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TRAVEL DIARY: GREAT GRANDES DAMES HOTELS

These grandes dames of the southern African hotel scene offer a bonanza of highly symmetrica­l, desaturate­d Instagram opportunit­ies, and boast fabulous real-world experience­s too. Put them on your weekend getaway list – immediatel­y.

- WORDS SARAH BUITEND ACH

BELMOND MOUNT NELSON, CAPE TOWN

She first went pink to celebrate the end of World War I in 1918 – but these days, “The Nellie” has her own unique shade, fine-tuned to fade to an exact hue between paint jobs. In fact, there’s a lot about the old gal that’s one-of-akind. This includes the private, two-roomed Honeysuckl­e Cottage and the Planet Bar terrace – surely the most genteel spot in Cape Town for a discreet glass of bubbly. Make like John Lennon and Winston Churchill did, and bask in her rosy glow on a special SADC resident rate of R3 100 per room per night (including breakfast) until 20 December 2021. belmond.com |cb el mo nd mount nelson hotel

THE SAXON HOTEL, VILLAS & SPA, JOHANNESBU­RG

It’s fitting that Joburg’s most iconic hotel only opened in 2000: the City of Gold loves new, swanky and VIP, after all. Originally insurance magnate Douw Steyn’s house, this elite bolt-hole is now a home away from home for visiting heads of state and AAA-listers. Tucked away in the most glorious, tree-filled Sandhurst garden, it has a subtle neutral palette and a contempora­ry African aesthetic – and it has just undergone a refurb, so it’s looking all spruced up for its 1 May reopening. This is where you should luxuriate at the spa (the best in town), lounge by the pool, and – should you be so inclined – broker the sale of a small country. saxon.co.za | c thesaxonho­tel

THE VICTORIA FALLS HOTEL, ZIMBABWE

Sure, visitors flock to the border town to experience one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World – but the other reason they make the effort is for this glorious hotel. Originally built in 1904 as accommodat­ion for railway workers, today the Victoria Falls Hotel is synonymous with old-school panache. Stay in one of the Stables Signature Wing suites with views over the front lawn, and you may wish to laze in your four-poster all day. Alternativ­ely, wander down to the falls, enjoy high tea on the veranda and take a sunset cruise on the Zambezi for maximum non-bed-related romantic vibes. victoriafa­llshotel.com |ct he victoria falls hotel

THE OYSTER BOX, UMHLANGA

Generation­s of South Africans grew up visiting this bastion of beach-holiday memories. And, since the Tollman family (who own the Red Carnation Hotel Collection) bought the place in 2006 and gave it a luxe overhaul, there are legions more with special stories about the place. Kitted out in classic Durban retro style – complete with many red accents to match the adjacent Umhlanga lighthouse – everything about this hotel says “tropical glam”. You must try the curry buffet at the Ocean Terrace, high tea in the Palm Court and a signature cocktail at one of the three in-house bars. Walk off these mandatory indulgence­s on the wonderful Umhlanga promenade. oysterboxh­otel.com | c theoysterb­ox

DROSTDY HOTEL, GRAAFF-REINET

Highveld dwellers on the seasonal schlep to the Garden Route know the Drostdy as their go-to overnight stop.

For decades it served that purpose – since 1878, in fact – but the hotel had been rather tatty until a huge revamp a few years back. Thanks to DHK Architects and interior designer Stephen Falcke, the Drostdy is now the epitome of laid-back Karoo charm: it’s all about wooden floors, botanical prints, classic fabrics and discreet touches of cowhide. Weekend stays should include meanders around the delightful town of Graaff-Reinet, and trips to the nearby Camdeboo National Park and Valley of Desolation. newmarkhot­els.com

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