In December, we celebrated 2 years of being ‘us’ in the official, shared surname kind of way. In between hen parties and weddings and baby showers, I booked a 4 day stay up the Garden Route. 3 days in Plett and one day in Knysna. Desperate for sunshine, pooltime and food and wine (do I actually need to add the food and wine part? I thought not)
I’d eyed this hotel out from London, a perfect venue for an intimate wedding and a must-stay for when we were in the neighbourhood. Difficult as it was to tear Mark away from the idea of staying on Leisure Isle (for the 3rd time in a year!) I booked Plettenberg Park Hotel and Spa. Yes, OMG moment when you see that cliff, that ocean, that view.
We left gorgeous weather in Cape Town (minus the pumping wind) and drove up over the pass into… you guessed it, rain. Lots of it. Damn! Weather forecast check, yep – more rain. Damn again! Anyway, such is life and so without the desperation to get up the coast, we took it easy which made a really nice change. We stopped at the Orchard for breakie, which I haven’t done since 2nd year at Uni. Its changed so much, and I much prefer the Houwhoek farmstall just a little bit further. Unfortunately after this, there’s not a hell of a lot to see or look at, even if you’re taking it chilled. I have, however, been intrigued by this rather odd log cabin-styled place just outside George every time we’d driven past. So we turned in, and discovered… Orgin Coffee. Yes please! There was a simultaneous roar of excitement. A gorgeous coffee shop run by an ex-Cape Townian, it’s like a classy, vibey, chill out lounge… with huge chair swings, blankets for the chill and oh, wonderful coffee. It was the perfect stop to chill out and get into that holiday mode. We even forgave Mr Weather and started to feel relaxed.
Arriving at the hotel, was like driving to our own fortress on the edge of a mountain. There were plenty of wow-moments, even through the rain. As we parked (the only car in the lot, and its important I mention this), we were welcomed by staff holding Apple Martini’s (?) and ready to take our bags. We walked into this amazing establishment to find…the reception room. The awkward reception room. Awkward because it doubles as their restaurant. Hmm. Papers filled in and all that… we were taken on a tour of the hotel, which included being shown the pool. In the rain. And the Spa. In the rain. Surely, they could skip this step as I really didn’t care about the pool or the spa, I wanted to be dry. But they were obviously hoping to show us around to impress us, before they showed us to our room. Hmmph. We soon figured out, it was the smallest room in the whole establishment. Sometimes I have to wonder about hospitality in hotels. I’d emailed them in advance, mentioning it was our wedding anniversary. No response whatsoever. We knew the hotel wasn’t full, in fact – it was empty, because they told us. But they still put us in the smallest room they had, and without even a welcome letter. For me, five star hotels start with service.
I don’t want to slag off the hotel, and there’s plenty to slag off… weird hostess keeping a beady eye on us, in room coffee machines that didn’t work, turn downs that gave us only one bottle of bed-side water, a miniscule buffet breakfast that wasn’t replenished (sorry if you sleep late!). But this was our anniversary, so we made plan to make it better. Starting off, as only the Hawks can – we spoke kindly to the right people, and were moved into a beautiful HUGE suite on day 2. Now that’s how I like to roll.
Due to the rain on the first day, we took to the Jacuzzi with a glass of wine – sitting in a tub of bubbles looking out onto an angry stormy ocean was fairly romantic 😉
For dinner I had planned to eat at the hotel Restaurant. Being our first day, I didn’t want to head out. I’d heard Sand was awesome, so I was excited for it. But you see, Plett, which is a fairly small place has two hotels similarly named. The one is called the Plettenberg Hotel and Spa. The other, is the Plettenberg Park Hotel and Spa. You could see how this could get confusing. Well it did… When I saw the reception/restaurant at our hotel, I was sure I wasn’t dining there and shocked that it could’ve received the reviews it did. It lacked any atmosphere.It was only a while later, on Jamie Who’s blog, that I realized my rather blonde moment! It’s a good thing though, as instead we went to the amazing Grand Café.
The atmosphere is unbelievably romantic, the décor unique. Mismatched and charming, there was a piano, old photos, red roses, wine bottles dripping with wax from their candle, bottles and bottles of veuve clicquot champagne lined up on shelves and on the bar top. This place was amazing, I wanted to be there forever. We drank La Motte (ofcourse) SB, I had amazing fish cakes and Mark had the Fillet Bernaise. All was out of this world! I can’t recommend visiting this spot enough.
We woke to sunshine, glorious sunshine – just what I ordered for our holiday. A day of lazying at the pool and on our balcony followed. Perfect chill time. For dinner I had booked the hyped up Emily Moon. The setting is perfect. The view is of a winding river with a backdrop of mountains, the decor is quaint with touches of Moroccan, cottage shabby chic and African. Its magical and romantic, adorned with fairy lights… Emily Moon certainly has charm. We had champagne at the pool side as the sun set before we moved into the restaurant to our table I had booked months in advance. Elbow to elbow with the table next door. Fail. Luckily we were early and were moved to a far more romantic table in the corner and out the way. Emily’s was packed. Everyone with the same expectation we had. With this view, this decor and this full, all it needed was good food for the picture to be complete. Unfortunately, our expectation was far from met. The food was boring. Starters were large, almost to the point of too large. The mains, unmemorable. Its disappointing when something that you’d looked forward to for so long doesn’t compare to the restaurant you chose on impulse the night before.
At least we had an incredible suite to go home to. Aaah, blissful. I do love a large hotel room. Say what you like about it being ‘just a place to sleep’, coming home to a room that you can play hide and seek in, is awesome.
The Spa at Plettenberg Park Hotel is incredible. Although its nothing more than an enlarged (probably ex-suite) treatment room, Michelle the in house therapist is absolutely brilliant. At the risk of being completely snobbish (I’m really not), I have to admit that I always indulge in massages when staying at nice hotels, it sort of completes the experience… and I can honestly say this is one of the best I’ve ever had. I was almost tempted to book another one straight after. The prices aren’t too bad either with a 1 hour full body massage for R420.
Time to eat! As my days are quite clearly governed by when I can have my next meal, I had pretty much booked or thought about where we’d go each day. No, not a control freak – just like to be organised. I had heard about Enrico‘s on Keurboomstrand, and our waitress at Emily Moon had mentioned that whenever she goes she always sees dolphins. Dolphins!! So an early dinner (or late lunch… does it matter when you’re on holiday?) we headed to Keurboomstrand for some beer a pizza and… dolphins. Firstly, I have to recommend this place for their pizza. Delicious! But far more importantly, I saw dolphins!! There may have been some squealing as I saw hundreds (ok maybe tens) leap through the water and play in the waves. It was beautiful. Its worth visiting Enrico’s just for this. Yes, I have seen dolphins before but this was way cooler. I wasn’t on a boat, or at an aquarium – I was sitting having a pizza and there were dolphins swimming past. Super cool.
The last time I stayed in Plett, I was polishing off a 6 pack of reds plus a bottle of graca per day. Matric Rage – I’ve come along way. The hotel, while service was shabby and breakfasts a bit pathetic, the finishes were elegant. No cell phone reception and an infinity pool are a winning combination for chillaxing. A lover of the winelands, I find it hard to believe anywhere else offers cuisine quite like the Cape, but I was so impressed with Grand Cafe – it tops my best meal experiences list (which isn’t a real list, but perhaps I should think about making one). When the weather plays along nicely, which apparently it doesn’t do often, Plett is a perfect place for a little getaway.