Villas in the Vineyards at La Residence – Franschhoek, South Africa
Swing your pants in an excited fashion. New to this South African pleasuredome are six private villas: a colourful explosion of Caran d'Ache high drama. Liz Biden’s hotels are the most famous in South Africa, and this must be the most expensive hotel in the country. You can't believe it works, really – the chequered marble flooring, the lime-green curtains, the chandeliers so large they're like intergalactic UFOs. And yet there is a reason why Christian Lacroix and Elton John love it here. Set apart in the gardens, surrounded by vines and apple and plum trees, this is heady stuff. It ain’t no barefoot chic, peeps - it's a riot of glory, with massive roaring fires, four-posters and roses. The GM, Edward Morton, lives, eats and breathes the place; staff-at a ratio of 10 to one, or at least it certainly feels like it - are impossible to match.
One Indian billionaire who insists on travelling the world with his own staff has said it's the only place where he doesn't need them, and revisited three times in 12 months.
Book It: Africa Travel (020 7843 3580) offers three nights from £2135.00, including breakfast, drinks, British Airways flights and hire car.
Saxon Boutique Hotel, Villas & Spa – Johannesburg, South Africa
It‘s hard to write about a single spot in South Africa without Nelson Mandela’s name cropping up. But it was here that he completed his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. How otherworldly it must have seemed at the time – the sweeping staircases, the fields of marble, the way the sun spreads through the property like butter on a piece of toast. You may think you only want to stop for one night on the way through for safari thrills, but the Saxon will pin you down in its amber loveliness.
There are the new villas, connected to the hotel via a kind of Las Vegas-style walkway. If you want super-space, if you want to play chess with elephants, stay in one of these. The staff are pretty much the best in Africa. They have spunk and initiative and are full of energy. Don’t, whatever happens, miss the spa and falling asleep in its famous bed of gongs – crikey, it’s beautiful. And suck up the walls loaded with African baskets in the atrium – it’s so big one guest asked,
just to make a point if he could have an indoor cricket match and bearing in mind this is a place of astonishing stories, the hotel happily obliged.
Book It: Africa Travel (020 7843 3580) offers doubles from £680.00 including breakfast.
Babylonstoren, South Africa
Nowhere else in the Cape Winelands do the worlds of contemporary and historical South Africa Collide with such style. Until a decade ago, this 17th century estate was run as a fruit farm. The former magazine editor Karen Roos got her hands on it and it was soon the freshest, chicest guest house in the country.
Babylonstoren still operates as a farm, but now the whitewashed thatched workers’ cottages are guestrooms, with panoramic views of soaring mountains. The garden’s the star, full of pretty parterres, lavender hedged paths, olive groves housing beehives, walls hanging with multicoloured pumpkins miles of dreamy roses and a sea of red (beets, cabbage rhubarb and peppers).
There are more than 200 acres of vineyards, orchards and a spring water reservoir to swim in, a deliciously natural spa and a minimalist former cow shed with a look as inventive as the food within – multicoloured salads, yummy passion-fruit cake and melon, ginger and lemon grass juices straight from the garden. Groups are occasionally permitted to rent the grand 1777 Cape Dutch farmhouse, featured regularly in interiors magazine.
It’s a kitchen-garden wonderland, the air thick with butterflies and the whiff of rosemary.
Book It: Africa Travel (020 7843 3580) offers five nights from £1695.00, including breakfast, British Airways flights, hire car and breakfast.
Kensington Place – Cape Town, South Africa
What you really notice, with the recent blossoming of Cape Town’s hotel scene, is however big and beautiful the humdingers are, however glossy and shiny, none of them will make you feel as connected as this place.
Some 30 supremo hotels opened pre-World Cup, but this is the owner-managed spot that will have you sitting at the best table at the city’s hotshot restaurant Bizerca Bistro. Its spearheaded by the super fastidious Chris Weir, a man so exacting of himself and others that his relentless eye can’t help but beam in on the edgiest of the inside track.
The best art galleries, the best fashion houses, the best markets, the best chefs – Chris makes it his business to know them all before they even know themselves. A hop-skip-jump from Kloof Street, with all its funky chair shops, ink artists, dressers of hair, and interiors genies, you’re already at the thumb to the pulse. The rooms are little havens, sweet and simple.
Staff, including the delightful Sacha – the local-girl general manager – have all worked here fromthe beginning. Everyday Chris makes the cleaning staff ( there are so many of them the hotel simply can’t be profitable!) go around with irons to de-crease the sheets, tablecloths and curtains – Chris don’t do creases, so that’s the end of them.
Book It: Africa Travel (020 7843 3580) offers five nights from £1425.00, including breakfast, British Airways flights and hire car.
The Robertson Small Hotel – Robertson, South Africa
Pick up a convertible in the Winelands and drive an hour further east to Robertson. No crowds here. Just underpriced vintages, a laidback cellar scene and, on a side street, this nugget: as glamorous as anything on the Côte d'Azur, yet with a fresh homespun charm.
The doorman – called Vino, not made up - will glide you across jacaranda-filled lawns to the romantic Victorian manor house with its three airy white rooms, pool and sweet little spa. Fresh mint Mojitos and cheeses, chutneys and breads are served at sixish on the jazz-age zinc cocktail bar.
The restaurant -don't miss the tandoori-roasted kingklip with lemon cream and caramelised aubergine - may be run by the famous local chef Reuben, whom people roll around after like hungry Pac-Men, bur the hotel itself still feels like a hush-hush members' club.
Book It: Africa Travel (020 7843 3580) offers five nights from £1395.00, including breakfast, British Airways flights and hire car.
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