The Bounty of Table Bay

By Ilona Kauremszky
Special to Privilege Magazine

Cape Town, SA -- Recognized as one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world, South Africa is positioning itself as the light of the Dark Continent.

The surprise starts the minute you hit the recline button on South African Airway’s new 180 degree lie flat business class seat just named the “World’s Best Business Class Seat” by Skytrax. The curvaceous automated seats with massage options make air travel once again a decadent affair. The 19-hour flight from New York City felt like an afternoon siesta helped along by generous servings of sweet Amarula liqueur.

With the dark clouds of Apartheid lifted cities like Cape Town are morphing into über chicdom. South Africa’s primary tourist city is proving to be the leading centre of the Rainbow Nation.

Today, building cranes dot the skyline and international investors are buzzing like bees to honey in their mad dash to snag desirable real estate at doable prices preferably around Cape Town’s waterfront. In the latest visitor stats, among Canadian travellers 64% of us are first timers.

No doubt, the luxurious Table Bay Hotel along the historic waterfront is easily setting the standard of excellence. Condé Nast Traveler in its latest readers’ choice awards crowned the five-star property, part of the ultra luxurious Sun International group, as the “Best Hotel” in all of Africa.

Situated on the water’s edge, the Table Bay Hotel is dominated by the flat pancake mountain aptly named Table Mountain. The architectural masterpiece with shades of a regal Victorian style captures the imagination of all who enter her magnificent premise. On my arrival, teams of secret service dudes donning black suits and shades with ear devices were whispering into their shirt cuffs appearing very “Men in Blackish.”

“Wow, is this how all guests are greeted?” I asked. It turns out the hoopla was for the Vietnamese prime minister and his delegation checking in at the same time. But that didn’t stop my wow factor. Every fine detail at this posh property was tended to from the personal fax copy service in my suite to internationalized electrical outlets to the cool Egyptian cotton bed linen.

Since first opening seven years ago when then president Nelson Mandela cut the ribbon at the hotel’s opening, Table Bay Hotel exudes opulence, fine living and has clearly been the waterfront’s benchmark of progress. With the 10th anniversary of democracy in full swing, the Grande Dame of all African hotels has never looked better.

For starters, the entrance says it all. An impossibly long and impeccable swath of red carpet cuts through the long glass enclosed entrance leading into an airy open lobby where guest relations keep crystal decanters of sherry or port nearby. Warm butter yellow tones set off the floor to ceiling marble fireplaces and tropical fragrant floral arrangements emit a stately yet elegant feel in the lobby of this posh dig.

Besides the regal set of princes, statesmen and high-browed diplomats, this lavish hub has become a favorite abode for singers, Grand Prix World Champion winners, movie stars and tycoons. Michael Jackson, Michael Schumacher, Robert DeNiro and Sir Richard Branson are among the jet set crowd. So were Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Father of Africa, Nelson Mandela but you’ll also find moneyed Europeans and Japanese honeymooners too. For a sneak peek of the rich and famous, amble outside where a wall of fame of over 75 names keeps the hotel’s mascot Oscar, a mammoth bronze seal, company.

Submerged in a Mediterranean climate with currents from the Indian Ocean and Atlantic swirling around this boot shaped peninsula, Cape Town is the only place in the world where two oceans converge. Around this Garden of Eden (it’s where scientists believe they have located man’s earliest relative “Eve”), an eco paradise awaits with over 6,000 indigenous plant species. So it’s no wonder a verdant wine route emerges between the rolling hills.

For a quick city getaway, drive the famous N1 route, which once was destined to connect Cape Town with Cairo and discover the exclusive Stellenbosch Wine Region, the country’s oldest vineyard. Along the banks of the Eerste River in the heart of the Cape Winelands, the hot sun, fertile soil and balmy breezes create the best wines. There are over 300 wineries of which 100 are open to the public. At the ultra luxurious Spier Estate, a scrumptious restaurant called Moyo offers a delectable lunch buffet. Immersed in a colorful potpourri of Islamic styles, African and the traditional Dutch Cape style, you also can dine beneath a 250-year-old craggily oak tree and watch African drummers and dancers.

Despite the tropical paradise shoehorned in the Cape’s peninsula, it’s funny how close this Mother City is from the deep freeze of Antarctica. Not a surprise when you hear the seals bobbing for air along the pier or watch frolicking jackass penguins usher by on nearby Robben Island. This bird sanctuary also houses the former prison of Nelson Mandela.

Today, visitors hop aboard a ferry by the Victoria and Alfred docks, leave the brilliant view of the cloaked Table Mountain covered in its familiar tablecloth, a swag of thick clouds looming over the flat top and arrive to the recently opened prison for an astonishing tour conducted by former prisoners. Afterwards, ascend the cityscape atop the mountain Sir Edmund Hillary called one of the world’s most natural wonders, Table Mountain. This trip starts on an aerial dynamic moving cable car, jets up 1,087 metres above sea level and opens to 1,400 plant species with peculiar residents like the fickle dassie, a rodent looking creature that is a distant relation to the elephant of all things.

For shopping, hit Long Street, a street reminiscent of Toronto’s Queen Street but with a blend of New Orleans style cast iron balconies. The historic strip now houses hip boutiques, vegan restaurants sprinkled with antique and other African curio shops. Footsteps away, Greenmarket Square is a bustle of activity that starts early in the morning as local artists and craftsman sell their wares of masks, wooden statues, beadwork and other rich tapestries. Prices are reasonable. For those who wish to stay closer to Table Bay Hotel, there’s the slick Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre smack in the centre of the Victoria and Albert waterfront housing Dolce and Gabbana and the eclectic Red Shed Craft Workshop, a craft emporium.

After a day of touring wineries and shopping for hand carved safari mementoes, we made our way back to Table Bay Hotel’s luxurious Conservatory restaurant for a Cape feast, a fusion of tastes melenging the many cultures that have settled here over the 350 years of Cape Town’s birth. I survey the menu and ponder over delicacies like roasted springbok and curried chicken and note the open-face cellar displaying 6000 of the best Cape wines

The bounty of Table Bay has only just begun.

-30-

Photos: Stephen Smith


If You Go:

For more travel information on South Africa, visit South Africa Tourism at www.SouthAfrica.net and for a list of tour operators contact (TOPAC) Tour Operators of Canada Promoting Africa at Topac.org

The Table Bay Hotel, Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa (27-21) 406-5000, fax (27-21) 406-5767 or 1-800-223-6800
Table Bay Hotel

www.tablebayhotel.com
Rates are from $634 US per night

For flight reservations, contact South African Airways at 1.800.722.9675 or visit flysaa.com

For maps and route information on the Stellenbosch Wine Region, visit wineroute.co.za


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