Johannesburg - Just over 45 minutes from Rosebank, Johannesburg, we were shuttled off to the magnificent Bon Riviera, the luxurious hotel on the bend of the scenic Vaal River in Vereeniging.
The area has so much to offer - from sports to culture and the arts. One can enjoy boat cruises, a challenging rounds of golf, or a pamper at a spa. Or why not tuck into a long, lazy lunch?.
En route to the Vaal, our host Vanessa Nothing asked if we wanted to stop by the circus, and everyone got excited. We drove into an eerie little circus coffee shop.
The place was originally a circus until it was closed down. However, the memories of what the place was are still very much alive.
With images of clowns and circus people on the walls, the cafe looked like a scene straight from horror movie It. Rumour has it that a circus tent was once erected there.
As we walked back to the shuttle everyone started reminiscing about the circus experience. Then in less than 10 minutes we arrived at Bon Riviera on Vaal and it seemed like the temperature had dropped to the minus. We received a very warm reception from the friendly staff and management who greeted us with creamy hot chocolate and marshmallows.
The check-in process went very smoothly with our welcome package of biltong, chocolate and strawberry lollipops.
The view from my bedroom window was breathtaking - the immaculately cut golf course, and the Vaal flowing through the back garden.
The suites were spacious, with a lovely living room, double bed, bathroom with a shower and Wi-Fi, with each guest getting up to 200 mega bites.
After checking in, we headed to Matthews Restaurant for a food and wine pairing. We had eight different wines in total. The hotel’s Marketing Manager Rozanne Hamilton took us through some of the most exciting wine pairings.
Below is the list of the pairings, but I had my favourites.
1. Protea Pinot Gricio 2016 paired with zesty lemon biltong bites.
2. Le Pommier Sauvignon Blanc 2015 paired with sweet and salty popcorn
3. Protea Merlot 2014 paired with milk chocolate
4. Jonathan’s Malbec 2013 paired with Chilli Biltong
5. Protea Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 paired with 70% dark chocolate
6. Le Pommier Red Blend 2012 paired with a matured cheddar cheese
7. Le Pommier Rosé 2014 paired with rose flavoured Turkish delight
8. Protea Rosé 2016 paired with candy floss
Shortly afterwards we took a tour of the hotel. The hotel is located by the lake which gives guests an amazing view from their rooms. As the sun set, we headed back to the restaurant for dinner.
The restaurant had a delightful ambience, with heaters keeping us warm.
There was no shortage of laughter as we dined and discussed some of the day’s events.
For starters we were served butternut soup and home made breads with tradition bread sticks and Spicy chicken salad in Phyllo basket.
Dessert was the chef's choice of assorted cakes and gateaux of the day. After dinner we headed back to warm comfortable beds, and the rooms were very warm.
* Visit www.bonhotels.com/ for more info
Things to do on the Vaal
The Vaal Dam, built during the Great Depression about 77 years ago, over the decades has ebbed and flowed as a popular destination for holiday-makers, conference delegates and pleasure-seekers.
Much has changed the landscape of her beautiful river banks - hotels have been built or revamped, real estate has exploded, and function and leisure venues abound – a trendsetting fusion of design and lifestyle.
And who knew there was so much to do in Vereeniging?
Craig Swart, General Manager of BON Hotel Riviera on Vaal, comments, “With the guest experience always front of mind, we are continually seeking ways to offer more. Over and above the extensive facilities at BON Hotel Riviera on Vaal which include golf, tennis, water sports and a spa, it is wonderful to be able to offer our guests other activities in the area, most of which they are not even aware of.”
The area is steeped in history and a selection of tours on offer will take you back in time to remind you of our heritage and transformation. And just for fun there is always a tour of a chocolate factory to satisfy your sweet tooth. Adrenaline junkies can sky-dive, scuba-dive, bungee jump, paraglide or learn something new and challenging.
“Sedibeng and the Vaal area in particular is Gauteng’s hidden jewel. It is the golden province’s own coastline - a haven for watersports enthusiasts and the entire family.
The serene and tranquil environment makes it a must-visit area and a preferred weekend and short break destination, adding variety to Gauteng’s tourism mix,” adds Barba Gaoganediwe, spokesperson for Gauteng Tourism.
Still not convinced? Well, here are 8 reasons to stop by:
1. Vaal River Meander Wine Route
Six weeks of weekend wine tasting during July and August
2. BON Hotel Riviera on Vaal
In her hey-day this hotel was the place to be! Under new management and with a few minor refurbishments under the belt she is back to her former glory.
3. Sharpeville Tour
Take a day to visit the Sharpeville Memorial which features a dramatic wall at the entrance containing the names of the people who are buried in the nearby Sharpeville Cemetery
4. The Vredefort Dome Route
Experience and learn about the geology, history, bird life, flora and fauna of this World Heritage Site
5. Pont de Vaal Riverside Bistro
A taste of the French countryside located within the Cote de Vaal River Lifestyle Estate
6. Barnyard Theatre
Take in a show jam-packed with song and dance
7. Petit Verdot Riverboat at BON Hotel Riviera on Vaal
Sip your favourite cocktail as the sun sets over the river aboard this lovely riverboat
8. Soweto Golf and Shebeen Tour
Enjoy 18 holes at the Soweto Golf course and visit several shebeens and historical sites within this vibrant area.
Famous people who have hailed from this small town nestled alongside the banks of the Vaal River include politicians, athletes, singers and actors.
Events throughout the year bring families, conference delegates, sportsmen and athletes, music- and wine-lovers, bikers and artists:
* Spring Beer Festival
* COMPAK Sporting World Championship
* Carols by Candlelight
* Rhino Rally
* Vaal Trail Run
* Whiskey Festival
* Raft Fishing Safaris
* Vaal River Carnival
* Formula One Powerboat Racing
Adapted from a press release for IOL