Zimbabwe (Weltexpress). Historical romantic hotels with legends to tell are popular among couples and honeymooners. When WELTEXPRESS contributors Sandy Eime and Peter Hanneberg engaged to be married, they chose the colonial Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe. Here, they are taking us on a guided tour around this beautiful hotel, a member of The Leading Hotels of the World.
Both Victoria Falls Hotel and the mighty waterfalls attracted visitors from afar long before the era of jet flying. The hotel was completed in 1904 not long before the railway from Cape Town and Johannesburg. It soon became a beloved icon for train passengers, especially during the happy 20s. The dramatic spray of the huge falls is visible from the hotel and is only a fifteen minute walk away.
The rumour spread fast in 1947 when Crown Princess Elizabeth and father King George VI visited the hotel. The following year, the first aircraft flew the five stops between London and Johannesburg. The Solent Flying Boat landed on The Zambezi, docked upstream from the vertical falls, and the passengers could stay at the hotel. On the wall outside the entrance, there is still a mural depicting the route from Europe.
The hotel’s colonial romantic atmosphere has been preserved into modern times, even throughout its latest renovation in 2013. An authentic colonial hotel built over a hundred years ago has a soul. The luxury should not be superficial or flashy but discreetly integrated into the walls and furnishings as a result of the hotel’s long experience of different ages and values. In an authentic historic hotel, the walls have a lot to tell.
We love history, and we love Africa. That’s why Victoria Falls Hotel appeared to be the perfect place for our engagement, so we booked one of the hotel’s two Honeymoon Suites. Out of nine room categories, spread over a total of 161 rooms, the Honeymoon Suites are ranked somewhere in the middle. They are what we would categorise as spacious Junior Suites, located in a quieter, more secluded wing of the hotel, the stylish Stables Signature Wing. It represents the best part of the hotel for any couple seeking privacy.
The one room suite is spacious and has a beautiful, mosquito net fitted four-poster bed and an inviting divan at its foot end. A large terrace facing the lush gardens attracts with its feeling of freedom. Unfortunately, the park’s vervet monkeys also want to join our high tea on the balcony. The other eight room categories range from 64 standard rooms up to a Royal Suite, and a Presidential Suite.
For our engagement dinner, The Livingstone Room is the one place to be. In this elegant, Edwardian-styled restaurant, praised by some as one of Africa’s best, we enjoy as the main courses Guinea Fowl confit leg with ravioli and root vegetables, and Zimbabwean fillet with butternut gratin, root vegs, and crumbed oxtail.
About twenty South African red wines are available to choose from. The Crépes Suzette for dessert is flambéed at our table, to come with Grand Marnier ice cream.
The hotel’s buildings and furnishings are in the Edwardian style. Elegance is the motto. Also elegant are the gardens; the large Palm Lounge; its neighbouring lounges Bulawayo Room and Stanley’s Room; the spacious pool area with whitewashed, classic arches and columns; the restaurants; and the irresistible Stanley’s Bar. Every evening, the hotel boasts a large barbeque buffet in the Jungle Junction outdoor restaurant. It is the same name as this stage stop for Solent Flying Boat Service was named more than seventy years ago.
Stanley’s Terrace is a lovely place for High Tea, served every afternoon from three o’clock with old British finesse by waiters in white shirts or jackets. If you do not want to eat a large buffet dinner in Jungle Junction, displaying everything from sushi to grilled venison, you can look for something lighter in the à la carte menu on Stanley’s Terrace.
The view of Victoria Falls is spectacular. When night has fallen, the famous Victoria Falls Bridge and the fleeting, smoke-like spray from the rapids are illuminated by strong floodlights.
A few steps away, Stanley’s Bar awaits, where we enjoy a drink every night before dinner. This bar’s African-colonial atmosphere is wonderfully inviting. Elephant tusks and other local props hang on the dark wood panels above the bottle shelves. One of Stanley’s Bar’s specialties is gin. The list attracts with its nine varieties describing their different flavours and botanical ingredients. Also, do not miss the bar’s non-alcoholic, refreshing lemonade drink on hot days.
The not to be missed-excursion is of course the short walk to the falls in the national park, which is particularly awesome at sunrise. The Zambian side of the falls is also worth a visit.
At the hotel’s concierge we book a morning game drive; a ride on the old tram to Victoria Falls Bridge; the Flight of Angels helicopter ride over the falls; and the indispensable sundowner with drinks on the Zambezi River at sunset.
We choose a slightly more expensive sundowner, inclusive of dinner on the deck with white tablecloths, because we have our engagement to celebrate. From a distance, the dinner is constantly accompanied by the baryton voice of the roaring Mosi-oa-Tunya, “the smoke that rumbles.” That is how the Kololo tribe called the waterfalls centuries before Dr. David Livingstone came by and named them in honour of his queen.
When leaving Vic Falls for Johannesburg, we take the luxurious, colonial-style train Rovos Rail, a romantic five-star icon in its own right. The railway station from 1904 is just a fifty meter walk across the hotel’s front yard.
More photos in the Photo report: Victoria Falls Hotel – Colonial honeymoon luxury from Peter Hanneberg.
The Victoria Falls Hotel
Adress: 1 Mallet Drive, PO Box 10, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Contact: Phone: +263 83 284 4751, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org