Friday, January 25, 2013

HOTEL CHECK SOUTH AFRICA, Cape Grace

Cape Grace is a charmer, homely and yet classy in an arty and low key way, with a reputation for warm and discreet service. Placed right on the marina in the Waterfront with water on both sides, it has stunning views. Our clients LOVE Cape Grace…so did the Select team on our recent return visit.
Gorgeous views
The lobby is large and rambling with fascinating details and some quirky touches like a pile of pink suitcases. Funky design is Very Cape Town, reflecting the fun spirit of the gorgeously liveable “mother city”. At the same time the mood is classy and aesthetic, with art, handwork and antiques all over.

Lobby: Quirky and fun, arty and interesting

Roomy charm

Bright luxury room in pale, demure colours
The lead-in room type is a luxury room 35 sqm. And indeed though not especially large and in demure low key beiges and grey, our luxury room felt bright and welcoming. French windows can be left open for the salty breezes and the views over the marina to Signal Hill or Table Mountain.


We sat in bed for hours just watching the last rays of sun on Signal Hill and sunset reflections glancing on the water…as the lights of the city and the yachts came on mellow gold. Signal Hill is where they used to signal the sailing ships with cannon shots.


This lead-in luxury room category offers tea and coffee making (but not espresso machines), dressing room and bath and separate shower. Décor pleasant and trendy in neutral sand and beige with painted (artistically aged) furniture. It feels pleasantly lived in, fresh but not brand new.

Traditional marble bathrooms

For a balcony, upgrade to rooftop luxury rooms which are the same size. Rooftop terrace rooms (also 35 sqm) have a bigger balcony (10sqm). Superior rooms also have a balcony, are more spacious and suit families (50 sqm room area) with a sofa providing extra beds.
Superior room - larger with sofa
Balcony with view
Roof top luxury room with terrace

The apartment suites are from 90 to 200 sqm with 1 to 3 bedrooms. For a discerning couple who likes outdoor living, go for the Penthouse suite with a spacous 45 sqm terrace with dining area and Jacuzzi from which to admire the fab views, and a large bedroom (80 sqm) with sitting and dining area.
Spacious terrace with fab views in
3-bedroom suite
One of the 3 bedrooms in the  large suite

Dining at Cape Grace

Cape Grace is also a “destination” for Capetonians looking to dine at the Signal Restaurant  or revel at Bascule whiskey bar. In fact we were invited to the Bascule Bar to celebrate a birthday by a Cape Town resident

The atmosphere is fabulous, with the fresh smell of the marina, the sunset behind Table Mountain, and jazz playing to set a mellow tone and keep at bay raucous young adults. For 100 zar my friends one got to taste 3 glasses of expensive whisky (perhaps half tot in each). Only 50 zar for two tapas – each a sizable potato rosti topped with an ample circle of rainbow smoked salmon and horseradish sauce.

We liked them so much that we ate salmon tapas the next night too, when the poplar Bascule Bar was full, ordering from upstairs at the Cape Grace poolside bar.

Swimming pool and casual dining
The Signal restaurant makes the most of the fact that Cape Town is surrounded by clean seas rich in life and a warm Med hinterland perfect for fruit and vegetables: cuisine to reflect the heritage of the tip of Africa, where Dutch and British colonists, African, Malaysian and other Asian peoples have left their mark. South African “inventions” like butternut bobotie should be tried …

The library is another spot to hang out and enjoy atmosphere, cream teas (scones and cream) and teas and infusions where the floating leaves can be admired in a glass teapot. “Red gold” is rooibos herbal tea from high on the Cedarberg mountains.

In a nutshell

120 rooms & suites, 4 bars and restaurants (including a space devoted to eats and beverages in the library, a pool bar and the famous Bascule bar), spa.
The hotel is:
Individual, personal, peaceful, arty, trendy, classy
Beautifully situated on the marina at the Waterfront (a few minutes from shopping and other waterside restaurants)
Bascule whisky bar and Signal restaurant make it a destination in itself – Bascule is one of the” in” places by the marina with Table Mountain sunset view
Free transfers within 10 km radius (availability)

Note:
Bascule Bar is very popular so you have to get there early  (but you can order its eats in the pool bar). No espresso machine in luxury room. Luxury rooms do not have balconies unless entitled luxury rooftop or luxury terrace.


Who to stay

Discerning couples, and families who love trendy harmonious décor and views…right in the Waterfront

How to get to Cape Grace

25 minutes by car from Cape Town International Airport. Free luxury transfers within a 10 km radius, subject to availability. That could get you to many attractions including the Table Mountain cableway, Greenpoint, Camp's Bay.

Select added values

For a minimum 3 night stay, a bottle of wine in the room, early checkin and late checkout if space is available.


Afternoon - yachts in the marina
Seen from our room - sunset touches the water

Lights come on as evening falls over Signal Hill

Art and history - part of its Grace

Monday, January 21, 2013

HOTEL CHECK SOUTH AFRICA, Mont Rochelle

Mont Rochelle is a quiet boutique property that is partly new, rebuilt after a fire. It offers a peaceful country air and lovely views down onto the Franschhoek valley, reached by the first turn to the right as you enter the Franschhoek  village from Stellenbosch. It takes a few minutes by car into the village, and its own winery a walk away.

View down into the valley and vines
The resort's special attraction is the Mange Tout restaurant, which is excellent and rated among the top 10 in Franschhoek. Apart from reasonable and delicious food, it is a round room affording an almost circular view. Very romantic to watch the night fall over the jagged blue Franschhoek mountains as you wait to start a 5 course degustation  menu at 350 zar (excluding the paired wines). There is a second Mediterranean lunch restaurant  close by at the Mont Rochelle winery / wine tasting establishment. (Walk, some 5-10 minutes.)

Breakfasts with a view and imaginative hot items
Breakfasts in Mange Tout are very South African in the best sense. Enough food for an entire day of jogging, cycling, surfing or mountain climbing. The buffet, silhouetted on tiered plates against the stunning view, includes the usual things like lots of yoghurt types, fresh baked loaves inviting eating, and blueberry muffins.

Franschhoek scrambled egg with smoked trout
and chives, farm bread

But it’s the hot menu which bubbles over with imagination including the above "Franshhoek scrambled egg" with trout; rosti breakfast with potato pancake, egg and “stricky” bacon; beef sausage; South African omelette with biltong (traditional South African dried meat with salt and herbs); and poached egg Florentine. We are actually not so far removed from Florence here, in the sense of the Mediterranean climate and vineyards, but we are closer to France of course, as it is the Huguenots (French Protestants who fled Catholic persecution) that founded Franshhoek and gave a rocket launch to the wine industry.

Back again at dinner....

Delicious tomato soup presented with funky touch in a jam jar


Kingklip dressed up


Passion fruit souffle

When it comes to service, the smiles of staff were sunny and genuine. There is a spa which is small, pretty and cute, and a swimming pool with a view.

Rooms

View from a Cap Classique suite

Mont Rochelle does have some very  large suites – like our Cap Classique (rack 9900 zar at peak).

View from the suite lounge - plunge pool and walls of glass

This Cap Classique suite opened out through both lounge and bedroom onto a grassy terrace overlooking a rural scene and mountains. A tractor trundled by to emphasize the charmingly rural atmosphere. The lounge could have seated 8, comfortably. There were two sunbeds and a small plunge pool, a Jacuzzi bath in the bathroom, two WCs, and two desks (or perhaps that extra "desk" by the walkin cupboard was actually a make-up/dressing table, in addition to the long double vanities in the bathroom which had plenty place for making up). Yes - this suite is very well equipped, but only takes two guests despite all the room..


Plunge pool of our suite

One of the sofas in the large lounge of the suite

Dining area in the extensive lounge

The leadin room types are compact in the old building Shiraz, Merlot rooms and Cabernet rooms, some with balcony.

Sitting area of Cabernet room
Balcony and view of the village

We saw a neat Pinotage room (a Junior Suite)  in the new wing, not large but atmospheric with thatched ceiling and beams, small balcony,  lounge,  nice view and feel. Some bathrooms quite large.

Bedroom Pinotage junior suite

Lounge Pinotage junior suite
Bathroom Pinotage junior

Who to stay

Couples who appreciate rural setting, haunting views and great food – and a more old fashioned air. Children also welcome (only in Pinotage suites).

In a nutshell

Mont Rochelle: 16 rooms and 6 suites, spa, excellent Mange Tout fine dining restaurant, Country Kitchen lunch restaurant, bar, winery. You get stunning views, old fashioned air and quality hardwood furniture. 5 minutes taxi to Franschhoek. Friendly staff. Wine tasting. Picnics, riding.

How to get to Mont Rochelle

45 minutes by car from Cape Town International Airport

Select added values

Hand-made chocolates and fruit in the room. Complimentary upgrade, early checkin and late checkout if space is available.

Monday, January 14, 2013

HOTEL CHECK SOUTH AFRICA, Delaire Graff


Breathtaking. Our private pool among
vineyards and mountains!

Delaire Graff Lodges is probably the most exclusive property in the Winelands. A totally exquisite hotel with only 10 one and two bedroom lodges featuring glass walls that open to private pools and sunny verandahs. Pampering level high with as many staff as guests, in perfect setting of vineyards and mountains, offering two good restaurants, spa and winery…

We were blown away....




Our bedroom was bliss. This wall can open...
a few steps to your pool so you can dip, dine and sun yourself
in total privacy immersed in beauty

The lounge walls open too, to views, sunbeds and veranda. Amenities are the best in quality:

Real marble bathrooms - the irridescent double vanities
carved from solid marble

The boutique resort has a stunning setting above the Hellshoogte Pass between historical Stellenbosch (5km) and the gourmet haven of Franschhoek (26 km). There is a free shuttle down to Stellenbosch (5 min) and it is a 20-25 minute drive to Franschhoek village. 


With its peace, beauty and privacy Delaire Graff is perfect for couples in love. Set one day or more aside just for chilling here by your heated pool. On arrival guests often cancel all tours planned, just to luxuriate in their own perfect space…
Gabled lodges - only 10 little mini-paradises
For honeymooners we definitely suggest a longer stay here –  there is so much to enjoy in the Winelands in terms of wine tasting, gourmet food, scenery, boutiques…and the accommodations at Delaire Graff are saturated with an  atmosphere of peace, style and romance.

Breakfast at Delaire Graff is the best ever if you like healthy food and a bit of indulgence. In addition to a hot menu you get your own private buffet on your table – apart from the essential fresh orange juice and café latte variants, our private buffet included three bowls of cereals bursting with all kinds of nuts, sundried fruits,  and toasted grains; delectable small croissants and bakery items; selection of cold meats and more. Most people have this morning repast in their lodges, by the pool…

Private buffet breakfast - hot items to come
Best toasted musli ever, including sundried mango

We had a great lunch at the lunch restaurant, choosing modestly priced genuine fish and chips – in fact, better than genuine. Light and puffy batter around the freshly caught  kingklip, and the lightest chips you ever tasted – they could almost fly.

One bite already gone - can chips and fresh fish in batter
be lighter than this?
In the evening we ate at the fine dining restaurant, treated to a taster, main course of dressy salmon trout, a dessert with a fluffy coconut cream and an ice cream cone full of very lemony sorbet. Competing with the food was the sunset. The restaurant is perched high and encircled by mountain tops that make jagged outlines against the orange and red glow of the Cape sunset (which goes down in summer after 8 pm in a blaze of glory). Taking centre stage were the famous big cat sculptures beside the restaurant...
Sunset by the fine dining restaurant and the famous
Delaire lions (big cats)
The spa treatment was marvellous and the spa pleasant (even though we are spoilt at Select Collection in Stockholm with our own top level spa). Delaire Graff also features a small but sophisticated air-conditioned gym, a shop of designer clothes and a glittering diamond jewellery boutique. Laurence Graff made a fortune from diamond jewellery….
Mr Graff has spent so much on creating the perfection of Delaire Graff that one wonders how he can get it back with only 10 rooms – at least not for a long time. Which makes a visit here feel like a gift ...

In a nutshell

10 lodges with private pools, 2 restaurants, spa, gym, winery, designer boutiques

Accommodation: facilities in your lodge

Your own full kitchen
Exclusive wrapped eats PLUS tea, coffee, well stocked minibar
all included without extra cost
Evening welcome. Spectacular marble bathroom
including separate shower cabinet and dressing room
Lounge also with glass wall opening up.
This is the lounge of a 2-bedroom lodge*

*Note: that all accommodation images, except the above 2-bedroom lodge image, are taken from a one-bedroom Luxury Lodge; facilities are the same in all lodges except that the Luxury Lodge category has the best mountain views.

Who to stay

Honeymooners! Or any top luxury customers, seeking moments of perfection and peace, as a break from all the sightseeing and excitement of a Cape Town and safari itinerary.

How to get to Delaire Graff

30 minutes by car from Cape Town International Airport.

Select added values

A local welcome amenity.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

HOTEL CHECK THAILAND, Soneva Kiri


The ultimate in rustic tropical chic -
but first we had to give up our high heels.

Soneva Kiri is a beautiful  5* Eco Resort where you are treated to barefoot luxury and a wonderful atmosphere.  Select Collection visited yet again (barefoot) and loved it…

The first thing they do when you arrive is to confiscate your shoes, and that really helps you to get close to nature.

Our private pool and relax area

We stayed in a Hill Villa with a huge sun deck and private pool; we also had a smaller pool just outside our bedroom.  The bathroom area is spacious and romantic with outdoor shower and bathtub – very Soneva…

Our rustic chic bedroom with a TV in a suitcase...
preserving the Crusoe feel

Of course, at Soneva Kiri you are indulged with great food and service.  The food is fresh and as local as possible - deliciously created with imagination. At the View restaurant you can choose to sit by the kitchen and watch them work or just gaze at the view - so romantic. Our favorite restaurant is the Khun Benz serving a set menu of Thai cuisine in authentic setting down by the river. Down at the beach you find a nice beach restaurant serving Italian cuisine or Sushi.  We recommend to our customeres that they take full board.

By the beach restaurant

Our private terrace - so romantic

For breakfast one morning we enjoyed the view and privacy from the famous Tree Pod.  In fact we stayed there for 3 hours, transfixed with the help of view and champagne. They also serve lunch and dinner here, a unique experience.  Unusual experiences are part of the lifestyle of Soneva resorts…

It´s a big resort and every villa gets its own buggy to drive around.  Koh Kod is one of Thailand’s largest islands and being able to explore suits those who would get bored on a small isle.  The Concierge can help you book different excursions like trekking and visiting waterfalls; there is always something you can do.

Back at the resort you find great facilities.  There is a very nice spa, a fully equipped gym,  and watersports;  and when you want to indulge a sweet tooth  make your way to an exciting ice cream & chocolate bar. There is a really cool Kids Club called The Den. The big thing at night is a visit to the outdoor cinema where  you sit together under the stars to watch  a movie.

WHO TO STAY
Soneva Kiri is perfect for everyone:  couples looking for privacy and romance, and families who want to be  active or just want to relax and have a family experience together in their villa. Especially nice for those who value eco-friendly measures  and unspoilt natural beauty.


Our sales consultant Anki approachng the luxurious
private plane for transfer from Soneva Kiri -
when she arrived they stole her high heels to ensure she
enjoyed true BAREFOOT luxury

She did!

See our previous blog on Soneva Kiri below:



DIAL ONE…
Soneva Kiri is tip top luxury embraced by stunning nature and warm and nourishing hospitality. You are a Six Senses VVIP from the moment you step off the plane in Bangkok – and so were we…

Met at the jet bridge and whizzed off in a buggy to the domestic terminal, we were saved a long walk and much hassle – they deposited us at the diplomatic line for passport control, and then helped us get to the Thai Airways lounge. Here we waited for departure to Soneva Kiri airport.



This rustic airport lies on a neighbouring island – like everything at Soneva Kiri a balance between wild nature and sophistication. This is barefoot luxury - literally; they steal your shoes at the airport.

A short boat ride takes you to the resort on the island of Koh Kood, where you are welcomed by your Mr or Mrs Friday.



It’s not long before you realize why guests to Soneva Kiri come back year after year – and fly straight in without a stopover en route.

Soneva Kiri is a destination in itself where the cares of the world and the postmodern age are forgotten. Here you are pampered by friendly staff and your own Mr or Mrs Friday (butler). You are given your own cell phone for the stay and all you have to do is dial 1. The staff don’t seem to know the answer “no”.



On top of that comes the beauty, natural harmony and amazing food. The beach is stunning and the water clear sparkling turquoise. There are three restaurants that serve only the freshest and highest quality food – covering everything from hamburgers to elaborate dishes.

Breakfast is an opportunity to have exactly what you want – health or indulgence. Compile your own smoothies from mashed berries and fruit. Indulge in a separate deli area with the best in cold cuts, imported cheeses and homemade bakery items. Or order any hot dish you want.

It’s a case of “order from your mind”. Or you could find out what is on the chef’s mind with a menu of 10 dishes – from Japanese gyoza to egg Benedict, shrimp omelettes with tofu or wheat grass shots. There is new menu every morning.

We highly recommend that you take full board. It costs less and you eat a la carte in any restaurant. Apart from the restaurants there is the Big Thing – dining in a tree top – or at Khun Benz in the village. She used to run a hole in the wall diner in Bangkok which gained a reputation as one of the city’s best, so Sonu, owner of Six Senses, worked really hard to persuade her to set up shop on the island.

One morning at breakfast, when our Ms Friday asked us (as usual) what we felt like doing today, we told her we wanted to try Khun Benz’s famed food.

And so later she accompanied us for an authentic Thai experience dining in the village. Khun Benz oversees/does all the cooking and is happy to chat to guests. We also had a good chance to chat more to our Ms Friday, who is not your Robinson Crusoe type really – she has a degree from an American university.

The island of Koh Kood is Thailand’s third largest – so there is plenty of space to explore. Your rustic villa is likewise very spacious and very private, with its own pool. You feel miles from anywhere but in minutes you can arrive somewhere – every villa has its own buggy.





Our hill villa (snapshots above) was intimately embraced by rainforest. And the villa was huge with four different buildings and pool area.

The beach villas are our personal favourites. A little more compact, these villas offer glimpses of the sparkling turquoise sea (below). And a close-to-nature bathroom...







For larger families there are residences with four, five and six bedrooms. And all of course have private pools.







Some have their own spa pavilion (as above)...

Of course Six Senses has a magnificent Spa Village too.

Technology is there at Soneva Kiri to make life easy, but it is unobtrusive, leaving a light footprint. You don’t have any TV channels – but you can watch films on your TV. It is inventively hidden away in a suitcase.

The pleasure of the simple things in life and sophisticated ways of keeping it simply perfect…

HOW TO GET TO SONEVA KIRI
1 hr by private plane from Bangkok to Soneva Kiri airport (flights 3 times/day), 5 minutes by speedboat to the resort




Slide to private pool



Dressing room of a Beach Villa

P.S. Our recommendation: Stay 7 days in a beach villa - and take full board...