As anyone who reads this blog regularly will know, I believe every grown up gap year needs a few luxuries along the way – no matter what your travel budget – and for me that usually involves tea in one way or another. So at the end of our #SAroadtrip we headed to Cape Town’s most luxurious hotel for my perfect afternoon: a massage followed by afternoon tea.
The Mount Nelson Hotel was built in 1899 and is famous for its high tea. Our first stop was the hotel’s Librisa Spa. We arrived on foot, which was perhaps a less glamourous entrance than the other guests who were all dropped off in fancy cars, but once inside we stepped into ultimate luxury.
We were greeted by some of the spa’s lovely staff and taken to the conservatory where there was tea and fresh fruit to enjoy while we lounged on the day beds with cosy blankets. I could actually probably have just spent the day there it was so nice.
From there we headed to the spa where we were asked to choose the oil we would like for our full body massages. An hour of bliss later we were back in the conservatory listening to the relaxing music and trying not to fall asleep before our afternoon tea.
The signature afternoon tea is served in the hotel’s lounge, which is filled with beautiful furnishing, chandeliers and paintings. Guests sit around little tables, which are laid out with gorgeous cups and saucers. The perfectly cut finger sandwiches, tiny tarts and handmade cakes are presented on a long table in the middle of the room, where guests can pick and choose what they want to eat. Literally my idea of heaven!
One of the things which always makes my trips more memorable is the people I meet along the way. So I was thrilled that we were served by a waiter called Sydney, who knew everything there was to know about tea. Although he kept joking that it was his first day on the job, he had actually worked at the hotel for 32 years and was passionate about his tea. We were asked to choose which blend we wanted from a huge menu and then Sydney brought it to our table and prepared it in front of us – wafting the pot in front of our noses and insisting that we told him what we could smell.
I opted for the Mount Nelson Hotel blend, which includes six teas from Africa and Asia, as well as buds from the Mount Nelson pink roses. After using a small timer to make sure it brewed for exactly the right amount of time, Sydney returned to serve it to us. He clearly loved the whole ceremonial aspect of the afternoon tea, which made it even more special for us.
As we were chatting he told us that he would soon be retiring. While retirement is something most people seem to count the days down until, Sydney said he thought he would find it difficult and was hoping to be able to return to work part-time during the busy season. He said: “It’s hard to stop when you are used to work.”
Personally, after 32 years, I think Sydney deserves to put his feet up with a good cup of tea.