Travel and a bit of shopping
First published on http://www.holidaymag.co.uk
Leonard Cohen famously sang, ‘There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in’.
Yet sometimes it appears to be everything but true as I recently found out at The Light House Boutique Suites in the Cape Winelands of South Africa. At this guesthouse ‘the light gets in’ but there are no cracks visible anywhere.
The Light House is in the town of Paarl, considered by some as the ugly duckling of the three main towns – the other two are Stellenbosch and Franschhoek – in the Cape Winelands in the Western Cape. Others – locals like me and tourists in the know – relish the fact that it makes for a more authentic feel at the restaurant tables and in the oak-lined streets.
Paarl is the third oldest town in South Africa and is known for its attractive Cape Dutch homes (17th to 19th century) and the Afrikaanse Taalmonument (monument to the Afrikaans language), jokingly referred to as the ‘taalpaal’ (language pillar).
When I first heard about The Light House the name had my heart racing. As a self-confessed pharologist (someone who is enthused by lighthouses) I envisioned an altogether different experience than the one I had. Yet I was not disappointed in the slightest – not least because I experienced what I deem to be the best service I’ve ever had.
The boutique suites at The Light House are luxurious yet ultra-comfortable. I was tempted to roll up one of the exotic Persian rugs to take home with me; the bath room is so spacious that you could dance the tango should you feel the urge; and your slippers and a handful of bath goodies await you in elegant boxed packaging tied with an emblazoned ribbon.
From your suite you overlook Paarl Valley and the surrounding mountains; in summer guests bathe and soak up the sun by the pool and once you have discovered the Reading Room they might have to remove you by force. The selection of books will delight foodies (with titles like Larousse Gastronomique, Epicurean Journeys, A Day at El Bulli and Where Chefs Eat), décor buffs (titles include Tuscany, New York and Parisian Interiors, Surrounded by Art and Choosing China and Glass) and discerning travellers (expect titles like The Great Karoo, Light Houses of South Africa, 1001 Buildings you must see before you die and Tretchikoff – The People’s Painter).
As much thought that has gone into the choice of reading matter has also gone into planning the interior and décor. It’s stylish, it’s eclectic and it showcases art and objets d’art. The owners seem to have a predilection for beautiful blue and white vases of varying sizes and shapes. A fun element is introduced by changing table cloths in the entertainment area more than once a day in order to create a different ambience.
High tea is an ooh la la affair. The coffee table is strewn with rose petals and the tea cups are bedecked with purple violets and pink roses. Raspberries are piled higgledy-piggledy on a creamy cheesecake and a lopsided rose adorns a chocolate cake. Traditional scones are served with strawberries and cream and jam in crystal jars with pointy lids that look like tiny church spires. Savoury scones surprize with a pleasant bite of chilli.
Apart from tea Laborie Blanc de Blancs Methode Cap Classique is served. (A Methode Cap Classique or MCC is a South African sparkling wine made in the traditional French method called methode champenoise.)
I happily opted for the latter using a warning stemming from my childhood as an excuse: if you drink too much tea you will land up with fleas in your stomach.
The Light House predominantly serves wines from Paarl Vintners Wine Route. Laborie Estate has been producing wine since 1698 which makes them one of the oldest wine farms in South Africa.
Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve is close by for those who would enjoy a walk amongst the fynbos (a distinctive type of vegetation found only on the southern tip of Africa; it includes a wide range of plant species, particularly small heather-like trees and shrubs).
Alternatively the town of Franschhoek known as the gourmet capital of South Africa is a mere 31 kilometres away though you should not miss out on at least one dinner prepared by Darrol, the General Manager, and his team.
The Light House has five individually themed and decorated suites. The Afro-Chic suite has warm accents of colour that are typically African; The Hamptons aims for sophistication; Manhattan is chic with touches of Art Deco; Mayfair is sheer opulence: and the Bedford Manor (the honeymoon suite) has a four-poster bed and a double shower.
Hendrik, the front-of-house senior manager, promises: We will indulge and delight you.
This is exactly what they did. In my home town nogal (informal South African expression in Afrikaans which – loosely translated – means moreover).