Travellers Sara Essop and Zunaid Shah
Destination Rovos Rail, from Pretoria to Cape Town, visiting Kimberley and Matjiesfontein en route
Dates 16 to 18 May 2014
Reasons for visiting this destination To capture the romance and nostalgia of a bygone era (on a luxurious and leisurely train journey) aboard the The Pride of Africa.
Our Little Black Book
The best hotel
The train itself. It was absolutely stunning – panelled in exquisite dark wood and carpeted in emerald green and gold. It encapsulated old-world elegance and opulence in a manner that few other trains do. The public areas consisted of the lounge car, dining car, smoking car, and observation car with an open-air balcony for unsurpassed viewing. There was also a small library and a boutique shop for on-board retail therapy. There were three types of rooms – all en-suite. We stayed in a Deluxe Suite, which had a comfortable double bed as well as a sitting area. Five-star comforts like towelling gowns, slippers and electric blankets were provided. The Royal Suites occupy half a carriage and are the largest train suites in the world. A hostess was always on call to look after our needs.
The best place for dinner
The train’s dining room. Meal times were announced by the beating of a gong. Dinners were events involving suits and evening dresses, and upon arriving at the cart, flowers were pinned on to our lapels. We sat at tables with starched tablecloths and napkins, bespoke crockery and crystal glasses. Our five-course meals were a celebration of local delicacies, served with scrumptiously prepared seasonal fruit and vegetables.
High tea was served every afternoon and only our waistlines suffered.
The best place for lunch
Also, the train’s dining room. We did not have to dress up for lunch, but were served the same exceptional quality of food. It was wonderful to gaze out of the window at the picturesque scenery while enjoying our meals.
The best place for a drink
The balcony at the end of the train, which offered an unparalleled open-air vantage point. Staff were always on hand to replenish drinks and snacks as we captured hundreds of photos of some of the beautiful scenery. We passed harried commuters on train platforms, and little shacks from which the inhabitants waved to us. We went through dark mountain tunnels and rode through the arid desert, crossed meandering rivers and passed verdant vineyards.
The first thing travellers should do upon reaching this destination
Get on to the observation deck and start taking photos.
The best place to shop
There was a small shop on the train, but everything you need is included in your train fare so there is no need to shop.
The best way to get around
The train takes you on the scenic route from Pretoria to Cape Town. There are two fascinating excursions en route: in Kimberley, the Diamond City where a private coach takes you around, and the Victorian village of Matjiesfontein, where you can stretch your legs on a gentle walk.
If you want to feel like a local you should… act as though you are accustomed to such luxury – and enjoy being pampered!
Watch out for… your waistline, which is likely to expand.
Don’t leave without… a souvenir of your trip and a gazillion photos to show everyone.
Insider tip Don’t forget your camera and get onto the observation deck early for the best seats on the train. Be sure to catch a sunset or two as well. You will never get a better view.
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