Click photo above for the Jetsetters.TV video.
If there had been 13 Apostles God would have had to add an additional peak to the World Heritage Site of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, and the 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa would have to change its appellation to 13A.
Hiking begins behind the 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa.
The magnificent mountain range behind the resort at the residential end of Victoria Road overlooking Camps Bay is the perfect setting for romance and adventure. That must be the reason that the latest James Bond novel “Carte Blanche” is largely set in Cape Town. I can envision the famous British spy hang gliding off the tableland cliffs because Cape Town is the third windiest city in the world, after Chicago, Illinois and Wellington, New Zealand.
While driving around the Cape I was struck by how similar the Mother City of South Africa is to San Francisco, with dashes of Southern California beach life mixed in. Tight and twisting Victoria-era cobblestone streets are hidden in the hilly back waters of the city, with Australian gums lining the road to the Table Mountain tramway station. Surfers and divers were as abundant as sea lions during mating season on the rocks and beaches that stretched along the strands of the magnificent city, and in fact, a protected marine area extends about a kilometer from the 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa.
A marine reserve lies before 12A.
Camps Bay is only one of Cape Town's stunning beaches.
Then add a little bit of Napa Valley because the Cape Town weather and soil is the perfect combo for the premiere wine lands of South Africa. One of the largest beaches in the Western Cape Province is just around the corner (called llandudno) in a more isolated region than the five million plus metro area.
In the James Bond novel, readers get a brief history of South Africa and are introduced to local musicians like Thandiswa Mazwai and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, local wines, dishes like bobotie, and drinks like umqombothi (Zulu beer). Over the years Cape Town vineyards — just a grape seed spitting distance away from 12A — have proven to be award winners. This is not a recent phenomenon, because even Napoleon recognized the merits of the wine region and the rare Vin de Napoleon wine is now bottled in the Constantia area for worldwide consumption. Napoleon ordered the entire stock during his reign and the recipe was lost for over 150 years and then rediscovered only a few years ago on a scrap of paper in a wine estate archive. The unusual grapes were cultivated in the misty and often foggy area and I had a chance to sample Napoleon’s nectar on a wine tasting tour to Klein Constantia winery.
Klein Constantia Vin de Napoleon wine tasting.
The 12 Apostles Hotel’s sommelier can recommend an exceptional South African wine pairing with the fresh snook or kingfish or spicy baked barracuda or crispy flats grouper at the resort’s Azure Restaurant that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean.
Spicy Indian influenced cuisine.
A few bends and turns around the coastal road from the stark white hotel leads to Haut Bay where the Cape’s fishing fleet sets sail from, so you are assured fresh fillets from the sea.
Most packages at the 12A include bed and breakfast, but Azure is also open for lunch and dinner. I found the Leopard Lounge to be less formal for cocktails (martinis, shaken, not stirred, states Bond) and complimentary snacks.
I especially enjoyed the hospitality of the Café Grill for lunch; while flipping through the spiral recipe book, “A Life In Food”, I noticed the vintage black and white photos of the lovely British-born owner of the Red Carnation Hotels, Beatrice Tollman. Beatrice is still at the helm of her luxury chain, which has companion properties farther up the Cape called Bushman’s Kloof Wilderness Hotel and Wellness Retreat and in Durban at the beachside Oyster Box Hotel.
All three South African properties are Relais Chateaux members and all have consistently received international awards for hospitality and cuisine. Of course there is high tea, Wot! — in the 12A’s Observatory.
The elegant Azure Restaurant also has an outdoor deck.
Cape Town is a wonderful city for adventures and shopping. The original tramway to the top of Table Mountain was completed in 1929, but the new tram cars rotate as you ascend the cliffs so you get a White Backed Vulture’s view, but the notorious autumn fog socked us in during my visit. There are marked trails around the flag stone restaurant on top and the tourists were like ghosts on the pathways that extended for miles along the rugged National Park.
Fogged in atop Table Mountain.
I also toured the Victoria and Alfred waterfront area that is famous for shopping, but I found the best bargains in the back streets, away from the tourist route. 12A has a complimentary shuttle to the waterfront area that runs from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Long Street is the night hotspot for clubs like the Purple Turtle and the Joburg Club; Rhodes’ famous Kimberley Club and Hotel still exists in the heart of the city, its stately spires spiking the sky like an ancient Indian Hindu temple. My driver, Manny, states that there are two types of architecture in Cape Town: “Early Curly” buildings are engraved with intricately cut filigree stone work, while “Late Straight” buildings have more modern, linear lines without all the carved cornices. The historic district of the city is where Victorian-era structures still triumph.
Rhodes’ mansion is located on the back side of Table Mountain and it is open for tours; South Africa’s current president has a modern home on the property. Rhodes died at his beach house in Cape Town at the age of 49, after amassing a diamond and gold fortune. After visiting the huge Castle Fort in the waterfront district Manny took me to a diamond jewelry factory called the Diamond Works where we watched the rare stones cut and polished, but I was equally interested in the sky blue Tanzanite (from Tanzania) necklaces that are sought after.
Shop for artisan works in Cape Town.
Uncork the Moet and become a poet of romance at the 12 Apostles, which has many unusual wedding packages and is the perfect setting for any honeymoon (the hotel has its own helipad for quick escapes). In fact, I was staying at the hotel when Prince William and Katherine tied the knot in London and the televised nuptials were highly praised by the British influenced hotel staff and many guests watched the ceremonies via satellite in the Cinema Room. I particularly enjoyed the pith helmeted and bright red tunics of the 12A's valet and door staff that accentuated the colonial era that brought home the British presence in the Cape.
12A's Cinema Room.
My Mountain View bedroom had louver doors opening up to a grassy bench surrounded by the wild Fynbos (bushveld). A hiking trail wound through the shrubs past two of the Sanctuary Spa massage huts. The spa has its own Turkish Razul chamber and complimentary hot and cold flotation pools which you may need after a stiff hike that stretches the limbs all the way to the top of Table Mountain. The Rock Pool is on the back side of the hotel, but I favored the hardwood decked heated Atlantic Pool that separated my wing from the main hotel. Magnificent sunsets burnished the Atlantic golden after the storm swept away. The resort is not only a custodian of the natural world with its green initiatives (The hotel has its own herb and vegetable gardens.), but also nurtures the cultural talents of South African artists and sculptors whose works are displayed throughout like a living museum. I found a gnome smirking in the plants and flowering bushes near the Atlantic Pool. Bursts of colorful flowers seemed to pop right out of the tree trunks. I stumbled across a huge King Protea (the national flower of South Africa) with each petal a fractal of separate wet light.
Mountain view rooms overlook the fynbos
and the Sanctuary Spa massage huts.
One bedroom Mountain View room.
Many of the fabrics in the hotel had a seaside motif, like the blue and white striped cushions of the chaise lounges and deck chairs.
There are 14 Classic Rooms with private outdoor patios; these rooms averaged 33 sq meters / 355 sq foot. The 11 Mountain Facing Rooms averaged 33 sq meters / 355 sq foot; The 21 Luxury Rooms had both mountainside and Atlantic Ocean views and averaged 40 sq meters / 430 sq foot; The nine Superior Sea Facing Rooms had a large sunken lounge with sea views and averaged 55 sq meters / 592 sq foot; the three Mountain-facing and nine Sea-facing One-Bedroom Suites offered stunning views with lounge and dining areas for private entertaining, perfect for families with children. These suites averaged 70 sq meters / 753 sq foot; the two Garden Suites had their own private outdoor Jacuzzis and secluded gardens and averaged 70 sq meters / 753 sq foot; and the one Presidential Suite had its own breathtaking private lounge and dining room, study, his/her bathrooms, and private terrace and is at 151 sq meters / 1625 sq foot.
Sun lamps shine over the dual sinks.
Lion's Head Peak from the Presidential Suite.
After a strenuous day of hiking (and dining) the Sanctuary Spa once again rides to the rescue with its hydrotherapy capsule bath, brine pool, sauna and steam rooms, tranquility lounge, grooming lounge, and dual couple treatments utilizing Elemis and Dermalogica products.
The Sanctuary Spa is filled with local artworks.
The service at 12A is exemplary and the staff can ship your holiday mementos, print out boarding passes, arrange travel plans, pack an airport picnic or Pad Kos (South African road picnic), download and transfer your vacation or wedding photos to disc, and the spa provides pre- jet lag treatments.
Hey, wasn’t that Bond — James Bond — uploading clandestine photos to MI6 from his laptop from one of the hotel’s Wi-Fi hotspots in the Leopard Lounge?
The beautiful Leopard Lounge.
12A's Rock Pool.
For more information on Cape Town Tourism, call 27.21.487.6800, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.capetown.travel
To arrange your own Cape Town adventure or romance contact African Travel Inc. at www.africantravelinc.com and their professional staff can set up a stay at 12A or tours of the city and the wine lands, or how about a safari adventure or the luxurious Rovos Rail from Cape Town to Pretoria; or contact your professional travel agent who works closely with African Travel Inc.
— Feature by Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine; photos by the author and courtesy of 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa.
The London-based Red Carnation Hotels are also found in other international locations and all are top-notch award winners.
Relax in Cape Town at 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa.