The Light House Boutique Suites: a Pearl Within the Paarl Winelands

A short 45-minute drive outside of the Mother City, lies a pearl within a pearl; a luxury guesthouse tucked into a verdant oasis of clipped hedges, flowering bushes, and winding garden paths, in the charming town of Paarl. The Light House Boutique Suites is a tranquil haven to retreat and recover from the rigors of the working week, or from travel, as is the case with 90% of the guests here. It was here that we found ourselves on what would turn out to be the hottest weekend the Cape had seen all spring. It’s just as well, because with air-conditioned interiors and a gorgeous pool at our disposal, not even Paarl’s sweltering heat could compromise our comfort.

The forgotten sibling

Paarl has been given somewhat of a raw deal as far as reputation is concerned. Forced to contend with the likes of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, the historic town has unfortunately lost out on a little bit of the attention it deserves. Sure, while Franschhoek may be a “fancy box of chocolates” compared with its more rustic cousin, Paarl is the real deal. Here, frills, fuss, and French charm are roughly exchanged for the kind of honest, rustic goodness that we all, at heart, find so endearing.

Luxury Accommodation Paarl, Cape Town

Named for the bulbous granite extrusion that stands sentry over the town (and whose constituent quartz and mica crystals make it glitter in the sunlight), Paarl – meaning “pearl” – features a fabulous array of diversions. Notably, a wine route dotted with exceptional wineries such as Avondale, which is an absolute must visit for great wine, an enchanting cellar tour, and a delicious lunch or dinner at its restaurant, FABER. The town is also home to a plethora of historic attractions and other top-notch restaurants like Noop, Terra Mare, and The Red Table at Nederburg wine estate.

Paarl Rock itself offers a decent hiking challenge and breath-taking views from the top. The Light House Boutique Suites, therefore, is the perfect base from which to explore the treasures this somewhat ignored town has to offer. Your biggest challenge will be extricating yourself from the sweet embrace of the poolside chaise longues or your bed’s Egyptian cotton sheets to go exploring!

Luxury Accommodation Paarl, Cape Town

Décor and aesthetic

The gentlemen that run The Light House Boutique Suites on behalf of the owners are Darrol and Hendrik, whose career has been unpacked in various disciplines of design and, according to their own testament, have “absolutely no hotelier experience”. Of course, you would never guess from the stratospheric standard of hospitality achieved here. Their design background, however, is evident in every quarter from the gorgeous artworks that thoughtfully adorn the walls to the unique design theme and colour palette of every suite. Even the dining room changes colour every day with the different themed tablecloths that are laid out each morning for breakfast.

Luxury Accommodation Paarl, Cape Town

At our request, Darrol was kind enough to take us on a brief tour of the guesthouse’s five suites, each of which has a unique personality inspired by luxury designer Ralph Lauren, with a dash of warm Africanism thrown in. Our particular suite, the Manhattan room, had black and white photographs of its namesake city with gorgeous lemon yellow highlights adding colour and vivaciousness to a design base of clean whites, warm greys, and crystal embellishments.

Luxury Accommodation Paarl, Cape Town

Luxury Accommodation Paarl, Cape Town

Every element of the design here – colour, texture, and otherwise – has been thoughtfully curated to achieve a theme and feel that is at once luxurious and comfortable. For this reason, The Light House delivers a level of comfort above that of any hotel; you don’t need to scatter your possessions and clothing all over the place for it to start feeling like “yours”. It feels familiar from the outset.

Weekend plans out the window

Outside, The Light House’s garden lazily sprawls down a series of terraces, culminating at the lowest level in an enormous crystal-clear swimming pool. Although temperatures soared in the thirties, the water was surprisingly icy and so we repaired to the poolside chaise longues on which we happily lounged with a glass of Avondale MCC 2010 in hand. With that, all of our carefully crafted weekend plans to give Paarl a thorough exploration went completely and utterly out of the window. I made peace with it, though. This place is so darned beautiful that I’d be willing to sacrifice the hours spent hiking Paarl Rock, visiting the Taal Monument, and enduring the unforgiving sun to remain within the cool, luxurious embrace of this tranquil location.

Luxury Accommodation Paarl, Cape Town

Outstanding service

The promise of excellent wine and food did eventually lure us from the pool and so we dined at Noop on Friday night and indulged in wine and lunch at Avondale on Saturday, both located a short drive from The Light House. We barely had to lift a finger; the staff made the bookings for us and even dropped us off and collected us in The Light House’s resident steed: a very sexy and sleek Limited Edition Chrysler.

From beginning to end, we were thoroughly spoiled and wanted for nothing. Anything your heart or stomach could desire, just ask and The Light House staff will pull the necessary strings (and pop the necessary corks) to make it happen for you. The staff almost constantly stands to attention at the bottom of the staircase and wherever you go – to your suite or down to the pool – you’re never far from the assistance you might need in getting a snack, a glass of bubbly, or arranging weekend plans.

High Tea, Luxury Accommodation Paarl, Cape Town

Take me back!

I stand stubbornly by my original sentiment – The Light House Boutique Suites is a pearl within a pearl, a verdant oasis, and a luxury guesthouse of the highest order; indeed, higher than any I’ve experienced previously. The fact that it has a smorgasbord of wineries, fine restaurants, historic attractions, and outdoor adventures at its doorstep is a plus but, if you’re anything like me, you’ll struggle to get there.

Why seek pleasure outside when The Light House is already such an exquisite escape? 

For more information on the Lighthouse Boutique Suites, peruse the website at www.thelighthouse.co.za or call +27 21 863 4600 | +27 72 687 4516.

Address: 2 Lille Street | Courtrai | Paarl 7646 | Cape Winelands

This article was originally written by Thea Beckman for Southern Vines Magazine, the largest lifestyle and leisure magazine in the Western Cape of South Africa: http://www.southernvines.co.za/2018/10/11/the-light-house-boutique-suites-a-pearl-within-the-paarl-winelands/

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Warning: This Video is a SERIOUS Nail-Biter!

Video Source: “GoPro: Man Fights Off Great White Shark In Sydney Harbour” Uploaded by Terry Tufferson on YouTube www.youtube.com/watch?v=-m3N_BnVdOI

In the spirit of sharks – see yesterday’s post “Sharks, They’re Just Not That Into You” – check out this TERRIFYING GoPro video caught by a very lucky Sydneysider. OH WAIT! I’ve just been told by a few of my reader’s it’s a fake. Great.

Regardless, I’d like to say the following…

Great White Sharks and sharks in general suffer from a bad rap thanks to sensationalist movies such as “Jaws,” “Open Water” and “Deep Blue Sea.” What we have to remember is that IF these creatures viewed humans as prey, their rating on the list of things that are likely to kill you wouldn’t come in under falling coconuts and bad-tempered cows.

Sharks are bullet-sharp killing mechanisms: it’s how they’ve adapted to life in the ocean and it’s how they have come to dominate the food chain. However, and thankfully, humans are not their natural prey. Just as you wouldn’t wander down to the garden to gorge on tree leaves for breakfast, sharks don’t go looking for pudgy human meat to eat. It is more often than not a case of mistaken identity that lands the odd surfer or early morning swimmer in the ER with a missing limb.

Respect the ocean as you would respect any other wilderness and you’ll hold on to all four of your limbs, but more importantly, you’ll avoid further bad press for these gorgeous and powerful creatures.

Sharks – They’re Just Not That Into You

Shark fin above water

When I step into the ocean, the furthest thing from my mind is getting eaten by a shark. There are so many other, more obvious things to think and worry about: getting laid, venereal disease, not getting a venereal disease from getting laid…

Hell, even falling coconuts are more likely to boot you out of this mortal coil than the love bite of a big fish. Yet, I know many people personally who are utterly terrified of sharks. I even had a girlfriend once who made a point of waiting to see whether the water was safe before getting in herself. And she did this by stationing herself on the beach while I cavorted around in the waves for a good ten minutes. When I didn’t disappear in a frothy explosion of blood and surf, she would sidle surreptitiously in and make sure to stay within two metres of the shore.

I dumped her shortly after.

Shark movie poster.png

Most of what we know about sharks comes from their portrayal by movies such as Jaws (1, 2 and 3), Open Water, Deep Blue Sea and a smattering of awful, completely scientifically inaccurate low budget films, a more recent one being the truly horrendous Sharknado and now Sharknado 2. Sweet Lord, as if one wasn’t enough! I can assure you that the last thing on a shark’s mind while being flung through the air by freak atmospheric whirlwinds is food.

True, a horror film about head bludgeoning coconuts probably wouldn’t clean up at the box office, but sharks really do get a bad rap from our insatiable appetite for being terrified in the comfort of our own homes while shovelling fistfuls of popcorn into our face holes. The fact of the matter is, sharks really aren’t that into you! And they’re as misunderstood as men with moustaches.

A hairy lip does not a paedophile make.

Creepy moustache guy

Shark Attack! Or Is It?

My good friend Christopher Reeves – marine biologist by day, superhero by night – raised this incredibly exigent point during one of our many intellectual and totally debauched conversations. Rather it was an exercise he regularly brings up with the bright volunteers that help out at the Seymour Marine Discovery Centre at which he works in Santa Cruz, California. He asks his students to close their eyes and imagine swimming in a cold, dark ocean and I’m going to ask you to do the same right now.

Imagine the feel of the cold salty water gripping your legs, arms and torso and the yawning depths of merciless dark seawater beneath you. A shark is nearby. The hairs on your neck stand up and an atavistic fear clutches at your breast. Imagine the shark: its lines, its inky black eyes, its snout, its rows of jagged, broken teeth.

Did the shark you pictured in your imagination look like this?

Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) in an attack

Great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias)

I would put my money on the vast majority of your answers being “yes”. This is a great white shark… the one made famous by Peter Benchley’s bestselling novel, Jaws, and later by Steven Spielberg’s 1975 film adaptation. MOST of the subsequent pant-soiling movies made about these fish are based upon the man-eating rampages of this very same species. So, it’s no wonder that our fear of sharks is not actually of the group as a whole, but specifically of great whites. It’s the reason they’re also referred to as “white death.”

Shark Diversity

In reality, the great white is only one of more than 470 different species of sharks in the oceans that comprise 70% of our planet’s surface. And these species are as diverse in habitats, diets and vocations as the crowds that make up a gay pride march. Great whites are amongst the largest species we know of, but sharks come in all shapes and sizes. Many species could easily fit in a paddle pool or even in a fish tank, while the biggest sharks – the whale shark and the basking shark – don’t even eat big fish or seals! Like baleen whales, they trawl the ocean with their mouths wide open, filtering the water for tiny plankton, crab larvae, krill, squid and micro-algae.

Whale shark and underwater photographer
Does a whale shark speak whale or shark?

These massive creatures are, like a vegetarian zombie, slow moving and completely disinterested in eating humans or any other large, fleshy animal for that matter. Braaaaains. That is, unless you were stupid enough to hang out near the mouth of a whale shark, in which case sheer bad luck would see you gagging the poor creature. In any case, you’d drown long before you were digested and I’m guessing that’s probably the more favourable option.

Dwarf_Lanternshark
“Dwarf Lanternshark” photograph by Javontaevious. Previously published: Javontae Murphy@ Facebook. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia.

On the other end of the size spectrum is the dwarf lanternshark, which is the smallest shark we know of according to the ReefQuest Centre for Shark Research.The dwarf lanternshark is thought to be the smallest species of shark in the world. I say “thought” because not even humans are arrogant enough to assume that every single species has been discovered and given a place into our taxonomy system. This particular shark lives along the upper continental shelf off of the coast of Venezuela and Columbia and at maturity, reaches a length of around 17 cm (± 6 inches). 6 Inches may be a whole lot of fun in the bedroom, but it’s certainly not going to send bloodied limbs flying in every which direction.

Lanternsharks produce light from tiny pores in their skin, which causes them to glow beautiful otherworldly colours. See? Size doesn’t always count. Pushed really, really hard, a lanternshark could probably give your toe a nip or at the very least a nasty suck, but they’re certainly nothing to be afraid of. In fact, they’re probably utterly terrified of you and so they should be. Ruthless overfishing of the Caribbean has put these sharks and many other species like them on the endangered list.

Why Do Sharks Eat Humans Then?

Great white shark

If you were a seal, a fish or a very unlucky seagull, you’d have every reason to get nervous around great white sharks or other similar carnivorous fish. Of course, sharing the water with a large predator would make even the most masculine of men scream like a four-year old girl, but the point is that we are not sharks’ natural prey. Shark attacks aren’t attacks at all… rather they are “accidents”. Like going on a second date with a guy who spends the whole evening talking to your boobs.

Sharks do make mistakes occasionally and appearances can be deceiving. A thrashing wetsuit-clad surfer on a torpedo-shaped board can quite easily pass for a delicious seal, so can you really hold them accountable for the gore that follows? At least we can blame alcohol for our poor decision-making. Sharks, will take a chomp, realise they’ve been duped and then tend to swim off or around in confusion. This is why so many shark bite victims have escaped with their lives.

Trust me. If an apex predator weighing more than 2,000 kg and having more teeth than a love-struck Tom Cruise wanted to eat you, it would. Consider your arm or leg to be a small sacrifice. An hors d’oeuvre.

So What Do We Need to Know About Sharks?

Funny shark picture meme

 Image Credit: WeKnowMemes.com

There are many hundreds of different species of sharks, but only a tiny handful have been known to take the occasional bite at a human being. Since larger sharks don’t hang around heavily populated beaches to indulge in easy feeding, we can only assume that these very rare events are cases of mistaken identity. We are simply not on the menu.

Does this mean that we don’t need to be afraid? Yes… but that’s not a license to be stupid either. Just because bears, wolves and other large predators don’t normally eat humans doesn’t mean you can go cavorting naked around the wilderness with a rasher of bacon strapped to your pink bits. And the ocean IS one big wet wilderness.

Just like Hugh Heffner’s mansion.

Sharks do not hunt human beings. They aren’t ruthless killing machines out to “get” you. They deserve much more understanding, far more respect and certainly far less blind fear and discrimination. Sharks are magnificent, powerful creatures and incredibly diverse and successful as a group.

Class Dismissed: Your Take-Home Message

Small shark in the ocean with amazing light ray

You are more likely to die from opening a bottle of champagne than by being eaten by a shark. Personally, I’d choose the shark… No one wants “died tragically from flying champagne cork” on their headstone and you didn’t even get to drink the champagne first! Choking, tripping, wind (the weather-related kind), bees and ANTS claim more lives per year than sharks. You love dogs and will readily walk up to one in the park for a scratch and a cuddle, but there are 20 canine-related deaths every year in the United States compared with sharks, which only claim one life every TWO years, according to the endless wisdom of National Geographic News. Hell, even cows pose a greater threat to human safety than sharks!

Sure, there are more cases of shark bites annually (16 in the U.S.) than there are actual fatalities (one every two years), but this is testament to the fact that they don’t like eating us. In most cases, a shark will leave you alone once they find out that you aren’t their type and you can’t say the same for tenacious love-struck human beings.