There can be no better feeling that arriving in a foreign city and having good friends there to look after you, to welcome you into their home, advise you on all the best places to go and secure hard-to-get bookings. Unless you are lucky enough to have friends in all the world’s major cities, you may not be able to experience this luxury. Or maybe you can… as long as you know where the best guesthouses are!
In the interests of full disclosure I have to say that I have known Antony and John, the delightful owners of Blackheath Lodge in Cape Town, for a couple of years. I met them through our mutual friend Cecil (he of the lamb sosaties) when they still living in London and was devastated a year or so ago when they returned to South Africa to run Blackheath Lodge. But on the plus side, it meant that we could arrive in Cape Town and head straight for their hospitality before the round robin tournament of family visits began.
Blackheath Lodge consists of two adjacent houses on the slopes above Sea Point, overlooking the Atlantic. I have a soft spot for the area as my parents owned a spectacular beachfront apartment there for many years, but even if you’ve never been there before I can guarantee that you will fall in love. The house is perched just below High Level Road, so the suburb slopes away before you, clearing a view down to the twinkly and impossibly blue Atlantic Ocean. The décor is relaxed but elegant, with touches of African style rather than the full zebra-print experience that seems to be de rigeur these days in guesthouses catering to overseas visitors The bedrooms are spread throughout the two original buildings and the nerve centre is the lovely courtyard with its lush plants, and the sparkling blue swimming pool. Even when the southeaster is pumping (and believe me, it can!), the courtyard provides a sheltered oasis where guests can relax on the sun loungers and do nothing more stressful than occasionally dip their toes in the pool. Drinks and breakfast are served on the tranquil verandah under crystal chandeliers – all exceedingly lovely.
After a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a chat, we headed for our room which had a panoramic view towards Lion’s Head, as well as a window looking directly down the hill towards where the sea was sparkling like a sea of diamonds. I could hardly bring myself to leave the shower cubicle because the views of Lion’s Head are so good – and enhanced by the clever placement of mirrors. You will not believe that after boarding a plane in cold, rainy London, it is possible to be in a place so radically different by lunchtime the following day! The room itself is huge by European standards with a king-size bed and good linen. There is also a selection of drinks and nibbles, a TV and a small library of DVDs, and a seating area where you can keep one eye on the DVD, one eye on the view and enjoy your pre-dinner drinks in private. Like I said, it’s more like having a best friend in a foreign city than staying in paid-for accommodation!
After tearing myself away from the lovely vistas of Signal Hill and Lion’s Head, we eventually made it out the door and down to the V&A waterfront (more of that in another post) to meet friends. But by sunset we were back at Blackheath Lodge for a quick change of clothes and pre-dinner drinks. As friends of Ant & John’s, we had the privilege of having drinks on their private deck next door with an even more panoramic views down towards the ocean – and they had a special surprise in store for me.
You see, occasionally they need catering services and they make use of none other than my fellow South African food blogger Sophia, who they had also invited to drinks. We hit it off immediately as if we had known each other for years and I can vouch for the fact that she is as bubbly in real life as her blog suggests. I can also tell you that I am sorely tempted to return to Blackheath Lodge in June. Why, I hear you ask – it’s the middle of winter in a city that’s notorious for soggy, windy winters!. That may well be, but I have an ulterior motive: Blackheath Lodge in conjunction with Sophia are using this time to run their first ever Taste the Cape programme. The programme is meant to highlight the Cape as a gourmet destination and for your money, you get accommodation in the exceedingly lovely Blackheath Lodge, cooking classes at Sophia’s house, dinner at some of Cape Town’s top restaurants, wine tastings and a tour of the Cape’s gastronomic delights (such as Morgenster’s award-winning olive oil and some of the Cape’s top markets). If I hadn’t spent all my money on this trip, I would be sorely tempted to return in June… And if you are a foodie contemplating a trip to Cape Town soon, I would strongly recommend you check out the itinerary.
The following morning, we were awakened by the sounds of birds singing and the distant sound of the sea. Opening the curtains and being assaulted by the bright sunlight, the bluest sky I’d seen in months, the rampant greenery of the garen next door, and the imposing bulk of Lion’s Head, left me feeling quite lightheaded – but that’s what months of solar depriviation and a London winter will do for you. Freshly showered and dressed, we presented ourselves downstairs for breakfast on the wraparound verandah overlooking the pool. The buffet-style breakfast looked fresh and lovely and included fresh fruit, yoghurt and cereal, pastries and local preserves, a muesli-topped fruit tart, mini quiches and a cheeseboard. We also had our choice of eggs cooked to order and plenty of excellent coffee – so something for everyone.
Because the family get very antsy if we don’t stay with them when we visit Cape Town, we only spent one night at Blackheath Lodge, but if there is any way I can wangle a longer stay next time, I will do so. In fact, they’ll be prying me out of that room with a crowbar ;-) For more photos of our stay, see my Flickr album of the trip.
Stay tuned for the next instalments in my South Africa trip diary: German beer in the V&A Waterfront, funky Greenpoint market, and dinner at Aubergine.