Adderley Hotel

This is a basic 4 star hotel and is part of the AHA chain (the same as Harbour Bridge). We were met by Frederick who showed around. The nicest room we saw was a Junior Suite which has a seating area and television with the bed on the next level which you get to by a few steps. The room also has a small kitchen which is handy if staying in Cape Town a while. The hotel has a nice little restaurant and bar area.  The hotel also has a roof top swimming pool! It is well situated in the centre close to Kompany Gardens and the cultural and historic part of Cape Town.

The Taj Hotel

This was the best hotel we have seen so far and by far, a truly magnificent property!  The hotel is made up of two building one of which used to be a bank. The lobby lounge is simply awesome with the huge vaulted ceilings giving the area a real feeling of space. There is a bar in the lobby lounge and also a Cigar Bar. Late breakfast is served in the area as is afternoon tea. The hotel has two restaurants including the Bombay Brasserie which offers a fine dining Indian experience (bookings are essential for this restaurant). The décor of this restaurant is in blue, beige and wood and is stunningly beautiful. The second restaurant is called Mint where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served  and it offers a much more European menu. They also have a bar outside the hotel on the corner of the road called Twankey Bar which serves light food and drinks throughout the day and is popular with locals for a drink after work. On a Thursday there is a market that takes place outside the hotel. The hotel has an Indian food stall on the market which is fun.  The rooms either overlook the mountain or the city. In the two buildings there are two types of rooms; Heritage and Tower. We looked at a Luxury Mountain Facing Tower Room and it was a good size with a huge floor to ceiling window overlooking the mountain. Again the bathroom can be seen into from the bedroom however there is a roller blind that can be used to block out the view! Is this a new trend in Cape Town? They also have 16 Club rooms that have their own communal lounge. The hotel has an indoor pool which is worth remembering and a gym. This hotel is certainly comparable with the Cape Grace and the Table Bay.

The Pepper Club

This is a modern 5 star hotel which is only 3 years old. The lobby is modern with floor tiles and black pillars and a huge glass chandelier. The hotel’s style is similar to the Cape Royale and The Queen Victoria. There are four individual reception desks which means I don’t think anyone ever has to wait to check in or out! This hotel is the one we use for the end of our South Africa Grand Escorted Tour. It is also situated in the CBD area. The one bedrooms suite are very nice with plenty of space. The hotel has a gym with a great view overlooking the mountain (definitely the best gym view of all we have seen). The hotel also has an outdoor pool. They also have parking.

Protea Fire & Ice

Wow, this is truly a completely different style hotel! Situated close to Leeuwenvoet House and An African Villa this hotel is much more suited to a younger crowd as it is very funky. The bar has ice around it making a fabulous feature which I have never come across before. The hotel is known for its milkshakes and thanks to Nicholas who showed us around we each had one to try during our hotel inspection. The communal toilets are unisex with a names such a long drop, temptation, Stage Fright and the Out House. The dining room is quite small and they have several tables one of which is a communal table for guests that wish to mingle. I would say that this hotel is only really suitable for couples or honeymoons or people that are intimate with each other as yet again the bathroom is integral to the bedroom (definitely a trend in Cape Town!) The hotel also has a pool and gym.  The hotel also has some loft style two bedroom apartments which work out excellent value for money and these rooms also have a small kitchen.  I would recommend this hotel for guests with a great sense of humour and who are young at heart. It wont suit everyone though as it has a very modern quirky style.

The Table Bay

I was very impressed with the Table Bay Hotel.  There is a huge lobby area which also houses the Lobby Bar where we had afternoon tea. The rooms are large and comfortably decorated in soft browns. All the rooms have separate bedroom and bathroom. In the bathroom there is a separate shower and bath. If the party has children the hotel can offer an extra bed which is a converted sofa bed  in the same room as the parents. The rooms are either sea or harbour facing so all have nice views. The hotel also has a spa and beautiful outdoor pool area. This hotel offers everything you require from a 5 star hotel and I would happily recommend it to anyone.

Posted By Paul Hickey-Fry