Cape Town is a great place to catch your breath between wildlife safaris (as well as balancing out the relatively high cost of safari accommodation) as it is a very good value and a fabulous tourist destination.
Mount Nelson Hotel
As usual there is something for all tastes and budgets. My personal preferences are listed here – starting with one of my all-time favourites, the Mount Nelson, a sprawling pink edifice sitting almost in the lap of the iconic Table Mountain. Referred to as the grand dame of South Africa’s hospitality, it offers an old-world charm, absolute luxury and a notable past including serving as a base for the British during the Boer War. Described by Winston Churchill as “a most excellent and wellappointed establishment which may be thoroughly appreciated after a sea voyage”. The only thing that seems to have changed is the introduction of modern conveniences like WiFi and the mode of travel!
The Mount Nelson is set in lush and peaceful gardens, at a slight remove from the hustle and bustle of a charming and picturesque city, yet sufficiently close to all the action including the Waterfront, Table Mountain, diamond showrooms, Robben Island ferry departure point etc with a complementary little hybrid car to get you there – assuming of course that you ever want to drag yourself away – as for me – I am going there instead of Heaven when I die – so I will never have to leave again!
Victoria & Alfred Hotel
My second favourite is the Victoria & Alfred strategically located at the vibrant V&A Waterfront. A working harbour and sizable shopping centre makes this a veritable hive of activity. On our first visit we enjoyed breakfast on the terrace watching the world go by as the boats tinkled in the foreground. Our more recent visit denied us the picturesque breakfast location because the restaurant was being refurbished (why this trend to refurbish everything even if it is perfectly serviceable as it is?) Nevertheless we still enjoyed one of the most varied and eclectic breakfasts imaginable – ranging from the usual fruit juice and cereal selections, to haddock, stir-fried vegetables and Thai inspired beef (which, though somewhat unconventional breakfast fare, was delicious) to freshly shucked oysters.
You couldn’t hope to find more friendly or helpful staff beginning with Matthys on reception whose cheerful disposition started our days off with a smile!
The next on my list of preferred properties deserves its spot on the list as one of the more affordable properties with very convenient access to the waterfront – literally a few meters away from the water and with a good view from every room. Having been recently refurbished, this old stalwart looks very smart in her new attire.
Franschhoek Country House (FCH)
My last choice is in this position solely because it is located just outside Cape Town in the quirky little village of Franshhoek which itself is in the picturesque Cape Winelands. FCH is a delightful little collection of villas dotted around the Country House’s manicured gardens which are festooned with rose bushes and fountains.
The décor is an interior decorator’s delight with French provincial furniture, impressionist type paintings and bead-bedecked lamps. However the piece de resistance, at least from my perspective on a cold winter’s night, is the underfloor heating in the dressing room and bathroom. However, others might consider the in-house, award-winning restaurant, Monneaux as the jewel in its crown!
Whichever it is, I recommend you try and find any excuse to spend a few glorious nights in this luxurious place either before, after or even as a break between wildlife safaris.