Because of the turns of the wind, in summer the water at the South African haven of Camps Bay is colder than mid winter. We discover this after we’ve flown to South Africa in search of summer.
Growing up, we spent every summer in a holiday apartment in Shoal Bay on the east coast of Australia. The flats carried a smell of sunscreen in the carpet and the obligatory set of Trivial Pursuit was dimpled from where cards had been clutched by damp hands. The sand was white, water warm and every afternoon at 3.15pm the ice cream van would roll past playing ‘Greensleeves’. My sister and I would streak down the stairs in search of a chocolate-dipped soft serve. We’d eat them hopping from one foot to another: a race to see whether the ice cream would first collapse with heat exhaustion all over your hand, or the bitumen would burn the bottom of your feet.
My criteria for a superior beach side destination hails from this. This is what I require to put a smile on my freckled face:
White sand beach. Warm water. To be able to walk to and from a good local spot for dinner. A route by the coast to run or walk along. Somewhere to source ice cream.
After three days at Pod, one of the shiniest new accommodation options in Cape Town’s playground of Camps Bay, I’ve been seduced. Chief Brody may have needed a bigger boat to get what he was after. I’m searching ultimate indulgence. And from now, I’m going to need a longer list.
Pod is compact, with 15 rooms and it categorises itself as ‘barefoot luxury’. Since it opened it has swiftly found itself on plenty of international ‘hot’ lists. My husband and I arrive early from an overnight flight from Heathrow. Despite the hour we’re shown to our room. It’s a study in rustic elegance, marrying wood, stone, glass and leather. Bedside tables are made from smoothed logs, and the bed base thoughtfully curved to prevent midnight injury to shins. The wi-fi is lightning-fast and there are DVD players so you can borrow from the hotel’s library of favoured films.
Beyond the Charlotte Rhys amenities on the bathroom bench, in the cupboard we find fluffy robes and branded flip flops. At the merest mention of a trip to a beach a basket is packed for us with fresh towels, cold water and staff are dispatched to set up chairs and an umbrella on the sand.
The big red bus tour of Cape Town (which conveniently stops only 200 metres from the front door) tells us in an Afrikaans monotone that Camps Bay is a hot spot for the glamorous. Most mornings of our stay, parked beside the infinity edged pool is a fellow guest, a lithe, tanned German in a South American bikini. She’s doing half-hearted sit ups while flipping through one of the fashion magazines left around the bar for guests to peruse. On our second day we find a photo shoot underway in the hotel bar. Pod may be a place built for beautiful people, but the staff are just as kind to us.
Two days into our stay we are upgraded to one of the superior rooms. We’ve traded in our shower and balcony plunge pool for a corner room the size of our London apartment. It boasts a bath large enough for a buffalo, two rainwater shower heads and a spectacular view from the second floor balcony.
A great hotel stands and falls not on the rooms, but on the service. Here, Pod shines. Every morning guests are greeted by name and asked how they slept, what their plans are and if they need any assistance. When the weather turns sour a day is quickly designed for us; we’ll take advantage of the parking available downstairs. A rental car is sourced and a route designed that will take us south, past the Chapman’s Bay scenic drive, onto Cape Point where the Atlantic kisses the Indian Oean, then back past Boulders Beach to see the penguin colony.
On the other days we can’t tear ourselves away from the bay. They begin with a gentle jog north, past the four beaches of Clifton. Then there’s a coffee collected at Caffe e Vida. You’ll know it by the flock of lycra-clad cyclists out the front sipping cappuccinos (cyclists often prove useful trackers of decent coffee). From there we make our way to breakfast at the hotel strawberry juice, a continental buffet and the option of hot dishes cooked to order, including the ‘Pod special’ of scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, avocado and crème fraiche. Any country that endorses the inclusion of avocado in breakfast is a friend of mine.
The day lolls past, itching for the arrival of the golden hour. At Camps Bay the strip of restaurants and bars fronting the beach are purpose built for a tradition of ‘sundowners’. A local Union beer and passionfruit daiquiri at the Mussel Bar is a grand way to start an evening. As for food, it can be argued that South African style pork ribs give the American South a run for their money, and the racks at both the Bayside Cafe and Kove are worth checking out. But the real pick for dinner is one block back from the beachfront, at The Codfather. There you’ll find sushi as soft as infant thighs, oysters and tiger prawns the size of barbecue tongs.
For me the best beach side desserts come in a cone. Here they are collected at Sinnfull ice cream parlour and eaten while you walk north along the sand. The first night we do this, I take note of a sign on the shore. It’s there to remind swimmers of who else has been known to enjoy this corner of the world. Each morning on our run the ‘Be Shark Smart’ message smiles at me. The fact that the ocean is too cold for a dip now seems less of a concern.
The happiest moments at Pod come at sunset in the plunge pool on our balcony. From here I can still see the sand, smell the salt and hear the rustle of the waves as they kick up against the shore across the road. The water around my chest is a darn sight warmer than the 13 C of the Atlantic. And better yet, in this body of water I can safely nurse a Campari on ice.
If there’s a better spot for a sundowner in the world, I don’t know it.
All of this might help to explain why a plunge pool has found its way onto my criteria for a superior beach-side break. And why Pod has vaulted straight to the top of my personal ‘what’s hot’ list for 2012.