Champers and choppers
Special occasions sometimes demand a R15 000-an-hour helicopter ride. Just ask Henry Sisya, the assistant general manager at De Hoek Country House, who is accustomed to fulfilling guests' demands at a moment's notice.
"He's going to pop the question," says Sisya in the sunlit lobby of the pretty hotel.
"I really hope she says yes, or it's going to be a sad day–for us and for him."
The sound of the helicopter preparing to land sends him out to the landing strip, where the news is good. It's all champagne and smiles as he leads the couple into the private dining room for their celebratory lunch.
"I didn't really think she'd say no," says Sisya. "They never do."
He should know. Sisya has been at De Hoek Country House for over 16 years, working his way up from the scullery to the garden and now to the front of the house. Every week he sees reason to celebrate–marriage proposals, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries. De Hoek is that kind of place.
Situated in Magaliesburg, an hour from Jo'burg and Pretoria, De Hoek is a sandstone boutique hotel surrounded by established gardens. The feel of the place is intentionally Provençal, with muted tones, dark woods, crystal and chandeliers, and large couches that swallow you up.
One of the big attractions of De Hoek Country House is the food, thanks to co-owner and Chaîne des Rôtisseurs chef Michael Holenstein, who swopped his days of making pizza and pasta at a popular restaurant in Johannesburg almost two decades ago.
Food-lovers based in Jo'burg and Pretoria drive out to De Hoek on any given Sunday to taste his squid-ink tagliolini and prawns in a creamy tomato-based sauce, the duo of duck with orange marmalade, or a trio of crème brûlée you'd sell your mother for.
Cuisine is based on traditional French classics and is unfussy yet elegant in both taste and appearance. Pre-dinner and post-dinner drinks are at the bar or around ?the fireplace in winter, or on the outdoor terrace in summer. De Hoek has a fantastic wine list of both local and international award-winning wines.
If you're planning on staying for the weekend, there are 20 large suites on the property, complete with four-poster beds and views of the gardens.
Four of the suites have fireplaces in the bedroom and there's underfloor heating for chilly days. The bathrooms are palatial and there is a room-service butler awaiting your request (if you don't fancy anything in the well-stocked mini-bar).
When you are not busy resting, there are walks along the Magalies River, croquet in the garden, archery, boules, or gins and tonic with a good book beside the swimming pool.
Sisya can organise a hot-air balloon flip over the mountains or, if you're feeling flush, there could be a helicopter ride with your name on it.
Denise Slabbert was the guest of De Hoek Country House
Perfect weekend getaway: For couples who need time to themselves. De Hoek Country House has a no-kids-under-12 policy.
Accessibility: About an hour from Jo’burg and Pretoria.
Cost: Superior suites: R1 965 per person sharing; R2 640 single rate. Superior suites with fireplace: R2 005 per person sharing; R2 720 single rate, including breakfast. A five-course dinner at De Hoek costs R380 per person, excluding wine. Sunday lunch is R325 per person for a four-course meal, excluding wine.
Contact: Tel: 014 577 9600, cell: 082 893 3787, email: [email protected] or check the website: www.dehoek.com
Travel in brief
- ETN Global Travel Industry News reports on a recent survey by Hotel Reservation Service, Europe’s leading hotel portal, that there has been a sharp increase in hotel bookings made using tablets and smartphones over the past two years. The survey showed that, on average, one in three people book a hotel room (at least once) with a mobile device, and a further 25% would be willing to try it. Just two years ago, only one in five people said they had booked a hotel room using a mobile device.
- Flower season is in full swing in the Northern Cape. The rains came early this year, so the flowers are blooming. Accommodation in the Namaqua National Park is booked out, but you can still find accommodation in the town of Kamies-kroon and organise a day pass into the park. For more information, follow the Namaqua National Park Flower Report on sanparks.org, or contact the Namaqua National Park, Skilpad office. Tel: 027 672 1948, email: [email protected]
- There is going to be more leg room on Mango flights, thanks to the roll-out programme that begins this month. Leg room will increase by between 6cm and 7.5cm, depending on where you sit, on Mango’s two new-generation B737-800 aircraft. Visit flymango.com
- National Geographic’s 100 Places That Can Change Your Child’s Life by Keith Bellows is a great read for parents. The book highlights life-enriching (and kid-friendly) travel experiences around the world, from Antarctica and Machu Picchu to Marrakech. It’s available through Amazon or the National Geographic website.
- US Magazine Travel + Leisure includes Cape Town as one of the “best gay honeymoon destinations” in the world. Other LGBT-friendly destinations on the list include French Polynesia, Greece, Buenos Aires, Australia, Switzerland, Paris, Santa Barbara and Kyoto. – Compiled by Denise Slabbert. Follow her on @darlingllama