Cape Town, Cape Grace & the Journey Onward
“You’re going to love this,” she says as the elevator doors open on the fourth and uppermost floor of the Cape Grace Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa “She” is Jana, the hotel’s Public Relations Executive and she’s right: instead of a nondescript lobby, the elevator doors whoosh open to reveal the dream room in my fantasy house.
I actually let out an audible “gasp.” A magnificent hand-painted mural of Cape Town’s historic harbour lined the room, at the center of which stood a chest notable for being the only thing saved from an 1895 fire that destroyed the Groote Schuur, an estate owned by the Dutch East Indian Company. The chest itself dates back to 1795, and was a gift from Cecil Rhodes to Herbert John Baker. It is, without a doubt, priceless.
On one side, a custom-designed lamp resembling an anchor cast light across a hand-crafted table. Artifacts from Cape Town’s maritime heritage graced the room, done in shades of soft white and nautical blue.
“It’s like a beautiful woman,” Jana said. She’s right, of course – I couldn’t take my eyes off the room. And much like a beautiful woman, I am willing to bet the room looks spectacular in the soft evening light.
Two things popped into my mind: I was immediately regretting my decision not to spend more time post-cruise in Cape Town. Secondly, I blinked hard to make sure I wasn’t still onboard Silversea’s elegant Silver Wind.
As usual, disembarkation was a snap: with a 10:20pm flight to London’s Heathrow airport, I was in no hurry to disembark, so I waited until my luggage colour tag (Brown) was called around 9:20 AM. I then walked off the ship, swiping my keycard through for the last time and saying goodbye to new and old friends from the crew and passenger complement alike. One particular person to mention is Guest Relations Manager Tim Trumpfheller, whom I met onboard Silver Spirit and who was just as congenial now as ever.
With so much time to kill, I wanted to do something unique. In particular, I wanted to see what one of Silversea’s partner hotels was like, so off I strolled along the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront over to the Cape Grace Hotel – an easy 10-minute stroll, with luggage, from the Silver Wind’s docking place at Jetty #2.
When I arrived – as something of a fraud, a guest neither checking in nor staying – I was greeted warmly by the porters, who offered to carry my luggage up four steps so I didn’t have to struggle. Now, I know what you’re thinking: they were doing it for a tip. But they weren’t: they were genuinely interested in helping me.
I arrived over an hour ahead of schedule. I figured if I was lucky, I’d be able to maybe store my bags; I was already working on my standard spiel when I was ushered over to a small desk (there is no imposing check-in counter at the Cape Grace) and welcomed warmly to the hotel. When I mentioned I was only there for a meeting, their tone didn’t change in the least. Can we store your luggage for you? Yes, of course – thank you. Would you like to go to the Library for a cup of tea? Yes!
Oh, did I not mention there is a library at the Cape Grace? There is – and it is the most stunning one I have ever seen in a hotel. Come to think of it, it is the only library I have ever seen in a hotel.
Adorned with nautical memorabilia and hand-painted curtains, everything in the room is evocative of South Africa’s rich history as a maritime trading outpost. Custom-made wrought-iron light sconces and fixtures adorn the room, and I settled into a plush, oversize chair with rattan back and sides. Tea came around promptly, but what I loved was that the service was genuine – not pretentious or stuffy like some luxury properties. I was dressed in jeans and a nice button-up shirt, while two men in t-shirts and shorts sat on my left, and a group of eight businessmen in full suits and ties sat directly ahead of me. And yet, I felt very comfortable.
There are basically four categories of rooms at the Cape Grace, ranging in size from 484 square feet to the massive, three bedroom suite measuring 2,150 square feet. Each has a standard set of amenities that includes toiletries made in South Africa, coffee and tea from South Africa, and even bottled still and sparkling water that is made on-site.
But that’s where the similarities end. No two bedspreads, which are hand-painted by local artists, are alike. Ditto for the gorgeous, hand-painted curtains: each is completely unique. Even the furniture changes from room to room, floor to floor. Each floor has its own colour scheme running throughout the lobbies, corridors and guest rooms, and the property will even monogram custom sheets for repeat guests booking “their” favorite room.
Even the curtains in the library, which feature handwritten text – aren’t arbitrary: the curtains contain real historic Cape Town journal entries that can be read if the curtains are drawn.
Knowing I was a lover of all things maritime, Jana had me look at the magnificent crystal chandeliers that adorn the central staircase: they depict a chandelier rising up from a shipwreck, carrying with it things like wine glasses, cups, anchors, and other nautical memorabilia. The nautical theme even continues in guest rooms, some of which feature classic white roped life rings as décor above the bath tub.