Shortly before lockdown, I stayed alone at a luxury guest house with only one other person - a friend who joined me for the trip. Cancelled bookings and early departures amid the COVID-19 pandemic led to this – unexpectedly, the Mardouw Olive Estate and its grand Manor House became our little oasis during the anxiety-producing, pre-lockdown chaos.
How lucky we felt. Mardouw Manor House sits atop a hill close to Swellendam, a small dorpie on your way to the Garden Route. A two and a half-hour drive from the Mother City, this delightful country spot is ideal for a weekend away. And if you don’t feel like driving to Mardouw, it even offers guests a private helicopter landing pad!
Disappear into a world defined by solitude as the infinity pool allows a feeling of calm to wash over you. The Manor House’s five elegantly decorated suites usually accommodate ten people; however, during this time, it became our isolation pod, sheltering us from the world. We spent our days swimming, sipping on crisp and cold JHG Sauvignon Blanc, took a little safari up a hill to see the roaming Wildebeest and watched the sunset from a vantage point overlooking the rolling hills of the valley.
Almost as if everything was normal.
Next door is another 5-star stay, Jan Harmsgat Country House, and both estates drip with historic charm and modern flair. Dine at Just Amy at Jan Harmsgat, picnic in the tree-lined gardens and taste the delicious wine. Just across the road, you can explore the 680-hectare working farm with hand-picked cultivars that make the single-block JHG Wines. They grow pomegranates and make juice from it for guests to enjoy at breakfast. I had countless cold glasses of this bittersweet stuff.
We were here alone and treated like VIPs. Not because we were the only guests, but because it seems to be the only way of things here.
Every interaction with staff, in all the smallest of ways, is like coming home. The hospitality is sublime. At this time of uncertainty, it was like a comforting blanket wrapped around you during a time of extreme internal discomfort.
Plan ahead, and when you do go stay some time in the future (and you should), you probably won’t be alone, but you’ll get treated just the same. Because here, you’re always a VIP.
(Plan and book your trip here, you can get a voucher as you don’t need to commit to a date just now.)
*Marisa Crous was hosted by Mardouw Manor House for two nights.