If you’ve never been to Africa before, and you’re even a little apprehensive about making the trip, you must start in Capetown – and you must stay at the magnificent Cape Grace Hotel. When I visited the Cape Grace, I ran into Samuel Jackson while checking in (yes, that Samuel Jackson!) who told me that it’s one of his favorite hotels, too.
And that’s no surprise, because what’s not to like about living in supreme luxury? The accommodations here are unparalleled; you’ll feel like you’re the only guest in the entire hotel. Entering your room, you’re greeted by stunning views of Capetown and the water, a fluffy pair of slippers, and a device that actually warms your towels for you. Oh, and fresh milk for your coffee will be delivered to you each morning. Plus, the entire staff meets each morning to discuss the needs of incoming guests, so you can expect a stay perfectly tailored to your expectations.
You might have a hard time leaving your room – I did! – but you won’t want to miss everything else the hotel offers. Head downstairs at breakfast time to partake of the most amazing buffet I’ve ever seen; it even included seductive passionfruit. Afterwards, visit the spa, where you can experience incredible African healing techniques. I recommend the African Cape massage, a unique treatment using circular motions to center and relax you. Other treatments, from aromatherapy to head and shoulder massage, use natural ingredients such as aloe vera, geranium, poppy seed, and shea butter, to name a few. Afterwards, relax in the sauna or on the patio overlooking the wharf and table mountain.
Be sure to stop by Bascule, Cape Grace’s own wine and whiskey bar, where Arnold, the proud sommelier and whiskey connoisseur gives nightly presentations on South African wines. And he’ll guide you around a huge list of hard-to-find whiskies from all over the world. (By the way, Arnold is one of just a few sommeliers in all of South Africa.)
Have dinner at Cape Grace’s restaurant, one.waterfront. There’s no way you’ll be disappointed. I had tournedos of beef wrapped in ox tongue, springbock carpaccio and creme caramel of quail – and if you ask me, the piece de resistance was the mako shark pate amuse bouche, served with lime in an abalone shell.
You’ll want to go back to one.waterfront again and again, but make time to visit Tank, a hip Asian fusion restaurant where the food and decor are equally stunning. Taking its name from the twenty-thousand liter salt-water fish tank that surrounds the entire premises, the cuisine, not surprisingly, focuses on fish. Start out with fried prawn ravioli or house-cured Norwegian salmon, then move on to pancetta-wrapped linefish or Malaysian seafood laksa. And be sure to leave room for desserts like lavender panna cotta or pink peppercorn and rosewater brulee. )
Visit the nearby university town of Stellenbosch, and stroll along jacaranda-lined streets; in November, the trees are in full bloom and purple blossoms pepper the streets. Stellenbosch is also the heart of the South Africa wine land, so if you’re if you’re a oenophile, it’s something you shouldn’t leave without experiencing! Visit one of dozens of wineries and sample their offerings: some of the more famous South African wines include pinotage, shiraz, and cabernet sauvignon.
Surface from the waters of hedonism long enough to visit nearby Robben Island Museum, reachable by catamaran, once the prison where Nelson Mandela was held for thirteen years. The guides, who are former prisoners, will give you a tour, and you’ll be surprised to find it a sobering but positive, even triumphant experience. Open since 1997, it celebrates the end of apartheid and the ability of the human spirit to persevere and even flourish again greatest adversity. (http://www.robben-island.org.za).
Head back to Cape Grace after a long day of exploring, and relax by the pool before going back to your room and collapsing on the most comfortable bed ever. I guarantee you’ll agree with me and Samuel Jackson; Cape Grace will be one of your favorite hotels, too!
Sheree Bykofsky is the author of The Best Places to Kiss in and Around NYC and the 52 Most Romantic Dates in and Around NYC
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