By Eileen Ogintz
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA — The kids are happily sipping “mocktails” at one table while at another, a preschooler is being entertained while her parents enjoy artisanal cocktails—even popular gin and tonics on tap.
Welcome to the One & Only Cape Town hotel that welcomes kids with a complimentary kids’ club, pool that is an oasis from the bustling city and connected rooms. At the same time, it offers parents a sophisticated experience from the expansive Vista Bar overlooking Table Mountain, where expert Mixologist Archie Boroma is happy to discuss the over 200 gins crafted in South Africa.
Did I mention it also has a spa on its own private island, yoga pavilion, Nobu and Reuben’s Restaurants, both run by a popular South African Celebrity Chef Reuben Riffel.
The wine loft contains more than 5,000 bottles showcasing the region’s wines.
Kids and adults alike love the breakfasts where kids can make their own pancakes, choose a favorite cereal, try a new juice (Guava maybe?), tackle an oyster or create a yogurt parfait, as well as order all varieties of eggs.
The 131-room hotel is popular with American families for its location—in the heart of Cape Town’s fashionable Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. Yes that’s Victoria and Alfred (the English queen’s son), not Albert (her husband).
I love that the Kids Only program is complimentary with everything from puppet shows to an early evening movie and excursions to the Two Ocean Aquarium where parents only pay the cost of the tickets. There is an outdoor gated playground complete with mini golf course. “Sometimes the kids don’t want to leave,” says Michelle February, who oversees the program.
Cape Town is South Africa’s second largest city with a population of nearly four million at the tip of Africa where foreign visitors like us have been coming since the 15thCentury.
Locals say the emphasis here is on lifestyle—with water sports (a huge surf scene)and a huge food and wine scene. Natives speak a quirky mix of Malay, Dutch, French, Portuguese and African languages, but English is the predominant tongue. You’ll find plenty just out of the water seafood, proximity to the wine lands and you can climb or ride a tram to the top of 3,500-foot Table Mountain for outstanding views of the city and coastline – weather permitting.
Take your pick of sports–hiking, mountain biking, paragliding, skydiving or communing with the African “jackass” penguins who live on Boulders Beach.
Abercrombie & Kenthas arranged this South Africa foray to show us their tailor-made programs for the growing family market.
Cape Town is our first stop after two long flights—one nine hours from Denver to London and another that was 11 hours from London to Cape Town. I was glad for the access to the British Air Lounge at Heathrow International Airport as we had nearly a full day to wait for our evening flight to Cape Town.
I had hoped we could spend the day in London –the Heathrow Express whisks you into the city and Paddington Station in just 20 minutes—but the lines at Customs were long and we were concerned they might be on the way back as well. Instead, we literally lounged in the BA facility, able to take a shower and graze on the all-day buffet, starting with breakfast and then lunch with hot dishes including pasta and a curry, salads sandwiches and soup .
Many people were working; others snoozing, and there was a small separate Kids Zone area with everything from high chairs, juices and snacks to video games. There were a surprising number of families in the lounge, presumably either flying business class or BA super frequent fliers.
The lounge certainly is a welcome amenity, especially with kids, when faced with an exceedingly long layover at a busy airport. I almost hated to leave and get back on the plane.
But of course I was glad we did. After a nap (how wonderful we could check-in when we arrived in the morning!), we opted for an early dinner at Sea Breeze, a popular local’s spot , in time for Oyster Happy Our–less than $1 an Oyster.
South Africa is a great place for kids to practice their math—as one dollar is worth roughly 14 rand, the local currency.
Tonight we feasted at Reuben’s–chili-salted squid and burrata cheese with tomatoes; my husband opted for a steak while I had pan-seared sea bass and a banana pudding for desert–all washed down with local, wines, of course.
The restaurant incidentally, is welcoming to families as well, who are equally comfortable in the expansive brightly colored space. The evening kids’ menu includes everything from a grilled cheese sandwich to grilled calamari to fresh grilled fish and for the littlest travelers pureed fruits and vegetables.
And during the holiday season you must check out the pastry chefs working on their gingerbread creations!