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St James Guest Houses, South Africa

A little boy standing alone at the Kalk Bay pier defying the storm. Again and again he renews the bait on his rod, pulls out in a high bow and tries to catch a fish in this windy night. The iron sea breaks against the quay wall, almost as if she wanted to pull the little boy down. But she won’t get him, that’s for sure.

My first day in St James Homestead Guesthouse couldn’t have started more promising, because before my arrival I decide for the short but exhausting hike to Lion´s Head, which is next to the Table Mountain Plateau, the second impressive elevation in Cape Town.

It takes about 45 minutes to get to the top, but while at the beginning it is quite contemplative on a wide hiking trail, the actual lion’s head is climbed over ladders, chains and climbing grips. The reward is the summit plateau at 670 metres, from which one has a wonderful panorama view of the city and Table Mountain.

Due to the heat and the crowds of visitors, one should start as early as possible and catch a windless day in order not to be blown off the ladder. Otherwise, the tour is easy to master, perfectly signposted and equipped with modern handles and ropes.

After so much morning sport, I allow myself a panoramic drive along the coastal road and finally reach the tranquil coastal town of St James via the Chapman´s Peak Drive. We might as well be in Monterey or Maine now, as there are beautiful houses lined up with restaurants, boutiques and real estate offices.

Yes, this is where you really want to spend the rest of your life or at least some wonderful holidays. Like me at St James Manor, which not only coincidentally reminds of the legendary nostalgia train Rovos Rail. The guesthouse in the British style belongs to the same operating company and exudes a similar charm. Thus, it is hardly surprising to me that there is a sherry on the mantelpiece on arrival, although it is round about 30 degrees Celsius outside.

I am accommodated in the St James Homestead, which was built more than 100 years ago in the Cape Dutch style and has 5 suites and a wonderful veranda with a view to the ocean. The 47 m² suite itself is an absolute dream of Victorian furniture, Persian carpets and antiques from England and South Africa. Nevertheless, the whole thing looks light like a summer breeze, which is certainly due to the generous room layout.

A cosy living room merges smoothly into the bedroom to end in an opulent bathroom with a free-standing bathtub. You could spend a whole month here, because of course there is also a pool, a library and a kitchen that can be used by all guests. I decide to jump into the cool water in order to get into the right mood for the Cape to Cuba Bar.

What a casual spot to celebrate the sunset with caipirinhas or a daiquiri and if you didn’t know that you´re in Kalk Bay, you would believe yourself in the middle of Havana, as in terms of accessories, the Cape to Cuba is unbeatable. Have a look at the restaurant or reserve a table for the evening.

But for me it goes on to Noordhoek on the west side of the Cape Peninsula, where I have dinner in a converted barn. That sounds spartan, but The Food Barn is certainly one of the best restaurants at the Cape and chef Franck Dangereux convinces with perfectly arranged menus including wine accompaniment. I choose the tuna tartar with beefsteak and the dessert variant with apricots, mango and the grilled lime bisset. Only the 20-minute drive back hurts a little.

A new day at the Cape and we dedicate ourselves to the best omelette in the region, handmade by the chefs of St James Manor, who prepare breakfast live in the kitchen of the guesthouse. It comes with freshly squeezed orange juice, muesli and toast, which is an ideal base for my day trip to the Old Biscuit Mill Market in Cape Town.

Unbelievable what has happened here in the hip Woodstock district in recent years, because around the Old Biscuit Mill a market has developed that offers handicrafts, clothes and delicacies from the region. Everything is perfectly coordinated for trendsetters and hipsters, which means that of course there is Rooibos Ice Tea in cool preserving jars, only Craft Beer is served and the Wagyu Burgers are turned by the Kitchen Cowboys in proper style on the Weber grill.

If you get back in your car now, you’re making a big mistake, because along the Albert Road trendy restaurants like the Three Feathers Diner, exciting shopping malls like the Woodstock Exchange, interesting galleries and antiquarians are always waiting for you.

In recent years, Albert Street has become a real antithesis to the Waterfront, which in the coming years will wonderfully complement the „classic“ and bring the formerly neglected district of Woodstock to the fore in style.

For the evening, we will head up to the 15th floor of a downtown hotel complex, where the elegant The Vue Sky Bar is located, from where Cape Town is at your feet. From the outdoor pool you have a direct view to the waterfront and beaches of Sea Point, from the restaurant to the brightly lit skyscrapers and Table Mountain.

The manager of the house excitedly explains to me that in the future he wants to completely rebuild the Vue as a fine-dining restaurant in order to subtract the cosmopolitan audience from the dingy bar visitors who are simply too loud for him. He’s right, because food and views are truly unique.

The last day is coming and I have to say goodbye to St James Manor. One last round in the pool, a sherry on the porch, the sounds of Michael Kiwanukas „Cold Little Heart“ in my ear and the feeling in my heart that a fantastic journey to the Cape of Good Hope will continue at another time. The wind is slowly blowing…

…and I look through the large sprayed panorama windows of the Harbour House in Kalk Bay. I am distracted for a moment, place my order, and then I am fascinated again to dedicate myself to the rolling waves, which break with explosive power against the shaking windows. My gaze wanders over the deserted harbour, where tourists and fishermen are long gone. Now it is deserted, although not quite. A little boy stands alone at the pier and defies the upcoming storm.

This article was written at the invitation of St James Guesthouses in St James, a place for dreamers and romantics.

Here you can find my article about the three day trip to the Okavango Delta.

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