24 Jun2014

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Number 1 Hotel in the World, according to Conde Nast Readers’ Choice Awards, 2013. Best Hotel in Africa and South Africa’s Leading Luxury Hotel, 2010. Best new sensation in the world, Tatler (UK) 2009. Seriously?! That is an impressive list of accolades, no matter how you want to tone down the hype. Mrs. MM had booked two nights in wine country after our brief but amazing safari, and we found ourselves checking into La Residence, in Franschhoek, a 45 minute drive from the Cape Town International airport. After days of beautiful weather at Singita, we flew in a tiny private plane to the Kruger National Airport and transferred to a larger (but not LARGE) commercial jet flight to Cape Town.

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Before descending, the pilot warned of an approaching storm (yipes, isn’t this THAT infamous cape with WICKED storms?!) and to prepare for a rough descent and landing. Let’s just say it was a bit harrowing, what I imagine landing in a Typhoon signal number 3 might be like. The last time we had anything just as bad was landing in a small jetprop plane into the Jackson Hole, Wyoming airport with a massive dust storm roaring through the valley just behind us and the wall of dust hit us just as we were disembarking from the plane! After getting our luggage at the Cape town airport, we were met by Randall, our guide and driver for the next five days, and he got us into a very comfortable van for the brief And scenic ride to wine country.

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We arrived at La Residence late afternoon in light rain but ominous clouds (photos above taken the next day). The hotel has only a dozen luxuriously appointed rooms (and some private villas), and felt more like a B&B on a bit of Imeldific steroids. Set on 30 stunning acres, it has vineyards and gardens at the foothills of nearby mountains. To fully enjoy this experience, you must suspend reality for a moment, and the fact that fewer than 1/1000th of 1 percent of the world’s traveling public will ever get a chance to visit this little corner of hotel (and wine) paradise, and that poverty back home AND in South Africa DOES co-exist with places like this. If there were ever a marketmanila “fishpan” post, this and the next one would be prime candidates for those who can’t appreciate occasional but honestly earned excess. So consider yourselves warned and stop reading if you don’t like these types of posts… I won’t tolerate any luxury bashing in the comments section below, thanks.

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You drive up to a portico as though visiting friends on some beautiful private wine estate. The fountains, statues and urns seem a bit over-the-top and we usually opt for the sparser more minimalist hotels, but you have to see the whole property to appreciate it better. You walk into a foyer with an enormous chandelier (a recurring theme throughout the hotel), table filled with locally grown flowers and you see right through to the pool and spectacular view to the rear of the property.

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Turn to the left of a rather long room and you see the living area, seating areas, fireplace, and mezzanine library. Chandeliers galore in an otherwise traditional building construction of concrete walls, and wooden rafters/ceiling that we saw several examples of in South Africa. There is modern and classic art ALL over the place, as well as plush furnishings, accessories and knickknacks of the sort that an owner/collector appears to have had great pleasure acquiring and displaying locally and perhaps in places like the south of France, Spain and estate sales elsewhere in Europe. Gigantic mirrors in the public areas make the rooms seem bigger and more sparkly as they reflect the light from the chandeliers. At least one mirror was cracked, and several pieces of furniture seemed worse for wear, but I suppose that’s expected for pieces like this in a hotel setting. It was opulent, but in a nouveau kind of way. The impact for guests intending to stay just two days cosseted in this luxury? Impressive.

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Turn to the right from the foyer and you see the dining areas that are set up for a breakfast buffet and dinner if you choose to dine in. The checkerboard pattern on the floor is classic black and white stone and I have always loved it whenever I see it in homes or other settings.

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Tables draped with linens in the evening and set with nice china and silver transform the room into a more formal setting. Flowers are everywhere and it really does seem like a large country house. The night we checked in, I suspect just 5 or 6 out of the 12 rooms were occupied, with us having two of them. Only two other couples were having dinner in, probably due the heavy rains and howling winds outdoors.

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The warm glow of incandescent lighting…

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…fires burning in both fireplaces…

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…and deep couches. Honestly, with the large french doors all along both sides of this main room made for a light, airy and stunning room by day, but conjured up images of a perfect setting for a murder who-done-it on a stormy evening. :) Or the ideal place to plop down with a good old fashioned book curled up under a cashmere throw… We didn’t really hang out in the public areas for very long (except for breakfast and one dinner) because our own rooms were so luxurious and comfortable.

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The doors on the other side of the small foyer opened up…

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…onto a covered terrace and with tables and chairs for outdoor meals in good weather…

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…and at one end of the lanai or terrace there were seating areas that had a view to a nearby manmade lake and the gardens surrounding it. Notice the two white wicker (peacock?) chairs in the back, and I wondered if they were made in the Philippines…

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The lawn, lined on each side with enormous date palms and ending at a pool with a panoramic view of the vineyards and mountains is picture perfect.

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And wouldn’t you know it, several peacocks just made their appearance, walking around the lawn and terrace, occasionally displaying their beautiful plumage.

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More than the bricks and mortar, and interior decor, the most spectacular part of this hotel was the VIEW. THE VIEW!! Despite it being early Winter, and the leaves on the vines all dried up, the neat rows of grape vines, the olive trees, the lavender, etc. all just made added up to this amazing view in early morning.

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Sunrise from our room’s balcony…

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…and a panoramic view from the center of that same balcony.

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The bushes of lavender between olive trees reminded one of the South of France…

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…and walking amongst the vines in crisp weather, clear mountain air, was so calming and invigorating at the same time. Next up, a post on our suites at La Residence…

 

COMMENTS:

  1. sophie says:

    MM, WOW! this is stunning. I am so happy that you’re sharing all the stunning photos and experiences with us mortals. ^_^! We’re like a part of your adventure already. Thank you!

    Jun 24, 2014 | 10:27 pm

     
  2. Khew says:

    Bash, bash, bash! I’m so jealous!!

    Jun 24, 2014 | 10:32 pm

     
  3. Connie C says:

    You are allowed to bask in luxury MM, and no guilty pleasures! a well earned holiday reaping the fruits of your labor as you make your own contributions to the bigger society: ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. ( with apologies to Karl Marx)

    Jun 24, 2014 | 10:32 pm

     
  4. Connie C says:

    Love, love, love your photos especially the sunrise from the balcony…..postcard perfect!!!

    Jun 24, 2014 | 10:36 pm

     
  5. Thel from Florida says:

    Wow, seriously beautiful view! Really appreciate it very much!

    Jun 25, 2014 | 5:11 am

     
  6. Footloose says:

    I ape your “seriously?”. I recall the suite you occupied and the surrounding complex and amenities at Amanjena in Marrakech (which is still in Africa, btw) a few years ago more unified in conception and even lavisher in details. At least the lights there were subtle, effective and did not blind with their glitter. But that’s Aman Resorts for you. Their presence in Beijing is unique, the Summer Palace leaves out only the fluttering of eunuchs to make you feel like a Ming emperor. Probably concerned that the outrageous practice would have left a class of people shy and lonely while compounding human rights violations in the country.

    Jun 25, 2014 | 5:28 am

     
  7. millet says:

    i love it all! despite the luxury and elegance, the exposed beams and the decor make it look very homey. and MM, your “won’t tolerate any luxury bashing” statement is priceless.

    Jun 25, 2014 | 7:42 am

     
  8. al says:

    Thanks again for sharing these wonderful pictures.

    Jun 25, 2014 | 8:24 am

     
  9. peterb says:

    Spectacular view from your balcony! Perfect place to enjoy breakfast or a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. I had thought of the same thing when i saw the white chairs in the background. I had expected the safari to be part of your trip but not wine country and this amazing hotel. Thank you for sharing and educating us on the wonders of South Africa!

    Jun 25, 2014 | 8:49 am

     
  10. pixienixie says:

    wow. just…wow. :) I hope that I and the rest of my small family will be as well-traveled as you are. Makataya nga sa lotto. Hehehe ;)

    Can’t wait for the post re: the suites!

    Jun 25, 2014 | 9:04 am

     
  11. ami says:

    How cozy and homey. The interior has the looks and air of a french chateau while the terrace evokes the outdoor spaces of spanish villas.

    Jun 25, 2014 | 9:41 am

     
  12. Dinah says:

    It is your hard-earned money and truly, you deserve this (unlike some politicians we know)! So, thank you for sharing this with us! I only see these much opulence in movies and can only imagine them in books! So, thank you, really. Puede na ko mamatay sa inggit :)

    Jun 25, 2014 | 11:10 am

     
  13. Ron says:

    with all the hard work you’ve done for Zubuchon, you deserve this
    lavish vacation! :) Thanks for sharing your vacation experience!

    Jun 25, 2014 | 3:50 pm

     
  14. Kasseopeia says:

    I remember you saying “totally unnecessary” when describing your wine country digs. Now that I’ve seen photos, I must disagree. Totally necessary! Such opulence!

    The panoramic shot and the photo of the sunrise viewed from your balcony – oh, my!

    Jun 26, 2014 | 2:50 am

     
  15. Liza m.c. says:

    Awesome!!!!

    Jun 26, 2014 | 7:03 pm

     
  16. mon says:

    Wow…. wow… again…. wow…
    There should be a “like” button somewhere in this blog! The “luxury bashing” cracked me up! Hahaha!

    Jun 28, 2014 | 1:31 am

     
  17. Corrine says:

    What beautiful chandelier and black and white flooring!

    Jun 29, 2014 | 4:10 pm

     
  18. Richard says:

    Saw this property on our drive to Le Quartier Francaise. Wonderful.

    Jun 29, 2014 | 6:21 pm

     
  19. bagito says:

    Beautiful!

    Jul 3, 2014 | 11:04 am

     
  20. Betchay says:

    This is really THE trip of a lifetime….very apt gift to yourselves as you both enter the golden year! And that’s right…no bashing allowed because you deserved it, you’ve earned it!

    Jul 7, 2014 | 12:57 am

     
  21. Nikita says:

    The descriptions and photos were already such a treat! What a great end to your double birthday celebration :)

    Jul 8, 2014 | 2:49 pm

     
 

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