Our Home Away from Home in Cape Town
A warm, welcoming and well-appointed family home at Camps Bay is our ‘home away from home’ in Cape Town, South Africa. A five-minute stroll from the white-sand beach, with a swimming pool in the sunny garden, a piano in the living room, and stunning views of Table Mountain, ‘The Bayleaf’ is a wonderful place to settle in for a while.
While the living area, adjoining television room, and dining room feel intimate and cosy, the house is actually enormous with a big kitchen and, upstairs, four super-spacious bedrooms, each with a shiny bathroom. In addition, on the ground level there is another large apartment with kitchenette and a snug hotel room-style studio for budget travellers, with private entrances separate to that of the main part of the house.
We’ve been lucky to have the whole lot to ourselves, however, you could rent one type of accommodation, or a couple of bits (different areas can be unlocked or locked off), or book the complete property, which would be perfect for a big family, family reunion, or large group of friends.
To make us feel even more spoilt, ‘The Bayleaf’ comes with a jovial housekeeper called Mildred, with a personality as big, warm and welcoming as the house. I wanted to hug her as soon as I met her! You can choose to let Mildred potter around and clean up after you each day, bringing sunshine into the home with her on the cloudiest of days. Or, as we did, let her have a bit of a holiday and have her come just once or twice a week. (Mildred’s hours are negotiable and she still gets paid.)
If that’s not enough, The Bay Leaf’s terrific owners, Shirley and Keith, are also on hand to help. Shirley runs the property, acting as a virtual concierge, and will organize your transfer, provide fantastic suggestions as to things to see and do, and places to eat and drink. She even booked our medical appointments for our shots for Kenya and offered us theatre tickets they couldn’t use. Keith has a pretty important full-time job, however, the man still found time to email us the weekly ‘What’s On’ newsletter!
If you don’t wish to take advantage of these extras and want total privacy, then that’s fine too, just let the Engers know. You’ll manage perfectly fine with the shelves of tourist brochures and stacks of coffee table books and guidebooks on Cape Town and South Africa. There’s also a phone and fast internet access.
The Bay Leaf’s ‘welcome pack’ is one of the most impressive we’ve had this year, after Rusty Irons’ pantry of course, with enough goodies to get guests started for breakfast (tea, coffee, juice, delicious bread, yoghurt, eggs, milk, etc) and a local bottle of wine. They even left us some soup, but that could have been because we arrived on a Sunday evening after 2.5 days of travelling, so don’t hold us to that being in your fridge when you arrive.
The kitchen is much loved and if you’re planning on eating in, doing a Cape Malay cooking course and practicing some of the dishes you learnt, or doing some entertaining, you won’t want for anything. This kitchen is jam-packed with every kind of conceivable type of baking tray, pot, pan, appliance, and gadget, and an abundance of dinnerware, cups, glasses, cutlery, serving trays, and napkins.
You could very easily check in here with the intentions of holding a garden party, cocktail party, or wedding brunch, and be confident that you have everything you’d need to pull the thing off. Mildred and Shirley, a former cooking teacher, would be your greatest assets, and knowing them, they’d probably help out!
Terence may well have been delighted with the kitchen, which he used to make a couple of delicious Cape Malay curries during our stay, but he was over the moon with the piano, which he would play while drives were downloading or photos processing. The music he made was my reward. There are few things sweeter than listening to a live recital of Erik Satie’s Gnossiennes Nr. 1, one of my favourite pieces, every day.
While the living area is elegant, with a mix of modern and antique furniture, South African artefacts and objects of art, a collection of silverware displayed, and lots of seats and sofas, as Shirley herself admits, it might be a bit of squeeze if you rented the entire property for a large group of friends.
This wouldn’t worry a big family who are used to bunking together, and wouldn’t concern friends at all during good weather, as outside there are two sets of tables and chairs, a sofa, sun beds, and barbeques (we’re in Cape Town after all), but the place could feel a tad crowded if there were eight or twelve dining together inside. If some of the group are kids, then it won’t be a problem as there’s also seating in the kitchen.
The swimming pool is also small, so it won’t suit fitness fanatics obsessed with doing laps everyday, but the beach is literally five-minutes’ walk away, and the pool is just fine for a quick dip to cool off on a warm day. Also a few minutes stroll from the house is an excellent supermarket, shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants, which line the beach promenade.
The bedrooms are all really comfortable, fitted out with quality sheets and blankets, nice towels and toiletries in the big bathrooms, and televisions and DVD players. In the master bedroom, the one where we stayed, which boasts a balcony with views of spectacular Table Mountain (from where Terence shot a time-lapse video), the owners have a walk-in wardrobe where they lock their stuff during your stay.
So this is where it must be said that Shirley and Keith actually live in the house when you’re not staying here, so if you choose to rent the whole house, they move into another place close by before you check in. This is a family home. But a family home in the very best sense. And actually, if you want breakfast made for you, Shirley’s been known to do that too! If you want a family around? Shirley and Keith, their lovely daughter, and dogs Daisy and Lily, are just a phone call away.