Friday, 21 November 2014

Grootbos - A Big Treat for a Little One (and the big one's too...)



I am a besotted mother. I waited long enough for this privilege. And while I waited I compensated for what I knew was my emptiness. Jacques and I travelled a lot. We went on great holidays and stayed in some magnificent places as is the way of DINKies ( Dual Income No Kids. Well strictly speaking 1 1/2 incomes as mine doesn't count for all that much…but you get my point.) My husband would mock me by saying that I surfed the interwebs salivating over gorgeous hotel rooms the way other peoples trawled for porn. What can I say? I like constellations of stars and high thread counts. And so we spent our income on long-haul flights to exotic destinations and short romantic mini-breaks. We dreamed of being a family while arranging couple spa treatments, irresponsibly depleting hotel mini-bar stocks and eating in decidedly non child-friendly places. 
A website I returned to again and again during the childless years, having first seen the seductive images in the pages of style-obsessed VISI, was Grootbos Nature Reserve in the Overberg. I had fallen in love with the clean lines, the enormous glass windows, the romantic bath, the incredible views of Forest Lodge. I wanted to stay there. Badly.
And then during the course of last year (or was it the year before?) I was approached with an offer to spend the night at Grootbos. The Gods of Hotel Luxury has heard my impassioned pleas! But then before I could take up the marvelous offer, life and loss got in the way; there was the traumatic failed adoption, a husband who had to write his specialist exams, my mom's battle with cancer and her eventual death and then miracle upon miracles our son Sebastiaan came into our hearts and lives. And so high thread counts and panoramic vistas  were pushed to the back of my mind. My definition of luxury had changed to 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep,  1/2 hour episodes of The Real Housewives of New Jersey and conning Jacques into changing more dirty nappies than I did during the course of a day.
But a year had passed and so we planned a mini-break with our son. To celebrate our life together. And then I remembered the long-forgotten Grootbos invitation and made contact.  And how very glad I am that I did. Admittedly there was my initial disappointment at being relegated to the family-friendly Garden Lodge rather than the Forest Lodge, but I quickly overcame this once I'd reminded myself just how long I'd waited to join the members-only club consisting of family-friendly hotels and exclusive-use Moms and Tots parking bays.  The two lodges are run as completely separate entities, separate swimming pools, separate spas, separate dining areas, separate lounging areas, in fact the two are set so far apart that they can barely be seen and can only be reached by car or a very-very long trek. And nobody's going to be doing that with child, much to the relief of the adults-only crowd on the other side. (Those without children will no doubt be jumping up and down with joy at the pleasing prospect of a romantic destination in which ankle-biters are neither seen nor heard. I know I used to be one of those…)
In my-pre-child days, the idea of a luxury hotel room and pouring rain would have been absolute bliss. I was however filled with trepidation when as we cleared Stanford and neared the Grootbos Nature Reserve the rain came pouring down. And didn't stop. The weather guide warned of 2 days and a night of pissing-down rain. And I panicked what would we do with our toddler. But our warm welcome settled my fears. First things first, a roaring fire in our lounge and fabulous views of misty fynbos vistas. So we huddled up in bed and read Dr Seuss. And The Hungry Caterpillar…. and could not have been happier.
The Garden Lodge is the oldest of the lodges (the private Villa is the the most recent and can be rented out to groups of up to 12 very lucky people) and while it may lack the contempory design elements that I usually lust after, the cottages are extremely comfortable and stylish. And common areas are a dream for those with kids. The children's playroom had both a fussball and ping-pong table which would go down well with the older kids but our son fell in love with a doe-eyed little girl and they proceeded to throw balls at one another and nobody complained or gave us the side-eye. Relief!
In their marketing there is often references to the Grootbos Family. I thought it was just marketing but in fact this magnificent 5 * eco-reserve really does have a family feel. (well a functional family anyway) as everyone is friendly and helpful and tries to make you feel at home. Dinner and breakfast was a joy as not only was a high chair brought to our table without asking but when Sebastiaan got niggly, he was quickly whisked off by one of the waiters  and kept amused so that we could finish our dessert and wines. An unheard of luxury when your toddler has suddenly discovered that he has both feet and a (very loud!) voice.
The next day's breakfast was a lovely start to the day as the sun appeared which boded well for our planned Fynbos walk. Sebastiaan got his favorite eggy and we ate our way through the lavish buffet.
There is so much to do at Grootbos, 4 x 4 flower safaris, horse riding, bird watching and various big hikes. But we were taking it easy. Having a small one is the perfect excuse to do so. And our fynbos walk was perfectly managable for me in my inappropriate leopard print wellies and for Jacques carring a 13kg boy on his back. An expert guide, beautiful flora, fantastic views and a milkwood forest that offered protection from a sudden rainstorm made for a very special morning. So did the visit to the ponies, the pigs, the rabbits and the chickens. Having dragged our son away from the children's play area complete with sandpit, swings and slide, we headed back to our cottage for a long afternoon nap. The joy of three-in-a-bed snuggling under a fluffy duvet while the rain lashed against our window was almost worth missing lunch.
When we woke up the sun had appeared and so had the work emergency that forced us to cut short our trip. There is a photo of Sebastiaan throwing an almighty tantrum as we got ready to leave. And for once I indulged him. How could I not? He was expressing exactly what I was feeling. Leaving Grootbos is hard. But you take a bit of it with you when you go. The scent of the fynbos, the memories of the views, and in our case the gifted milkwood tree and the three white shells I picked up  in the milkwood forest. One for Jacques. One for Sebastiaan. And one for me. The Trinity.

Contact Grootbos
Website: www.grootbos.com
Telephone: 0283 848008


(Up the garden path that leads to Garden Lodge)


(Miles and miles of beautiful Fynbos)


 (The incredible view from our cottage)


(A warm welcome. Sebastiaan being shown how to make a fire.)


(A welcome gift for the grown-ups. Our very own milkwood tree that has been plannted in our local park. Forever to be referred to as Sebastiaan's Milkwood. May they both grow up to be strong.)


(The loveliest personal welcome note, small bear to cuddle and a perfectly made up cot with comforting duvet and pillows.)


(Boy meets Pony. Boy admires Pony's beautiful mane. Pony carries on eating grass…)


( As happy as two pigs in Grootbos…)


(Seemingly endless views of fynbos and ocean. Space. Peaceful space.)


(Going for a fynbos hike. Just before the rains came down.)


(The magical Milkwood Forest)


(It was here that we found shelter from the rain.)


(The beauty and mystery of the hard white shell of the very special milkwood forest snail.)








(The tantrum before leaving. I knew exactly how our son felt. Nooooooooooo!)

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