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Issue 5
Africa Travel> Issue 5
UPDATED: July 30, 2014
Of Nooks and Grannies
Granny Mouse House in the Midlands of Kwa-Zulu Natal feels like a home away from home
By Jo Kromberg

Endless views from the chalets at Granny Mouse House

The midlands of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, looks like it is covered in fine, green silk in the softly falling rains.

As we drive the last few kilometres to our destination in our luxury sedan, courtesy of Hertz Car Hire, our surroundings are postcard pretty – horses and cows graze in the undulating hills and fields and rustic Tudor-style houses, restaurants and Inns are dotted shyly along the winding roads.

Granny Mouse Country House and Spa could not fit in with this John Constable painting better had it been in the Lake District itself. This unique and elegant hotel is situated in the picturesque KwaZulu Natal Midlands at the foothills of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg, one of South Africa's world heritage sites.

An eclectic modern/baroque design is pre-eminent throughout the interiors, with red wing-back chairs, lazy couches and chez lounges casually inhabiting the various intimate living spaces and sitting areas, all nestling in luxurious fabrics and generously accompanied by fire places, warm wood furniture and fixtures, beautiful paintings and chandeliers hanging from the cosy thatched roofs.

The gardens look like something out of Lord of the Ring's Middle Earth with an immaculate landscaper. The website says it best: "The careful union of exotic and indigenous flora presents a colourful display almost year round. In an unstructured design large, mature trees as well as lush shrubbery and the not-so-bold little 'gems' add to the charm that is Granny Mouse Country House and Spa."

The bubbly and charming Kara accompanies us to our room, one of the new deluxe suites, located on the Lion River with a gorgeous view. The room is stunningly decorated and painstaking attention to detail is evident. The suites include bathrooms en suite with a separate bath-with-a-view, shower and double basin, king size beds, flat screen TVs with 10 channel DSTV, a balcony overlooking the river, a cosy fireplace and a fully stocked mini bar. There are also three family rooms, every one a double, with 32 rooms in total on the premises.

The quaint chapel at Granny Mouse House

We have a steak dinner – done to medium-rare perfection - in the cosy and informal Bistro that evening and retire to our room for an early night, relaxing in front of our very own fireplace, sipping Shiraz.

The skies are a heavenly, crisp blue and the clean mountain air serves as an instant mind-and-body makeover. After a scrumptious buffet breakfast, including smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, we are off to explore what the surrounding area has to offer. A definite must to visit is Zulu-lulu Ceramic Boutique, Art Bar and Gallery at the Piggly Wiggly Country Village. Starting out as a passionate pottery hobby in a small studio has created a truly South African range of ceramics that puts the art back into craft. The new Zulu-lulu ceramic boutique, ART BAR and Gallery brings together the ceramic retail space, carefully selected artworks in the gallery and a comfortable studio space for visitors to try their hand at being creative. We take a leisurely drive to the elegant Rawdons Hotel with their thriving independent brewery which has long been delighting locals and visitors with a range of naturally brewed ales and lagers. The beer tasting is followed by a visit to Born in Africa, which produces locally made vodka, liqueurs, and sherries in natural flavours ranging from orange and cinnamon to chilly – simply heavenly! They also sell children's clothes and shoes made by the local community. Other excursions a stone's throw away from Granny Mouse include Stonehaven Day Tours of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg, Karkloof canopy tours, quad biking, horse riding, hot-air ballooning and clay-pigeon shooting.

The weather here is unpredictable but the soft and soothing rain outside ads to the sublime and surreal experience of my massage at the beautiful spa when we get back later. The spa is housed on the premises with full massage menu, hydro-bath, sauna and Jacuzzi. Dinner that evening is in The Eaves, the fine dining restaurant upstairs. Soft, classical music greets us as we ascend the stairs to the dimly lit restaurant in the thatched roof with candelabras on the tables – romantic perfection. The menu is spectacular. I go for a cornucopia of small tasters in the forms of the salt and pepper squid with lemon aioli, then the saffron prawn bruschetta, followed by the pan roasted chicken on biryani crushed potatoes and topped off by the black forest torte with caramelised hazelnuts. Every course is more sublime than the next – no surprise since head chef Evan hails from culinary establishments such as the Arabella and Cape Grace Hotels. My partner Izak opts for the beef tartar fillet, marinated in mint and coriander yoghurt as well as the mushroom risotto followed by the vanilla brulee with mocha semi-fredo and declares himself smitten.

After exploring the grounds further with owner Gill Bowmaker the following morning, being shown the family units, disabled-friendly units (much neglected at most hotels and lodges), the corporate function and wedding facilities and spaces as well as the quaint chapel, we reluctantly make the great trek back to Pretoria. Granny Mouse wraps itself around you like a warm blanket. The gardens, the mellifluous waterfall, the misty mountains and the small details all lend themselves to a sense of romance, tranquillity and timeless surrender to languished luxury. Simply put, it feeds the soul...

For full contact details and information as well as special offers go to: www.grannymouse.co.za

Email: reservations@grannymouse.co.za or give them a call on 033 2344071

When visiting Granny Mouse Country House & Spa, be sure to include on your itinerary a visit to Zulu Lulu Art Bar at Piggly Wiggly. For bookings or more information, contact Stuart on 083 627 3491.

Getting there:

Cathay Pacific has daily flights between Hong Kong and Johannesburg.

Flight duration is 12.5 hours and the planes used are Boeing 777-300ER and Boeing 747-400s. Go to http://www.cathaypacific.com/ for schedules and bookings.

South African Airways operates the Johannesburg-Beijing/Beijing-Johannesburg route non-stop three times a week using its Airbus A340-600 long-haul aircraftFlights between Johannesburg and Beijing take on average 15 hours, and flyers will be able to make use of the Air China Lounges in Beijing. Bookings through travel agencies and www.flyssa.com.

We were kindly given a wonderfully smooth and economical Toyota by Hertz Car Hire to get us to the midlands and back. Hertz Car Hire is one of South Africa's premier car rental companies, enjoying nearly 100 years of heritage, excellence and innovation. Through constant customer service development and a desire to remain at the forefront of the car rental industry, Hertz remains committed to delivering exceptional experiences with each car rental. For more information contact them on Hertz.co.za or 0861 600 136 Hertz regularly offers various special offers to suit your every need – go to http://www.hertz.co.za or www.facebook.com/Hertzcarrental for special offer updates.

Directions: From Johannesburg, travel towards Durban on the N3 and go through the Mooi River Plaza. Take the first turn-off towards Nottingham Road and turn right at the stop street. Continue to Nottingham Road village going straight through for a distance of approximately 15 km until you see the Granny Mouse Country House and Spa turn-off on the left-hand side.

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