As a once-nomadic, globe-gallivanting Capetonian, being able to be a tourist in my own (and most favorite) city was something I’d been hankering after ever since I returned to live in South Africa! So when the opportunity to experience the Mother City as our clients do, I – of course – grabbed it with glee!
Driving into the city from the Winelands in the dust-veiled golden light, Table Mountain seeming to lounge back into the approaching lilac dusk whilst watching the homebound, highway commuters sparkle like a long, winding necklace. I, on the other hand, left home far behind me – and did my excited utmost to keep my foot off the gas as I drove deeper into the mountain’s welcoming shadow.
I relished that delicious lull between the rushed routine of the workday and the luxurious anticipation of what Cape Town nights are so uniquely loved for. Winding my way up out of the bustling CBD along Cape Town’s famous Kloof Nek road, I wondered where – amidst the trendy eateries and glittering bars – Kensington Place might possibly be hiding. The photos I’d seen online suggested the very opposite of ‘city central’… but as the road curled higher and higher (I felt like I could reach out and touch Table Mountain — kissed in peach-pink light by now) I finally turned left into a shady secret of a crescent and, spotting the shady arrival area, sheltered all about by regal indigenous trees and lush local foliage, I breathed in a great big gulp of ‘Oh! How gorgeous!’ — and breathed out the day’s busy bustle.
Something I remember missing – often desperately – whilst traveling abroad all those years ago was that pure-hearted, kind and humble hospitality that I have only ever found in Africa. And Kensington Place made me feel it all the way from the top of my head down to my toes: from the Zimbabwean night manager who personally created the most exquisite G&T I’ve ever been blessed to sip, to the older, wise ‘mamas’ who served me breakfast as though I were royalty. (I suggested there was a terrible typo in ‘Kensington Place’. Surely it should be ‘Palace’?)
A Feast for the Eyes
Before settling down out on the verandah to drink in the spectacular sunset, I decided to explore more of the dazzling diversity of art I glimpsed while being signed in. I wasn’t disappointed! From the more traditional (like that enchanting Cape Town sunset painting) to more contemporary, conceptual pieces which competed for my attention in between with the bold, bright African art.
My favorite pieces? The personal-as-political Conté portraits pulsing with vigorous vermilion, unsettling violets and impenetrable black by one of my most loved lecturers when I studied fine art — many blue moons ago…
Room with a View
How would I describe my room? ‘Room’ seems too bland. Too ordinary. Somewhere between urban-chic boudoir and sublime sanctuary, though with a view that couldn’t be more uniquely ‘Cape Town’! Standing outside in the warm blushing evening on my little balcony, I marveled at how close I was to my favorite mountain in the world, kissed with gold and framed by an intimate canopy of Cape Town’s signature umbrella pine trees. (Whether you’re flying in to Cape Town for the very first time, or if you’ve lived there all your life, something magical happens to your heart when you see it…)
Cape Town is also famous for its ‘fynbos’: an indigenous floral kingdom found nowhere else in the world — and which has now been infused into delicately fragranced gins! Combine it with Fitch & Leed‘s ‘Rose and Cucumber’ tonic and you’ll be hooked.
What struck me most about this gorgeous hotel was its ability to make you feel both like absolute royalty, ensconced all about with luxury — and comfortably at home. Not surprisingly, when I chatted with the night manager later that evening, he said that’s exactly how they want their guests to feel: a home away from home. I say: Mission accomplished, KP! (That’s how our travel team affectionately refer to this special boutique hotel.)
Despite knowing the profusion of eateries and bars waiting for me just a stone’s throw away from KP, I felt so marvelously at home (and not yet ready to leave my beauty-filled escape) that I decided to ‘stay in’ for dinner! As a self-proclaimed Capetonian foodie, this was an unusual choice for me – but after I had sneaked a peek at the evening menu, I knew I could have the best of both worlds: a feast for the eyes – and for my hungry inner foodie! Dinner was an uncontrived but sumptuous burger with melt-in-your-mouth ‘chips’ (South Africa’s name for ‘potato fries’) and a crisp garden salad. Of course, I had pudding. How could I resist?
My new definition of heaven: being able to be still, alone and dine in such a peaceful, beautiful space – and with such amazing, attentive (but not ‘too attentive’) service, while I slowly devoured a Vanity Fair I’d been trying to read for months, luxuriating in the delicious solitude I think all moms secretly crave.
Honeymoon for One!
After I’d finished my feast and closed my magazine with an air of the sweetest satisfaction, I was told I had been given the ‘honeymoon treatment’. (I think I actually giggled out loud with delight!) Amused, the night manager showed me to my room, carrying my now forgotten laptop bag for me and quietly opening the door…
From the candlelit bath thoughtfully adorned with fresh rose petals of every color, to the perfectly-made bed decorated with two of my favorite things: a heart — of rose petals. The wide open balcony doors beckoned me outside to see Cape Town showing off: all twinkling stars, the moonlit lace of tree silhouettes and the motherly mountain’s quiet presence. (Needless to say that instead of opening up my laptop, I snuggled up into bed with what remained of my Vanity Fair — and the gift of heavenly nougat didn’t make it into my handbag for my daughter!)
You know that middle-of-the-night jolting wider than awake when you first sleep in a different place and you’ve not a single clue about where you are? Well, this doesn’t happen at Kensington Place. It must be that ‘home away from home’ magic spell they’ve so perfectly conjured — and not the two double fynbos G&T’s from the night before as I first thought!
After a brisk shower to break the could-stay-here-all-day spell, I took one last self-guided tour of the gallery that is KP – desperately wishing I could sneak into the other rooms to see which artworks were on their walls. Thankfully, the distracting aromas of buttery croissants, sizzling bacon and come-hither espresso pulled me outside onto the verandah where the hot African sun was tamed by sheer veils of white cotton voile. Bliss written all over my face, I am sure, I simply sat down at the nearest table, nearly having to pinch myself: You are not inside the covers of a Vogue Living magazine!
Thankfully, before I had to go the pinching route, I was asked – by the gently smiling lady serving those yummy espressos and brightly squeezed juices – what I’d like to drink with my breakfast. I said I’d go with whatever she recommended: her favorite. And breakfast itself was as delicious as I expected it to be – though it was finished before I was quite ready to bid my adieu to the marvelous KP team and the slice of heaven they’ve hidden away like the proverbial of all gems in the heart of the Mother City.
If this sounds like the kind of urban hideaway you’d love to include on your Cape Town trip, you can fill out our contact form here.
Our travel experts will connect with you before you can say… Kensington Place!