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A South African Dream Journey

By Pardhasaradhi Gonuguntla

The Mantis Collection, a group of five-star hotels, town houses and game reserves throughout South Africa and Europe, announces “The Great Train Reverie” package, a spectacular four-night journey through the old Karoo Pioneering Trail of South Africa from Pretoria to Cape Town, available between October 1, 2009 and September 30, 2010.

The package comprises two nights on board Rovos Rail’s Pride of Africa, considered the most deluxe train in the world, and two nights at one of the world’s most luxurious boutique hotels – the historic Grande Roche in Paarl in the Western Cape. The entire tour recaptures the grand style of 1930’s transatlantic luxury liner travel.

The train departs from Capital Park Station in Pretoria. While bags are tagged, resident musicians entertain guests as they enjoy canapés and sparkling wine. Following a welcome address by Rohan Vos, owner of Rovos Rail, guests will be called out by name and escorted to the train and their suites. After settling in, guests will enjoy a five-course gourmet dinner with fine wines. The night is spent on the train.

The next morning, breakfast is served in the dining car. Guests can watch the infinitely varied scenery unfold and marvel at a shallow lake where some 23,000 flamingos gather. Guests disembark in Kimberley and proceed by coach for a tour of the city, the “Big Hole, the Mine Museum, and a ride through the town in an historic tram. Once back on the train, lunch will be served. Dinner is again taken in the Dining Car and guests spend the night on the train.

Following breakfast the next morning, the train stops in Maatjiesfontein, an historic settlement that can be toured on foot. Lunch is served back on the train, as it passes through the Hex River Valley and the town of Worcester. The train journey ends at Dos Josafat siding, where The Pride of Africa will make a special stop for guests to be transferred to the Grande Roche Hotel. After checking in and freshening up, a gourmet dinner is served in Grande Roche’s famous Bosman’s Restaurant. The night is spent in the hotel and the following day is one of leisure, visiting historic Paarl, touring the famous winelands, or playing golf at a nearby estate course. After a full Champagne and Oysters buffet breakfast at the hotel, guests will check out and be transferred to Cape Town International Airport for the flight home.

Rovos Rail was established 15 years ago and has earned an international reputation for its world-class travel experiences. The wood-paneled coaches are classics that have been remodeled and refurbished to mint-new condition. And each carriage, from kitchen cars to sleeping coaches and guard vans, has its own story. Cuisine is five-star. Two 42-seater dining cars accommodate the maximum complement of 72 passengers. One of the dining cars is a refurbished Edwardian pillared car dating from the 1920’s, the other, a classic luxury dining car of 1936 vintage.

Grande Roche is a celebrated international boutique hotel and vineyard in the Drakenstein Valley of Paarl, the heart of South Africa’s beautiful Cape Winelands country. The hotel’s heritage dates to 1717, the year a parcel of farmland was granted to Hermanus Bosman. Over the years, the Grande Roche led a checkered life until 1991, when the homestead was transformed into a superb luxury hotel.

So meticulously researched was the restoration and so scrupulously carried out, that in 1993, the Grande Roche Estate was declared a national monument. Today it comprises 29 luxury suites and five executive rooms, a health center, two restaurants, including the award-winning Bosman’s, an art gallery, two flood-lit tennis courts, two swimming pools, and a five-star conferencing hall and amphitheater. Surrounding the facilities are lush vineyards and dazzling plum orchards. Add to all this matchless service and memorable hospitality, and you have a retreat fit for royalty.

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