South Africa will always have a piece of my heart

I first visited South Africa 4 years ago. A Cape Town to Cape Town garden route driving holiday stopping at Plettenburg Bay, staying at Gorah in Addo Elephant Park, Outdshoorn and Stellenbosch. I cried each time I left the places we visited and I cried on the plane home wishing the hubby would turn round and say “shall we stay for another week?”

So, 4 years on, we went back. This time with a little person in tow! A few people thought we were crazy…..”South Africa, with an 8 month old?? Really?” “That won’t feel like a holiday” “you won’t get any sleep on the plane I bet!” Well, you know what, it was the best decision we made and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat!

Ok, so the business class flights helped ensuring that we ALL got sleep…..yep, we got 10 hours straight from our little man each way (ear defenders were a must though to ensure that service didn’t disturb him) and everywhere we chose to stay promised a family friendly service and we got it in bucket loads. If you do fly Business Class with BA, be sure to choose the upstairs option on a 747 as the space you get is great for the hoards of stuff you need when travelling long haul with a baby!

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First stop – Amakhala Game Reserve about 1 hours drive from Port Elizabeth. We stayed at Woodbury Lodge as it welcomed children of all ages. Arriving at 2.30pm, we were introduced to the onsite babysitter and by 4pm, hubby and I were off in a truck to find wild animals!!!! That was no easy task – in the build up to knowing we would be leaving our little one with a stranger on our first day of holiday was difficult to comprehend. However, Cindy was amazing and, on reflection, it was a great start to the holiday as we had 8 hours each day together whilst Cindy took over – that instantly relaxed us into holiday mode.

The Game Reserve was well equipped for babies with highchairs available, travel cots and always willing to provide most foods if requested for the little one. Cheese sandwiches seemed to be a favourite!

Plenty of animals to spot and a fantastic service from all the staff who couldn’t do enough for us and our little man.

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The room was large and very well equipped – it just needs a bit of TLC to make it even more comfortable and enjoyable as you do end up spending a good chunk of the day in your own area between game drives. The addition of a private terrace was lovely and provided shade during the heat of the day. If you want a game drive experience but feel you might miss out because you have a baby with you, then I would definitely recommend Woodbury and we will be going back there in the not too distant future.

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Next stop – Lairds Lodge Country House Estate, Plettenburg Bay. We stayed here 4 years ago and it was hard to leave behind so I was thankful that we were able to return this year. Again, very family friendly but they don’t sacrifice the service or style of the hotel as some do when they try too hard to involve families. My heart beats faster when I take in the interior design. I just want to live there….animal print mixed in with textured fabrics and soft furnishings, quirky accessories and beautiful woodwork make this a stylists dream! Our room was HUGE! A mix of dark earth tones, stark white accessories and bold prints! A separate living area and spacious bedroom and bathroom meant lots of room for crawling and standing without too many knocks or bangs……

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A beautiful proper cot was in our room upon arrival dressed in gorgeous nursery bedding and the best bit….each night, the turndown service included the cot and a chocolate was given to Tigger!!!

Although no babysitter was available during our stay, we were given the private dining room so it was quieter with the baby in the buggy and when that wasn’t possible, the buggy was left in sight of the waiters and they checked on him whilst we ate in peace…..I mean…..come on…..can you see why I want to live there?? The food is out of this world. A choice of 2,3 or 4 courses (around £25 for 4 courses) and a fantastic selection of wine. After dinner, we enjoyed a game of chess over an Amarula. A must when staying there!

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Each breakfast, whilst salivating over the best food I’ve ever had at that time of day (and the little one agreed too!) the hotels PR Manager helps you plan your day ensuring you get the most out of it.

If you are visiting South Africa anytime soon, I highly recommend staying here as part of your trip. You won’t be disappointed!

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Hermanus – Harbour House Hotel – a great stopping point on the trip to just relax and be forced to do very little. We opted for a self catering apartment (although you still get breakfast included in the main hotel). A very spacious apartment with a fully functioning kitchen and views to die for. We were off season for the whales but if you stayed there in peak times, you would have the perfect look-out!

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Final stop – Mont Rochelle, Franschook. Bestill my beating heart…..a drive down the Franschook pass and following a winding road to the thatched Manor House, we were greeted by the most enthusiastic, passionate Hotel Manager and both hubby and I exchanged looks of contentment.

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Our room was…..well I’m speechless. No words do it justice. Large open ceilings exposing the thatch and beams, we had a large living area with a balcony overlooking the Huggenuot Mountains, an expansive bedroom and even larger bathroom! The furnishings were a gorgeous mix of soft creams and bright yellows and limes. The bed was by far the most comfortable I’ve had on a holiday. Beyond our room, the hotel oozed style and class. A beautiful swimming pool, croquet lawn (we used this as the main entertainment for an 8 month old!) and endless views. A babysitter made dinner enjoyable and easy and, although the service could do with some work in the restaurant, the food was tasty.

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20170127_165810225_iOSA perfect end to our first perfect family holiday. Would I go back to Mont Rochelle as a family? Possibly not. Would I go back, just the 2 of us? Try and stop me! Just need to bring a nanny with us so we can enjoy more wine tasting and lounging by the pool.

If you ever have hesitations of going to SA with a small baby/toddler, please be reassured that we both felt relaxed and re-energised after this break away. We were fortunate that our little man was on his best behaviour (travel clearly suits him!) but I would still urge you to tiptoe outside your comfort zone and go for it! It will be worth it and, maybe like me, you’ll leave a piece of your heart behind that you will need to go back and collect at a later date.

This is the first in our series of Baby Destinations….more posts to come…..

Photo credits: Mr PB – https://www.flickr.com/photos/jjddjj/

Recieving a great reception!

This may be a case of “judging a book by its cover” but those first few steps I take into a hotel lobby always seem to determine how I feel about that hotel.

Mr PB and I love to travel and have had the privilege of visiting many fabulous destinations around the globe. I intend to do separate reviews of those special hotels that we have stayed in but I thought I would share some first impressions.

The Royalton, Manhattan – I love New York. It was a dream of mine to visit since a young age and therefore, when the opportunity arose, it had to be right. Mr PB and I scoured the Internet many times over, trying to find that quintessential Manhattan hotel – with the feel of a Brownstone but centrally located. I was so overwhelmed by our final choice – I even cried when I saw the gallery on the internet so heaven knew what I would be like when we actually arrived. Walking through the statement fire engine red doors, you will be taken aback by how dark it is in comparison to most hotel lobby’s. However, the designers have thought carefully to bring you into a space that is both reception, wine bar and restaurant. With large dark leather sofas that you sink into, statement double-sided fires and a gorgeous modern take on wood panelling adorning the walls, you can imagine this lobby transitioning from day to night with little changes. The receptionists are concealed so that your eye is drawn to the bar area, again allowing it to welcome both hotel guests and residents of Manhattan. I would be quite happy sipping on a tea reading a book by day and then changing it up to a fabulous cocktail perched at the bar in the evening. P.S. I did both!

The One and Only, Cape Town – I will be honest and share that prior to our South African trip, I had concerns about the standard of the hotels – how would they compare with the more salubrious that we have stayed in. However, pulling into the entrance at The One and Only, Cape Town, I soon came to realise that this amazing country knows how to be the perfect host. Floor to ceiling windows in a light and airy space give you a beautiful view of table mountain. Dark wood mixed with cream rugs and colonial soft furnishings, it was pleasantly unexpected. And with a bar that would rival most in London, both from the quality of the cocktails and the decor, it was a superb welcome

The Spa Hotel, Tunbridge Wells – although our visit was only for dinner, I fell in love with the Reception area and have been planning my next visit.

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You are greeted by an expansive marbled floor with 3 different areas surrounding a large, gorgeous copper table. Proudly displaying a selection of vases, this table is just out of this world spectacular.  20150704_210808349_iOS20150704_210834998_iOSBanquet seating in a grey and blue floral, pale grey and steel blue sofas and armchairs and an array of table lamps and coffee tables are complimented by the cornflower blue on the walls. Wrought iron occasional tables sit around the edge sectionning the 3 seating areas providing an opportunity for some stylised placements of magazines, candles and books. I would recommend you book for dinner just to enjoy the reception area!

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Where are your favourite hotel receptions?

x PB x

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