Portal of gratitude
Imagine this – five star luxury in a natural setting, with a spiritual focus to their beautiful accommodation. I feel I have fallen through a portal of gratitude into a parallel world. The meaning behind the name Angala includes the creation of the earth by the divine, an ongoing process of regenerating limitless potential (see www.angala.co.za). One enters into this spirit the moment one drives through the wine estate and walks past the large wooden sculptured heart and thick lavender into the open plan lounge and elegant dining area of the lodge.
Angala looks out to mountains for 360 degrees of its view. It is the perfect central location between Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Paarl, from which to explore the surrounding wine estates, restaurants and countryside – if you ever manage to leave that is. I overhear a couple asking if they may extend their stay at Angala and I similarly long to make this my loveliest of homes for as long as possible. The peace and stillness simply captivate one and a quiet bond soon develops amongst the likeminded, nature-loving guests and warm, calm staff.
The light-filled rooms overlook the lake or gardens which are rich with diverse birdlife. Each room has a lounge area opening with double glass doors onto a private verandah with seating area. Back inside there is a round dining table with chairs, a most beautiful bespoke kitchenette wardrobe with cutlery and crockery, a Nespresso coffee maker, microwave, chopping board and sink. Every luxury has been thought of, and there are beautiful cotton gowns and slippers, heated towel rails, underfloor heating, air-conditioning and a ceiling fan. In the sophisticated bedroom area there is subtle downlighting and pretty bedside lamps to highlight the silky white linen and upholstered headboard.
But it's the bathrooms that win my decor heart - tiled in marble, fitted in minimalist white and with one side a full height set of glass sliding doors with views onto private gardens and the lake beyond. A deep freestanding bath faces the lovely view past double indoor showers and an outdoor shower on the deck. A portion of the deck wall rolls away to open the sense of space and continuity even further.
This is cutting-edge South African accommodation - the perfect blend of sensory, spiritual, environmental, natural, modern and aesthetic. The gardens are lush and decorated with soulful wooden sculptures. The open area in front of the main lodge is graced with an exquisite eco-pool, surrounded by Arum Lilies, Daffodils and reeds.
I love it when an historic building is brought gently into the 21st Century with aesthetic care and the main lodge is both modern and traditional, and very South African. It has a wide verandah on two sides, one side overlooking the valley, and the other side facing the eco pool. There is an outdoor and indoor fireplace with wooden and grey upholstered eco-style furniture. The food, which is served outdoors when the weather is good, is delicious and I feel a surge of pride in what South African accommodation like this offers its delighted guests.
Ascetic spirituality has us conditioned to divide the beautiful and pampering from the spiritual. This stems, perhaps, from Descarte’s mind-body dualism and the disillusionment with the wealth and corruption seen in the church, coinciding with the birth of the paradoxically titled “enlightenment” and modernism. The shift meant giving perhaps too much power to the scientific and intellectual, with the loss of the soulful and natural. Rediscovery of ancient spiritual practices like Mindfulness are now encouraging us to spend less time trapped in our thoughts and to bridge the mind-body divide by integrating the spiritual with the sensory and living fully in the present moment. Still, the idea of simply being present to nature and our senses scares us.
I decide to take up the challenge, and instead of dashing about taking too many photographs, as I would usually do, I decide to make the most of my heavenly bathroom at Angala.
If you have never had the privilege of an outdoor shower under open African skies, this should be on your list. And Angala has one of the best outdoor showers I have ever experienced – overlooking the mountains and gardens from a raised wooden platform with wooden sides for complete privacy. A cool breeze comes off the lake and brings the scent of orange blossom in from the garden.
As usual, despite all the luxury and finesse, it is nature that steals the show. From my shower I see a bright yellow and black bishop flit past and an emerald sunbird comes to visit. A distant mountain, the Paarl perhaps, is suddenly lit up in a spectacular display of light breaking through the clouds. I don’t even rush for my camera, just smile and gaze in silent awe and gratitude.