Cape Town - Think of the Cape and you picture Table Mountain, or the vineyards in Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, or vibrant little harbour towns like Hout Bay.
But there’s another part to the Cape which seems to be a well-kept secret, probably because it’s well hidden off the usual tourist track.
The area in question is the Cape’s West Coast, which, if you’re willing to venture into, offers its own set of hidden gems. Towns you tend to only read about lie in these parts, the likes of which include Langebaan, Saldanha and St Helena Bay.
A good two hours drive out of Cape Town, you start to understand why they’re both a journey and a destination, but there’s a rustic charm to this bottom-left side of our continent.
Having ventured around these parts once or twice before, we decided this time we’d give the oldest fishing village on this West Coast a try - mainly because it’s simply a postcard come to life. With its tiny white cottages dotted along the beach, the humble fishermen of Paternoster simply don’t know how envied their accommodation is.
You see them venture out in their colourful little wooden boats, hoping for a bounty of snoek or crayfish as their livelihood. And I reckon it’s safe to say that if you have a penchant for crayfish, this is the place to get your fill. These salt of the earth locals walk up to you, fresh catch in a white plastic packet, with a dozen crayfish tails costing you little more than a pack of cigarettes at a convenience store.
Should you want to take things a little more upmarket, you’ll be happy to know there are a handful of five-star establishments in the area - but, unlike say Clarens, which has become far too commercial – these luxurious establishments are more the exception than the rule in this rustic village.
We stayed for the weekend at the area’s first five-star boutique establishment, Abalone House, which offers 10 luxury suites and enviable views of the coastline from certain rooms and the main restaurant. If old converted homes, versus modern chic hotels are your thing, the Abalone is your spot. The main areas are reminiscent of a family home with huge fireplaces, while the rooms are more on the cosy side, rather than opulent.
The management ensure that every aspect is taken care of. I especially liked the little touches, like the sherry in the crystal decanter on the wrought iron table on the balcony, and the soothing ocean sounds they play through the upper-end hi-fi with your turndown, and the french wooden louvres on the windows which let you tweak the amount of light or breeze you’d prefer in the room.
There’s always the gentle sound of running water and wind chimes in the background when your door is open. A short walk away is the Abalone’s Saffron restaurant, with unhindered views of the ocean.
A sundowner at the Africa Bar which shoulders the restaurant, before settling in for a long and relaxed dinner, is ideal.The restaurant is probably the best in the town, with South African chef Reuben Riffel attaching his well-known nameplate to the venue.
Needless to say, the food matches the hospitality, with the oysters and crayfish succulent and truly world class - the catch of the day.
The other little surprise at the Abalone is the Healing Earth Spa.
My partner and I managed a full body massage for under a R1 000 for both, administered by two local masseurs who are ambassadors of the hotel and the village at large.
Meaning “our father” in Latin, Paternoster offers that relaxed and safe feel you look for in a quiet coastal holiday.
* Visit www.capewestcoastpeninsula.co.za/paternoster and www.abalonehousepaternoster.com for more information.