ScheckTrek Pick for the Winelands of South Africa: La Residence (Part 1)
It was only about a year earlier, when staying at a world-class hotel in Paris, that I'd said, "Where hotels are concerned, it will never in this life get better." But then, I had not yet been to La Residence in the Franschhoek Valley, part of the Winelands region near Cape Town.
The gate opened. Lining the right side of the long, winding driveway, scores of iceberg rose bushes were in full bloom in the October springtime. On the left side, a family of springbok frolicked in the grass.
The natural beauty of the area was both stunning and serene, surrounded by mountains and a valley of vineyards.
When we reached the portico, the staff was already lined up outside, waving a welcome to us. We felt like Lord and Lady Grantham, except that they weren't handed glasses of champagne and a nosegay of roses on arrival at Downton Abbey!
General Manager Andrew Rosettenstein showed us to our 375 square-foot room, The Honeysuckle Suite, with four-poster bed, silk fabrics, and crystal chandeliers in both bedroom and bath.
A vase with water was waiting to receive my nosegay, along with a bottle of wine (made of grapes from their vineyard) and a hand-written note.
The bathroom was as large as the bedroom, with freestanding tub, walk-in shower and huge closet.
Each room is different, and each has fresh flowers designed to enhance that room's color scheme. The owner was firm with her staff that they would not be cutting costs by skimping on the flowers!
The view out our French doors was bucolic and peaceful.
A really wonderful practice at La Residence is that, if a room is not occupied, the door is left open and guests are free to wander in and out at their leisure. It feels like being at a friend's estate home, rather than a hotel. And if you find a room you like better, as long as it's unspoken for for the duration of your stay, they'll let you switch, even if it's an upgrade.
One of the most popular rooms is the Maharani Suite, a.k.a. "Elton John room." We learned that he is a repeat guest at La Residence (the staff was too discreet to say how many times), and this is his room of choice. Its headboard is fashioned of vintage linens.
A framed, autographed photo of the rock star is prominently displayed on the desk of this corner suite.
There's some pretty amazing art work in the Maharani Suite (and elsewhere). This one is shown with its reflection in a gold-framed mirror.
This is Chambre Bleu, for which the owner decided to paint a teak bed!
As with the other suites, its bathroom has a freestanding tub and separate shower, and in this case, twin blue armoires.
This is the Armani Suite. Look at that painting! How often have you seen this level of quality in a hotel room, other than perhaps in a Presidential Suite?
The competition was tough, but perhaps my favorite was the 500+ square-foot Frangipani Suite.
Loved the gold-leaf screens and the gilt furniture.
Bathroom of the Frangipani Suite
La Residence's owner, Liz Biden (no relation to a former U.S. Vice President), is very involved in every aspect of their family's hotels, all part of The Royal Portfolio. There is an obvious pride of ownership that is evident in the details, and it is evident everywhere you look.
For example, I had to apologize to my husband that I haven't been placing a flower atop our roll of toilet paper at home! :)
Also, thoughtfulness was experienced at every turn, such as the nosegay of roses I was given on arrival, and the vase filled with water in our suite, at the ready to receive them. Another example was the robes provided: two for each of us--a soft cozy bathrobe and a silky dressing gown.
Even more helpful was the complimentary laundry service provided (tips are appreciated). Ours was delivered back to our suite in an organza-lined basket, tied with a ribbon. Never has it been such a pleasure to receive back our clean underwear!
With The Royal Portfolio's collection, it's not a matter of, "Let's build some hotels and make some money." It clearly goes way beyond that. Are the rates inexpensive? No, of course not. They couldn't be. But it's so much more about providing guests with the value of an experience that will far exceed whatever expectations they had, and making special memories to last a lifetime.
This blog post has primarily focused some of the suites at La Residence. It's already a bit long, as each one is different—and each would be worthy of being featured in Architectural Digest—so I will save for next time the public areas and the food.