Back when Barack Obama was a freshman senator from Illinois, he booked a room at Cape Town’s Table Bay Hotel. Like many celebrities before him, he chose this exclusive hotel on Cape Town’s Victoria & Alfred Waterfront because of its prime location, stellar views and five-star service.
In fact, if you walk around Oscar, the sea lion statue facing the working harbor, you’ll see dozens of gold plaques with names of the many A-listers who have stayed at this gorgeous hotel: Michael Jackson, Charlize Theron, Stevie Wonder, Sarah Ferguson, Chris Rock and Sean Connery, to drop just a few names you may know.
At the time Obama stayed at Table Bay, the hotel was raising money for charity. Every time a notable person checked in, they’d be given paper and pen and asked to contribute a drawing for the upcoming auction. Keith Richards, Aretha Franklin and others quickly scrawled a doodle. But the future president of the United States gave it some thought and ended up contributing a gorgeous side profile of his wife, Michelle.
“After he got elected, we all looked at ourselves and thought, too bad we didn’t hang on to that,” said Sarah Prins, PR manager for the hotel.
Although no one asked me to contribute any drawing and it’s highly unlikely my name will end up on one of the plaques surrounding Oscar, the Seal, I did have the pleasure of staying at this amazing property on a recent visit to Cape Town. And I can easily second the nominations this 329-room property regularly receives for best of the best international hotels.
Three things stood out for me.
1. The windows.Like a model who knows which side to show when the cameras appear, this stunning hotel makes the most of Cape Town’s unparalled beauty with towering windows. One side of windows opens to Table Mountain, the imposing mesa that recently won a spot on the new seven natural wonders list, and the other to Robben Island, the infamous home of Nelson Mandela during much of his 27 years of imprisonment.
2. Location, location, location. Nearly everything is within walking distance—the gorgeous harbor with its cute shops and boutiques, the boat to Robben Island, the brightly-colored Bo-Kaap neighborhood, St. George’s Mall and the Company’s Garden.
3. High tea. I’ve been to some pretty impressive high teas in my years as a travel writer. In fact, last summer I wrote a whole article on the best and most decadent high teas. But this one at Table Bay Hotel may just take the cake…or the chocolate éclairs or the brandied chocolate mousse or the chocolate brioche with baby pear.
Like Prins said, “If only I’d known.”