After a swim in the bracing pool you may want to go on a sightseeing jog around the neighbourhood.
After a swim in the bracing pool you may want to go on a sightseeing jog around the neighbourhood.
Dropping off on the vast dark-wood bed.
Dropping off on the vast dark-wood bed.
It was already dark when we arrived, exhausted, at Stonecrest Manor. It had been a long, long day - driving back from the Kruger National Park. After a wondrous bush roadtrip, the two days at Stonecrest were the kindest re-entry to the urban jungle we could have imagined.

Here we could hibernate: this was a place to just be, a place to let the dust settle, a place to wash off that dust.

Stonecrest might be in the heart of the city, but it’s also detached from it: an oasis situated on a quiet street in the posh and leafy Westcliff.

The house was built in 1902 and remodelled by Sir Herbert Baker about a decade later. Many of the original features - high ceilings, lead-paned windows and 11 fireplaces - remain.

Its owner for 30 years, the fashion and interiors guru Annabelle Desfontaines, only recently opened its rear wing to paying guests.

Lavishly decorated with antiquities and paintings - many brought home from one of Desfontaines’s many globetrotting adventures - it consists of two suites: Room with a View - which has a capacious bedroom overlooking the garden, a large lounge and a kitchenette and bathroom - and the more petite Westside Suite.

A door separates them so they can be easily combined for couples travelling together.

We had the run of them both, lazing on the daybed in the sunny enclosed stoep with coffee and rusks before meeting Desfontaines on the ground floor for a tour of the stately reception rooms.

With a little black book that is the envy of the city’s entertainers, Desfontaines can hook you up with the Joburg’s best chefs and caterers should you wish to host an event while you’re here - whether it’s an intimate candlelit dinner in the wood-panelled study, a festive banquet in the double-volume dining room, or a decadent afternoon tea on the terrace.

She showed us around the rambling garden: the eco-pond which attracts all manner of birds and insects; the elegant rose garden next to the Gatsby-esque summer house.

While the gravel pétanque court is there for those in a playful mood, I rather fancied the idea of taking a rug out to one of the garden’s many quiet corners for a read.

Desfontaines had stocked our pantry with cheese, eggs, bread and other essentials, so we headed upstairs again to prepare brunch in the small but beautifully equipped kitchenette.

We ate on a little table on the terrace where, between leafy branches, you can catch glimpses of the CBD skyline.

After a swim in the bracing pool, we went for a jog around the neighbourhood, past rows of other grand houses, many of them once home to the Randlords - the city’s wealthy mine-owners.

That night we shared a bath - it was big enough for two! - and headed to sleep in the vast dark-wood bed.

Tomorrow reality beckoned, but tonight the sublime cosiness of Stonecrest was enough.

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