There’s no place like the Grande Roche Hotel
On honeymoon or holiday? The Cape Winelands accommodation where history and fantasy meld
A stay at the Grande Roche Hotel is like suddenly finding yourself immersed in a scene from a storybook: where your every wish is granted and the setting is surreal. The historic property is in the bosom of the busy Cape Winelands town Paarl, but once you’re waved through the gates, the bustle ceases and you’re transported to a luxury country hideaway comprised of rambling gardens, charming accommodation and gastronomic adventure.
Proudly perched on a hill with sweeping valley views, a Cape Dutch Manor House complete with a thatched roof is at the centre of this fairy tale. We walk up the path towards the age-old residence, taking it all in: the burbling fountain, the manicured greens and Paarl Mountain cutting a dramatic silhouette in the background. We’re ushered inside the restored homestead, where a glass of local Cap Classique is waiting. The interior is unashamedly opulent with marble floors and crystal chandeliers. The look is made slightly offbeat with the inclusion of bronze statues of Greek gods, which lend a mythical feeling to the reception.
The boutique hotel isn’t the usual ‘floors with rooms’, instead it’s a collection of suites scattered throughout a working wine farm. The estate dates back to 1715, when, according to the history books, a grant of land was given to Hermanus Bosman, who was the assistant to the local reverend of the time. The Bosman family called it home for nearly 200 years, but it was in 1993, after a few changes in fortunes and ownership, that the 23-hectare farm was restored to its original Cape Dutch splendour and granted national monument status.
On our way to our Terrace Suite, promisingly named ‘The Emperor’, we take a tour of the property—a walk through the gardens is one of the highlights of a visit— and in no time at all it’s easy to see why many of Grande Roche’s buildings are now a matter of national pride. We pass the four Studio Suites, which were once the farm’s coach and carriage houses, that have been restored so painstakingly we can almost smell the hay, and we saunter by the Duplex Suites, stopping to read the plaques on what were the old slave quarters. From the inscriptions we discover that the five rooms have exotic names in tribute, such as Java, Jasmijn, and Batavia. (There are more colonial treasures to view among the beds of roses and the towering palms, such as the slave bell and the18th century Dutch oven.)
Throughout the garden we spy disembodied Greek columns, floating structures that mirror the sort of surrealism found in paintings by Salvador Dali; even a marble bust overlooks the ‘The Kraal’ swimming pool. This is the more private of the two oases; the turquoise patch is hidden behind high white walls.
There’s a second pool in the main courtyard of the hotel, just outside Bistro Allegro—the more casual alternative to the hotel’s fine dining restaurant, Bosman’s. Guests can dine around the sparkling body of water or inside the café, which channels Hemingway and 1920s Paris.
There’s one more lodging to see, the completely private Garden Suite. A haven for honeymooners, it was originally the farm stable, and is elegantly spacious and equipped with a jacuzzi, sun terrace and separate enclosed patio.
Speaking of, weddings are enchanting here. The ceremonies take place within an intimate chapel high up on the lush grounds. We enter with a hush. Another national monument, it’s the most petite church you’ll ever set foot in: its antique wooden benches can seat only 12 people, there’s a balcony with a working organ and the rustic stone walls are decorated simply, with a crucifix. Sheer magic. On the way out I run my eyes over the brass plaques on the barn doors – they’ve been inscribed with the names of all the couples who have wed here.
We continue strolling through the gardens towards our home for the night as the sun begins to dip below the horizon. Paarl Rock is shimmering in the dusk: as the second largest granite outcrop in the world, the stony knoll, it’s also known as Pearl Mountain, is a commanding presence and the namesake of the town.
The Terrace Suites are positioned directly in front of a patch of vineyard, and beyond that a view of the truly majestic Drakenstein Mountains unfolds. It’s a balmy, sultry evening, so typical of Paarl, and we take a moment to relax on our stoep, watching the hot full moon rise, before retreating into the air-conditioned interior to get ready for dinner.
The suite is made up of a lounge, bathroom and bedroom, all covered with a soaring thatched roof, and in décor terms, there’s a sense of harmony between the luxury amenities and the history of the space.
There’s a welcome gift of local wine and homemade biscuits (some of the best I’ve ever tried!), and the service is at once kind yet unobtrusive, leaving us to relax and soak up this special Cape Winelands ambience.
Later, under a starry night sky, we embark on a gastronomic journey at Bosman’s that is truly an unrivalled hotel dining experience. The wine and food pairing is sublime, the service gracious, and as I tuck into dessert, I think to myself: Dorothy had it all wrong in The Wizard of Oz when she clicked her ruby slippers together…because actually, there’s no place like the Grande Roche.
Tip: Have a conference or business meeting to organise? The Grande Roche has an ideal vineyard venue for just these purposes. To find out more, give the hotel a call on +27 (0) 41 407 1000.
By Malu Lambert
Grande Roche Hotel
Tel: 021 863 5100