Having lived in the Boland for twenty years I thought I’d seen the best of what the area has to offer, that was until I spent a weekend at The Light House Boutique Suites in Paarl. Arrival had me driving up to the beautiful inviting home and warmly ushered into the eclectic and stylish interiors where each reception room unlocked a more inspiring collection of South African art, bespoke furniture and well-appointed luxury.
The long time family home of owners Dirk and Annette Hertzog, the house was converted into a boutique establishment by charismatic duo Darrol and Hendrik who live on site and oversee the day to day management with more than a touch of theatrical flair born of their long standing career in design. Ranging from stage, film, fashion and interiors, they understand from this experience that every detail should be considered, and with their able team keep service and style, at an impeccable standard.
Here you find the finer things in life; soft furnishings, luxurious fabrics and Egyptian cotton bed linen, all specially selected to create a beautiful space in which to relax in comfort. There are five elegant suites; each uniquely decorated and named to inspire well-appointed luxury – Afro-Chic, The Hamptons, Bedford Manor, Manhattan and Mayfair, which I was in.
The rooms are air-conditioned and come equipped with a minibar, tea and coffee making facilities and a flat-screen satellite TV and the private bathroom has a frameless shower, a steel-enamel bath, and double basins. Given the Cape drought, there was a little note about ‘having the power to not take a long shower’.
Outdoors in the tranquil terraced garden is a large swimming pool and a sun deck to relax on, while for the more active there are many options of activities in the surrounding areas, including biking, trail hiking and horse riding; and two prime golf courses in idyllic surroundings – Pearl Valley and Paarl Golf Club at Boschenmeer are close-by for the golfers.
The attention to detail and opulently decorated rooms and irresistible charm of the team make it easy to simply relax here, and you’ll want to spend at least a couple of nights to allow time to enjoy the lounge, library, deck, terrace and garden.
In the evening we enjoyed a wine tasting at Avondale Wines just outside Paarl. Nature driven, their motto is ‘Soil is Life’ and they adopt a dynamic lunar influenced system where soil, water and energy; plants, animals and people, form interconnected relationships and networks to create the most beautiful wines. This was followed by a delicious meal at Faber, the Avondale restaurant, with the Grilled Avondale aubergine, charred tomato velouté, parmesan and green olives heaven to my vegetarian palate.
In the morning we took an 8km morning hike in the Paarl Mountain Reserve with a welcome cloud cover keeping us cool and bringing out the colours of the granite boulders and resiliently green fynbos. We got lost a few times, I added a few scratches to my bare legs and on the top of Paarl Rock paused at the beacon to appreciate how good it was to be in nature, walking and appreciating this beautiful part of the Cape.
Spoilt for choice in the area, we rewarded our hiking efforts with a meal on the terrace at Spice Route’s La Grapparia, opting for platters of cheese, charcuterie, olives and tapenade, freshly baked bread and generous wads of farm butter. Accompanied by delicious pink Wilderer Distillery Cape G&T’s.
On the last morning, a couple of us got a ride about 6km into town so we could walk back to The Light House along Main Road, taking note of restaurants, side street cafes, art galleries and lovely shopping that we hope to return to. There is an unbelievable amount on offer, with antique stores that burst with affordable treasures.
We discovered that dining at The Light House is on par with the best restaurants in the area. Our meals were beautiful and spoke to their theme of fresh ingredients. The table settings and details were matched by delicate flavours and presentation. On the morning of our departure brunch was a triumph of colour with berries, peaches, grapes and plums served alongside eggs benedict and home baked muffins and farm bread. Dining is only offered on request as guests are encouraged to explore and eat at neighbouring restaurants and wine estates.
With easy access to both the town centre and surrounding vineyards and attractions, The Light House is an ideal sanctuary for family or friends wanting to explore the nearby area. We had gathered here as a group of girlfriends and it was perfect. Or if you simply want to spend time paging through the impressive collection of books in the chic high-ceilinged library, drinking tea out of delicate China and awaiting that moment when Darrol will emerge with yet another tempting slice of decadently decorated cake, that is fine too.
My beautiful suite as pictured below.
Sated, satisfied and utterly spoilt by this beautiful place, the relaxed happiness of the weekend of hiking, eating, drinking and laughing had us feeling as if we’d just been on holiday.
The Pleasures of Paarl, The Pearl of the Winelands
Not to be overlooked by visitors to the Cape Winelands who elect to spend their time on the Stellenbosch and Franschhoek routes, Paarl has a rich history and impressive offering of wine estates, accommodation and attractions.
Founded in 1687 and the third oldest settlement in South Africa, the town has many fine examples of Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian and Cape Dutch buildings that sit comfortably alongside the fine restaurants and coffee shops on the twelve kilometres long Main Street, the longest in the country.
Commanding attention from the southern slopes of Paarl Mountain is the impressive Afrikaans Language Monument that with its towering columns and spheres that symbolise the influence of other languages on the formation of Afrikaans, the world’s youngest language, which first came to be written here.
Paarl is known for it’s true Boland hospitality, award winning wine farms and estates, as well as an abundance of outdoor activities such as fynbos-rich walks and hiking trails, and renowned mountain bike trails. Or you can simply take a relaxing drive through the countryside to enjoy the scenery, followed by a leisurely lunch accompanied by some of their fine wines.
The Paarl wine route is South Africa’s second oldest and famed for its excellent Shiraz, crisp white wines and full-bodied, spicy reds. At the KWV Sensorium, meander among the modern art while you sip on a glass of white or a fine Cape brandy.
The Spice Route is a one-stop destination where you can enjoy local art, a chocolate-making experience, glassblowing demonstrations, craft beer pairings, wood-fired pizzas, biltong and even a lesson in spice-blending. Next door Fairview offers excellent cheese and wine tastings and Babylonstoren with its beautiful gardens, is nearby. Just outside Paarl is the Drakenstein Prison, where Nelson Mandela spent his last years of captivity and from which he completed his long walk to freedom.
Attractions for the family include Butterfly World, the largest butterfly sanctuary in Africa and a magical experience for children, the Lion Park that offers sanctuary to abused lions rescued from around the world and the Alpaca Loom and shop, which allows you to meet these adorable animals.
Vineyards run from mountain slopes right onto Main Road, while the Berg River flows through the centre of town, fruit orchards, olive groves and natural fynbos making Paarl and surrounds the ideal destination for the outdoor – and epicurean enthusiast. As always, you need to stay a while to appreciate all that is on offer.
Avondale, their duck mobile, fine food and wine – and the Spice Route.
The Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve
The Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve has the second largest granite boulder in the world, beaten only by Australia’s Ayers Rock, and consists of three dominating structures that are visible from a great distance. Paarl originally got its name when early settlers caught a glimpse of the giant boulder after the rain and thought it shimmered in the sun like a pearl. They called the area ‘Die Perel’ and it has transformed slightly over the years to be Paarl.
Declared a Nature Reserve in 1977, the area is rich in unspoilt beauty and picturesque landscapes and is covered in unspoilt fynbos vegetation, ancient wild olive and wagon trees. There are numerous tranquil dams to visit while hiking there and from the viewpoints, you can see as far as Table Mountain.
That said, the main reason visitors venture this way is to climb Paarl Rock itself. You can carefully scramble up to the top with the help of a chain and rope set in place for support, with little steps carved into the granite to help. Bear in mind that it can be slippery so wear the right shoes.
Personally, I love the sense of achievement I feel when reaching that top point and having a 360-degree view as my reward. For the more adventurous rock climber, this is a destination with routes like the Belly Button Brigade, Stairway to Heaven and most challenging Blue Diamonds and White Ice to tackle.
The Essential Details
The Light House Boutique Suites can accommodate up to 10 guests with children of 12 years and older welcome. When booking exclusive use children of all ages are welcome. Close to the N1 and close to Paarl Main Road, with the Cape Town International airport only 45 minutes away, it is centrally and conveniently situated. Learn more about The Light House and about Paarl.
*I was invited by Theresa Gibbon PR to experience The Light House and surrounds. As always, it was an exceptional few days in her company, at a most beautiful place.