Having spent 4 fabulous days in and around Cape Town, it was now time to head off on our next adventure in South Africa. Our destination was an exotic boutique hotel just outside of Pretoria where we were planning a day of relaxation before our 12 day train trek to Victoria Falls. We left our apartment in downtown Cape Town at 5:00 am, taking an Uber (approximately $22 CAD) to the airport and arrived at 5:25 for our 6:30 flight. There is only 1 terminal at Cape Town airport and at this time of the morning there was little traffic and no crowds. We checked in at a kiosk upon entering the terminal then dropped our bags off at the Mango Airlines counter (owned by South African Airways). We proceeded to Security where we stood in a long line which was a bit worrisome until we realized that Security was not yet open. Once it did open, the line progressed quite quickly. We had no issues taking our 4 bottles of unopened wine through security which we found out is the norm for South African domestic flights. We had a short wait in the gate area and then when boarding commenced, we loaded into buses which drove us to our bright orange Mango plane, a Boeing 737.
The flight was very quiet, mostly because the majority of passengers were business people who slept on the flight. There was a cash snack service that was offered mid-flight, and to our pleasant surprise, we had both been given a 750 Rand ($7.50 CAD) food voucher as part of our boarding pass which we were able to use to offset the meal. Our flight had left right on time at 6:30 am, and was scheduled to land at 8:30, but we ended up arriving 15 minutes early. We deplaned on the tarmac of Lansaria Airport and walked into the tiny terminal where we collected our bags after a short wait of about 15 minutes. We had chosen Lansaria airport over the much larger and more popular Johannesburg airport because it was slightly closer to where we were staying near Pretoria and because it was a smaller airport. I have to say that this was a remarkably stress-free flight experience from start to finish which served to confirm that our choice of Lansaria was indeed the right one.
We were met outside the baggage area by our driver Corato who drove us from Lansaria to our hotel through mostly rural countryside which took about 30 minutes. We turned off the main road onto a local road and drove another 2 kilometers then turned into the Francolin Conservancy where we drove about 500 metres and then turned into the grand main entrance of our destination - the Orient hotel - an exotic boutique hotel set on a sprawling property in the Francolin Conservancy. The whole property is surrounded by a brick wall approximately 8 feet high with razor wire on the top. After passing the main gate, we continued on the interlocking brick lane that winds towards the hotel for about 1 kilometer. We drove through another gate into the front courtyard and parked at the hotel entrance.
We were met by 2 porters who unloaded our bags and then as we were about to enter the hotel, the manager met us at the entrance, introduced herself and welcomed us to the Orient. We had previously arranged to arrive early because we needed to leave the hotel early following morning and wanted as much time as we could to enjoy the wonderful facilities the hotel had to offer. Our intention was to drop off our bags and spend the day just lounging around until our room was ready at 3:00pm. To our surprise, we were told our room was ready and we were welcome to freshen up and have breakfast.
The manager took us to our room(s), the Marrakesh Suite, which is one of the nicest suites in the hotel. She introduced us to Surprise, who was our personal concierge for the day. Surprise asked us what time we would like to have our breakfast which would be set for us on our balcony which overlooked the mountains in the background. We indicated that we would need about 15 minutes. In the meantime, the manager continued to show us around the suite which included a separate day-room immediately beside the balcony and had a sitting area, a separate room with day bed and its own ensuite. Our main suite had a king size bed, writing desk, minibar and antique armoire. Being a corner suite it also had 4 large windows overlooking the mountains on one side and the valley on the other. Our large ensuite had two sinks, a free standing roman tub, padded bench, bidet, large shower with rainfall shower head and a separate room with a toilet.
After our quick tour of the room, we took about 10 minutes to get organized and were called to breakfast on the balcony. As we were seated we were presented with a delicious and floral herbal tea. Our breakfast consisted of 4 courses including bread, meat with fruit pieces and a selection of mousse custard and yogourts. There was a choice of 2 entrees. I chose the salmon and poached eggs served with Hollandaise sauce. Kim chose the poached egg. To top off this fabulous brunch, we were able to enjoy the view of the surrounding mountains and valley from our private balcony. The patio pool was situated just outside our suite and below our balcony.
After breakfast, we changed into our shorts as the day was beginning to warm up. There are 2 walking trails that wind through the expansive property - one is approximately 1.5 kilometers and the other is approximately 2 kilometers. We decided to do both, although by the time we were part way through the second it was approaching noon and the temperature was in the 30s. Along the trails are several marked stopping points that represent areas of interest. The property is lush in vegetation and wildlife. There are beautiful gardens spread across the property amongst the natural habitation and landscape. Along one part of the trail is a large, magnificent Buddhist meditation garden and temple with streams, waterfalls and small ponds filled with coy. The valley, mountains and natural beauty that surrounds this well-kept garden add to the calming experience.
After our lengthy walk, we arrived back at the hotel, changed into our bathing suits and went down to the pool. Upon our arrival, Surprise had brought us each a large, cold Gin and Tonic to quench our thirst and cool us down. We spent most of the afternoon in and around the pool and enjoyed another gin and tonic.
Towards the late afternoon (5:00pm) we decided to go up and get ready for dinner which was being served at 7:30 sharp. Kim opted to relax and take advantage of the Roman tub and a luxuriating bath. I took a short stroll in the garden at the front of the hotel and watched as a small herd of impala were browsing in the trees nearby. After a few minutes I returned to our room, had a shower and got dressed for dinner. As it was approaching sunset, I ordered a couple of glasses of champagne to be delivered to our balcony so we could watch the sun set over the mountains.
The sun set just around 6:30 which was perfect timing to proceed to the main lobby for the pre-dinner cocktails and canapes. We sat next to a couple (he was from Pretoria and she was from Switzerland) who have an interesting long-distance relationship. They meet up in different cities around the world several times a year to travel together. At 7:30 we were called to dinner and escorted to our table in the Mosaic Restaurant. Mari, the hotel owner brought us the menu and gave us an overview of the options which consisted of 3 main menus - vegetarian, regular and grand. We chose the Grand Degustation which was an 8 course meal accompanied by the Connoisseur Collection of wines for pairing with each course. Chantel, Mari's daughter, and the head chef of the Mosaic Restaurant, also came by and provided more detail on the evenings offerings. The menu included specialities such as scallop, mackerel, rabbit, risotto, suckling pig, capretto, and sea bass. Each course was beautifully seasoned with complementary flavoured bread tastes that matched the upcoming course. It is difficult to describe in words what it is like to spend an evening at the Mosaic because it is an experience that involves all of the senses. Each dish is a work of art enhanced with tiny colourful edible flowers and prepared with painstaking intricate detail. It is not surprising that the Mosaic is one of South Africa’s top restaurants and Chantel, one of the preeminent chefs. This was truly one of the best dinner experiences we have ever had.
We finished off our day of relaxation and pampering at the Orient with a final glass of wine as we chit chatted and looked out at the stars from our balcony. When we entered our bedroom, our bed had been turned down, there were 2 Ferraro Rocher chocolates sitting on an open book, along with a sprig of lavender. A beautiful poem was written on the open pages of the book by Chantel. A plush teddy bear sat between the pillows and was a gift to us from the hotel. I can’t say enough about the quality of service and attention to detail that we enjoyed while staying at the Orient. It was the perfect way to spend a relaxing day prior to the hectic pace we were about to embark on over the next 12 days.
Sharing Our Travel Dreams
Sharing our personal experiences onboard and on the road, along with tips and insight for creating memorable vacations.