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  • Writer's pictureSandra Caganoff

Birkenhead House

There’s a whale, I yelled out loud, while spooning freshly made yoghurt and gooseberries into my mouth.

I think that’s my wife surfing, said the American at the nearby table.

No, you’re right, said the woman seated to our right. It’s a whale and there's a baby with it.

This was a voice I recognised.

Leanne, I said! Leanne and I waitressed together in the 80s, in the old days of the Hard Rock Cafe, where we would work from 5 pm till 5 am and go home, sit on our studio beds and count our hard earned cash from tips.

Now we were sitting in a gorgeous dining room at Birkenhead House in Hermanus, being served an extremely delicious meal, staring at the ocean, a whale and her calf just a few meters away. A far cry from the old days of us serving raw roast chicken to drunken diners.

You know each other, said the American. That’s cool. I bumped into an old school friend while on holiday at The Silo in Cape Town, sitting on their rooftop. That was something, after 40 years.

It suddenly felt like a scene out of White Lotus except we were all nice people.

I think.

Leanne introduced me to her husband. I introduced my partner. We reminisced and laughed that we were finally having the coffee ‘we’d always promised we would have’ but now we were having it in total luxury.

‘We had to come here,’ Leanne said.’ They’re having such amazing specials for South Africans right now. We would be silly not to.’

We were there for similar reasons. I work in travel and get offered good deals all the time. Birkenhead House, which is generally priced towards the American market, is now affordable for South Africans. And while it is still fairly costly it is worth every penny.

“How long are you here for?” I asked.

"Three nights," she replied.

We were on our second night and already sad at the thought of leaving.

We finished our breakfast. I’d eaten eggs hollandaise followed by two sweet beautiful pastries and a cheese plate. He’d eaten the French Toast with strawberries, maple syrup and crispy bacon. Satisfied, we went to lie on the long white daybeds positioned perfectly over the beach and ocean.

It’s quite easy to lie on a daybed all day long at Birkenhead House.

"Do you think they would have brought me more French Toast if I’d asked for a second helping," my partner asked?

"They would bring you three helpings if you wanted," I replied. "It’s Birkenhead House. They go out of their way to offer everything."

I discovered a few things on the trip. That an extra length king size bed is fabulous. That falling asleep to the sound of the ocean even better. That waking at 2 am and eating all the snacks in the mini bar, and the caramelised popcorn is highly recommended, is perfectly acceptable. That when you eat the chocolate from your private pantry, the slab is replaced pretty quickly. That Negronis while watching whales are divine. Whisky after a cliff walk is fabulous. That if you want lunch at 3 pm it is just fine. And even though you say you are going to skip lunch, it is impossible to do so. Birkenhead rates includes all meals and drinks and each meal is perfect. Which is why it is easy to roll from one day bed to another and start communing with the whales across the bay.

There are fabulous day trips you can do, a flight over the ocean, boat trips, horse riding on the beach, wine tasting, mussel picking, going in to Hermanus, golfing and hiking.

We didn't do anything and I recommend that if you stay at Birkenhead you don’t do anything either.

The next time I bumped into Leanne she was walking down the spiral staircase from suite number one.

"You’re in suite one," I said, with a raised eyebrow.

She giggled embarrassedly.

"We are. You?"

"We are in suite three."

There was a little silence. As waitresses we were always a bit competitive over the tables we served. I could see a small fight looming over our luxury suites.

Except that each suite, whichever one you are in, is just divine. Some have full sea views, some partial and some look over the pool. Some have their own private pool. Each one has magnificent artworks, is chic, stylish and even a little bit quirky. And the bathrooms are massive with claw tubs, so many mirrors, two basins and oh I want to go back so badly.

It was an exquisite two nights. I feel full and like I have five stars in my eyes!

Hope there’s a next time.


You can book with me. Sandi at Thandeka Africa.

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