I recently attended World Travel Market Africa, held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre earlier in April, and the most striking statistic that stood out was this:
Urban experiences make up 70% of global tourism.
As travellers we have a growing appetite for the unique, yet the opportunity to explore the 'undiscovered' is fast shrinking in this switched-on, all-knowing age of technological advancement.
Immersing yourself in the shrines of nature such as Kruger or Chobe allows you to tap into the spiritual inter-connectivity of our planet, but it is the experience of coming face to face with who we are as humans that seems to fuel urban tourism. It is the appeal of a particular destination's culture and the people dwelling in and around these cosmopolitan cities that create its distinct flavour and leaves a lasting impression.
Those Throwback Thursday kind of memories that make travel so addictive.
Living in a city like Cape Town, that has been making must-visit lists aplenty, it’s easy to understand why it’s an urban tourism game-changer. By no means is South Africa’s story perfect, but its beauty somehow exists in its brokenness.
Getting in touch with the human side of city experiences
Since 1994, South Africa’s narrative has always been a message of hope. And who doesn’t need a dose of that in this day and age, right?
During a recent stay at the One&Only Cape Town, I forced myself to have a good, hard look at the city I live and work in, as if I knew nothing about it. And the result, was as expected.
Cape Town, you’re helluva charming!
READ: Top 10 places to visit in SA, according to TripAdvisor
Visitors from near and far don’t only come here to enjoy our gorgeous beaches, iconic mountain and world-famous winelands. They come here to delve into the historic stories about District Six, Bo Kaap, Robben Island as well as the eclectic townships.
Yes, the people, who call this place home, are part and parcel of the travel draw-card it is today.
Luxury comfort wrapped up in urban chic
I was invited to visit the One&Only ahead of the winter season and staying here certainly puts you at the epicentre of Cape Town's city escape vibe, since it’s quite literally on the doorstep of the V&A Waterfront.
Yet the layout of this five-star, city-based hotel, adequately achieves a sheltered, cocoon-like atmosphere.
“Ooh mom, this is fancy!”
My five-year-old son could not have said it better when we walked into our family suite. Travellers who enjoy the finer things in life, this is the accommodation for you.
I was taken by the stunning view of Table Mountain which dominates almost every window in the hotel, while my two sons gushed over the cute gifts set out for them. As parents, I guess we live to see our kids delighted and this was one of those moments. Job well done One&Only.
But while the décor is spectacular, the waterfront marina mountain views jaw-dropping and the resort-like facilities all-encompassing – it is the striking friendliness and professionalism of the staff that also leaves a lasting impression.
No matter how many time my sons and I walked the lobby, (boys between the ages of three and five find it very hard to sit still), we were greeted enthusiastically. Every time.
Even when I was squirming because they were shrieking off to the pool or the KidsOnly centre, I was told, “Boys will be boys.”
READ: Cape Town Family outings on a budget
A city hotel ideal for busy families
And it is safe to say, there will be no sulking for the creature comforts of home with KidsOnly, which is kitted out with all manner of intelligence-boosting toys, puzzles, stuffed animals, building blocks and as well as a few PlayStation consoles. And what parent couldn’t do with a bit of a break from the busyness, even during a family urban escape?
Professionally trained childminders entertain your little ones as you head off for a bit of pampering at the spa or indulge in the deliciousness of the rather popular One&Only High Tea experience set out in the Vista lounge.
Yes, this hotel's unique appeal definitely extends beyond being close to the likes of the Waterfront, the Cape Town Stadium (One Direction caused mayhem on the weekend we visited) as well as the attractions of the inner city itself - offering up day trips to Cape Town’s stunning blue flag beaches, the West Coast or the Winelands. All easily within reach.
READ: Cape Town Buffs up on Urban Tourism offering with Big 7
Indulging in the One&Only pleasure of food
But we didn’t go rushing off immediately. With two renowned restaurants Reuben's and Nobu on offer, we indulged our inner foodies first.
Reuben’s doubles up as a family-friendly breakfast or dinner option. While breakfast is a standard continental affair, with a delectable selection of eye-catching pastries and freshly-prepared treats. But it was the dinner menu that got me all nostalgic.
I first encountered Reuben Riffel’s cuisine in Franschhoek, before his franchise expansion as a celebrity master chef. Turns out consistency, is a true measure of success, since the chili-squid was every bit as mouth-wateringly good as I recall. Definitely the highlight dish for me.
The restaurant setup is especially easy for young children, with a separate and rather healthy kids menu on offer too. But we preferred to book an early dinner - just because the staff are super-accommodating doesn’t mean we needed to be the annoying parents with the young kids playing tag in the restaurant as everybody tried to enjoy a nice evening out.
Cape Town city slickers can treat themselves to an evening with the Reuben, who together with his master resident sommelier Luvo Ntezo will present a series of deluxe 5-course dinners over the coming winter season. Estates on the list include Môreson, Schalk Burger & Sons, Steenberg Wines and Graham Beck. Click here for more details.
We tried a similar evening at Nobu, with the knowledgeable staff going to great lengths to make our boys feel welcome. They were seated at the counter to watch the sushi chefs perform their magic and they even provided colourful, child-friendly chopsticks. As much as my husband and I loved the outstanding cuisine from the sumptuous tempura to the sushi as only Nobu can serve it, my boys however were having none of it. It was a series of squeals and squirms from them.
Depending on how young your kids are, Nobu is certainly more suited to a date night out, than a fun family shindig in my opinion.
This winter, we're told, Nobu will be tapping into the resurgence of Ramen noodles as a global food trend. So if you're looking to taste some authentic noodles, prepared daily by the Nobu chefs and teamed with tasty Asian broths and toppings, head here from 1 May. Click here for more details.
Walking the heart of the Mother City
The next morning after a leisurely breakfast, we decided to take the CitySightseeing boat from the One&Only marina all the way into town.
The boat snakes its way to the top entrance of the Waterfront near Buitengracht and then a little further to behind the Cape Town Convention Centre in the Foreshore.
While there are some cool and exciting things planned for the Foreshore area, certainly with the expansion of the Cape Town Convention Centre and the concept to turn Cape Town’s infamous, unfinished highway into an Urban Park – this part of town can appear slightly intimidating when you’re unfamiliar with your surroundings and don’t quite know your way around.
But after a short 15-minute walk, the emptiness of the area is soon replaced by the vibey heart of the city where you can enjoy the likes of Long Street, Green Market Square, the Company Gardens and a rich selection of cafes, bars, museums and art galleries.
You can also check the Cape Town City Walk off your list of things to do. Recently added, as part of the Cape Town Big 7 things to do it starts in the Company Gardens, continues down St George’s Mall to Waterkant Street and progresses up the Fan Walk to St Andrew’s Square.
READ: Five cool developments to keep an eye on in Cape Town
While we fortunately live in the city, with all this said and done, it's clear that an extended urban escape would suit you far better than a short weekend away - if you want to make the most of your lux hotel and the key attractions on offer in Cape Town.
If you plan on visiting soon, make a point of checking out the One&Only Cape Town's winter deal – the OneEscape winter special at a rate of R2 999 per room per night (subject to availability) includes a complimentary breakfast for two, plush in-room amenities and a 24-hour butler service.
Note: Traveller24 Editor Selene Brophy was hosted as a guest of the One&Only Cape Town.