Staying at Birkenhead House was like staying at a friend’s elegant well staffed beach house. While the interior and accommodations were attractive and art filled and the meals convenient it was the vistas, sea breeze, surf sounds and access to outdoor site specific activities that I especially enjoyed at the boutique hotel. During our stay we made time to explore the coastal area near Birkenhead House and a bit of Hermanus, the well known whale watching town.
As we sat on the lawn in front of the gourmet restaurant looking out onto Camps Bay with glasses of chilled South African bubbly in hand we realized what a special evening was unfolding. We were surrounded by a dozen or so tables of couples, families and groups, each absorbed in their conversation while the gentle light of the waning sun, all that remained of a sunny and hot Cape Town day, dimmed slowly. A handsome man wearing a dark suit, a bright pink tie and a radiant smile had welcomed us when we arrived and escorted us to our aperitif spot a short distance from the restaurant door. Just as we were thinking about food he reappeared to escort us to our indoor table at The Roundhouse.
While we much enjoy our visits to Cape Town one activity we miss is walking, especially nature walks. For years we had wanted to visit the well known botanical garden and finally on our last visit to the city we scheduled time early one morning while staying in the nearby Constantia residential area.
As soon as the Garden opened we were ready with walking shoes, sun block and camera gear. Although cloudy weather threatened us soon after our arrival we managed a worthwhile exploration of the main areas of the Garden with the enthusiastic help of Andrew Jacobs, our experienced and affable guide who had worked at Kirstenbosch for 36 years.
The park’s location at the foot of the famed Table Mountain allowed us a clear view of the Cape Flats, a rare sight, our guide explained, and one we throughly took advantage of that morning. In order to stay ahead of the rain we kept a brisk pace while still making time to admire a flower, discuss a plant or snap a photograph.
For two days it seemed we were in an Agatha Christie novel. From the two story private train station owned by Rovos Rail in Pretoria The Pride of Africa Shaun, our antique style train with a steam locomotive, set a leisurely pace toward the heart of Cape Town. We departed in the late afternoon on a Friday and arrived at 6 p.m. in the coastal city a little worse for wear though satisfied in the pleasure of the shared luxury train ride.
Named simply La Residence (meaning The Home in French) in honor of the French Huguenot founders of Franschhoek, the village where it is located, this small property within a 30-acre working farm that produces grapes, plums and olives had much to offer discerning and luxury oriented travelers seeking secluded spacious comfort, guest centered service and gourmet features. Although we had stayed at the property years earlier on our second visit to the estate we discovered the Villas section and a whole new level of comfort. We also appreciated the property’s responsible tourism practices.
Over the years we have stayed at this Western Cape hotel named for the Steenberg Mountains, part of the Constantia Berg Mountain Range, three times and each time has been more rewarding than the previous one. On our last summer time visit we stayed at the two-story Khoi Khoi Suite with a private pool, one of three Heritage Suites. The accommodations and facilities were outstanding.