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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!

Top 5 Private Game Reserves in South Africa

South Africa is beyond famous for its’ incredible game reserves and lodges. People flock from all around the world to experience Africa in one of our top class facilities. Some just back a tent and trundle off but others seek out SA’s most luxurious and exclusive wildlife experiences. As far as we’re concerned, we’d be more than happy to stay at ANY of these reserves, but here are our Top 5!

1. Singita – Sabi Sand

It’s no secret Singita has been winning awards for some time now and although all of their private reserves are spectacular, Sabi Sand is regarded as uniquely special. With three magnificent but warm lodges set on a massive plot of Big 5 rich land, it’s easy to see why Singita Sabi Sand was recently ranked number 9 in the Condé Nast travellers awards in the Middle East, Africa and India Ocean.

2. Londolozi

One of the original pioneering Private Game Reserves of the ecotourism industry in South Africa and an unashamedly family run, stand alone operation, conservation is at the core of their ethics. World renowned as one of Africas finest game lodges, Londolozi was the first game reserve in the world to be accorded Relais & Chateaux status, with each of its’ 5 lodges committed to luxurious accommodation, fine cuisine and exceptional service.

3. Thanda

Wildlife, romance and exclusivity meet at Thanda Private Game Reserve – an award-winning safari destination in northern Zululand.Originally purchased as degraded cattle farms, Thanda’s wildlife management has concentrated on an extensive rehabilitation project, which included reintroducing the Big Five. The newly added Luxury Tented Camp is the epitome of oppulent colonial safari-style, perfect for guests who are searching for an authentic safari experience!

4. Shamwari

Home to Africas Big 5 and is situated in the Eastern Cape of South Africa Shamwari has received numerous international awards, including the Worlds Leading Conservation Company and Game Reserve for many consecutive years.Luxury safari accommodation is offered in 7 different 5-star lodges on the 25 000 hectare reserve. From rustic treetop hideaways to colonial bush mansions, Shamwari will make your safari dreams come true.

5. Phinda

Phinda is unique in that is includes seven distinct habitats – a magnificent tapestry of woodland, grassland, wetland and forest, interspersed with mountain ranges, river courses, marshes and pans. At Phinda intimate encounters and rare discoveries can be experienced firsthand. With unspoiled beaches and spectacular reefs nearby, and an abundance of wildlife, Phinda offers the perfect bush and beach adventure. Six luxury lodges, each set in varying environments, provide exclusivity and privacy deeply set in the natural environment.

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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.

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Egoli Gold Cuisine – fine dining in Joburg!

Johannesburg is huge city. It’s a melting pot of cultures, a bustling hub of industry and commerce and a place where people meet and make things happen.

When it comes to making deals and shmoozing with the bigwigs, you need to know which restaurants will make the best impression on your client, potential business partner or even, date.

We’ve put together a collection of 26 extraordinary dining venues spread out throughout the city to make sure you’re never left without options. Some of them are familiar favourites that continue to produce top quality meals after decades. Others are poised for brilliance, creating unique meal masterpieces in keeping with international trends.

Whether you simply love to dine in style or you have the need to impress on a regular basis, you should find plenty in our mix to indulge your tastes!

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

No gold stars for Mark Gold’s mobisite

Depending on your taste in jewellery, you may or may not have heard of Mark Gold. Originally from Durban, this designer of unique, bespoke creations has expanded into Joburg and the Cape, where his stores are equally famous for their top quality coffee as they are for distinctive jewellery.

As a major fan of Mark Gold’s work, I tried not to let this influence me in my review of their mobisite.
I’ve encountered thei website before and although I found it to be visually engaging (complete with Ibiza-style background mood music) and representative of their style, I felt it used far too much Flash animation. Anyone who spends a significant amount of time online attempting to extract usable information, will tell you that Flash is the devil. Luckily it’s on its’ way out, but that didn’t stop the creators of this mobisite from incorporating it into their design.

As I’ve reiterated many times in the past, a good mobisite needs to be slick, attractive and simple. While the Mark Gold mobisite attempts to be all these things, I feel it just falls short of realizing that goal. Having flash images on a mobisite is ok if you have a decent smartphone and data connection, but if not, you’re probably going to find that, at worst they don’t show up at all and at best they creep across the page like stunned insects.

In essence the mobisite is a smaller version of the main site. It has the same information and images (no music!) but the layout doesn’t really make sense to me. There is a ‘Mark Gold’ menu that gives you more insight into the brand, a ‘Jewels’ menu and a ‘Timepieces’ menu. Unlike the main site, they haven’t created separate pages for each style of jewels, which led me to completely miss a whole section of information- you’ll need to keep scrolling. I just felt that, for such unique & glamorous products, they deserved to each enjoy their own space to be admired, rather than being lumped together. These are the Mark Gold signature pieces, yet they don’t seem to take pride of place? On the main site, each range has a large picture and description that ultimately sold me on the product without even seeing the real thing. That is what needs to be transferred in a mobile platform.

I headed to the Gallery area in hopes of finding a decent sized image of some of my more favourite pieces, but just found more Flash. Although these are the same images used on the main site, they don’t have the same impact on a small screen. It would have been worthwhile to simply have a few good pics of each range.The Gallery page also has a ‘Press’ area which links to nowhere and it seems its only purpose was to fill the space.

I also noted that nowhere on the mobisite was there any mention of their coffee shops, for which they are so loved.

I feel that a bit more thought could have gone into the design of this mobisite. Perhaps it was simply created to make sure that mobile users could find the stores and access details on the move, but I believe luxury brands should always put that little bit of extra attention into things like this because their market appreciates the personal touches.

6/10

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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…

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Fine Dining Durban – Classy Cuisine by the Coast

Durban is known for a few thingsL: Warm Indian Ocean, great surf, slops and shorts all year round, great curry… Fine dining doesn’t usually come up in this list.

Sure, there aint anything like the amount and selection of top quality restaurants in Durban as there are in Joburg or Cape Town, but they do exist!

When you mention fine dining in Durban, you might get a few strange looks from the locals, but don’t let that deter you. Ask the right people and they will point you in the direction of the city’s best foodie sites – from the acclaimed Harveys and 9th Avenue Bistro to the hidden gems like Marco Paulo and Wodka.

So, don’t write Durban off in the classy cuisine stakes – even if the ous don’t quite dress right for the occasion!

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Exclusive Kruger – 5 Star Big 5

For some, going to the Kruger National Park is all about getting back to nature, sleeping under the stars, cooking potjie on the fire and creeping to the loo in the middle of the night hoping you won’t bump into anything with large teeth.

But for those that can afford it, a luxury Kruger experience can be even more relaxing. In this collection we’ve listed five star game lodges within the boundaries of the Kruger Park itself. There are only a handful that fall into the category, although there are many situated just on the border, or inside neighbouring reserves.

Singita Lebombo in particular is a star amongst our picks. The Singita group have made a name for themselves for providing exactly what travellers expect from a 5 star experience and a little extra on top. Jock Safari Lodge is also highly rated on Trip Advisor, with many reviewers describing their stays as, ‘heavenly’.

While not all of us may be able to experience Kruger in this manner, at least we can rest assured that we live in a country where we have the luxury of such a magnificent natural wonder on our doorstep.

Daily Collection

Rocco de Villiers Favourites – for the finer things!

Rocco is far more than an instrumentalist. This dynamic pianist and composer has built his own brand around his music and lifestyle.

Fans of Rocco might spot him lingering around his exquisite dreamhome in Parktown, Johannesburg more often than not, but when he does leave the house, his tastes are equally fabulous. As a self-confessed cocktail connoisseur, Rocco loves nothing better than to relax in luxury at the Mount Nelson with a decadent drink in hand.

When he feels the need to escape from the city, he does so at the rustic Tambotie Tented Camp in the Kruger Park and when it comes to performance time, he likes nothing better than stepping up on stage at the Theatre on the Bay in Camps Bay.

Beachcomber’s Mobisite is a Slice of Paradise

Call me crazy, but I’ve never had any major hankering to go to Mauritius. It’s just that I feel like there are so many other places that interest me more. So, it’s saying something that Beachcomber’s mobisite actually made me want to go!

Slick, stylish and convenient in much the same way you might expect their resorts to be, the mobisite delivers on pretty much every front.

The home page is unfussy allowing you to quickly acccess information with minimum scrolling. In fact, minimal scrolling is a recurring feature that I particularly like about this mobisite.
Click on the Hotels tab and you will find a list of available resorts, which, once opened, will give you a concise but worthwhile overview of the hotel in question.

But this is not the highlight. If you look at the bottom of each hotel profile, you’ll see a little button that says ‘Gallery’. Also, at the top of the Home page, you’ll find a Gallery tab.

Usually when browsing a mobisite, the last thing you want to do is look at a gallery. That’s because nine times out of ten the picture sizing is not right for your screen and it takes eons to load, wasting valuable data on your phone. This is not the case here. Go to each gallery and you’ll find a neat selection of conveniently sized pictures that load quickly, giving you just the kind of tantalizing glimpse of paradise that makes you desperate to punch that little ‘Quote me’ button at the bottom of the screen…

When it comes to this kind of tourism, Beachcomber clearly understands that a picture sells a thousand holidays.

One thing that personally irks me is the lack of actual pricing on the site, however, very few luxury resorts do offer up that information without you personally requesting it. (I’m the kind of person that wants to know immediately and plan my trip, rather than wait between 3 hours and 3 days to get an email response – but that’s just me.)

Clearly displayed special offers and package deals are also a firm favourite with me and here we have another example of this! Click on these areas and you are bound to find any information you have been looking for (except the actual price of a holiday) and you will find yourself jetting off to your island paradise in no time at all.

The Beachcomber mobisite is fast, efficient and highly user-friendly, but it’s also able to do something extra by showcasing its’ product well and without the aid of a full website. I’d totally fly off to paradise with it.

10/10

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

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.