As I sink into a stripy armchair at Baxter House watching the late afternoon sun flare over Roman Rock Lighthouse, it feels like I could live here forever. The sea is already a shadowy blue, whipped up by the Southeaster. Happily, the verandah is screened off from the worst of the wind — so I’m able to admire the white-capped tumult below at a tranquil remove, as I sip dazedly on a post-nap cup of tea.
It’s Saturday. I’ve only spent 24 hours in this clapboard house a few minutes’ stroll from Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town, and yet I already feel part of the furniture. I’m enthralled by the way the moods of sea and mountain and sky constantly shift around me. Enthralled by the way the house creaks with love and character. Scattered all over it are collections of shells, of stools, rolling pins, paintings. The house is a paradox, really: airy and spacious, but cosy and intimate; quirky and higgledy-piggledy but with clean, nautical lines. The rooms burst with books (three I wanted to pinch but didn’t were The Books of Strange Things by Michael Faber, Passage to India by E.M. Forster, and Perfect Hideaways — the coffee table book showcasing the most covetable weekend away spots in the country). For the less bookish, there are board games and DVDs a flat-screen TV too.
The two bedrooms (one a double, the other with single beds) that formed the original building are wittily named The Museum. They don’t get much sun but both are snug. The rest of the house has been built around this core. There’s a ridiculously well-stocked kitchen that is a joy to cook in (just ask my brother-in-law, who whipped up seared tuna and risotto and banana flambé for the rest of us). This flows into a big dining room (which has a fire place for chilly nights) and a lounge. Also on the ground floor are two other bedrooms, both doubles. They share a secret garden with views towards Fish Hoek that you can admire from its two deckchairs. And then, lording it over the rest on the first storey, is the master bedroom with vast sea views, a lounge for the lucky couple, a bathroom and — best of all — a writing nook with desk and chair.
Although it’s less than an hour from central Cape Town (depending on traffic, of course), being at Baxter evoked an emotional sea-change; we were aeons away from the busy week we had all left behind, having stepped into a simpler, brighter, unhurried alternate universe. As the weekend languorously unfurled, we cooked and ate and drank like kings. We went swimming at Water’s Edge (more about that below), and for strolls along the boulder ringed coast line, or among the milkwoods where penguins nest. This is what “luxury” really is, I decided: an escape to a beautiful place, hanging out with the people you love.
Baxter House sleeps up to 12 people and can be booked through Perfect Hideaways.
WHAT TO DO:
You’d be forgiven for never leaving the house during your stay, but resist the urge. In Simon’s Town there’s a plethora of things to do and see.
The closest attraction is the Boulders African penguin colony, which is also home to the most sheltered swimming beach (R70 entry for adults). If you follow the free-to-use path from the main Boulders entrance towards the town, though, you’ll eventually come across an unmarked brown gate that allows access to the quiet, beautiful and little-known Water’s Edge beach. The route through coastal forest offers great bird sightings too — and not just of penguins.
For the history buffs, there’s a whole bunch of museums celebrating everything from the village’s naval heritage, to vintage toys. For a full list click here.
If you’re tired of cooking, Just Sushi does decent takeaway sushi — best enjoyed on the deck at Baxter (the view is better). House owner Elle Katzeff suggests giving the touristy Bertha’s a wide berth, but recommends Saveur — also on the docks — for its simple, tasty dishes. For lunches, stock up on yummy quiches, pies and pastries from The Sweetest Thing in town.