Thursday, February 14, 2013

HOTEL CHECK SOUTH AFRICA, Mount Nelson

Our Select team stays at the iconic Mount Nelson, built long before the popular Cape Town Waterfront. We find this Orient Express hotel seeped in history but still very much alive ...




At the top of an impressive palm lined drive, the hotel buildings ramble through a huge lush garden in a coat of eye-catching  pink.  This was the bright colour mixed to cheer people up after the first world war. In fact Mount Nelson dates further back to the Boer War…

They still call it "Mount Nelson pink"

In those days the Mount Nelson was owned by the Union Castle cruise line, and housed all the important travellers to Cape Town. Winston Churchill stayed here as a young war correspondent and British Dowagers sipped afternoon tea on the veranda….

You can still drink afternoon tea  here under the whirling ceiling fans, with a difference. Once held away by apartheid, bright young professionals of the new South Africa are here to enjoy cucumber sandwiches and American cheesecake, side by side with international guests.

Cheesecake & sandwiches from a totally loaded buffet ...

It is a very social event. Mount Nelson is a vibrant meeting place at its three restaurants as well as a haven in the city amid fountains, perfumed flowers and stunning views.

Peace, trees and flowers...

Table Mountain looms up above it, with
the " table cloth” a mystic presence
after a day of 30 deg C

Path through the vast hotel park to tennis courts below
The odd sporty guest runs past in tennis togs, others sun by the family swimming pool, or a quiet one for adults only. All in a quieter vein, a whole street of typical Cape Town Victorian houses has been turned into the spa.

A typical street of  the old Cape Town - now the spa

Librisa spa

Family pool at the Oasis wing

Picturesque accommodation choices

Garden cottages backed by Table Mountain 
Another whole street has been turned into garden cottage suites with one and two bedrooms. A great place if you love the old “semis” with lacework trimmings dating back to the days when everything was so much more British.

Or you have your choice of fairytale suites, like the one we were upgraded to in the Helmsley Wing. The suites are MASSIVE  and the furnishings full of old romance...

A deluxe  "Junior suite" in the Helmsley wing  - the TV rises
out of an antique cabinet when you press a button...

The Helmsley was once a separate hotel, and has not taken the
Mount Nelson pink due to its culturally protected status

If that is too dated  for you, there are 30 newly renovated rooms in the Oasis wing, glittering with freshness – very light with white,  silver and blue – in categories Deluxe rooms and Junior Suites.


Newly renovated deluxe junior suite in Oasis wing
Great view from the new rooms:
From the Oasis wing - towards Signal Hill

Lovely terrace of a suite in yet another separate wing
The hotel was 100 years old in 1999 – and has welcomed guests like Nelson Mandela, George Bush, Dalai Lama, John Lennon (who signed in as Mr Greenwood). And the wives of Duran Duran who caused a stir when they tanned topless at the swimming pool.

Could that be why this one is for adults only...?

Cape Town is a laid back city full of sporty things to do – fun and festivals. It is also a deeply cultural city. If its museums you want, you are close to them here at Mount Nelson. Just a stroll down the grand palm lined avenue ….and you are in the historical areas of Cape Town. 

Dining around

For waterside dining it is 10 minutes taxi to the Waterfront – and 10 minute to Camps Bay with a free shuttle. But if you would rather walk, browse and dine, the residential area of Gardens and Kloof Street is trendy, full of small low key eateries – very well priced.

"At home":

Marvellous breakfast at the Oasis restaurant

Buffet of different toasted muslis, yoghurts, fruits plus an extensive choice of hot items. This pleasant Oasis Restaurant is tantalizing for lunch too – its old buffet concept has made way for an a la carte Mediterranean-inspired menu with some local classics like Cape Malay chicken curry.

Lunch at the lobby veranda restaurant was also excellent and very well priced :

Vegetarian curry with the freshest taste of newly toasted
spices, served with the lightest samoosas.

We also had smoked trout at that pleasing restaurant on the veranda – beside big tropical flowers reminding that we were ...

...far from the snows of Stockholm

In a nutshell

209 rooms & suites, 3 restaurants, spa, gym, 2 tennis courts, 2 swimming pools including one for adults only, kids club, large gardens with sculptures, lawns, trees  & flowers.

Who to stay

Discerning couples and families, especially if you appreciate the old Cape Town and Colonial traditions, mountain views and greenery and flowers around you - not to mention sculptures and corridors of art.

How to get to Mount Nelson

20 minutes by car from Cape Town International Airport

Select added value

A local amenity in the room

Note: All images are informal in blog style

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