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Home away from home

Published Sep 20, 2012


Cape Town - There are times when you feel like you’ve stepped out of your own world and into some alternative reality. A reality you could quite happily inhabit, if only the bank balance would follow suit. It helps that you’ve flown so many kilometres from the Big Smoke where you make your living, and you’re looking out at the view from your presidential suite.

The Sea Point Promenade is just beyond your window and the Atlantic Ocean splashing against the sea wall.

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I’d come mid-winter as a guest at a literary fair and awoke, on my first morning, to a misty tableau, palm trees shrouded in ethereal white, the sea obscured. Yet it all added to the romance of being far away from home. I ordered a room service breakfast and ate it at the elegant dining room table in the suite. In a way I felt I had come home, as I so often do when I find myself in luxury.

Arriving the previous afternoon, I’d had a few moments to explore my surroundings. Originally planning to go down with a friend, the hotel had provided a suite for the two of us. We each had a bathroom attached to the bedroom, no sharing here, and a nice touch, an extra room, and a guest bathroom.

The dining room and lounge boasted the usual tea- and coffee-making facilities, as well as a microwave and a little sink to wash cups in. When you want to hide this mini-kitchen, a white folding door quickly screens it off. Nice touches.

A big-screen TV adds to the comfort, and all rooms come standard with a telephone, wireless internet, satellite television with international channels, and a DVD player. The hotel also has a spa.

Writing up my notes at the dining room table felt so natural, as though I had just moved in. I felt as though I could, and would, spend months here – as writers of old seemed to. Simone de Beauvoir famously inhabited hotel suites, as have a host of others – and no wonder. With room service on tap, a view of the ocean and no need to fuss with the domesticities of daily life, you feel you can really get on with your creative endeavours.

On my first night I dined with another writer friend – read another friend who can’t ordinarily enjoy these luxuries. At Harveys we chose fish, mine a delicious kingklip. A trio of desserts, bite-sized portions of malva pudding and ice-cream, ended the meal. There is also a bar where you can choose to have sundowners, with a patio for warmer summer months.

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I particularly enjoyed imagining warm summer evenings spent in the inside courtyard – vines crawl up the walls around the inside terrace, with the hotel built around it, and open corridors looking down on it.

It was redolent of Spanish homes I have been into, complete with tinkling fountains.

There’s a lovely, open feeling to this grand old lady, which adds to the homeliness.

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I had plans to eat out the following night, but after a day of being cooped up working on a paper, I needed to go out for an hour’s walk. I loved the location, no need to drive anywhere, and within easy reach of most of the places I was going to anyway. I stepped across the road and joined the strollers, the joggers and those taking pets for a walk as the sun set and dipped into the ocean. Tourists snapped the setting sun as eagerly as I did – also a tourist, I suppose.

We sat together on one of the sea walls, all equally delighted by the surroundings. There was something magical about watching the gathering energy of the ocean, the sun pinked into it, a tanker moving across the water and a small boat crossing the horizon.

On my last night, as traffic whooshed along outside, I shut the luxuriously thick curtains and drifted off to sleep imagining a time when I’d inhabit such a place permanently. Us writers…

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l Arja Salafranca was a guest of Winchester Mansions. For bookings or for more information, contact Winchester Mansions at 021 434 2351 or visit

Or mail: [email protected]

Readers’ offer:

Enjoy classical elegance at Winchester Mansions and as a Sunday Independent reader get 20 percent off rates starting from only R1 395 for two, B&B. You will also get a bottle of sparkling wine on arrival. So book now and don’t forget to mention the Sunday Independent reader’s special. This offer is strictly subject to availability and valid until December 15, 2012. - Sunday Independent

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