The Lofts Boutique Hotel, Knysna: For the love of bread

Winners of the 2010 Welcome Awards.
Voted one of the Sexiest Hotels in South Africa 2010.
AA Accommodation Highly Commended.

This all sounded promising, but the real reason I could not wait to arrive at The Lofts Boutique Hotel was the voucher included in the rate: Breakfast at the adjacent Ile de Pain, island café of 7th generation baker Markus Färbinger and his wife Liezie Mulder. Soon after immigrating to South Africa with his Pretoria sweetheart, Markus decided to build this country’s first artisan, wood-fired bread oven. Today, people regularly drive from as far as George and Plettenberg Bay to collect their daily bread at The Boatshed in Knysna. (My folks certainly do this when they stay at their week-end place in George.)

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Mireille Guiliano writes in a chapter on the French’s love for bread and chocolate, ‘The French say On ne badine pas avec l’amour (You don’t fool around with love). To us, the same goes for bread, an old flame we will never part with… Today (in France) tradition is safely entrusted to a new generation of devoted artisan bakers. They take pride not only in getting it right, but in making it better, recognizing that the reputation of the nation is at stake.’ Austrian-born Markus might just as well have been French.

It’s not only the smell of bread and croissants being baked throughout the afternoon and the night, that keeps guests returning to The Lofts (the guest book shows stays as long as 16 days). From the moment you check in and get not only a key to your room, but also to the front door and gate of the hotel, you feel that this is now your home. The entire sunset-on-the-lagoon facing lounge is an honesty zone (jot down what you use and settle the bill on departure). After 8pm reception leaves and guests have the hotel to themselves. So, slice some fresh lemon, make yourself a cocktail, and just watch the moon on the water, grab a magazine or log onto the internet and catch up with friends and loved ones far away. Or put on your walking shoes and step out to one of the wonderful restaurants on Knysna’s Thesen Island like Jamie Blue or Sirocco.

The rooms are spacious and crisp and several of them have a magnificent amount of natural light flooding in. Unfortunately, my room was one of the few that share a wall with Ile de Pain, which made it very difficult for me to sleep. Never knew that bakeries make so much noise! And Ile de Pain starts baking at 2am (now I understand why Markus and Liezie close their doors at 3pm in the afternoon – they’ve put in much more than a full day’s work by then.) So, make sure to book a room that lies on the lagoon side, not the bakery side of the hotel.

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I can recommend The Lofts to couples or solo travellers who want to feel  as if they own a loft apartment on Knysna’s historic Thesen Island, wander in and out of boutiques, linger at the Le Spa Tranquil or lounge around the lovely lagoon-facing swimming pool of the hotel.

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This is also a surprisingly affordable place to stay. And the smell of freshly baked bread is free.

Reviewed by: Lizelle Steyn, independent traveller

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