Sunday, 26 May 2013

Hawksmoor House, Stellenbosch

Entering into Slow Time

One of my favourite scenes by novelist Kurt Vonnegut[i] is where he describes the late night bonding between an insomniac war veteran and his faithful dog, where he writes “I let him know that I like him and he lets me know that he likes me.” This simple sentiment is what I wish to express about everything at Hawksmoor House, including their two easily likeable hounds. From the first email, to the reception at the hotel, to the tour of the grand Cape Dutch style homestead, one is made to feel warmly welcomed.

I run out of superlatives during the showing of the 300-year old homestead, with its original Aga stove and Oregon pine corner kitchen cupboard. The resplendent dining room is layered with priceless antiques, with enormous double doors and windows. The lounge has a cavernous fireplace and beautifully upholstered grand chairs. There is an elegant furnished verandah at the back of the building, overlooking a long Koi pond with thick purple lavender bushes back-lit by the setting sun.

I love a country estate with plenty of tumbling outbuildings, which abound here at Hawksmoor House. The accommodation has been expertly integrated into the outbuildings and the original manor house, such that no new additions have been built onto the property. It is hard to choose amongst the fabulously decorated suites, but finally I settle on a stay in the old Slave Quarters, in the grey room. The grey walls are so rich they almost look blue in the sunlight which streams into the room throughout the day. Even the elaborate French country-style dressing table, wardrobe, headboard and mirrors are painted in the same grey tones. The colour is enhanced by the white borders of the tall sash windows and double doors, and the cool, creamy limestone flagged floors. The room has views over the autumn-hued vineyards, across the valley to the mountains beyond. Indeed, I like this place very well.

What I love about Hawksmoor House:
  • The lovely approach into the estate, towards the original Cape Dutch homestead, flanked by two equally gracious oak trees
  • The celebration of the historical buildings, which have been sensitively restored to be light and spacious without losing any architectural integrity
  • Staying on a working farm, without preciousness or sterile blandness, but full of texture and warm country hospitality
  • Gentle pooches which elegantly decorate the Persian carpets in the impressive dining room
  • Individually decorated suites with lavish style and bold use of modern colour
  • Conveniently located just off the N1, with easy access to Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek and Cape Town, yet with a country feel which encourages a gentle slowing down of one’s usual frenetic pace of life

Accommodation Experience
If I stay here much longer I shall be a very clean prune – I find myself entering slow time and I have one of the lengthiest, loveliest baths ever. A deep Victoria and Albert bath is set up against a tall sash window, with views across the valley to the mountains beyond. I watch the setting sun turn the mountains and skies pink, enjoying the contrast of the cool breeze from the open window with the hot water. Some guinea fowl are outside the window making their musical tuck-tucking.

Single-tasking is the new buzz word on the spiritual and psychological block – the simple act of doing one thing at a time, with mindful attention and appreciation. An antidote to the stress and hectic pace of modern life, the idea is to be fully present to each activity, using this awareness to slow us down and become more awake to life. And what better place to try out this practice than at Hawksmoor House, in the beautiful Cape winelands.

We have so little time on this earth – do we really want to spend it living a kind of half-life – never slowing enough to feel the texture of fresh food, the grass under our feet or the sun on our skin? We lose hours, days, weeks to mindless rushing or dull drudgery. Instead we are invited to participate actively in the small everyday miracles of life – the full experience of simply tasting a cup of tea, not gulping it down while texting and planning when to fit in the shopping. I am having the privilege of entering into this slow time at this country retreat, where time is stretching before me in delicious, sacred moments. And I highly recommend it to you, wherever you find yourself now, in this moment of time.

[i] In his novel Slaughterhouse 5

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