Sleepover: A night in South Africa
Monday 23 September 2002
Where is it?
In the heart of Cape Town, 10 minutes' drive from some of the best beaches, minutes from the downtown business district, and a two-minute walk from the touristy but enjoyably distracting Victoria and Alfred Waterfront shopping centre. Rooms at the front of the hotel overlook a small working shipyard; at the rear is a marina where some fancy apartments are being built – so you may hear men at work. Like in so much of the city, you are also in the shadow of Table Mountain.
What's it like?
It's a large hotel (80 king and twin rooms, 10 luxury rooms with balconies, 10 suites, two penthouses and 18 lofts) that has been designed to look a bit like a ship; it's long and lean and there's the odd nautical twist to the interior design. It offers all the facilities demanded by the world-weary traveller: internet, satellite TV, daily paper, gift shop, cocktail bar, heated swimming pool and, of course, overnight shoe shine. It was built in 1996, so nothing looks worn or battered. Despite being a smart five-star hotel, the atmosphere is relaxed. The Cape Grace's management promise "gentle elegance". And that's what you get.
What's its USP?
Unbeatable location, generous service, security and whisky a go-go (see below).
Staff make themselves very visible and are courteous and helpful. Walk around the Cape Grace and everyone smiles and says hello. In the restaurants you feel fussed over.
Large, immaculate, good views, giant beds, smart bathrooms. But? To be honest, they're dull. Where the Cape Grace lets itself down is by trying to please that terrible demographic, the international traveller – the sort who likes abroad to remind them of home. So walls are magnolia, desks repro, the TVs hidden in naff cabinets. And meanly sized pillows. Despite the odd framed print of Cape Town 100 years ago, you have no sense that you are in Africa. Good points? The maid leaves the TV magazine open on the right page for you every day. And you get daily complimentary water and chocolates. You'll pay 2,520 rand (£155) per room per night, depending on the season.
There are too many tempting choices at breakfast – both from the buffet and the à la carte menu. Stuff yourself with fresh fruits, yoghurt, patisseries, cold meats, cheeses. And then go back for more. Fine lunches and dinners – which can be served in your room – but this is the time for exploring the city (although you may want to join the hotel's regular excursion to nearby Camps Bay for an evening of gourmet African food). Also, afternoon tea and cakes; complimentary daily wine tastings in the excellent Bascule Bar. The Bascule's real speciality, however, is whisky.
A good mix of leisure and business travellers, mostly from overseas. The hotel welcomes children (babysitters are supplied on request, children's portions served in the restaurant) but doesn't take tours – so you will never find 100 people checking in at once.
Things to do?
Fantastic shopping opportunities; and boat trips from the nearby dock to Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned). Secure parking at the front of the hotel means it's never any effort going out, even at night. The Cape Grace also offers in-room spa-style treatments, including sports massage, reflexology, Swedish massage, aromatherapy, manicures and pedicures.
West Quay, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa (00 27 410 7100; www.capegrace.com).
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