ESTABLISHED in 1692, just 13 years after Stellenbosch itself and the third oldest farm in the area, Lanzerac has a rich and colourful history. It was the first wine estate to bottle and label the uniquely South African cultivar Pinotage way back in 1959.
A popular student hangout for decades, it was a favourite place for Stellenbosch resident Danie Craven too, who would walk there in the afternoon with his dog Bliksem. His memory is honoured by the Craven Cigar Lounge.
In 2017, a fire destroyed the main building, and the hotel was closed for 13 months. I’ve stayed there many times over the years, and it always felt like the very (comfortable) lap of luxury. Lanzerac has won many awards, including South Africa’s Leading Wine Country Hotel for 2019 at the World Travel Awards: Africa & Indian Ocean. It was awarded the titles of Luxury Contemporary Hotel of the Year at the Africa & Middle East Luxury Travel Guide Awards; Best Luxury Hotel & Winery in the MEA Markets 2019 African Business Excellence Awards and South Africa’s Most Outstanding Country Hotel in the 2019 Global Luxury Hotel & Spa Awards.
This year has changed the tourism landscape somewhat, but the hotel is still named in three categories for the 2020 World Travel Awards, and its spa is a nominee in the sixth annual World Spa Awards in the category South Africa’s Best Hotel Spa 2020.
My previous experiences at the spa have included pedicures during which I have been so relaxed, I fell asleep. This time it was his and hers massages, with a huge difference being the Covid-19 hygiene protocols.
When we arrived, we filled in the usual spa form (allergies, medications etc) as well as the signed and sworn declaration that we are healthy, and our temperatures were recorded. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is experiencing some anxiety with this necessary practice; never mind the sight of a thing pointing at your forehead (do mugging victims have trauma because of this, I wonder?) but what if – horrors! – I have a fever I didn’t know about? What a Jerry Springer-esque way to find out you’re sick. Also, how accurate are those thermometres? I range from anywhere too low for a reading, up to 37° and am usually four different temps on any given day. At least we were told we could keep the pens (supplied in plastic) so yay for that (I love pens).
We were whisked off to our separate rooms, and I was told I didn’t need to wear my mask during the massage, even when I turned over onto my back. The therapist wore a mask and visor before and after, a mask during, as well as a plastic apron. That rustling is part of our lives now, and it was all up to my imagination and guesswork really; for the first part, I was face down, and during the second I had a heavy warm bean bag pressed against my eyes, so pretty much blind the entire time. I chose the Pinotage full body massage because, well, Pinotage (see above).
After being kneaded like a soft dough, we regrouped for lunch at Taphuis, where my partner told me he had thoroughly enjoyed his deep tissue massage and that the therapist had done some amazing things to his hands and feet. All righty then.
Taphuis reopened on July 18 for breakfast and lunch. It’s one of the parts of the main building which was changed after the fire. We decided to sit outside, which was a good call on the sunny winter’s day, and where I could gaze upon the trees’ bare branches, which I love so much. I love everything about winter, to be fair.
There weren’t any sugar-free soft drink options so water for me it was. Not the best thing to go with a gorgeous lamb shank which peeled effortlessly away from the bone, served with silky mash and a butternut ring, a hint of smoked chilli and Pinotage sauce. I like to believe I can live without wine if I have to, but do I want to? Not so much.
My partner had a great big ribeye on the bone (much more flavour) which he enjoyed as much as his massage if not more.
It was good to see the estate busy and the carpark full, with visitors to the spa, deli, and Taphuis, as well as cycling in the area. I look forward to the day I can drink wine at Lanzerac again, and perhaps spend another night or two. It’s the hopes and dreams that will get us through this, more than thoughts and prayers…
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PHOTO CREDIT: BIANCA COLEMAN ©