The smiles struck me first.
Sunshine smiles, happy-to-see-you smiles, there’s-such-a-treat-awaiting-you smiles.
Greetings as heartwarming as the jasmine tea brought to us as we checked in, followed by the pop and bubble of champagne because, why not?
Before we’d even stepped into our superior suite at Cape Town’s The 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa, I knew I was going to find it very hard to leave.
We had plans. We had plans to visit flower markets and dip our toes in the sea and do, do do. But do you know what? We didn’t. Instead, our thoughts collided simultaneously. We’ll stay here and enjoy every single ounce of this hotel. Everything else can wait.
Our open-plan room, with its spacious sunken lounge, looked out onto the arguing waves of the Atlantic below, our private balcony the perfect place to watch dolphins ad-libbing their way through the ocean’s temper. Later, it would be our very own little sunset spot (warning: it’s easy to turn into one of those sickeningly loved-up couples here).
The post-flight delight of a power shower in our luxuriously grand en-suite re-energised the senses. Indeed, when it comes to energising the senses, the hotel, and its staff, are pros. Cocooned beautifully between the Twelve Apostles Mountain Range and the Atlantic Ocean, with breath-snatching views of Table Mountain, you can’t help but feel alive to everything at your fingertips.
To the hotel’s mountain trails tempting you through flamboyant fauna and exotic flowers towards a helipad, olive-tree-shaded picnic spots, outdoor gazebos (sunset massage, anyone?);
to the fresh mountain-water rock pool, where we wiggled our toes ecstatically freed from winter boots, and lunched on post-swim sushi from The Café Grill;
to the heated infinity pool from where I lazily dipped my hand into the marshmallows on-tap (if you’ve got an insatiable sweet tooth, you’re in for a treat);
and as for the spa…
Andy, an old colleague of mine, used to say, ‘You can’t switch off if you never switch on’. As much as it grated to admit at the time, he had a point. If ever there was an off-switch to be found, The 12 Apostles’ spa is it.
Follow a glass staircase into an ivory-walled underground den, let your eyes adjust to the soft, warm light, and dip into the salt-water flotation pool. Rebalance your body’s metabolism in the heated pool and plunge pool (if you dare), and allow yourself the luxury of drifting away in the relaxation room. It’s quiet, it’s oh-so-peaceful, and it’s your little escape from the rest of the world.
Eased back into reality by my partner’s delivery of freshly squeezed fruit juice, the most moreish of pineapple chunks and healthy, homemade muffins (I told you I’d find it very hard to leave), it was time for our own treatment.
The aptly named Celebration Massage was a celebration in itself. A 60 minute couples’ traditional Swedish massage followed by a facial that left my face a tingling glow. A rare moment of indulgence that was only interrupted by the (not so gentle) snoring of my partner a few feet away. I must admit that parts of the massage felt slightly rushed, but this was indeed a much-recommended experience.
As is indulging in a tasting menu at the hotel’s Azure restaurant. If Table Mountain were to host a banquet, I’m almost certain she’d hire Chef Christo. Recommended by our fabulously knowledgeable waitress and sommelier, Samantha, we chose his signature 5 course menu, with wine pairing, and the four course ‘Taste of the Sea’. Not at any point did one of the nine dishes disappoint:
Fizantakraal Trout, baby calamari risotto, pan roast seabass with autumn brassica, pickled samphire and champagne and caviar sauce, succulent springbok, chocolate and cherry dessert... Dinner was an education for our tastebuds – sips of 2000 Muskadel, Stellenbosch shiraz and cabernet sauvignon, among many delectable wines that made the dishes’ flavours dance.
This hotel is a feast for the palate, and for the eyes. To walk into The Leopard Bar (where high tea comes ever so highly recommended) is to intrude on bronze leopard statues lounging on branches, guarding doors, the regal owners of this elegant abode. It is rich with warmth; bronze pillars, gold lighting, a movie-perfect setting for sipping a specially-sourced Carnation Love tea or cradling a sundowner on the balcony until the horizon steals the last glint of daylight.
Leopards aren’t the only animals to be found here. Soon after making ourselves comfortable, a grey-haired poodle pirouetted in, his owner informing me of the excitement-inducing Bark-A-Licious Menu available for pet pooches. Ostrich mince with cooked oats, flax seeds, fresh apple and dried cranberries, or perhaps it’ll be The Purrfect Choice menu, including salmon trout and scrambled eggs for your fluffy-tailed companion? (It’s here that I should apologise to our family Labrador for not bringing him along. Sorry, Boris).
After all this eating and drinking you might think I paid a visit to the gym. And, after our delicious breakfast of freshly squeezed orange juice, homemade muesli and eggs benedict (champagne and oysters for those who fancy starting their day with a zing), I did. But perhaps it would be more accurately described as a little peak, to check-out the calorie-burning potential for those more muscle-focused than myself. It’s small but well-equipped, with a maze of mirrors, but what I loved most was the offer of a Sports Buddy. Someone to accompany you on a jog to Camps Bay, challenge you to a game of squash, or join you as you tackle some of the tougher mountain trails in this World Heritage Site.
Indeed, The 12 Apostles and its staff have everything that you could possibly need - and they help you to do your bit for others too. Indeed, the hotel is part of the ‘Pack For A Purpose’ initiative, encouraging visitors to save a small bit of space in their suitcase to bring little things that can make a huge difference to local communities, from plasters to pencils. They really have thought of everything.
I wish I could thank every member of staff personally for our stay (although, I will say, Aidan, you couldn't have been more helpful, if you need any 'to do' tips Nardus in reception is absolutely your man, and as for Ingwe the hotel cat (her name means leopard in Zulu) - I have no doubt you'll fall in love at first glance!). They were welcoming, helpful and happy to help in absolutely any way they could. They’re a team proud of their hotel, and proud of their surroundings. A beautiful part of the world, with beautiful people, that we’re privileged to have been a part of.
We left with smiles as big as the ones that greeted us. After such a wonderful few days, it couldn’t be any other way.
To find out more or book a room, please visit: https://www.12apostleshotel.com