Sharon Feinstein and her mum take in the delights of Cape Town with it’s top hotels, restaurants and, of course, breathtaking views – but also make time to pay their respects at Africa’s first Holocaust centre
Driving up to the historic Mount Nelson Hotel is undeniably grand. Through the tall white gateway along the avenue of towering palms, and into the bosom of luxury.
It’s well situated in the heart of the city, and yet there’s a pervading sense of calm and space as you wander through the luscious gardens, along the all-white walkway of hibiscus, roses and salvia to the child friendly pool, or across the manicured lawns to a charming cottagey hideaway pool for adults only.
This is no ordinary hotel. Preceding my Queenly mum was a long line of Royals who visited the Mount Nelson, from the Prince of Wales in 1925 to Prince Charles and Camilla last year.
But as Flaubert put it, God is in the details, and managing director Sandros Fabris, the new shining light from Europe, is upping the game in the rooms with elegant design touches and cleverly concealed gadgets.
We loved the poolside breakfasts, a long leisurely affair which drifts seamlessly into lunch, and then the hotel highlight, the legendary afternoon tea, which makes one wish one wasn’t quite so greedy.
A walk from the Mount Nelson takes you through the city’s cool Government Gardens to cobblestoned Greenmarket Square, a vibrant street market, and on to colourful Long Street, where the wrought-iron balconies, ethnic music and jazz bars create a New Orleans atmosphere.
It’s also where I discovered Roberto’s, a charming new restaurant with airy white clapboard decor, and exciting, original dishes from the innovative Roberto.
Europeans have discovered that Cape Town and it’s surrounding wine lands are far more beautiful than the South of France at half the price, and the city has become increasingly sophisticated.
Slick little bars and buzzing gastronomic restaurants have popped up everywhere, so I dragged my poor mother to eat for Africa, in the name of my article of course, until she pleaded for a night
Thanks to the quality of local ingredients, the food is astoundingly
good, wonderfully fresh fish and chilled South African wines served by willing waiters.
Those in the know have a long Sunday lunch on the veranda of Chapman’s Peak Hotel in Hout Bay, across the road from the sea, where there’s a real buzz about the place and my grilled calamari served in a frying pan was the best I’ve ever had.
Away from the eating and shopping, I bought some fabulous sunglasses at ever so trendy Oculus in the Cape Quarter, and a suitcase full of Cape cotton clothes, light as linen, from Just Cruizin – a visit to the contrasting Holocaust Centre, the first in Africa, is a sobering but enlightening experience.
Cape Town is famed for it’s satin sand beaches where you must slap on your Creme de la Mer under the African sun and hold on to your bikini in the terrific waves.
It’s a leisurely drive to the Indian Ocean on the other side of the mountain, and the quaint bohemian villages Kalk Bay and Fishhoek.
This is a haven for the surfers but also a new danger spot because of the great white sharks, so keep your eye on the flags.
A bit like a homing pidgeon I was ever glad to get back to the Mount Nelson and have that evening drink in their fashionable Planet Bar or out on the candle-lit terrace.
Cape Town is infused with the kind of magic you only find in place of great natural beauty. During his many years of incarceration on Robben Island, Mandela wrote of how he would gaze across at the magnificent silhouette of Table Mountain, and to him it was a beacon of hope. He said: “It represented the mainland to which we knew we would one day return.”
And that’s the thing about this city. It has a deep draw that makes you feel that as long as it’s humanly possible, one day you will return.”