Feeling stressed out by the city? Need some rest, relaxation and revitalisation in a rustic setting? You can get all this and more at the charming Irene Country Lodge in Pretoria, one of the gems in Protea Hotels By Marriott's luxurious African Pride collection. But unlike many of the others which don’t cater for children, Irene Country Lodge is marketed as a family friendly venue.
My family and I spent an idyllic weekend there and came back home feeling rejuvenated, once again impressed by the stunning venues we have in South Africa. Apart from being a luxury upmarket hotel with a much-lauded spa and restaurant, it is also a very popular party, wedding, and conference venue.
The hotel rooms are huge compared to the average hotel room but then again this is not an average hotel and if you book the family fun package which is running till September, the kids get their own inter-leading room…free. The Mahogany furniture and rich, earthy fabrics contribute to the warm ambience and the huge sliding doors open onto balconies overlooking the beautiful garden and lake where experiencing the sunset views are a must.
There is a kiddies’ room with activities, DVD’s and a staff member to keep them entertained and hotel nannies can also be booked to babysit them while Mum and Dad take advantage of the spa or the fine cuisine.
The Meadow Green restaurant was wholly responsible for expanding my waistline. Executive Chef Ryan Houston and his team offered an extensive and delicious array of buffet and a-la-carte options, catering for vegetarian, seafood and meat-lovers’ palates. Spit braais take place on Saturday afternoons and a seafood buffet is on the menu for Saturday nights. We had a wonderful al fresco lunch under the trees overlooking the lake as the autumn leaves fell around us contributing to the serene atmosphere. Ryan was very hospitable and constantly checked with us to see if we were happy and if our dietary requirements were being catered for. This was just one indication of the wonderful service we experienced at Irene Country Lodge.
The Camdeboo Day spa is an intimate self-contained sanctuary surrounded by lush gardens and a stinkwood forest. Set in a century-old building with a delightful garden in the centre, it contains a sauna, steam room, jacuzzi, swimming pool and restaurant. I had a wonderful aromatherapy massage…and ran into a former Miss South Africa, who is apparently a regular patron there.
If you feel the need to explore the historic surroundings, you can take the kids to the 122-year old Irene Dairy Farm across the road where children can pat the calves and watch the cows grazing or being milked in the afternoons. The picturesque gardens provide a great backdrop for a picnic and the dairy shop and Barn restaurant will provide the perfect supplies for the picnic.
You can time your visit to co-incide with the Irene Village Market which occurs every second and last Saturday of the month. For me this was a wonderful opportunity to visit the market after hearing so much about it and reading about it in magazines like Getaway.
The market is shaded by lofty trees and sells an impressive array of original arts and crafts but also offers a wide range of kiddies’ entertainment including pony and camel rides. There are food stalls galore selling everything from koeksusters to samoosas as well as a tea garden. The market is located on the grounds of the Smuts House museum which was home to General Jan Smuts for over 40 years and provides a fascinating glimpse into his life. It is definitely worth a visit too.
For some retail therapy, the Irene Village Mall and the Southdowns Mall are both short drives away and golfers have a choice of playing at the Irene or Centurion Golf courses.
A weekend away at Irene Country Lodge is highly recommended!