Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A little bit of heaven: Steenberg Hotel and Winery

For those of you who don't get a kick out of following paw prints and scat through the African bush, Steenberg Hotel and Winery, just outside of Cape Town in the Constantia Valley, is a perfect alternative. It is consistently at the top of South Africa's Top 10 luxury resorts.

Its trim, perfectly manicured grounds, tidy white buildings with thatched roofs and centuries old buildings will make you think a section of Flanders has been magically transported to South Africa. In a way it was: Steenberg is the oldest farm in the valley, having been established by the Dutch in 1682 to provide provisions for ships on the spice route.

It was also the first farm in South Africa owned by a woman, Catharina Ustings, a German native who arrived at the Cape in 1662, bought the estate in 1682 and survived five husbands. When a lion killed one of them, legend has it Catharina went after the lion on horseback and killed it.

Tip: The grounds are basically level with smooth paths and you will encounter very few steps.

Inside those trim, restored, historic buildings are all of the comforts of the 21st century. Decor ranges from Dutch-inspired to contemporary African, all enhanced with original art and antiques.

Stars of the guest facilities are the Heritage Suites built in the original Jonkershuis, young man's house. Nine suites have been transformed into three which come with butler service, a kitchen probably better equipped than the one you have at home, private splash pools, working fireplaces, complimentary laundry service, refreshment bar and Wi-Fi and internet service. Need I add that the linens are luxe, the beds divine, the amenities outstanding and the bedrooms spacious?

Tip: The bedrooms are also upstairs. If a flight of stairs bothers you, request one of the 21 rooms in the Manor House - on the National Register - and Barn.

What to do there?

By all means visit the stunning new Winery and gardens and try Bistro Sixteen82 where the tapas are as varied as they are delicious and reasonably priced - $5-$7 with wine around $20 a bottle or less.

Tip: Don't miss the rich, red Catharina and the mouth-filling sauvignon blanc, for which the winery is famous.

While on the subject of eating, Catharina's in the farm's original wine cellar, is considered one of the Cape Town area's finest restaurants. Chef Garth Almazan creates memorable dishes, many inspired by his Malay grandmother, and service is exemplary. The Sunday Jazz Brunch is a favorite with Cape Towners.

Count on manager Gaby Gramm to keep it all humming smoothly.

Need pampering? You will love the on-site spa and hairdresser.

Need sport? When you tire of swimming, the magnificently situated and challenging Peter Matkovitz-designed golf course winds around vineyards and gardens with stunning views of Table Mountain. And surprise, ladies, the women's locker room is as nice as the men's!

Curious? Visit other vineyards and winery and the historic coast with charming little seaside towns and the $1 train that connects them.

Content? Thought so.



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