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Alex Smith

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Secret Gardens of Cape Town #9: The Vineyard Hotel River Walk

Vineyard River Walk2I know of two writers who cannot abide anyone seeing, let alone touching, their feet, but I have no issue with it. Friends gave me a gift voucher to the spa that has been voted the best in Africa: the Angsana at the Vineyard. I chose a colour the Pantone people call Black Red. And after the luxury of a foot massage, with my toes twinkling and nails painted to perfection, there was ginger tea with a view of the almost primordial gardens of the Vineyard Hotel.


Way back in the mists of time, I had heard there was a river at the Vineyard Hotel, but I never went there. So decades have passed and only because of my toes have I discovered this treasure of a garden. It’s beyond the boring grass (don’t get me wrong, I like grass, but it’s not usually exciting). You go down a cobbled pathway and stairs and then, abracadabra, appears the ‘River Walk’. Why haven’t I been here before? Why didn’t people tell me how sublime this place is? It’s magic. There are cycads, Stinkwoods, Kapok trees, bush willows. And it has certainly been a secret from me.

Hotel view2

Maybe you need to have a coffee at the restaurant to justify sauntering about the garden, but don’t spend too much time under the pergola looking out at the manicured grass; layers of terrace and the river wilderness (complete with a hundred year old tortoise) await you. And the air there is cool and mossy-sweet and dragonflies flit between the water lilies. Its most recent author, or the gardening equivalent thereof, is Anne Sutton, who was named an Icon of Landscape Architecture and who passed away in 2011. What a beautiful legacy of leaves and bush willows she has left.

Devilskein&Dearlove is due to be published by Random House Umuzi in SA and Arachne press in the UK in July 2014. It is a ‘Secret Garden’ for the 21st century, set in Long Street Cape Town. Perfect for precocious readers from the age of 12 and up!


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