There is a certain tantalising mystique about exotic Africa – expectations are high for this continent. Who can forget the romantic drama Out of Africa? with cinematography so grand, the landscape in all its glory leapt off the screen. VIVA opted for one of South Africa’s most popular tourist destinations – Cape Town. What could be better than a break away that promises to indulge all the senses, from a safari to see the Big 5 to sun-drenched beaches and a road trip winding around the rugged coastline?
It’s little wonder this city, is the most popular tourist destination in South Africa – thanks to its Mediterranean climate, well known landmarks, a twinkling harbour and the unforgettable backdrop of Table Mountain.
A stroll along the seaside boulevards in Camps Bay, reveals a town teeming with locals and holidaymakers enjoying the laid back lifestyle, with keen surfers jostling for waves and sun-seekers reclining on loungers. It’s a town that feels like Africa’s answer to Miami – drenched in sunshine, swaying palm trees and filled with the bold and the beautiful.
Another major drawcard of Cape Town is its close proximity to an array of diverse tourist attractions which truly showcase South Africa at its best. So popular is this town that in 2011, it won the prestigious Best Tourist Destination in The World gong at the Trip Advisor Traveller’s Choice Awards. Kudos indeed.
STAY IN STYLE
There is a list of top 100 things to do before you die – and having afternoon tea at the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town is one of them – so it’s worth paying a visit to this ‘pink palace’ as its referred to by locals, and ticking one off your bucket list.
This grand dame opened on March 6th 1899, when its claim to fame was being the first hotel in South Africa to offer hot and cold running water. It was painted pink to celebrate the end of the First World War and s retained its blush facade ever since.
Since opening its doors the glamorous five-star bolt-hole has welcomed a dazzling roll call of guests, everyone from Hollywood stars and singers to poets and posers, who have fallen in love with the hotel’s grandeur. Among those to grace the corridors in the early days was Winston Churchill, while today, stars such as Charlize Theron, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robbie Williams have checked in and chilled out in style.
There are 209 rooms at this hotel, nestled at the foot of Table Mountain, with interiors which define understated luxury, from the marble bathrooms to the luxury fabrics and stunning vistas. For a spacious retreat, splurge on a Junior Suite, with a sprawling king-sized bedroom, stunning marble bathroom and sweeping views of the mountain itself.
Royal guests have included Prince Charles and Princess Michael of Kent, who no doubt opted for the sumptuous Presidential suite, boasting everything you would expect of five-star luxury, from a marble entrance hall to a private balcony to soak up the view.
Romantics look no further than the cottages – the converted historic homes, positioned behind white picket fences and scented rose gardens provide the perfect honeymoon escape.
TAKE TEA FOR TWO
Many column inches have been dedicated to the famous Mount Nelson afternoon tea, which has garnered a reputation as amongst the best in the world. It’s a feast for the senses, but beware – the options are endless, so deciding which sweet and savoury bite is next could be your biggest worry.
The speciality loose leaf tea menu offers more than 30 blends, from delicious concoctions including everything from the green tea and herbal varieties to the rare flowering Chinese blends.
It also features unforgettable bites thanks to chef Samantha Waring. Our tip is start with the savoury section. Nibble on cucumber and cream cheese finger sandwiches or smoked salmon offerings, before finishing off with something sweet and delicious, from the delicate cupcakes to the Willy Wonka style confectionery. There are piles of sugary sweets, including tangy lemon meringue and frothy mousses, but save room for the homemade coconut ice.
Guests can opt for a table in the conservatory, but if it’s a sun-drenched afternoon there is nothing better than sipping tea on the manicured lawns – you will feel like royalty for a few hours.
If you are looking for an out of this world experience, quite literally, then drop into the hotel’s Planet restaurant, which comes complete with twinkling lights on the ceiling and chandeliers with shooting stars. It’s a sight to behold and the menu is just as memorable thanks to chef Rudi Liebendber, who is behind the locally inspired Cape Classics offerings. Fresh ingredients are bought in every day so expect an adventure for the palette and dine on some of the freshest fare on offer.
REST AND RETREAT
Bliss out at Librisa Spa and enjoy customised treatments in one of the eight luxurious rooms, each named after a flower. Try out a signature spa package such as the African Goddess Anti-Ageing Skin Care, which promises to leave you with a healthy glow
TAKE A ROADTRIP...
With so many things to do in and around Cape Town, it’s wise to plot your itinerary in advance. Here are VIVA’s top choices...
1 Take a cable car up Table Mountain
Enjoy one of the Cape’s most iconic sites – the breathtakingly beautiful Table Mountain. Take a cable car to the peak and enjoy jaw-dropping panoramic views of the city below. Allow a full morning or afternoon to soak up the surrounds, with plenty of walks and more than 1,500 species of plants to spot. And why not stay long enough to sip a cocktail at sunset or have a bite to eat in the mountain top restaurant?
Opened in 1929, the cable line has provided a sense of wonder for millions of tourists. The first car runs at 8am each day and departs every 15 minutes until 10pm. Just allow time for the queue in peak season – it seems everyone has the same idea!
2 Go on safari at Aquila Game Reserve
A trip to Africa seems like it just wouldn’t be complete without spotting some wildlife. Head to Aquila, just a two hour drive from Cape Town, and follow in the footsteps of the many celebrities who have visited in search of the Big 5. The traditional setting is perfect for an overnight stay in one of the retreat’s luxury chalets, complete with outdoor showers and cosy amenities, while the 7,500 hectare reserve boasts plenty of elephants, lions, rhinos and leopards. Take advantage of an afternoon drive to spot the wildlife in its natural habitat and enjoy some bubbly and canapés as the sun sets. Life doesn’t get much better.
3 Take a grape and fromage tour
South Africa is known for its quality grapes, so pencil in your diary a visit to the vineyards. One of the most famous places to enjoy a tour is the stunning scenic area of Franschoek, nestled in the Western Cape and one of South Africa’s oldest towns. This haven is known as the wine and cheese capital of the country and its easy to see why this town is foodie heaven, with gourmet eateries and rolling vineyards dotted throughout the lush green landscape. Indulge your senses with a wine and cheese tour and stay overnight in one of the town’s cosy B&Bs.
4 Enjoy the scenic view with a road trip along the coast
Always fancied driving off into the sunset? Now is your chance. One of the best things about Cape Town is its close proximity to quaint seaside villages which feel far from city life. The easiest way to see this country in all its glory is by road, so spend an afternoon winding your way around the hills and taking in fishing towns such as the picturesque Kalk Bay. Then wander around the harbour or simply enjoy fresh fish and chips while taking in the vista. Perfect.