To borrow from Total Recall, everyone should take a holiday from themselves. And when you do, you ask yourself why you don’t do it more often. But travelling with a toddler can be quite the ordeal.
For a start, if you haven’t planned your holiday properly to ensure it is fun for children, and all you’re doing is hitting adult attractions, you’re going to pray for home.
Then, you have to pack far more for one little person than you do for two adults. Forget the car chair, camper cot, entertainment, food, clothes and a pram, and you’ll be in a heap of trouble.
Poky hotel rooms or camping with strangers are out too because self-preservation has taught me that if we’re not comfortable, she isn’t going to be either.
Cruising along the N2 towards the Winelands, cars are moving out of our way, as if Moses had just parted the waters. A few dudes in a clapped-out car with brannewyn kolle, evidently on their way to another jol, show finger signs out their car and whistle, out of respect.
Our driver, Rizah Mohamed (more Karate Kid lookalike than his namesake, the TV chef), with a licence to kill in a tailored black suit and tie, tells us he often gets this response on the road.
We’re no rock stars, diplomats or VIPs, but this weekend, we’re being treated as such. Our host, the Cape Royale, is allied to a chauffeur company which offers a complimentary service within a 5km radius of the Green Point hotel.
And we’re off to experience the life of celebrity parents, with a car seat provided, of course.
Had we attracted unwanted attention, VIP Drives’ chauffeurs are trained in advanced driving and marksmanship. Also proficient in martial arts and close-combat fighting, the drivers double as bodyguards.
Should you require a babysitting service, either in your hotel room or away, that’s on offer too.
Working with VIP Drives, the Cape Royale has a kids’ club, which takes pampered children on excursions wherever their hearts desire, whether it be to the Two Oceans Aquarium, Boulder’s Beach, or the Cable Car. It’s a great way of getting the kids out of your hair (and you out of theirs) for a few hours, while you kick back at the hotel’s Equinox spa or beat your frustration out on the golf course.
Our needs are more inclusive, though, starting the day off with a family trip to Simon’s Town’s Boulder’s Beach, to see the penguins from the wooden boardwalk in a protected environment. The scrappy looking African penguins, also known as Jackasses for their donkey-like bray, provide an hour of languid entertainment before we get a little bored, then we clamber over boulders to get to the beach, the icy water licking crisply at our toes.
Vaalies relish such moments more keenly than those who live here, I think, remembering a childhood on the coast pitying tourists and those from upcountry who would swim in winter. Today, we’re them and loving being visitors.
With the salty autumn breeze lingering in our noses, we head back to the car for the scenic drive via Fish Hoek towards Noordhoek and Chapman’s Peak. We’re delayed briefly, allowing a troop of baboons and their human monitors to cross our path. A few baboons have been injured: one misses a hand, another limps, a probable sign of a nasty encounter with civilisation.
Chappies is blessedly open for a change, so we stop for a moment to take pictures of Hout Bay’s Sentinel mountain and the ocean before we set course for Spier outside Stellenbosch. The wine estate has accommodated a wildlife conservation project for just over a decade, and we want to visit their new tasting room.
We would miss one of their spectacular Eagle Encounters birds of prey displays, which is set daily for 2pm, but already families are streaming in for a viewing or petting session with the placid cheetahs. Picnics around the dam are a hit too.
The Spier tasting area is one of the Winelands’ most beguiling – a double-volume room showcasing both the estate’s wine and contemporary art works. Crafted from reclaimed materials, it features renowned artist Heath Nash’s wine bottle chandelier creation weighing 370kg. Walls are dotted with prints on sale from the Creative Block initiative, which showcases the works of emerging artists.
The Creative Block project’s art works cost R1 200 each, which provides a valuable lifeline to artists. Since inception, the estate has been a destination for arts and culture.
The original Moyo, by far the best of the group, is on the estate and the praises have recently been sung of Spier’s “farm-to-table” concept restaurant Eighteen, where produce from the estate and neighbouring farms is used in their kitchen.
Having tasted some exquisite wine, notably the chenin blanc from the Creative Block and premium 21 Gables ranges (the latter named after the estate’s 21 Cape Dutch gables), we don’t have time to stay for lunch at any of these restaurants as we’re slipping across the mountains to Franschhoek.
Grande Provence, another celebrated arts destination, showcases paintings in a vast gallery while sculptures stand alert in the shade of oak trees hundreds of years old. We tuck into The Restaurant’s set menu of tom yum goong risotto with shellfish cream, roast quail, and pistachio panna cotta with raspberry and champagne sorbet with estate wine produced in the adjacent vineyard.
With bellies now full, we head back home, to our hotel.
The Cape Royale’s in the heart of the rejuvenated Cape Town Stadium precinct, across from the landmark stadium and the Green Point Urban Park, putting us within walking distance of the promenade, the Waterfront, Cape Quarter, delis and pavement cafes.
There are two restaurants on site – the 1800º grillhouse downstairs, at which a breakfast buffet is also served in the morning, and the Sky Bar with its magical views of Signal Hill, the Waterfront and the harbour.
Sushi and tapas are served on the rooftop by the poolside. Gloriously paired with cocktails or champagne.
But with suites spacious enough to relegate a snoring partner to another wing far away or put a troublesome toddler down for a quiet snooze, you might want to chill for a while in your room.
Kitchens are self-catering, complete with Siemens appliances including combo dryer-washing machines for you to do your own laundry, and dishwashers, should you feel the need to clean (we really didn’t).
For younger guests, camper cots are provided with cute bedding, which meant we didn’t have to lug a cot around.
Had we done our research, though, we could have left a lot of our more cumbersome items behind, including the pram (for info on hiring baby accessories, visit www.babyexchange.co.za; www.babylite.co.za; thetravellingbaby.co.za; www.voyagerbaby.co.za).
The hotel’s windows are double-glazed, which helps to cut out some of the noise, although not all.
ZAR, the sushi tsar Kenny Kunene’s last remaining club, is still open for business inside the hotel, so if you’ve booked into a sea-facing room, it’s potentially noisy on a weekend. The Sky bar can get quite rowdy too as we discovered, so this is not the side to book if you have solitude in mind.
Based on the architecture of the Place Vendôme in Paris, the Cape Royale might be five-star, but it’s also holding on to its youth. Then again, if you’re booking into a hotel in one of the vibiest areas in party central, you expect a little action. We’re grateful, though, when the noise dulls as we close the door.
If you want to live the rock star lifestyle, the Cape Royale is a great option, particularly so for families who want to be part of the action but maintain a sense of sanity.
It’s luxurious without being as eye-wateringly expensive as its Waterfront competitors. Centrality is another huge attraction.
Within easy reach are the miniature “Blue Train” (which runs from Mouille Point to Sea Point), the Waterfront and its Two Oceans Aquarium, the promenade and the Urban Park, which after the World Cup in 2010 has become a major attraction for Capetonians – whether you want to take a stroll, hit some balls around, or just relax with a family picnic.
It’s something you might well want to leave home for.
Again and again. - Saturday Star