Cape Town Guesthouse Experiences?

Jun 4th, 2005, 11:42 AM
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Cape Town Guesthouse Experiences?

The very last item outstanding for my September Zambia / South Africa holiday is my Cape Town lodging.

I am leaning towards the Atlantic House 5-star guesthouse in Camps Bay, where I can stay for about $200 per night in what I am sure will be a great room with an incredible view off my private deck. There are only four other rooms and the house looks very sizable.

The only other consideration for me, and it is a strong consideration, would to stay at the Twelve Apostles again, as I did in June 2003. The only reason I was not really considering it before is because I did not want to pay $1,100 for just my mom having her own room. Now, however, since she is unable to join us, it will just be my wife and I.

Honestly, the Twelve Apostles is a fantastic hotel, with an amazing buffet breakfast each morning, a 700 sq. ft. room with balcony overlooking the Atlantic Ocean (which is no more than about 25 meters from the balcony) and features the most comfortable beds I have ever slept in, complete with a pillow menu!

The cost increase is negligible...about $100 per night extra for the Twelve Apostles, but also including a dinner, a high tea, and a couple other minor things (as well as breakfast each day).

I have never done the guesthouse thing before, and have only stayed in a couple bed & breakfasts before, neither of the stays particularly notable.

Atlantic House, however, looks as if I may have a 3,500 sq. ft. ? house nearly to myself, with the possibility of only four other couples, but in mid September this is unlikely.

Somebody please let me know if, other than the price, there are any advantages to staying at a 5-star guesthouse over a 5-star hotel. Each place is really out of walking distance from shops and restaurants so would each require a taxi.

The one issue that is there is the noise issue. The only thing separating the Twelve Apostles from the Atlantic Ocean is a two lane highway. This did not bother me on my last visit, but in all fairness, I was there on a 3 day holiday weekend (Youth Day, I believe) and traffic is lighter on the weekends and holiday. This time around, however, I will be there from Tuesday night to Saturday morning.

Any feedback will be greatly appreciated.
Roccco is offline  
Jun 4th, 2005, 01:31 PM
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I suppose this sounds like a broken record to you however I ALWAYS recommend that my visitors to Cape Town stay in guesthouses and not hotels be they 5 star or not. I do this because owners of South African guesthouses are generally marvellous hosts. The ones that I use as a tour guide definitely are as such. Bear in mind that guesthouses represent excellent accommodation that is much more personalised at MUCH better rates than hotels. Guesthouses are marvellous venues to stay in and their rate also includes a fantastic breakfast. At hotels this is usually an extra cost. At most guesthouses you enjoy breakfast in the wonderful, friendly breakfast room. This means that you generally meet other visitors to Cape Town who share their experiences with you and to top this all your local host has his/her share in the discussions to help you all along with ideas relative to what you can and should do in our great city. When you are in a guesthouse you have total freedom of movement. All in all it is a wonderful free and easy style of holidaying. What also is most important is that because of the size of the guesthouse you will NOT be in amongst the hordes of tourists as you might only have a couple of other guests at the guesthouse while you are there. Thus you get great accommodation, personalised attention as well as wonderful value in a very safe place to stay when you reside in guesthouses and that is why I recommend them so highly.

In terms of the 12 Apostles Hotel this story is so old hat on this board that I am not even going to repeat what has been said in the past other than the venue is so far from and cut off from the city that it just is not in my opinion a place to stay for anyone who truly wants to enjoy Cape Town. That is my personal and professional opinion so enough said in this regard

With all of the above said there is a further issue to bring up and that is the concept of 5 star accommodation. It is my opinion that when one travels to Africa or anywhere else in the world if you opt for this type of accommodation then this is the best way to separate yourself from finding out what the true ways, cultures and lifestyles are of the locals in the place that you are visiting. Locals never ever see the inside of 5 star venues, not because they generally cant afford it but mainly because they do not enjoy them. A classic example is the concept of game lodges. Do you really think that South Africans travel to Singita? Forget about it as they do not. Why? They cant afford it and it just is not the true South African way of doing things. South Africans go to the Kruger Park or the Addo Park or many of the other national parks. Firstly they are cheaper, secondly they are GENUINE bush experiences where amongst others you can sit outside have a barbecue that you make yourself (braai) and hear the lions roaring in the outskirts. As far as 5 star treatment in the bush being a really true bush experience – I want to laugh when I hear this sometimes! The same can be equated to 5 star hotels and guesthouses. If a visitor wants 5 star living then my suggestion is stay at home and find the best deal without putting yourself under the strains of a long airflight to Africa. If one wants to attain this way of living because the price is good then so be it and I then say be my guest however I ask the question of will you be experiencing what the country that you are visiting as well as its peoples are all about? My opinion being a local born and raised Capetonian as well as a professional in the tourism industry is that if you ask the above question of my city then the answer is "definitely no". I suppose it is a case of horses for courses however what I find interesting is that many Fodorites whom I have met or travelled with have always opted for local 2-3 star guesthouse type places to stay thus spending less on their accommodation and hopefully then having more in their pockets to enjoy the so many other experiences that the city offers. In a nutshell most visitors generally call for

1. A comfortable bed

2. A clean house

3. A keenly priced venue

4. A safe and secure venue

5. A well located venue

If you really come to think of it most visitors to a city spend so much time away from their place of stay in the city that one should really ask what more does one need other thanthe above 5 points?

With the above said no matter how good Atlantic House is (as I have already told you I cannot comment on this venue as I do not know it ) all I can say is for $200 per night I can rattle of so many guesthouse names where one will obtain 2 to 3 nights in Cape Town that fulfils the abovementioned criteria even though it does not have the 5 star tag. I once again say it is a case of horses for courses however my course when I travel anywhere in the world is to follow the above 6 point formula and it certainly has proved a successful one for me to experience the REAL experiences and people of the country that I would be visiting.

In summary when it comes to 5 star hotels vs 5 star guesthouses my answer is 3 star guesthouses.

Just my twopence worth.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa

Selwyn_Davidowitz is offline  
Jun 4th, 2005, 07:08 PM
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I take a different position on this matter.

No different than a Capetonian who chooses to live in the comfort and safety of Camps Bay rather than in the Cape Flats, I do prefer to stay at the most luxurious place within my budget.

There would be more of a shred of hypocrisy if I were to somehow wish for a "cultural" experience of 2 or 3 star guesthouses or camping in Kruger.

One of the things I most go to Africa for, besides the wildlife, is the exclusivity of staying at some of the best places in the world, and thus separating myself from the crowds. I live in a state with 35 million people, California, in a county with, what, 10 million people? There are more people in Los Angeles County, alone, than in the entire country of Zambia.

Furthermore, while I love my home and my mountain community, there are 300 new homes all located within about a 100 acre valley. So, when I am able to visit a game lodge hosting no more than 10-12 guests, with no other lodges around for miles, it is a real treat and a spiritual rejuvenation.

I don't seek "cultural" experiences while at home, so other than a daytime visit or two to a Zambian village, I do not much care for visiting South African townships (creations of the Apartheid government). Isn't visiting a real African village a more genuine experience, anyhow?

Plus, Selwyn, as you know, I am not on my own, and the fact that I am able to get my wife to accompany me to South Africa and especially Zambia, 5-star hotels and luxury lodges or not, is a feat in itself. If it were up to me, I would LOVE to spend a couple nights in Kawaza Village near South Luangwa and may even opt to stay at a Soweto B&B, believe it or not. There is a lot more I would choose to do, but I must show at least a shred of consideration to my better half.

To turn the table, I just cannot imagine a wealthy South African or other foreigner coming to the United States and wishing to stay in a 2 or 3 star hotel, visiting a barrio or ghetto, etc. Ultimately, water seeks its own level.

Truth be told, I am 95% in Southern Africa for the wildlife. I don't seek out people while at home, so why would I do so when I am halfway around the world. Even at home, I just loving being home with my dogs, and enjoy nothing more than walking them around the neighborhood at 3 or 4AM when I know there are no other people out, and I can allow them to roam off the leash without fear of other dogs, children or automobiles...just the stars, the mountains, the river, my dogs and I.

Naturally, someone with my personality would enjoy a luxury hotel with the location of the Twelve Apostles...away from the crowds, but still close enough to do what I want in Cape Town. Close enough for my wife to go shopping at the Waterfront, close enough for me to take a daytime trip to Hermanus, close enough for me to go cage diving with the great white sharks, etc.

As you have said, different courses for different horses. Regards.
Roccco is offline  
Jun 5th, 2005, 12:26 AM
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Make no error I respect your view fully and as was said its a game of horses
for courses. As I see it we just are on two different tracks and guess what
their certainly is enough place for many horse courses on this planet, after
all that what makes the world go round.

I have to correct you on something though and that is that townships are NOT all the creations of the Apartheid government. I hate to say this in such a manner but if only they were as such it would be much better for local South Africans only for the quality of housing at the time. When the Apartheid government introduced what it called "locations" in the fifties they were built to accommodate migrant workers who all emanated from the horrific Bantustans that the government created such as the Transkei, Ciskei etc. These locations all had concrete houses with electricity, running water and sanitation and even though the standards of these buildings were shocking they still offered sturdy shelter. Subsequent to 1994 many people from these Bantustans or homelands as well as the African villages that you speak of via our new bill of rights and the clause of "freedom of movement" moved to the cities of SA. Their main aim was to look for work. The result was an enormous amount of new type of overnight self housing in the form of shacks developing. New shack villages and towns evolved overnight and because of the clause in our bill of rights relating to the right to housing our present day government was powerless in stopping the flow. This resulted is the modern day or post apartheid township of which many started up after 1994. A classic example is the Joe Slovo township in Cape Town (there is one in Port Elizabteh too) that started up in the mid nineties and was named in honour of one of our great leaders in the present day government (unfortunately Joe Slovo is not with us any more). A similar township would be Imizamo Yethu ( In Hout Bay, Cape Town meaning "through the joint struggle") started in the late 1990 period as a small area registered to some 400 shack dwellers however this grew to enormous numbers from the 1996 period onward. Today there about 10,000 people living in this township.

Due to the horrific Bantustan policy of the Apartheid regime migrant villages started up in the 1950-1990 period. Some of the villages were far from being villages such as Soweto as an example which had to feed labour to the mines. By very, very, very far the most people who live in townships today all originate from the post Apartheid period which indirectly could be attributed to one of the results of the homeland policy HOWEVER they arose in the 1990's due to need (People had to live somewhere so as to make a living and they certainly could not do so in the homelands)

As I write this mail people flock to townships on a daily basis and what is more new townships grow up overnight. Many "oldies" in todays townships still speak of locations while most youngsters do not understand the word.

Whether one likes it or not townships are where most South Africans stay and if you are a traveller like myself who wants to try and experience a cross cultural experience when travelling in a different land then in my opinion a “real visit” to a township is a must do event especially in a country like South Africa. In the same manner I firmly believed that it was important for me to visit Haarlem as well as many project type developments when I visited the USA. The difference between visiting Haarlem and a SA township is that probably 65% of South Africans live in these places of stay and it just does not wash to want to say that one does not want to visit these places because they are creations of the Apartheid government. I say this because whether we like it or not people are living there and that means a way of life that I would suggest wanting to experience when travelling in any foreign country let alone South Africa.

Roccco this brings me right back to the fundamental difference that you and I have about travelling in foreign lands and that is that to me a country is made up of its peoples, different cultures and experiences whereas to you it seems to made up of 5 star hotels, events and living conditions that you either cannot afford or attain in your own place of stay as well as your very genuine love for animals. Once again I say that I respect this point of view however as we have both said it simply is a case of horses for courses.

Clippety clop clippety clop.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa

Selwyn_Davidowitz is offline  
Jun 5th, 2005, 06:54 AM
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>>>Roccco this brings me right back to the fundamental difference that you and I have about travelling in foreign lands and that is that to me a country is made up of its peoples, different cultures and experiences whereas to you it seems to made up of 5 star hotels, events and living conditions that you either cannot afford or attain in your own place of stay as well as your very genuine love for animals<<<

Selwyn, South African 5* luxury is still more expensive than 5* luxury in the USA, so I am not attaining anything in South Africa that is not available to me right here at home.

I do believe that my visits to luxury game lodges do every bit as good, if not better, for the people, as a tourists visit to a township and token donation. The guides and staff at a game lodge are 90% black at the game lodges I have been visiting, but I do think that Zambia is ahead of South Africa in this department.

You must understand that while at game lodges, especially Zambian game lodges which seem to be a little more down to Earth, that the guests have the opportunity to spend nearly 10 hours a day with their guides and trackers. Furthermore, Alexsandra, who does half of the game activities maximum, spends all day in camp with the general staff and knows each and every one of them by name and really bonds with these people, so much in fact that you would be amazed at the sendoff we are given at some places (her doing, not mine). So, there are definitely different ways to get a cultural experience. I mean she was literally in the kitchen for each and every one of our meals at Kaingo last year assisting with the cooking duties and modifying the menu for our own dinners to our own liking.

So, I believe it is an unfair assessment to believe that those who are visiting expensive game lodges are not getting a cultural experience or are not doing much for the people. I would challenge this theory and say that not only are we helping the people tremendously, but quite obviously, we are ensuring the survival of the wildlife. So, it is a win/win situation for the people and for the wildlife!

Roccco is offline  
Jun 5th, 2005, 10:10 AM
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A classic example is the Joe Slovo township in Cape Town (there is one in Port Elizabteh too) that started up in the mid nineties and was named in honour of one of our great leaders in the present day government (unfortunately Joe Slovo is not with us any more).

Selwyn-Slovo was the leader of the South African communist party as well as a founder of the ANC's armed wing-Umkhonto we sizwe-who terrorized and murdered innocent people in the 80s. I don't think by and standard you could term a person like that as one of SA's great leaders.
laguna92688 is offline  
Jun 5th, 2005, 10:36 AM
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Unfortunately, while I have unintentionally started yet another political thread, I have yet to receive any responses from those travelers whom have experienced guesthouses, and what is their opinion of a guesthouse vs. a hotel.
Roccco is offline  
Jun 5th, 2005, 12:32 PM
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I agree wholeheartedly with Roccco in that this is a discussion about 5* guesthouses vs 5* hotels so I am not going to be baited into a political debate on what is a travel forum page. All I can say is that when it comes to Joe Slovo you obviously have your opinions and I have mine.

Just my twopence worth

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa

Selwyn_Davidowitz is offline  
Jun 5th, 2005, 02:06 PM
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Well, I agree with both of you . Selwyn, I am so glad that I listened to your comments about the guesthouses when we did our trip planning over the past year as we had a wonderful 2 nights in Camps Bay at The Bay Atlantic Guest House.( We had the 3rd floor penthouse apartment, wonderful hosts, Dave and Jen, great breakfasts and such personalized service. We walked to the restaurants, shopping, beach and had a car park spot for our rental. We could drive into town easily by the back roads and it was a wonderful experience. AND, we met the other guests from the UK, etc. adding to our enjoyment of meet people from all parts of the world. Had a great time. Then we joined a tour and "had" to move to the Cape Grace Hotel for 3 nights. We think the highest compliment we can give this hotel was that we felt we had the same personlized service as we had found in the guesthouses we had been staying in the previous 10 days before arriving into Cape Town. BUT, all we saw were other Americans and that was thouroughly boring to we totally agree with Selwyn, we came to South Africa to meet non-Americans. We never met a soul other than the staff (who were wonderful), but we were longing to be back in Camps Bay at the wonderful Bay Atlantic. The only advantage at the Cape Grace was that we were able to cover all of the Waterfront activities, tours, etc within walking distance from the hotel and so we enjoyed that convenience. We then went on to 2 nights in Stellenbosch, so we divided up our activities as to where we were each night to make the most out of each location. If you are a people person and part of the fun of the trip is to interact with others, either visitors or locals, go to the guesthouses..who cares how many stars it has, the "stars" in each guesthouse are the people.....if that's not your thing, then a 5 star HOTEL is perfect for's a people issue, not a "star" issue you need to assess for yourself.
azmngal is offline  

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