Words: Gill Lewis
The middle of December is probably not the best of times to kick back for a leisurely three-day stay at a guesthouse in the Paarl winelands. Our son had just gone on school holiday, our end of year deadlines were swirling around our heads… yet when you get offered the chance to review a luxury guesthouse, sometimes you simply have to say, “What the H!” and go with the flow. So it was that Ronan got to enjoy fun sleep outs with his school chums while my husband and I, frazzled and ticking off to-do lists faster than a blushing bride will say “I do!” to her knight in shining three-piece suit, headed north away from Cape Town and our well-planned end of year work schedule. The Light House in Paarl is incredibly popular and has a steady stream of returning regulars, hence when a gap opened up for a media visit we had to jump at it.
Don’t feel sorry for us, please – we’re not trying to play the sympathy card by any means. It’s just that when we turned off from the N1 onto the main road into Paarl, we were not in leisurely hotel mode. Work and schedules were still churning around our heads. Should we have declined the opportunity? How are we going to get through the end of year rush while languishing poolside in pristine Paarl?
As we wove our way through charming, wide open residential streets we soon happened upon our destination. Charming from the word go it seems, we were greeted by the friendliest of voices via the gate intercom.
Their website and brochures show the venue to be stunning and stately, and as we stepped through the entrance we were still somewhat nonchalant about the days to follow – possibly because the kitchen had not yet started wafting the aromas of afternoon tea delights.
As we made our way into The Light House and took in the quite exquisite décor and absolutely mesmerising charm of the establishment, our work worries slipped blissfully away. Aaaah, it felt like we were home… well, if home was a dream mansion in the Hamptons!
Since I’m not a poet, I will resist the urge to try and capture the essence of The Light House in picturesque prose, as beyond what I have already described, I was at a loss for words. The experience was, quite simply, heavenly.
We were hoping for a break from it all, and what we received was so much more!
When I look back on the experience, two things spring to mind. Firstly, the hands-on management team and staff treat their guests like royalty – although there is a familial warmth and also a sense of willing their guests to feel completely relaxed and at home. Secondly, the beauty of the décor and all the small touches that make it feel at once as if you’ve Air BnB’d Ralph Lauren’s Hamptons holiday home; yet, equally, you feel totally at home, whether your home is on a par with The Light House or if it’s several steps above your own home sweet home.
First impressions of this exquisite guesthouse are that every detail, every guest experience nuance has been carefully and lovingly thought out by the discerning team headed up by Darrol and Hendrik. We felt like newlyweds on honeymoon, as flutes of chilled champers from the neighbouring Laborie wine farm appeared as we surveyed this astonishingly beautiful place, trying to take it all in amidst plenty of oohs and aahs on our part. Welcoming smiles and personal service from Rozer and Petro made us feel like family returning home rather than guests arriving for a short stopover.
The Light House really is a hidden gem, a glistening translucent pearl in the heart of the Cape Winelands, just 45 minutes’ drive from Cape Town and a stone’s throw from Franschhoek and Stellenbosch. The setting, within its lush gardens, will captivate you from the moment you drive through the gates. Paarl is a lovely town to explore, with so many world-class wineries and tourist attractions. For us, however, the attraction was quite simply enjoying the splendour of The Light House for a few days, however we did manage a light excursion into the town to see the vintage buildings, oak tree-lined streets and quaint gift shops. After that we drove to the top of the mountain and visited The Afrikaans Taal Monument. We were both pleasantly surprised by the drama of the monument and its heritage.
Back home at The Light House, we took the time to lounge around the terrace, as well as flip through the décor magazines and art books in the mirrored reading room. Looking around us and in these books, it became clear that this elegant boutique guesthouse offers both the luxury and comfort which the discerning traveller is looking for.
There are a total of five suites, each one creatively themed and sublimely decorated, inspired by the ambience and opulence associated with some of the world’s most sought-after real estate in The Hamptons, where the fabulously wealthy go to enjoy their vacations.
The property has wonderful large grounds that feature an ample swimming pool and a sun-drenched terrace set in a tranquil and manicured garden. We enjoyed a post lunch swim and then ambled through the pretty garden, sipping wine, and were immediately taken by the potential of The Light House as a wedding venue for smaller more intimate affairs… and certainly for an intimate vow renewal or anniversary soiree. (Personal note to selves: we will return for our 25th wedding anniversary and vow renewal in the not too distant future.) The Light House can accommodate up to 10 guests in its five suites, and children of 12 years and older are welcome. When booking the exclusive use of the villa children of all ages are welcome. In addition, there is free Wifi access, private parking on site, and guests who are physically challenged are well catered for.
It goes without saying that choosing a particular defining moment to the exclusion of all the other wonderful moments spent at The Light House is by no means an easy task! At a push, I would have to say that the pièce de résistance was their High Tea. The team goes the extra mile to present you with the most decadent and indulgent individual High Tea (be sure to book it – you’re guaranteed to love it), and can best be described as an adult feast for all the senses! Your table is first delicately scattered with fresh rose petals, then bedecked with an appealing array of scones and cream, hand-crafted preserves, cucumber-and-cream-cheese sandwiches, koeksisters, and richly dark chocolate cake. Every mouthful is magnificent, and you can expect a varied array from day to day, as it depends on what is being freshly baked in what must be a magical kitchen on the premises!
The Light House has a small staff complement, and each of these wonderful people multi-task brilliantly by taking up various roles, from the kitchen to the guest rooms. Everyone works to their individual strengths and lends their hand to the wonderful meals being served. If you’re able to step back for a moment from the decadence and indulgence being lavished on you, you realise what an exceptional team it is and how their unity and service adds to the overall experience.
“The property lends itself really well to small intimate weddings, and one can certainly have a great celebration here. The emphasis would be on personal, intimate, and bespoke; not at all commercial.” – Darrol Buckton, General Manager
Speaking about his particular brand of service ethos, Darrol explains it succinctly, “I believe that our guests are investing their time, their money, and their holiday, to spend it here with us. And so in turn we also invest in them, to create a wonderful and memorable stay. How do we appease them, and continuously elevate our game? Well, people who spend vast amounts of time travelling the world have seen it all, but, they still want that very personal, very engaging experience. In today’s technological age, people don’t engage or touch each other enough on a personal level. That’s what we strive to do here in this intimate space: engage, respect and enjoy each other more.”
Reviewed by Confetti Chicks, December 2017
Pics by Gill Lewis, and supplied by The Light House Boutique Suites
2 Lille Street, Courtrai, PAARL 7646, Cape Winelands
TEL +27 (0)21 863 4600, MOBILE NO +27 (0)72 687 4516
GPS CO-ORDINATES 33.46’19.56’S, 18.57’18.00’E