THE Mount Nelson, a Belmond Hotel, has been the choice of celebrities and royalty since forever. Its amenities are open to all, however, so high tea, a luxurious spa day, an elegant dinner, or even an afternoon lounging at the pool have been available to us mortals. But spending a night or two? Definitely in the realm of fantasy for most.
The pandemic sucks, no debate, but while we are confined within our borders, as are all the foreign tourists who would normally be filling the rooms, there is the opportunity for South Africans to indulge themselves with a dreamy getaway to one of the most beautiful hotels in Cape Town.
Until the end of 2021, show your proof of identity and you can spend two nights (or more) in anything from a Deluxe room, which costs R3100 per room per night, all the way up to a Deluxe two-roomed suite or Garden Cottage suite, both of which cost quite a bit more obviously; the point is, the Nellie has never been more accessible to locals who yearn to know what’s behind those pink walls.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have spent a fair amount of time in the arms of this gracious old lady, and it saddened me so profoundly to see how quiet the hotel is at the moment, due to all the restrictions and regulations. What hasn’t changed one bit is the warm, welcoming hospitality. I’m pretty sure the staff have seen and heard it all, but no eyebrows were raised at any of my requests. Nothing weird, I swear…
In terms of Covid protocols, the Mount Nelson has them all, at check in and in the room. There are hands-free sanitisers everywhere, at every entrance, at every lift. Little cards inform you the surfaces have been sanitised, and there’s a useful zip-upbag provided which is filled with masks in case you’re the idiot who forgot yours (but also, one can never have too many emergency masks because yes, sometimes we’re all that idiot), sanitiser gel and spray, and handy little individual wipes for your pocket or handbag.
The bubbly at reception and in the ice bucket in our suite was alcohol-free, as it must be; happily, it still gives that sense of celebration and it doesn’t taste too bad. There was also a fruit platter that looked too glossy and good to be real but it was. There’s wifi of course, so I was able to get a little bit of work done quickly before getting down to some serious relaxation. I love the elegant box on the desk which contains the room directory, writing paper, postcards, luggage tags and bookmarks.
It was with great joy, as I was led down the corridor, that I realised I was being shown to the same suite in which I’ve stayed previously. Although there are undoubtedly many similar suites, this enhanced the sense of homecoming. Because that’s the thing with the Mount Nelson: it always feels like returning to your happy place, from being greeted by staff members to the familiarity of the accommodation, to the quiet sophistication.
The two-roomed (a TV in each) suite is spacious, with a large lounge with work desk and dining table and a huge vase of flowers, and vast bedroom with a huge expanse of bed large enough for even the tallest person to starfish on the crisp white linen. Sparkling crystal chandeliers – four of them – hang from the ceilings, and can be dimmed for a romantic ambience. There are table lamps on either side of the bed, and gooseneck lights for reading; it amazes me (and makes me mad as a box of snakes) how often the need for decent, and comfortable, illumination for this purpose is overlooked.
In the bathroom with its marble vanity, you’ll find more Charlotte Rhys toiletries than you ever imagined existed – the soaps (liquid and solid), nail kits, body lotion, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, mouthwash – even bath salts and foam bath. I can’t remember when last I encountered bubble bath in a hotel, so of course we had to use it all.
Something I deeply appreciate about the Mount Nelson is the size of its bath towels; they are generous enough for the fuller figure and can be wrapped around oneself without sacrificing modesty. Honestly, what are some people thinking, with their selection of small to medium hand towels that can only cover one bosom if you’re lucky? Naturally, there are robes and comfy slippers (feet pillows to my friends).
Guests have the option of dining in the lounge or in their rooms, and in the absence of the breakfast buffet in The Oasis, there is a QR code to scan for a menu. “Order anything you want,” I was told, the implication that we could still have a massive breakfast with all the food – fruit, cereal, bread basket, yoghurt, smoothies, cheese, charcuterie, and hot stuff too…eggs done any way, three kinds of sausages, bacon, beans, mushrooms, potatoes, tomatoes; as well as omelettes, and waffles, flapjacks, and pancakes topped with cream, chocolate, maple syrup or berry compôte (give me the lot, I’m feeling wild today); teas and coffees and juices, toast…but when it came down to ordering in the morning I found myself quite overwhelmed with all the choices and ended up having Eggs Royale. Will you just look at that perfectly poached egg?
While the hotel is quiet, the kitchen will accommodate just about anything you want. I could have had a cheeseburger if I so desired because that’s available 24 hours a day. I feel I missed a golden opportunity now I think of it. My only special requirements were extra Hollandaise (beautifully buttery) and a mug for my pot of rooibos (the cups in the room are tiny, for me).
The Librisa spa is currently closed but the gym is open. Our cars were valet parked and returned and parked and forgotten jackets retrieved, and at turndown, bottled water was left at the bedside as well as Charlotte Rhys pillow spray. Nothing is too much trouble, so special thanks to Gareth who came up to sort out the air conditioning which got the better of me. Did I mention I adore the Mount Nelson, and all who sail in her?
(If that comment makes you think I’m a little mad, in 1890 The Mount Nelson was purchased by shipping magnate Sir Donald Currie, owner of the Union Castle Shipping Line. His dream was to build a hotel as stylish and elegant as those in London, to cater exclusively for the Castle Line’s well-heeled First Class passengers, and I often get the sense of a luxury cruise liner from days gone by.)Click here for more information about the special offers.
PHOTO CREDIT: Bianca Coleman ©