Cape Town has a soul unlike any other city. And, despite the slower pace of life enjoyed in The Mother City – anyone who has visited will be familiar with “Africa time” – you’ll be kept busy exploring this truly magical destination.
Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, a food and wine lover, or a culture buff, there’s something for everyone.
But where to stay? If you are looking for a luxurious option with killer views of the ocean and world-class hospitality that is just a five-minute jaunt from Camps Bay, perhaps the most glamorous area of the city, look no further than the 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa.
Where is it?
The hotel, which is owned by South African-British brand Red Carnation, is situated between the areas of Camps Bay and Llandudno just off the scenic coastal route that winds along the bottom of the 12 Apostles Mountains, hence the name. The mountain range is part of the majestic Table Mountain National Park, a World Heritage Site.
The secluded spot is perfect for those wanting to relax following a hectic few days exploring the bright lights of the City Bowl and surrounding areas. But there is a complimentary shuttle service to town and the V&A Waterfront should you want to go back for more and explore.
Colonial elegance. Anyone who has stayed in a Red Carnation Hotel – they have six in London including TripAdvisor’s best-rated venue Hotel 41 – will know what to expect. Elaborate, sumptuous interiors in a homely style with the odd touch of fun. See the Leopard Bar with its animal print overload decor as an example. Rooms are spacious, light and airy often with spectacular views.
The hotel has two outdoor pools – one facing the Atlantic Ocean and another rock pool-style facing the mountains. Both are wonderful places to kick back and relax. Speaking of… the spa, which is set around several cave-like plunge pools for all guests to use.
There’s also seven treatment rooms plus two mountain gazebo spaces which can be used for massages and the like. Treatments on offer range from traditional massages to more “out-there” therapies such as the bellabaci massage, which uses the cupping famously loved by Gwyneth Paltrow.
Food & drink
Let’s start at the relaxed Cafe Grill, which offers simple but high-quality goodies like wraps, burgers and salads which are also served in the pool areas. The casual dining space also offers sushi at certain times of the day.
Azure is the 12A’s fine dining restaurant with stunning views across the ocean from its outside terrace. It is also where you enjoy breakfast – though we were total gluttons on both mornings and had our meal delivered to the room (a true luxury).
The Leopard Bar is located a floor up from Azure and has even better views with a brilliant cocktail list to boot. I ordered off menu both evenings – a negroni and an espresso martini – and both were delicious, with my husband’s whisky sour also a delight. You can also indulge in a British high tea, should the mood take you.
From the hotel specifically there are two activities to note – walking and wine-ing.
Hikers and casual wanderers alike can enjoy either a workout or a leisurely stroll around the Table Mountain World Heritage Site, with maps of jaunts of just ten minutes to almost an hour available from the hotel. Staff can also prepare a picnic for you along the route. Guided walks are also offered.
We were lucky enough to visit Bouchard Finlayson while we were in town, a wine farm also owned by the Tollmans – the family who own the Red Carnation group. It is located in the Hem-el-en-Aarde valley, a two-hour drive from the 12A near to Hermanus, famous for whale watching in season.
Peter Finlayson is the main man and he hosted what was a truly special day at the farm tasting their award-winning wines and snacking on locally produced meats, cheeses and olive oil. We even had a guided walking tour of the area’s many Fynbos, the local plant life and vegetation, by expert Frank who can only be described as a true tour de force. Despite being in his late 80s, he sprung up the nearby mountains with energy and vivacity that put us all to shame. Well worth a trip if you can.
We stayed in a Superior Sea Facing Room in the Llandudno wing. I would highly recommend splashing out on any sea view room if possible. There was a reason, other than being lazy, that we had breakfast in the room both mornings – because the space was so wonderful I never wanted to leave.
Starting rate for a classic room start at 6,000 ZAR a night (about £300 depending on exchange rates).
For more information visit 12apostleshotel.com
LONG HAUL ON THOMAS COOK: WORTH THE SAVINGS?
For years. the main issue with holidaying in Cape Town has been getting there. British Airways was long the only provider of direct routes, meaning prices have been consistently high in peak season. (November – March). That was, until Thomas Cook launched a seasonal service on certain days of the week direct from Gatwick to Cape Town two years ago.
As with embarking on any long haul flight with a new provider, I was nervous about flying Thomas Cook. However I was pleasantly surprised in almost all ways. We were upgraded to premium economy, the most luxurious class they offer.
You’re welcomed with a glass of bubbles or juice and guided to your large, modern seat with ample leg room even for tall passengers (my husband is 6”2). As its a new fleet of planes, the entertainment system is top of the range and the film offering was expansive and up-to-date with all the Oscar nominated movies on my March flight.
The food – created by celebrity chef James Martin – was actually very good. Breakfast of a full English, with fruit, yoghurt, pastry and coffee was one of the best I’ve had on a plane. However, I would suggest the staff need more training for Premium Economy customers. None of the staff on either of my trips were particularly friendly, with simple requests for water, more coffee etc, met with an attitude of annoyance.
Weirdly, this seemed to differ in economy, with friends remarking how friendly and helpful their cabin crew were. In economy, only one meal is included, and you pay for drinks and snacks and pay extra to unlock the whole range of films on offer. However, the seat were roomy and modern – and both flights were quite empty, meaning even more room. Thomas Cook is also launching its new Sleeper Seat in Economy – which is a mattress that stretches along a row of three seats at the back of the aircraft. The service, which costs £200 each way, is available to book now for flights from May 13.
The only other gripe was both flights were delayed by at least an hour.
However, for the price for a direct flight, I would highly suggest people book with Thomas Cook. And their competition has meant BA’s flights have been much more reasonably priced in the past year, which of course is a win-win for consumers.
Fly direct to Cape Town from London Gatwick with Thomas Cook Airlines from £539.99 return in Economy and from £900 in Premium. Economy fare includes hand baggage and a James Martin meal.