‘You have to stay here at least once in your lifetime’. That’s the tag line.
As plumes of grey smoke and the thunderous boom of the Noon Gun forever consign the Cape Grace and Cape Town firmly to memory, I’m tagged, I’m staying here at least once in my lifetime. What a magnificent beginning.
The water in the surrounding private quay glistens and shimmers, reflecting the presence of the raw, natural beauty, that is Table Mountain. Right here, at the majestic foot of the Mountain is Cape Grace Hotel, bowing reverently to Africa’s intensity, right in the heart of the Mother City.
Cape Town is called the Mother City for many reasons, most of which have been passed down through folklore. It is said to be the country’s oldest town. In 1652, Jan Van Riebeeck of the Dutch East India Company set up Cape Town as a midway point for ships heading to or returning from the East. Thanks Jan for bringing the spices. Another popular reason is the use of the Afrikaans term ‘Jou Ma’ meaning ‘your mother’, a running joke is that it takes around 9 months to get anything done. Enjoyably very true.
Thankfully, Cape Grace incorporates the laid back approach with graceful efficiency. Relaxed, yet ordered.
The hotel sits between cape town’s bustling V&A Waterfront and the marina. It was expertly refurbished in 2008, as the first hotel built on the waterfront and the only one with an entrance, it is unique. Rolling up in the car you feel especially welcome when the gate man utters ‘welcome home’, before you’ve even arrived. It’s a marvellous touch, a statement that you hear over and over again, almost producing you to proclaim ‘Hi Honey, I’m home’ as you venture back to your luxurious nautical bolthole.
The entrance is framed by the quay and yachts either side. A flower seller lingers just right of the front door, behind a vibrant red stand with the words ‘live, love’ and Cape Grace emblazoned on it. Reminiscent of street florists from Amsterdam, Dutch ancestry bubbling. The botanical kingdom is very important here, exuding scents, stimulating senses. Displays of Proteas, the national flower, in the lobby are dazzling.
Crystal chandeliers hang throughout, with local handmade trinkets draped over the arms. Strewn as if deposited there by a passing wave.
The walls are white, clean and crisp, every floor has antiques from the Dutch era, wood, pottery, tea chests, upholstery, metals, navigation charts and port hole mirrors each telling an enchanting tale. The Cape Grace Collection is one of the most important and comprehensive public collections owned by and displayed in a hotel in South Africa. The collection consists of more than 300 pieces of original antique furniture and artefacts, all made or used locally.
One such piece is a courting chair. In days of courting in Holland, there was a chair called the courting chair. It sat in the corner of every ‘good room’, and when a young suitor came calling, he was expected to sit on this chair, chaperoned, and woo the young lady. The catch is the chair was crafted to be deliberately uncomfortable. So uncomfortable, that you really did prove your intentions by sitting on it, lasting a reasonable amount of time, and more importantly, coming back.
A nautical theme runs throughout, the hotel is built like a ship, the hull at the front, facing the city, tall and strong. Even the pool is drafted in sea-faring fashion. With main sails aloft, decorated with ‘CGCT, 33˚ 54’29” S and 18˚ 25’12” E, the coordinates of Cape Grace. The poolside has a bar and extremely sumptuous towels on which to lay back and soak up the magnificent African sun in peace.
Well, peace for the majority of the day. Signal Hill has the Noon Gun, a gun salute every day at noon. The cannon at the South African Navy’s Lion Battery on Signal Hill is the oldest active cannon in the world. To this day it still alerts ships in Table Bay, 30 ships know the time of day by it every day. As do Capetonians, although many still jump in surprise when it echoes thorough the city. If you want to go to Signal Hill and see it for yourself you can, there is a complementary chauffeur within a 10 km radius of the hotel. You can also paraglide back down to the city.
Below deck, sea legs carry you to Bascule Bar, French for ‘bridge’, again in keeping with the sea. It is laden with more than 400 whiskies, offering tasting sessions. If you want, you can rent a whiskey locker at a reasonable cost. Japanese whisky is currently very popular. Whiskey members can use the venue free once a member for a get together. You could combine this with a good old knees up, there is live music every night of the week.
Delicacies are in abundance, unlike the water. Each floor has tray bakes waiting as you leave the elevator, help yourself. There is port and sherry in the library every evening. Afternoon tea is also a must, using the Cape Grace Blend tea. Like no other.
Breakfast is served each morning in the Signal Restaurant, with a spectacular view over Signal Hill. Eggs every which way and spicy beans are a local treat. There is also a little menu for the younger generation. Kids are masterfully catered for by the hotel. There is a special turn down, gingerbread decorating and African story time at night, all to allow the parents to soak up the atmosphere and perhaps take a dip in the hot spa.
The rooms have fabulous views of either the marina or the harbour. Fresh flowers are placed sweetly and books are selected for your stay. Leather headboards frame a monumental King bed, draped in Egyptian sheets.
A balcony allows a welcome breeze from the mountain. The marble bathrooms are ornate and dressed with the Fynbos Collection, a toiletries range made using the Fynbos flower, found only in the Eastern and Western Cape. Crown embossed pillows signal royalty. Little treats such as the dark chocolate nut biscuits, handmade at Cape Grace are delightful.
The hotel offers many tantalising experiences, for example, the Cape Wine Experience, wine tasting conducted by the in house sommelier or chartering a yacht. They can also rustle up a gourmet picnic, with homemade marshmallows. Why not listen to the Jazz in Kirstenbosch Gardens with a cheeky South African wine and a basket full of treats? chauffeur driven of course.
Before you reluctantly check out, visit The Platandia Boutique. It has the best platinum and local tanzanite jewellery. Tanzanite stone is local, rare, and there are only 5 years left of mining before it is completely depleted.
Staying at the Cape Grace is like finally realising that the treasure map is true, a valuable secret does exist, let the Cape Grace family shelter you from the storm, pamper and spoil you. Be the captain of your destiny and make sure that you stay here more than once in your lifetime.
Make sure you get your treasure before it disappears.
British Airways (BA) is 100 years old this year. 100 years of making connections globally, 100 years of celebrating partnerships that ensure the iconic brand of BA remains front and centre on the world stage.
It’s unique and so is its Club World.
You are welcomed at the airport with such enthusiasm and warmth, you could easily be visiting a friend. Check in is fast and efficient. No shifting your weight from one leg to the other like a knackered horse while you queue.
The business class lounge is a feast for sore eyes and salivating mouths. Nibble at the buffet and quench your thirst on local ales and fruit juices. Try not to over indulge, as the fare you will receive on-board is truly scrumptious.
The crafted menu uses the freshest local produce, accompanied by a perfect selection of Old World and New World wines. You will be served a three course menu, reflective of the country you are travelling to.
Greeted by a glass of champagne, you nestle in for the journey with your White Company, British lifestyle luxury brand amenities bag, complete with the Restore and Relax Spa Collection. Your sleep kit contains a super soft mattress topper, duvet and bedding, a sleep inducing cocoon.
Entertainment of course remains cutting edge, with your 12-inch screen and noise cancelling headphones, you have your own cinema. Club Kitchen has treats and snacks throughout the flight, so feel free to swing past as you stretch your legs.
Not that you need much stretching. The Club World seats are tantamount to having your bed, office and sofa all in one space. From September 2019, Club Suite will be available on selected flights, giving you even more room and choice. This is the final step in BA’s massive Club World investment.
Breakfast cards are given out, so if you wish to be woken up you can, or not, it’s up to you. Mind you breakfast is a shame to be missed.
British Airways flies from London to Cape Town from £746 return including taxes/fees/carrier charges. To book please visit ba.com/capetown or call 0844 493 0763.