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Meet for High Tea – a decadent afternoon affair!

The time-honoured tradition of high tea may be long gone in most homes and establishments but there are still a select group of hotels and venues that indulge their visitors!

Guests at some of the country’s top hotels can enjoy a mouth-watering selection of decadent sweets and treats lovingly created by celebrity chefs. Then wash it down with a dazzling array of teas and coffees.

It’s not just the culinary experience, but the act of stopping your day to take time out with friends and maybe put on a special outfit – all in luxurious comfort.

Whether you’re a regular tea aficionado or an occasional crumpet-lover, High Tea is something you should experience at least once!

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Route 62 – the Great Karoo!

It’s an area of South Africa that many who live elsewhere may not even have thought of, let alone visited, but this scenic tourist route covering the Western Cape and Eastern Cape is one that could keep you good and lost from civilization for some time.

Adventure is never far away on Route 62 where you’re surrounded by a wealth of natural resources from mountains, passes, rivers to vineyards and orchards.

This collection contains just a small selection of some of the more interesting places, sights and activities you could sample on your Route 62 road trip like adventure activities, wine farms, antiques and collectables, nature reserves, animals and water sports- just enough to peak your interest in the magical Karoo…

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Mantis Experiences – Africa at its’ best

Mantis is a family run, private collection of award winning, privately owned, five star properties located around the World.

They include Boutique Hotels, Game Reserves, Eco Lodges, Ski Lodges and Chalets and Yachts. Each unique property aims to celebrate the culture, gastronomy, architecture and nature of the locations in which they are found to offer guests a truly authentic experience.
Each venue also tries to be sensitive to its surroundings in respect of the building, environment and local community.

In South Africa, Mantis properties range from the sophisticated and trendy No5 Boutique Art Hotel in PE to the charming and quaint Lake Pleasant Living in Knysna. Further afield in Gauteng, you’ll find the Mantis-owned iconic Monarch Hotel, while the Oceana Beach & Wildlife Reserve offers a more rustic, natural experience.

Make yourself at home at The Residence

All it takes is a quick chat with Edgar Rudge (jnr) to see why The Residence Boutique Hotel is the top-rated hotel in Johannesburg on Tripadvisor and came tops in our recent poll.

The hotel is of particular personal interest to him as it’s also his home.
“The house was originally my private residence, but as things developed and the adjoining property (ex Chinese consulate) came up for sale, I decided to convert the two properties into a small boutique Hotel,” Edgar explained.
A trained architect by trade, who now works in the steel industry, Edgar relished the chance to use his creativity to stamp his own mark of style onto the interior and exterior spaces at The Residence.
“This is our first dabble in the hospitality industry. I have travelled extensively and been fortunate to stay at many of the great hotels of the world. I always wanted to bring back these experiences to our property in South Africa. I have taken much of my inspiration from two of the best hotels in the world – The Peninsula in Hong Kong and the Oriental in Bangkok ,” said Edgar.

Opulence and luxury are the words that come to mind when you hear what kind of exclusive facilities guests can enjoy at The Residence. A private spa with sauna and steam room, a rooftop bar that overlooks the city, two swimming pools, several private lounges, a piano bar and tennis court all contribute to the “private resort” feel.

“I believe our attention to detail in the luxurious suites, private Jacuzzis on the balconies, outdoor showers, complimentary mini bars, personalised stationery and a team that is always willing to go that extra mile for each and every guest has contributed to the popularity of The Residence,” he said. Continue reading

Get your kicks in the Karoo

Want to get away from it all, but with the option of either lazing around all weekend doing nothing, or having a bit of a jol? I have just the place for you.
The Barrydale Karoo Hotel is about two and a half hours drive, without stops, from Cape Town on the legendary Route 62, which runs all the way to Port Elizabeth – a scenic and infinitely more interesting alternative to the N2. Okay, well not exactly on the route itself, but down the sudden and unexpected right turn off the wide place in the road that is the Barrydale most people know.
From Cape Town you take the N1, turn right at Worcester and right again at Robertson. This puts you on a very long wine route, one of the longest in the world, they say – which is always a good thing.

The Barrydale Karoo Hotel is one of those beautiful old-fashioned small town places where the locals all hang out in the bar and are very friendly (sometimes overly so), where visitors come to loll in the gorgeous lounge areas decorated in quirky queer style (lift the cushions on the chairs, if you’re not a prude). There are just 15 individually created rooms. Some are basic, some are more extravagant, all offer comfort, peace and the creature comforts you need, like tea and coffee. This is not, however, the hotel you come to watch TV in your room.
I’ve been there three times in the past year, each time in the company of musicians playing gigs in the bar, so by definition, they have not been entirely relaxing trips. Continue reading

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Cape Town Super Spas – Regal Rejuvenation!

Even a bad spa experience can sometimes be good! Ok, maybe not if it involves waxing…

Spending the day being lathered in oils and creams, soaking and steaming in serenity is something we all wish we could do a little more of!
But when it comes to spa days, there are some venues that make most others pale in comparison. Cape Town is renowned for enjoying the finer things in life, from food to fashion and nightlife. It’s no surprise you’ll find some of the country’s top spas there too!

Get a massage with a mountain view, a pedicure with side of gourmet cuisine, a facial with rare, imported creams and concoctions! The luxury spa life is definitely one we could get used to…

Brunching for the brave

Hello. We are Capetonians and we love talking about the weather.
Perhaps it’s because we have so much of it in one day, unlike the rest of you in Durban and Joburg.
For example, last weekend when we went to the 12 Apostles Hotel for the Saturday jazz brunch, we left a sunny city bowl, drove over Kloof Nek and descended into a chilly, damp, foggy Camps Bay. You just never know what’s on the other side of our famous mountain.
It was a bit sad because I had been looking forward to sitting outside on the deck and savouring the spectacular view of the ocean across to Lion’s Head, but at the same time it was quite wonderful to be enveloped in the ethereal mist, with just the faintest glimpse of the foamy waves breaking on the rocks below.
Inside the Azure restaurant, however, it was cosy thanks to our table right next to the (gas) fireplace. Continue reading

Become a Regular at St Bernard’s Peak

There’s something about the Drakensberg air that just relaxes me like nothing else…
It must be a common thing because so many people swear by their yearly and sometimes monthly or weekly retreats to the majestic mountains.

For me, it was a much-needed break during peak holiday season that brought me to St Bernard’s Peak Mountain Lodge. Staying as a guest of Ian and Cherie Worrall is an experience you won’t easily forget.
What we soon learned is that, at St Bernard’s Peak, it’s a family affair.

Many of the families we met had laid claim to their cabins long before they had arrived for the second, third, fourth and fifth time during the year. The majority were regulars, some of whom had been coming to the very same farm since they were young children and now brought their own kids! You’ll also notice the guests helping out in the dining room, behind the bar and lugging gear and people down to the river!

The farm itself has changed hands a few times over the years but it’s been home to the Worrals for around 20 years and have made a few add-ons to the property and continue to patch up the older areas. The chalets themselves are typical Drakensberg fare- thick white walls and thatched roofs – but many are large enough to sleep a couple of families! The ‘honeymoon’ chalet is particularly beautiful.

Further down is a small camping area and a row of wooden wendy houses that can be rented out with or without the customary three meals a day. They’re basic but for the average hiker or backpacker they are unbelievably affordable and kind of quaint.

But let’s get back to the food, shall we? Three sold meals are provided inclusive of the accommodation price and you’ll never see value like this – not to mention variety! From traditional Sunday roasts to stews, curries, pasta and seafood, you’ll never get bored and always be full! Continue reading

Top 5 Midlands Wedding Venues

The Midlands is one of the most popular places in the country to get married. There are dozens of venues ranging from country-chic to bushveld-glam and farmhouse-cool. We asked some of our Facebook and Twitter connections which venues they thought provided the most picturesque venues with top-quality service. Though there are some venues that are extremely popular, there were others we felt were hidden gems that deserved more recognition. These are our final picks!

1. Hartford House

A slick & professional service in a 5-star environment is what you can expect at Hartford House. No detail will be forgotten and your food will taste like it’s been handcrafted by golden cherubs. Brides can get pampered in the luxurious spa without a care and wait patiently for her dream wedding to materialize around her. It’s certainly not a budget option, but if you’re looking for the best of the Midlands, you’ve come to the right place.

2. Granny Mouse’s Country House

Granny Mouse has hosted more weddings than they could probably count! Over the years it has been a destination of choice for hundreds of brides and a regular holiday hideaway for even more locals and tourists. It’s recent makeover means brides now can get all the quaint, cottage qualities of the old venue along with a healthy dose of modern chic. The food is legendary and the spa, a serene oasis, perfect for a flustered bride.

3. Cranford Country Lodge

Say your vows amongst the massive Bluegum trees, on the gazebo overlooking the glassy dam, or let the sun stream in on your ceremony in the stunning chapel. If you’re aiming for a warm, inviting, farm-style experience, Cranford ticks all boxes! The barn-like reception venue has a historic air and a cosy feeling, despite being able to hold over 100 guests. Read our review here to hear more thought on Cranford.

4. Mendola

There are pluses to being a fairly new venue. Although there may not be a lot of publicity about this venue, it appears to be a hidden gem in the Midlands wedding scene. Conveniently located in Hilton, it’s far enough out of the city, but close enough to make travel easy. Stylish and elegant, expect lush vintage decor and personalised service for weddings up to 100 guests.

5. The Windmills

It’s the lake-side chapel that really sells this popular venue. Perfect for sunset vows, it’s a uniquely designed space to begin your married life. The banquet hall seats up to 180 and the venue sleeps 60 guests, so it’s a great space for a mid-sized celebration. Understated elegance is the order of the day.

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Midlands Rest – Get cosy in the Countryside

There is something truly magical about the KZN Midlands. The luminous green of pastures & crisp, warm air in the Summertime make a stark contrast to the chilly, misty Winter months – and yet there are almost as many tourists during the colder months.

A trip to the Midlands is the perfect excuse to snuggle by the fireplace with someone you love, to don your uggboots and explore the picturesque countryside, to eat & drink well and feel toasty inside.

There’s no doubt that this collection will continue to grow over time. There are just so many interesting, quaint, luxurious and elegant retreats in this large area of South Africa. We wanted to make a start in collecting them all in one space to make your choice the tiniest bit easier – although, as we went through them we kept falling in love with new places!

Five-star luxury or hobbit dream house, you will find it all in this glorious destination – and in our collection!

Top 5 Luxury Boutique Hotels in Johannesburg

In the bustling, non-stop chaos of Johannesburg, there are pockets of tranquility, havens of luxury, where you can escape and completely forget the demands of the outside world… These are Joburg’s top boutique hotels.

1. The Residence

In just over a year, this small, but popular Houghton hotel has managed to find itself ranked as the top hotel in the city on Tripadvisor. Guests have showered the venue with praise for creating an environment that is both opulent and inviting, classy and cosy. With individually designed suites, a plush spa and gorgeous rooftop bar, there’s really no reason to leave the comfort of this delightful home away from home.

2. The Peech Hotel

A chic and eco-friendly option for travellers that still enjoy a bit of luxury and exclusivity. There’s a reason why it’s been nominated as South Africa’s top Boutique Hotel for the last 4 years. Guests love the cosy garden bungalows which encircle the peaceful garden and the venue has received rave reviews for its’ bistro-style food and professional hospitality.

3. Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa

With its’ picturesque setting of manicured lawns & colourful flower beds, you’d be forgiven for thinking you had teleported to the English countryside. Fairlawns is an award-winning hotel that is just as perfect for intimate events like small weddings and parties as it is a peaceful retreat for business travellers and couples looking for a romantic break.

4.The Saxon Boutique Hotel

From the chic Afrique decor to the spacious suites and welcoming atmosphere, staying at The Saxon is a unique experience. Visitors to this Sandton oasis have praised the top-notch service and delicious food. The added facilities like a fitness centre, cinema, spa and heated pool are added bonuses.

5. 10 2nd Ave, Houghton Estate

Centrally located but hidden in the quieter side of Houghton, what was once a private home is now a cosy guesthouse that incorporates personal homey touches. Houghton Estate has been described as comfortable and friendly with a garden most people can only dream of. The food, service and decor also come highly recommended.

How to Run the World’s Trendiest Hotel

Originally from California, Kevin Gerlach left in 1993 to pursue work in Munich.

After living out of a suitcase doing the corporate grind for 14 years, Kevin moved to Cape Town in 2007 for a complete life style change and opened the doors of Villa Zest in November 2008.

The Cape Town boutique hotel was recently named the ‘Trendiest Hotel in the World’ (and Africa) by Trip Advisor.

Safindit: What was the inspiration behind the hotel’s location & design?
Kevin: For me, it was important to be walking distance from the Waterfront and close to the convention center so I could run a year-round business with less seasonality.
My mother is a full-time artist and my sisters have always been artistic – in contrast to myself who could not draw well nor play any musical instruments. I have always been passionate about architecture and interior design but never had a blank canvas with which to express myself until I took on the Villa Zest project. At the very start of the project I found myself unlocking a creative side in me that I never knew existed as I had a clear vision of exactly the space I wanted to create. I quickly realized that creating the designs to match that vision came very natural to me.

S: How did you come to be in this line of business?
K: In my corporate life I lived out of a suitcase for over 10 years and I always enjoyed staying in smaller boutique hotels around the world versus staying at commercial hotels. The Villa Zest represents my dream to create a small boutique hotel that is a reflection of everything I wanted in a hotel while I was on the road. The Villa Zest was not designed from a boardroom with a developer’s perspective but from the standpoint of a traveller. Continue reading

Tsogo Sun scores points with Simplicity

Southern Sun (or rather Tsogo Sun, as the group has come to be known) is SA’s largest hotel chain with 90 hotels spanning the whole of South Africa as well as Kenya, Zambia, Seychelles, Tanzania and Mozambique.

With a large potential client base and a massive area to cover, it’s great to see they’ve leapt into the mobile arena.

Developed by Thumbtribe, this mobisite is not particularly complicated but in that way I think it stays in line with what Southern Sun’s overall brand image.

The home page clearly displays current special offers, which is the first thing most customers are going to want to see. I was a little disappointed to see there weren’t more specials available for specific hotels & events because they are present on the main website.

When you go into the ‘Hotels’ tab you can choose your location, which will then lead you to a list of hotels in that area. Once you click on your hotel of choice, there is a small ‘listing’ with a short description, a picture and contact details. I would say that they could’ve made better use of GPS location here, but the fact is, chances are, when you’re looking for a hotel, it’s not going to be the one closest to you. Therefore, being able to browse between locations makes perfect sense.

At the bottom of each hotel profile is a ‘Booking’ button. From there you will have the option of enquiring about a reservation via direct email, after which an agent will call you or else, you’re encouraged to call the relevant number and quote the mobile code. The ‘Book’ tab at the top works in the same way. I’m sure it would be fairly hassle free to make your booking this way, but if you would prefer not to have to deal with any humans during the process, then it’s not ideal.

I would far rather be able to make a preliminary reservation using the mobisite – a bit like making an online restaurant reservation – and then have them mail me my confirmation/ banking details etc.
If you can do this on the main site, I can’t see why it’s not possible on the mobisite.

Southern Sun’s mobisite gets points for keeping to the point & delivering something that serves it’s purpose practically and without being unattractive, but loses a couple points for the lack of direct booking.

We’ll give them a healthy 8/10