Wide open spaces are total luxury, even to the gal whose home is in a wide open space. But look at this, a full-size football pitch built above Knysna, on South Africa’s Garden Route, for the French national team to practice before the 2010 World Cup here in South Africa (obviously they stayed at the 78-room hotel that is now the luxury Conrad Pezula). Next to the football pitch are three tennis courts, supplementing the one back up at the hotel. It is said that Roger Federer, who owns one of the amazingly-private homes on the 7,000-acre wooded estate that is Pezula, plays when his visits coincide with those of H&M owner Stefan Persson, a tennis fanatic. Stefan Persson is one of those who owns one of the Conrad’s hotel rooms. Condo-style, they are all normal letting rooms, but those who ‘own’ one get 50 free nights a year – which may be helpful, even if you are, as Forbes 2013 says in its annual listing, Sweden’s richest billionaire.
Some of the owners of other private houses on the Pezula estate have families there the whole time while they commute, out on Monday and back on Friday, to financial and other jobs in Johannesburg, or even Cape Town. You fly in and out of George, a dinky-toy airport just about an hour west of Knysna. The house residents, and those staying in the hotel, have so much nature to enjoy. There are impala and baby leopard and absolute-klepto baboons who will steal anything in sight. You can white-water raft down the river to the coast, or trek in the thick woods, hopefully with a guide to avoid any four-legged intruders.
There are horses, kept at The Barnyard and Stables next to the chef’s organic garden. There are sheep and hens and cockerels… there is a big thatched boma, a traditional African meeting place, where you can have a dinner for up to 40 of your favourite friends and/or business colleagues. You can run up and down the steep inclines, and play tennis (and hope RF is not watching), and work out in the hotel’s gym, or swim in its 40-foot heated indoor pool.
And back in your room you have underfloor heating in the walk-in closet and bathroom, and you have a real log fire that can be lit for you whenever (come back from dinner to a toasty room, lovely as winter sets in). In the morning, pull back the curtains and look at the view. From room 24, one of the Grand Suites (OK, no match for the beach-set Castle that is also part of this estate but still magnificent), you look down at a natural pool, and through amazingly lush greenery to the sea far below.
After that, you say to yourself, comes Antarctica. There is a helipad on the estate, of course (owner Keith Stewart has thought of everything) but the hour-long drive back to George airport is memorable for the sea one side, on your left, and the wooded mini-mountains on your right.
To save time, I asked them to send me off with a sandwich. My recycled paper box held a recycled paper container with the most-delicious toasted home-made ciabatta filled with home-smoked cheese, grilled Mediterranean vegetables and oodles of home-made pesto. Such basics done so marvellously are one of the essential ingredients of a luxury hotel.