I knocked on mum’s door for breakfast and she was beaming, that first day and every day. “I’m so happy here,” soon became her mantra.
Bedrooms are comfortable and plush, the newly renovated Oasis rooms cool and fashionable.
Mum and I languished for hours over the sensational breakfast buffets, and loved night time at Planet restaurant, eating under the faux stars.
Meanwhile The Nellie’s X factor is the mouth-watering afternoon tea, served up daily with the elegance and old fashioned charm of a lost era.
Cape Town has always had a wild romantic allure. With the surge over the mountains, you feel like a soaring eagle surveying the ocean below. In no other city are the mountains and sea so prevalent and spectacular. It also explodes with art, culture and food.
My top restaurants are scattered throughout this wonderfully varied city, and its diverse nature.
La Colombe is set among Constantia’s lush wine farms under sprawling oak trees, where you feel the richness of Cape Town’s valleys and its cool grape growing countryside. The scene is romantic and relaxing, making for a very special night out, the food rated among the best in the world. There is a real sense of occasion, and everything from the wonderful dishes to the service are pretty near perfect.
The Test Kitchen is housed in the trendy Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock, alongside design and art shops, buzzing with music and dance on market Saturdays.
The food is delicate, sophisticated – full of amazing combinations and flavours.
I also loved Signal at the Cape Grace hotel, at The Waterfront, where we ate succulent fish of high quality, and enjoyed the understated elegance.
On the beach and a hub for young strivers is Shimmy, also great food, louder, brasher and where people like to be seen. If you want it lower key, try Grand on the beach, Granger Bay. Wading through the fresh summer menu with the red sun setting makes for a perfect, mellow evening.
Drive to the other side of the mountain, or take the lovely old train, and swim or surf at Muizenberg, on the warmer Indian Ocean with its pristine white sands.
A bit further along from here is Kalk Bay, where you must eat at the legendary Harbour House perched on rocks above the crashing surf, the dolphins and seals playing below their big windows. The fish is caught that day and dishes are enormous, varied and delectable.
Cape Town Holocaust Centre is a powerful tribute to the city’s 16,500 Jews. It is a moving memorial and an educational centre focused on tolerance and acceptance of all races and persuasions. Under the guidance of director Richard Freedman it works with outside authorities who come to the centre to explore moral issues. “The centre will help our children to understand that human rights are indivisible and that tolerance is essential to a free society,” said Mandela.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, is one of the seven best in the world – lush green, with sprawling African trees, intoxicating herbs, massive cacti and tree ferns. Mandela planted a pepper bark medicinal tree here to bring healing to the nation.
I loved meandering down to Camps Bay, dining at Annie Lennox’s favourite fish restaurant, Codfather, or outside at The Grand where you can watch the parade of people along the boardwalk and beach. Both are superb eateries; relaxed, welcoming, with fresh exciting dishes.
This is Cape town at its best, the birds wheeling, sun setting over the ocean, a sense of well-being, and always that ‘wow‘ factor where the magnificent nature takes your breath away.
Arriving in Cape Town 500 years ago, Francis Drake gasped, calling it “the most stately thing and the fairest Cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth”.
I felt the same way.