Tucked behind Dock Road, the main street next to the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town’s most popular attraction-cum-mall, the Queen Victoria was in a coveted location. Although it was across the street from the city’s best known upscale shopping center, the hotel itself never felt crowded. The well maintained boutique hotel with a gourmet restaurant was stylishly decorated and spotless. The staff were friendly and service oriented.
During a recent visit to Franschhoek, South Africa’s most refined food and wine village, I stayed at the beautiful La Galerie, a 183 square meter artsy and elegantly appointed two bedroom house with a private garden and pool and memorable mountain views. La Galerie was one of only three houses within the La Cle de Montagnes estate, a gated plum and vineyard property a few blocks from the village main street.
As I arrived at the 420 square meter welcome lounge for The Blue Train at the Pretoria, South Africa train station, steps away from the entrance to the popular mass transit Gautrain railway, I saw a sea of expectant and excited faces and heard a variety of English accents. Among my fellow passengers I met South Africans, expat residents of South Africa, and American, Australians and New Zealand tourists. Despite the early hour, 7:15 a.m., we were enthusiastic about riding the train together. More than a mode of transport from the Gauteng Province south to Cape Town The Blue Train was a medium for many of us to meet and share quality time in a private luxury vessel while enjoying Five Star service and amenities.
What I liked most about Glen Avon Lodge, a small historic property (the internal structure and many original features of the main building dated back to 1785 and remained unchanged) in Constantia, a suburb of Cape Town, South Africa, was the owners’ welcoming demeanor. From the moment we met I felt a simpatico connection with Annette Stringer. Later, I had a chance to meet her husband and Wendy Drummond, her daughter and property co-owner. I appreciated their hard working ethic, straightforward communication preference, employee training and empowerment practices, and efforts to give back to their community.
Perhaps because game viewing at the Karkloof Safari Spa was limited to mostly non predator species the animals we encountered were relatively unafraid of vehicles. Many, including a rhino mom and her young, allowed us to park within scant feet of them with nary a glance in our direction. They knew we were there. They just didn’t mind/ Having a private vehicle with a knowledgeable and friendly guide enhanced the experience manifold.
When on safari spa treatments are a well deserved respite from the bump and grind of the four wheel vehicles and the dust of the rides. However, spa time is always scarce and limited to non game viewing hours when everybody scrambles to book treatments. Frequently spa facilities are limited and often seem like an afterthought. The idea of a customer centered luxury and gourmet oriented safari and spa property appealed to me as soon as I heard about it. I was hesitant because reaching Karkloof Safari Spa required a side trip to KwaZulu-Natal, a province of South Africa I was not planning to go to on that trip and the airfare was not inexpensive. In the end, I could not resist the temptation of an all inclusive luxury spa and safari property. I was glad I went.