I travelled on the Rovos Rail from Cape Town to Pretoria. It was a once in a life time experience.
I travelled with a friend and we started with a flight to Cape Town and we rented a car to drive to St James Manor in St James (next to Kalk Bay) where we checked in for 2 nights. On arrival at St James Manor we got a very warm welcome from Gilbert who looked after us for our entire stay. It is a beautiful old home restored to its former glory. I loved everything about it. We had a beautiful big room with under floor heating and a nice size bathroom with separate bath and shower and heated towel rails. All the rooms have names and are completely different. The owners have thought of everything. The room is stunning and has everything anyone could ever want.
The main house is very elegantly decorated with treasures everywhere. At night a fire was lit, so we could sit next to it with coffee, cake and a book when we returned from our days outing. We also had the most amazing wines in the evening at the bar. Breakfasts were beautifully presented and delicious.
The guest house is within walking distance of the restaurants and shops in Kalk Bay so it is easy to go out at night. We had one full day available so we drove to the winelands to do some wine and cheese tasting. We visited Anura, Glen Carlou and Vrede en Lust Wine Estates. All of them were lovely and we had enjoyable tastings. We had lunch in Franschhoek before returning to our wonderful home away from home.
After breakfast, we made our way to Cape Town Station. The Rovos Rail has a special welcoming lounge where we were welcomed with champagne and canapés. We boarded the train at 10h55 and it left promptly at 11h00.
We were booked in the Deluxe Suite. It has a small bathroom with shower, basin and toilet and the room has beds, a cupboard, a small table and 2 chairs. One is able to choose the bed configuration – either double, twin next to each other or twin L shape. All tastefully decorated in an old-fashioned way.
There is a dining carriage, lounge, viewing carriage (my favourite spot) and a smoking room. Passengers may only smoke in their rooms or in the smoking room. I loved the viewing carriage as it has large windows to see the wonderful views as well as very comfortable couches and chairs to relax on. It is at the end of the train and there is a little outside area too. They also provide magazines to browse through and binoculars in case you see something of interest in the distance.
The food on the train is absolutely amazing and I had some of the best wines I have ever tasted. Each day we had breakfast, lunch, high tea and dinner as well as little snacks all over the place. All of this is included in the price of the fare. One could never go hungry or thirsty on the Rovos Rail.
The trip I did stopped in Majiesfontein and then in Kimberley the following day. In Kimberley we were taken on a tour of “the Big Hole”.
In Pretoria there is another private lounge at the station for Rovos Rail passengers. Like everything else belonging to them, it is beautifully decorated, comfortable and has chandeliers all over. Very elegant indeed!
I think the Rovos Rail is for people who would like a very relaxing holiday and would like to experience life as it used to be. It has a very colonial feel about it and we felt spoilt throughout the journey. Ladies must dress up for dinner and men must wear and collar and tie.
I really enjoyed the experience and can highly recommend it for people looking to do something a bit different. For me, it was an experience of a lifetime.