Monday, July 10, 2017

MEDITTERANEAN AMBIENCE BESIDE LAKE COMO

If the Mediterranean summer is too hot for you, we suggest a sublime lakeside spot in Italy. Luxury travel advisor Collette O’Connor visits two hotels by magical Lake Como….CastaDiva and Il Sereno.



In summer Lake Como offers a true Mediterranean ambience without the humidity. Lying at the foothills of the Alps, Italy’s third biggest lake has fresh, clean air, while Italian charm suffuses small lakeside villages with bell towers and churches in natural stone. Beautiful villas are surrounded by magnificent gardens with steps adorned with statues leading down to the lake.

Part of the mystique is the depth of the lake which goes down to 200 metres below sea level.  

In this setting stand two rather different but equally delightful hotels – CastaDiva and Il Sereno – both in beautiful landscaped gardens with lake views. They make a memorable introduction to Lake Como for those who may have exhausted the Amalfi Coast and other Mediterranean options – or want it cooler.

Stunningly positioned lakeside, you can explore authentic and charming Italian villages by boat over the still waters with mountains framing the horizon. 

The area also offers a plethora of sporty activities from gentle to extreme. We have to include shopping as an extreme sport for we are in Italy!  Como city is a true shopping haven with options for all budgets;  high end fashion retailers compete here with standard high street options and independent boutiques.

As Como is easily accessible from Milan by rail, a stay by Lake Como can easily be included in a grand Italian tour, especially for honeymooners or those celebrating a special anniversary or life milestone.

Arrive by boast to charming towns and villages asround the lake

Hotel CastaDiva

CastaDiva offers a stunningly romantic position on the lake front set in beautiful manicured grounds, with the largest spa on the lake. The property has an exclusive feel, albeit with a convivial ambience especially on the weekends when stylish families and couples from Milan descend.

It is the former home of Opera singer Giuditta Pasta, and her image and musicality is evident throughout. Colourful lounges in the main Villa Roccabruna set against the lake vistas make for an aesthetically appealing first impression, especially when you arrive by boat.


Villa Roccabruna




The hotel is perfectly positioned to explore the nearby city of Como or take boat trips on the lake to neighbouring villages for lunch stops and shopping. Or simply lounge beside the hotel’s floating pool for vistas of lake and mountains.


The pool floating on the  lake

This is also a sublime environment for a spa holiday. The sophisticated spa is beautifully appointed: designed by Paolo Bodega, over an area of 1300 sqm. It is the largest one on Lake Como and offers beautiful unique spaces, where guests can enjoy a truly sensory experience among water features in an environment that reminds of an old steamboat, or sitting on comfortable chaise lounges on a glass floor, suspended over a 19th century dock. This is the perfect place to unwind.


Spa indoor pool

Food and restaurant service are excellent. The Orangerie restaurant offers a gourmet menu which is served only for dinner, together with refined and new tasting menus. Giardino Dei Sapori offers typical Italian cuisine on the breathtaking terrace for lunch and a traditional luch is served on the terrace L´Orangerie restaurant for your "alfresco meal". The culinary proposal of the resort is enriched by the CastaDiva Gorumet Pizzas menu and rich BBQ offer. Bar Bellini has a luxurious ambience and a breathtaking view over Lake Como especially from its outdoor terrace. Perfect as a meeting place, it offers a tasty range of light meals, salads and snacks at lunch and dinner, as well as cocktails, signature and classic drinks.

The rooms and suites are housed in a series of villas, the original being the RoccaBruna Villa. This is also home to the public lounges, front desk and guest relations, spa and a beautiful stair case modelled on La Scala in Milano.

Each room/suite varies hugely even within the same category. It is wise to request a floor plan and images when booking as there are better solutions in each category and some rooms have small windows.


Penthouse suite in Villa Gilda

Do book a lake view room with balcony...


Double deluxe room with balcony in Villa Dorabella

We especially liked the Junior suite lake view for spacious contemporary living with pleasing decor/colour schemes, but if money is no object go for Suite Fiordiligli – for privacy and stunning terrace.

CastaDiva offers pleasant rather informal service, and is especially suited to younger couples and families newer to luxury travel, who like to seek new adventures and experiences.

QUICK FACTS CASTADIVA
No. of rooms:  73 rooms, 58 of them are suites and junior suites and 2 private villas
Distance from airport: 50 mins by car. By train – 1h 20 mins from Milan Malpensa to Como Lago Nord – with one change enroute in Saronno then 2 mins walk and arrival in style by hotel boat (10 mins). Train from Milano Centrale – Como Lago Nord is only 45 minutes.
Distance from nearest town/shops/restaurants: 5 km to Como City, Blevio village is approx 15 – 20 mins walk.
Spa: sophisticated facilities include sauna, steam bath, Mediterranean bath, relaxation pool with side jest, Vitality Pool with hydromassage and chromotherapy, Kneipp circuit, balancing Himalayan rose salt room, refreshing ice cascade, emotional showers with peppermint and exotic fragrances.
Gym: Kinesis and state-of-the-art equipment by Technogym.
Watery activities off site arranged by the hotel: jet skiing, waterskiing, watersports, fishing – and on land hiking.
Lake Como (Lago di Como): area of 146 sq km, third-largest lake in Italy, after Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore. Over 400 m deep, it is one of the deepest lakes in Europe, with lake bottom more than 200 m below sea level.
Who to stay:  those who appreciate classic design and tranquility.




Il Sereno

Among the opulent aristocratic residences of Lake Como is this new sleek hotel – the only property of its type on the lake amongst the established classics. The all-suite Il Sereno is the epitome of modern living – pared back design with clean lines and love of natural light, the creation of Patricia Urqioula. Sure to appeal to jet-setters and hip young professionals, particularly from the world of fashion, media and design.


Infinity lap pool at Casta Diva - heated





Il Sereno is the most perfect place to spend a long weekend.  The design aesthetic coupled with lake vistas and clean air will embrace you from arrival.  The immediate sense of calm relaxation reminded me of the feeling you get when you reach the Maldives…minus the jet lag.  

Calmness continues in spacious suites and bathrooms, and extremely comfortable beds.

You have direct access to the lake which is rejuvenating and refreshing to swim in.  The backdrop of the mountains is really dramatic and exhilarates whilst you work out in the water!   
  
For a bit more warmth, the infinity lap pool is at 30 degrees. There is a beautiful decked area with comfortable sunbeds and day beds to relax on. 

Mealtimes are another source of satisfaction, and you will browse a fabulous wine list. Chef Berton presents modern Italian cuisine in a relaxed yet refined atmosphere for breakfast, lunch and dinner. At Ristorante Berton Al Lago the menu encompasses regions near Lake Como. The lake with its fish and aromatic herbs, the mountains of Valtellina known for its incredible wines, cheeses and meats, and the nearby Pianura Padana, known for its risotto and other fantastic ingredients, are all incorporated.




At the Bar, the head bar man is quite the Alchemist – try the non-alcoholic Negroni whilst breathing 
in the lake air on the terrace!

Our favourite rooms to book include Grand Suite Lago (to ensure a full lake view) and the Penthouse Suite with jaw-dropping views and large skylights filling the bathrooms and corridors with natural light. 



As is the case for all the suites in the hotel, the exquisite interiors and furnishings are by Patricia Urquiola.


Corner suite


Darsena suite showing the richly mellow and textured decor 



Darsena Suite (for 4) right at water level with direct lake access and the large terrace touching the gentle waves - but lower down has a less dramatic view.

When the sweet life at the hotel surfeits, aim beyond the gym for exploration and exercise.
Boating is a splendid way to visit charming Italian towns like Como City, Moltrasio, Cernobbio and Bellagio. The hotel has 3 custom-made Cantiere Ernesto Riva boats available for excursions; and 2 jetto’s – horse power 40 – can be hired for private use, with no licence needed. Public ferries are another option and they go on time. Since taxis are so extortionate in this area a good solution is to lunch out and dine in the hotel or at Il Vapore in Torno, a stroll away. 



Many hiking options are available in the surrounding mountainous area – gentle walks or much more challenging if desired.

And then don't forget the ultimate Italian sport - shopping.

QUICK FACTS IL SERENO
Location: on the eastern shore of Lake Como 6km North of Como City
No. of rooms:  30 suites
Distance from airport:   55 mins by car; or by train from Milan Malpensa to Como Lago Nord /1h 20mins with 1 change en-route, then 2 mins walk and 10 mins by Riva boat. Milano Centrale – Como Lago Nord is only 45 mins.  
Distance from nearest town/shops/restaurants:  6 km from Como City, 5 mins walk to tiny village Torno
Service: as expected in a new hotel it needs to time to get into full swing.
Spa + fitness: due to open July 2017 with floor to ceiling lake views and state of the art fitness facilities. Hotel guests only.
Activities: boat hire at the hotel, cooking lessons, fishing, helicopter rides. Off site options: Vespa and Ferrari tours, kayak, canoe, water ski, horse riding, parasailing, hot air balloon. Surf, soccer, seaplane tours, tennis, paragliding, cycling, rafting in Valtellina, natural reserve cruise, wine tasting.
Who to stay: those who appreciate modern design and tranquility.


Sunbeds at the pool


This blog is based on a report by Select Collection travel advisor Collette O'Connor after a long weekend visit to Lake Como. Images by Select Collection, CastaDiva, Il Sereno & Collette O'Connor.

More about Il Sereno on Select Collection website HERE.

More about CastaDiva on Select Collection website HERE.



Wednesday, July 5, 2017

INCREDIBLE VIEWS & THAI CHARM AT SIX SENSES YAO NOI

Neil Bedford, final arbiter of Select Collection's portfolio of top luxury hotels, gives flying colours to this Thai hideaway an hour by car and boat from Krabi or Phuket…


Six Senses Yao Noi commands some of the most beautiful vistas in the world. Looking out east over Phang Nga Bay and its limestone karsts, the ocean suites enjoy simply outstanding views, while the main pool area (the Reserve) at the top of the resort boasts a breathtaking pool worthy of “top 10” status around the world.

At the same time the resort is a peaceful and secluded hideaway with a traditional Thai feel upgraded to Six Senses standards. The ambience differs from the more suave and contemporary feel of Trisara and Andara, and it is more barefoot and casual than Amanpuri, to name some of our most revered resorts on Phuket.

When it comes to the cuisine, the mouth can only water. The food is beautifully presented Thai cuisine with colour and flavour from homegrown produce in the organic garden. Uniquely the hotel boasts its own mushroom farm as well as chickens (for eggs only) and even goats (for milk/cheese). Having replaced all imported drinking water with in-house produced Six Senses Drinking Water, Six Senses Yao Noi has now opened its first water bar. The main reason behind this change is to become more environmentally conscious and to create a public awareness of “foodmiles” towards guests and hosts.

Typical ocean villa

The villas have a romantically rustic air, with fringy thatch, plunge pools and wooden decks, surrounded by jungle and built up a steep slope thus awarding its famous views to most of the villas.


Aerial view of Six Senses Yao Noi.
There is a pleasant beach, though that is not the main drawcard. You will probably dream around the high pool and its astounding views, morning, noon and night – if not hiding away at your own pool – especially if you have treated yourself to an Ocean Villa – or a Deluxe Ocean Villa even higher up the slopes.


View from the main pool at sunrise
To cap the experience of Yao Noi, paddle a kayak over the crystal waters of Phang Nga Bay or head off on a longtail boat amongst its golden islands. 


QUICK FACTS
Main reasons to stay here: Seclusion, views and genuine Thai feel
No. of rooms: 55
Distance from airport: 20 mins drive then 40 mins boat from Phuket. 40 mins drive then 20 mins boat from Krabi
Distance from nearest town/shops/restaurants: Local village 5 mins by car, 20 mins by pushbike +  very simple local restaurants. Rayavadee 20 mins by boat. Ritz-Carlton Phulay Bay 15 mins by boat.

Facilities: Renovated spa due to re-open mid July 2017. Watersports centre being upgraded, due to re-open summer 2017. 


More about Yao Noi at Selecct Collection HERE.


Monday, July 3, 2017

SEYCHELLES SENSATION AT SIX SENSES ZIL PASYON


In the paradise stakes, this dreamy private island resort is a sure winner.  Report by three Nordic travel advisors specialized in top luxury holidays …




Nature makes a dramatic backdrop with giant boulders and greenery running down to crystal seas. Here, on the private island of Felicite, we felt we had found paradise – just one resort amidst astounding beauty with relaxing atmosphere, exceptional pool villas and great food.  

Both accommodation and food are contemporary in style. Food is light and fresh, with organic produce from garden, orchid and sea. Villas have intriguing high tech features created with environmental caring and contemporary design. All with wide decks and private pools, most with stunning views of the aquamarine sea.

Perhaps the winning card at Zil Pasyon is the spa – worthy of a label destination spa. It has a stunning location, offering a spectacular viewpoint with saltwater infinity pool. The 5 treatment rooms are perched on granite rocks, and each one has a great view.


Spa between and on huge granite boulders and rainforest, with view of the turquoise sea

The spa offers wellness screening, using the latest technology to help guests achieve good health. Screening takes account of the whole body, stress, sleep, and overall body hydration. The spa will then create a wellness plan just for you, incorporating your diet, meditation, fitness coaching and yogic sleep. This will help you to implement small but vital changes to your life, small changes you can easily continue doing at home, to improve your health.

When it comes to sun and fun, there are three beaches on Felicite facing in different directions, which usually enables guests to find one that is sheltered from wind and waves. Anse Peniche, close to the activity center is the best beach for swimming and has easiest access to the sea.




Grand Anse Beach

A dreamy beach is within easy reach in the national park on the closest island, Ile Coco; by 5 mins boat ride, complimentary 4 times per day...or you can kayak there.






Coco Isle

In addition to snorkeling trips, the activity centre arranges paddleboard lessons, volleyball, archery and more.



Swinging in the bar
Main pool


QUICK FACTS
No. of rooms: 30 villas, 15 on each side. Sunrise and sunset differentiates the two sides.
Distance from airport: 20 minutes by helicopter from Mahe. Or 15 minutes by car and 30 minutes bumpy boatride from Praslin airport.
Distance from nearest town/shops/restaurants: La Digue is 15 minutes away by boat, a great cycling destination. The resort usually arranges trips to La Digue in their weekly program.
Main reason to choose Zil Pasyon: Great modern pool villas with all you can ask for.
Tip: For views book Panorama Pool villa, for that something extra Pasyon Pool villa, and for a light  beachfront position Beachfront Pool villa.
Facilities: Spa, gym with view, yoga,2 bars, 2 restaurants, dinner experiences like a romantic dinner at Grand Anse or at the island's highest viewpoint, open air movies, small kids club, activity centre, main pool by the sea with shallow end for kids. Hiking trails. Speed boat to Coco Island 4 times per day.
Who to stay: Those looking for peace, beauty and stylish contemporary accommodations.


Villa interior

Only 20 mins by helicopter from Mahe intl apt

Complimentary ice cream
Note: This blog is based on a group report by three Select Collection travel advisors: Arja Laukkarinen (Finland), Astrid Sølvik (Norway), Mariana Kalinic (Sweden). Images by Select Collection, above team and travel advisor Tina Vestin (Sweden).

More about Six Senses Zil Pasyon  on our website HERE, and in a previous Haute Couture Travel Blog HERE.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

THE SILO & OTHER CAPE LUXURIES


A new Cape Town wonder – The Silo – and other favourites in the Western Cape, reviewed by a team of Nordic travel advisors ...


The Silo  from industrial to hospitality and art


The new kid on the block. We were very excited to see it. The hype has been very strong, but still we were positively surprised. Very cool and trendy, colourful and artsy.


Supreme comfort and lavish style

It is clear that this hotel in a former industrial complex is now the place to be in Cape Town right now.  The food was great and there was a very creative display of food both for dinner and breakfast, and friendly service.

A guard downstairs at street level guides guests into the hotel elevator to the reception on the 6th floor where you also find lounge bar, restaurant and shop. Very special floor to ceiling windows are what makes this area interesting.

On the 11th floor the hotel has a very desirable rooftop bar with everything from bar stools to beds to relax in a casual atmosphere and have a cocktail watching the sunset. There is also a glass lap pool and sun terrace. No smoking allowed. On the 4th floor there is a very nice spa and gym.


Mystic blue pool at night

All the rooms are individually designed and decorated by Liz Biden – beautifully. Strong colours are mixed with modern design, with a taste of burlesque. Our favourite rooms were the Superior Suites, duplex with the bedroom on the mezzanine level. They were designed last of all the rooms and she really took her time and had fun making them.

All rooms are spacious and boast a balcony – smallest rooms are 44 sqm and the largest 211 sqm. Note that the art museum and the area around are due to be complete by 15 Sep 2017.


Penthouse and the characteristic windows

Who to stay
It’s not a hotel for everyone, right now – mostly for the young and trendy with money to spend. The place to be!

Cape Grace – welcome home


Very warm welcome from doormen to reception and a cozy atmosphere – you feel they really want you there; almost as family.  And the location on the Waterfront is excellent.

Quiet elegance and Grace

Interesting decor with a feeling for history

For our guests the welcome includes the chance to pick your own bottle of wine from the Virtuoso wine cellar. We tasted samples of these wines and they were excellent.

The pool is small and cute, with chic poolside lounging, and the whisky bar Bascule had a great vibe. Very casual and a nice place to be. In the Signal Restaurant they serve breakfast and dinner. There was excellent service at both  – natural service with a friendly smile – a bit like Soneva Fushi, it just flows. The Concierge Team is very proactive and helpful, making it easy to dine around.

Who to stay
Anyone would like it. The hotel has lots of repeaters and our guests love it.

For more about Cape Grace follow this LINK, and for a previous Select blog on Cape Grace, this LINK.

One & Only Cape Town – urban resort


In The Waterfront area – looking down on a marina and over apartment blocks to Table Mountain. One&Only is an urban resort with a vast cosmopolitan lobby. It’s very elegant, with lots of beautifully dressed young ladies walking around, apparently still a hot spot for the wealthy and beautiful for afternoon tea.

You can stay in the main hotel or the Island ringed by a canal. We recommend the Island unless guests want to be high up with a view. The rooms are very spacious, the garden is beautiful and the island has a very nice spa with hairdresser and nail bar. The hotel also has an impressive gym with trainers for a good workout.

Suave and spacious rooms



On the terrace of an island room

One of the really attractive features is the large pool, possibly the largest infinity pool in Africa, with palm trees, sunbeds and even Cabanas to be rented at extra cost. The pool restaurant is very popular and quite small. Could be a good idea to book a table.




Their Reubens restaurant is also very popular and the food was excellent. Very cool and cozy ambiance. They have a huge wine tower and there is a Chef´s Table for 12 in a chambre-separee. The first and only Nobu restaurant in Africa is also one of the attractions at One&Only Cape Town.

Who to stay
A good choice for family groups – 3 generations with children and teens of all ages who need a resort in town.

For more details see the Select Collection website, and for a previous blog follow this LINK.

Belmond Mount Nelson – The Pink Lady


This hotel really surprised us. Dating way back to 1899, we were expecting a dusty old lady and found a mix of the grandeur of the past and something young and chic. They have revamped the bars and restaurants and there are lots of young and trendy guests.



The lobby still feels a bit old-fashioned and they have an elevator so old it must be considered an antique. But it is a hotel with a historical touch, so it fits. 
     

The hotel has 4 wings each different. In the main building there are Junior Suites on the top floor offering a balcony and the sought after view towards Table Mountain. One-bedroom Suites are also located in the main building, beautiful large suites, well equipped for a long stay if needed, with a light feel.

The Cottage section is our favourite – the rooms feel like small homes with a garden, in old Victorian style. There is a quiet pool in this section for adults only (16+) so convenient for adult guests. The Oasis pool is for everyone´s use, including a family of ducks. 

The neighbourhood has lots of very good restaurants frequented by Capetonians and a peaceful vibe. Kloof Street & Long Street are just around the corner. It’s located a 15 minute drive from The Waterfront area and they have a complimentary shuttle.


Who to stay
Couples and families looking for historical Cape Town, mountain views and gardens – and who like to explore on foot to find boutiques, cafes and restaurants in a less touristy area.



See also the Select Collection website. and find a little bit more about Mount Nelson history in a previous blog HERE

21 Nettleton  stunning views


A beautiful little boutique hotel high up in the mountainside with sublime sunsets and amazing views down to Clifton Beach. Only 5 bedrooms, but will have 6 soon.





Trendy, grand and a somewhat burlesque interior and a stunning garden. It’s beautifully furnished, has a great art collection and is perfect for private hire.


Two Burmese cats walking around acting as they own the place; great friends of Select Collection.



There is a small pool area between large boulders and flowers, with BBQ and outdoor area.  Everyone would love this property, especially if you take the whole house.

Who to stay
Couples and honeymooners. For families the whole property is suggested for a magical Cape Town stay. On a steep hill, with staircases, not for walking disabilities.

More about 21 Nettleton in a previous blog HERE and in Select Collection’s website HERE.


WINELANDS

La Residence - lavish, vibrant, unique


A delightful property in the Franschhoek Valley. La Residence is surrounded by vineyards, fruit trees, flowers and herbs with the majestic mountain backdrop. The Estate spreads out on 12 ha and is a fully operating farm whose products are used daily by the chefs to create fresh and enjoyable dishes.



The lovely garden is perfect for relaxing by the pool under the colourful red parasols.





We all loved this property. It has so many beautiful art pieces. The interior is designed by the owner Liz Biden and her unusual gift to create beautiful inspiring spaces is seen everywhere.

All 11 very spacious rooms have either terraces or balconies. Each suite is unique and individually decorated with the finest materials: Persian rugs, exotic antiques, glittering chandeliers, silks and velvets. Liz is a genius when it becomes to colour combination and every room is a piece of art.

Every bathroom is different and could double up as a living room

Apart from the 11 rooms there are 5 colourful vineyard suites with 1 to 3 bedrooms, two of them have private pools. These are separate units and very suitable for families with kids.

Great food and fine wines are also what the property is famous for.

Who to stay
Couples who appreciate nature, food & wine and vibrant, arty décor.

For more images and an account of a tasting meal, see our previous blog HERE 

Leeu House & Leeu Estates - subtle & discreet


The story of Leeu began when the Indian investor Analjit Singh visited South Africa for the first time to attend the FIFA Soccer World Cup in 2010 and fell in love with the beauty of Franschhoek valley.  Leeu Collection represents the founder’s vision of unique guest experiences.


Le Quartier Français will be undergoing a complete refurbishment to reopen in July 2017. The award-winning restaurant The Tasting Room will be replaced by an exciting new restaurant La Petite Columbe. This will bring it to the same level as Leeu House and Leeu Estates.

Leeu House is a new family friendly boutique property right next to Le Quartier Français. It feels like a traditional Cape Dutch style country house but has all advantages of being in the middle of the village. Leeu House has a private garden with oak trees and pool. All 12 contemporary designed rooms are decorated with soft and neutral tones matching perfectly to the stylish interiors.

Leeu Estates is located 3 km from Franschhoek centre, a mere 30 mins walk or 5 mins by shuttle. It is the flagship of Leeu Collection – an exclusive boutique hotel, working wine farm, winery and spa with stunning landscapes surrounding it. Their Bokkie Garden has a remarkable collection of art including granite and bronze sculptors, absolutely stunning.

The 17 rooms, several of which are located in spacious cottages, are decorated in harmonious colours and fine fabrics. We stayed in studio suites above the spa and gym.




Classic room in the Manor House

On the ground floor of The Manor House guests are welcome to relax around the wood-burning fireplace of the Reading Room with a drink from the honesty bar. It opens onto a veranda with stunning views over the panoramic landscapes of Franschhoek Valley.

There is an extensive network of nature trails crossing the property and through the vineyards. A short walk to the hotel’s cottage accommodations leads you to Mullineux and Leeu Family Wines where you can both taste and purchase the premium wines from the producer.





Who to stay
Leeu Estates is a very good option for adult guests who enjoy a peaceful setting close to nature yet within easy reach of Franschhoek’s wining and dining. Leeu House suits couples and families who want to be right in the village,

A previous blog  HERE and the Select Collection web page HERE.


Babylonstoren - "Hipsters paradise”


Since 1692, Babylonsstoren has been a working farm, and now has a farm hotel as well as a large magnificent organic garden divided into sections for vegetables, fruit trees, berries, indigenous plants and bee hives for pollinating. There are paths crisscrossing the gardens and farm shops where all their produce is on display for purchase.




The farm and winery are very popular for day visits, even a stop on the wine tram, while the hotel offers charming self-catering cottages under the oaks in traditional Cape style.

Stay at the farm, cook yourself from organic produce or eat at their organic restaurant. I don’t think I have ever seen so many well-groomed hipster beards in one place.


Who to stay
This farm hotel is for the young and trendy who are into organic lifestyle, or those who find farm-living romantic. Families with small kids would also like it, if they enjoy farm life. According to Oliver – our guide – the hill in their wine field is the most romantic spot for a sundowner.

For more about Babylonstoren  HERE.


Franschhoek Country House and Villas - Provencal touch


Just outside of Franschhoek a quite rustic exterior leads into beautiful gardens and buildings in traditional farm style. Rooms are rather simple but very charming, with lots of character and Provencal country style. 






The Select favourites are the 12 Villa Suites. Large (100 sqm) with separate lounge, 2 private balconies (or patios), air conditioning, under-floor heating, fireplaces, entertainment centre. Very exclusive facilities and finishes.



We were all a little hesitant at first, but the place won us over quite quickly with its charm.
They use lemons for decorations and the lawns are well-groomed by several busy gardeners.
Excellent food in the restaurant, with great wine pairing.  Bikes for hire that will take you into town in no time.

Who to stay
Couples & families seeking a rustic setting with pools and gardens only 1km from the village centre.


SAFARI IN THE EASTERN CAPE

Kwandwe Private Game Reserve


For those who want a safari experience in a malaria free area and not too far from Cape Town, a short flight to Port Elizabeth and 2 hours’ drive takes you to Kwandwe.



This game reserve was a pleasant surprise for all of us. Having been told that the Eastern Cape is not ”the real thing” as the game has been re-introduced – we were won over quickly. Game viewing was very good...not only plenty of it, but very visible due to the low vegetation compared to other places we have been on safari.

One reception covers all the lodges at Kwandwe – Great Fish River Lodge, Ecca Lodge, Fort House, Uplands Homestead and Melton Manor. We were taken by semi-open Toyota Landcruiser to the Great Fish River Lodge. This is a lodge I have never booked, but that will change. Very nice ambience, cosy livingroom with a large fireplace and nice terrace facing the river running below. The fact that it’s small forces the guests to interact more and creates a very nice atmosphere.

The rooms are spread out, in stone with thatched roof, so you can have your privacy, and they all face the river on both sides of the main area, with a lighted path and plunge pools. The style is a bit rustic – like a cabin in the mountains.

We enjoyed very friendly service with a few small hitches, and lunch in particular.  Our ranger Nic and tracker Sakhi gave us some real unforgettable moments – top notch!


Great Fish River way below

There are three sole-use lodges that suit big families. One of these, Melton Manor, has 4 bedrooms rented as one unit. We met the manager who loves to make families feel welcome and activate the kids with kitchen duty and kiddy game drives. When kids are happy, so are the parents. Beautiful house well fitted for both families and a group of friends.

Who to stay
Familes & Couples who want to combine safari with Cape Town in a malaria free area.

This blog is based on a group report by Select Collection travel advisors, Tommy Ebbeståhl (Sweden), Ada Størmer Papatheocharis & Dag Åge Karlsen (Norway), & Marita Aarnio (Finland).. Images are spontaneous snapshots by the team, except for the bathroom image at  La Residence & the Penthouse image at The Silo by Royal Portfolio.
For more about our South Africa programme see our website.