It had been a long drive south, through wild South African terrain, floods, electric storms, blazing sun and buffeting winds. This was by no means a trip to be filed under ‘uneventful’. A pothole on one of those resolutely straight cross-Karoo Desert roads resulted in a bent wheel axis; and we’d been stopped for speeding in a ‘built-up area’ (this consisted of two shacks, a tap and a telephone box).
Just when we thought we were safely wending our way into the civilised charm of the glorious landscape of the Cape Peninsula, we drove over a small, rickety bridge and saw, flopping around in the raging floodwaters below, a gold and white springbok, its legs sticking up like pokers. This did not bode well. By the time we finally crested the Sir Lowry’s Pass mountains that take you down into Cape Town, we were very ready for something to steady the nerves. This gift came to us in the form of Atlantic House, a luxury guesthouse so calm that it seems like another planet.
Atlantic House is a five-star guesthouse perched on the slopes of the Twelve Apostles in Camps Bay on Cape Town’s Atlantic seaboard, and forgive me for effusing in brochure-speak, but this truly is a haven of simplicity and style. It was everything we’d hoped for from accommodation in Cape Town. Africa’s most cosmopolitan city is one of the most beguiling playgrounds in the world, with its long white beaches and dramatic mountainscape.
It appears to be a smart residential property, one of those multi-garage family homes that, despite its ultra-discreet front, you can tell has cost somebody an awful lot of money. Even once we were inside, it had the charming air of being a private home – although, before some of you envisage threadbare three-piece suites or junk-filled spare rooms, this is a house belonging to somebody with impeccable taste.
‘Boutique’ isn’t quite the right word to describe a hideaway such as this – it doesn’t do justice in conveying that it is an elegant, calm space in which to relax and unwind. It’s the sort of place an international business traveller weary of posh hotels would consider an antidote, and a retreat an attention-shy celebrity would adore.
We rang the bell tentatively, crossing our fingers in hope that the muddy, battered car wouldn’t lose us our right to admission. We received a warm welcome from the receptionist, who ushered us in through what felt like a private corner of California or Provence, with big blue skies above a decked verandah, secluded pool and exotic garden. When we stepped into the airy living-room space, a huge view of the sea provided the ideal backdrop. We were in a pocket of minimalist calm, where amchairs were just waiting to be dropped gracefully into, preferably with a glass of one of the range of award-winning wines from the honesty bar.
Our sea-view room, one of only five, all with either ocean or mountain views, was bright and spacious, and so neat that Mr Smith even deliberated over putting a book on the table, for fear of making it look cluttered. Furbished in natural linens and silks in shades of white, cream and dark woods, this is a space dedicated to relaxation. Of course, within seconds of unpacking, we had it looking like a Tomoko Takahashi installation. And the ensuite, all clean, parallel lines of travertine and glass, offered us more joy, with a shower big enough for a party of five, and a sumptuously ample bath and lashings of luxurious toiletries.
So private is Atlantic House that 7.30pm is hometime for most of the staff here; they explained they’d be back to present breakfast in the poolside dining room but that, until then, we’d be left to our own devices. So we treated ourselves to a quick swim in the heated saltwater pool, which had the additional frisson and fun of underwater music. Later, down at the Cape’s caffeinated strip of seafront, the palm-lined Camps Bay, where you can eat superbly for the price of fast-food fare, we couldn’t resist the pun-tastically named Codfather for a sushi dinner.
Atlantic House was deserted when we got back – bliss. Peace and quiet reigned, and the only pressing decision was which digestif to select from the minibar as we lounged on chaises longues watching the full moon move across the silver sky, before falling into our sleek, crisp, white bed and dreaming about changing our lifestyle.