Francois talks about their trip to SPIER

Spier is one of South Africa’s oldest wine farms dating back to 1692, this farm is rich in history and remains a special place to anyone who visits. Located about 40km from Cape Town, you’ll find this historic farm on the outskirts of Stellenbosch.

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Klein Collection (‘K.C’): What made you decide to stay at SPIER?

Francois: SPIER is ideal for us as we have kids (two boys aged 6 and 8). The large natural open spaces, great facilities and scenic surroundings.

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Klein Collection (‘K.C’): What was your first impression of SPIER on arrival?

Francois: It’s actually very close to Cape Town! SPIER is located in the wine capital of South Africa and has a farm feel to it. On arrival we were greeted with warm friendly smiles from the staff which is always the best way to start a stay.

Klein Collection (‘K.C’): What was the service like?

Francois: The staff at SPIER were very friendly and attentive to all our needs. They are particularly good with children (e.g. entertaining the kids while the parents take a deserving break).

Klein Collection (‘K.C’): Is it child friendly?

Francois: Yes, SPIER accommodates families with children of all ages, with a variety of activities and facilities to keep kids occupied. The food for the children was also good and I loved the fact that there was a grape juice tasting on offer when we as adults did the wine tasting. On the morning of our check out from the SPIER hotel, our youngest son immediately asked: “When can be come here again?”2015-06-20 15.01.49 2015-06-20 11.58.15-1
Klein Collection (‘K.C’): 
What activities are offered at SPIER?

Francois: Activities offered onsite at Spier are as follows:

  • Segway tours: Take a tour of the vineyard on your very own Segway PT – a two-wheeled, self-balancing electric vehicle.
  • Wine tasting and chocolate pairing (highly recommended)
  • Eagle encounter (very educational and was great for our kids)
  • Local art being on display throughout SPIER (insprirational)
  • A spa (beauty treatments and massages)
  • Food (wonderful selection of restaurants, deli and picnic baskets)

 

Klein Collection (‘K.C’): What was the food like?

Francois: Food quality at SPIER is top class and they make a conscious effort to cater for the children’s tastes as well. EIGHT Restaurant prides itself in the fact that most of the ingredients in the meals served, are locally produced on the SPIER farm.

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Klein Collection (‘K.C’): What was the highlight of your stay at SPIER?

Francois: The overall openness and spaces to walk and cycle, value for money and how our children enjoyed every bit of our stay.2015-06-19 16.42.37

Klein Collection (‘K.C’): What should potential visitors take note of

Francois: Be ready to want to make SPIER a regular place to visit (at least once a year for 2 nights).

Klein Collection (‘K.C’): Who is SPIER ideal for (i.e. The type of client you would sell this product to)?

Francois: Anyone really – but SPIER is great for small or large groups and people with kids.

 

Point out of 5
Service  5
Location  5
Food  5
Facilities  5
Décor  5
Attention to detail  5
Value for money  5

 

Should SPIER sound like music to your ears, contact Klein Collection at info@kleincollection.com to book your stay.

Chitwa Chitwa, Sabi Sand Reserve

Review by Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby.

If safari lodges are about location, location, location, then Chitwa Chitwa is our favourite yet. After a long dusty drive, we step onto the expansive boardwalks and immediately the peace and tranquility starts to ooze into our bones.

Speaking of bones, around Chitwa Chitwa there are lots of them. Elephant skulls form sculptured statues, a chandelier of bones adorns the lodge area, our suite has what looks like a giraffe tibia decorating the coffee table. The outdoor showers of some of the suites have towel rails comprising skeletal remains of some large mammal. Original, and impressive.

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The main pool overlooks the magnificent dam with several resident hippos, Chitwa Chitwa

Art meets the bush

And continuing with the décor theme, the lodge and suites are adorned with abstract art that is the work of the owner. Each piece is unique, and ties in with the theme of each room. Every suite is themed in a completely different way, showing off the owners’ interior design talent covering a wide, wide spectrum. This is where art meets the bush.

But back to location, and what the main lodge and the suites do all share in common is their incredible position on the edge of a small dam, an oasis in the surrounding bush. While most lodges may boast a modest waterhole, or partially dry river, this dam beats them all hands down. As we unwind with a cold drink, two pods of hippo honk 50 metres away, while the cries of a fish eagle echo over the still water. It’s a fantastic magnet for birds and game, and you don’t need to stray from the deck of your suite to see it all close-up.

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Each suite has a private pool overlooking the dam, Chitwa Chitwa

Leopards, leopards, leopards

But located deep in the Sabi Sand reserve, our favourite game viewing area anywhere, there’s no way we’re missing a game drive, and soon we’re cruising the area with our guide, Surprise, and tracker, Ralph. It’s not long before Ralph spots a leopard in a Marula tree, with a recent impala kill draped over a branch. We have the sighting to ourselves and watch spellbound as the leopard tucks in, at one point accidentally dropping the entrails to the ground. In a single fluid movement, it slides down the tree to recover it, before slinking off into the sunset. Not bad for the first drive.

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Leopard on impala kill, Chitwa Chitwa

The food at Chitwa matches all the other superlatives, with superb plated meals and friendly staff. Our waiter (improbably named Coconut) was genuine and endearing. Meals are refreshingly unpretentious, and you don’t feel as if you’re being plied with food constantly. Sophie tried out the small gym anyway, watching a herd of waterbuck come down to the dam to drink while hammering the treadmill. And hosts Claudia, Leon and Gaby do a brilliant job in making guests feel not just relaxed, but also at home. The owners’ great emphasis on attention to detail comes through in every aspect of the lodge, and leaves a lasting impression.

Surprise

We can’t wait for the morning drive with Surprise. Surprise is an old-hand Shangaan guide, who worked his way up the ranks from bush clearing, tracking and finally guiding. Mostly self-taught, he’s one of the best guides we’ve had in years of safaris. This morning he lives up to his name with a stunning sighting of a male leopard stalking a steenbok, just metres from our open-top vehicle. We watched with our hearts in our mouths as he crept closer and closer…but the steenbok was too quick and darted away in the nick of time.

If resting in your suite after breakfast sounds too lazy, you can take a game walk. I’ll take any opportunity to learn from a good Shangaan guide and as we stroll in the heat of the morning following tracks and identifying trees, Surprise tells me stories of his most radical sightings – lions eating lions, leopards eating leopards. You can see anything in Sabi Sand; you just need time and luck.

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Main deck area, Chitwa Chitwa

Our incredible luck continues next day with more leopard sightings on every drive – hunting impala at night, and two leopards mating. Oh, and lions on two buffalo kills, elephant, rhino and lots more. We’re stunned. Our only disappointment? When the time came to leave.

In a climate where more and more safari lodges are becoming corporate owned and correspondingly bland and much less personal, Chitwa still retains the air of a private lodge. Touches of magic are everywhere. And did we mention that location?

Good for: Art and bush lovers alike, honeymoon couples, leopards (no guarantees!).

Not so good for: Still trying to work this one out.

Our verdict: Eclectic décor style and astonishing attention to detail, combined with a superb setting in the best game viewing area in South Africa, make Chitwa Chitwa one of our favourite choices.

Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, Sabi Sand Reserve

Review by Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby.

Earth Lodge is like no other place. If you’re thinking warm colonial touches, kudu leather couches and zebra skin carpets as your idea of a safari lodge, forget it. Earth lodge is an assault on the senses, a monstrous statement, a wild experiment.

And we love it. Cast out of cement, river sand and straw, the lodge has a cave-like quality, while the furnishings are even more outlandish than the architecture. Driftwood from floods has been sculpted and polished and made into furniture and individual pieces of art, with mesmerising results. The bar, for example, comprises a large chunk of a dead tree, so extensive it’s integrated into the actual structure of the building, its contortions so convoluted it would have been impossible to design.

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Exquisite interior of our suite, Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge

We were so busy marveling at this that we almost missed the a la carte lunch so it blended into afternoon tea with an array of delicious cakes, before being introduced to our guide Marcus and tracker Louis for our afternoon game drive.

As the name suggests, Sabi Sabi is situated in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, bordering Kruger National park, the uncontested jewel of safari areas in South Africa. After an assortment of plains game and a sunset G&T it was starting to look like a quiet afternoon, until tracker Louis made a miraculous spot – the ears of a leopard crouched in the long grass some way from the road.

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Leopard, Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge

Driving off-road, we followed him for 15 minutes as the dusk turned to night, stalking into a dry river-bed, while a troop of monkeys in the tree above screeched their fury at the deadly intruder. There are many places you see the Big 5, but if you want more than a fleeting chance of seeing this majestic animal, Sabi Sand is about the only place to come.

Dinner at Earth Lodge is a lavish affair. Each night’s venue can be somewhere different – under the stars in the boma, the intimacy of the library, or even the elaborate wine cellar. Our 5-course extravaganza of Prawns, Pear & Gorgonzola soup, Spring Rolls, Lamb Rack, Pork Belly and Chocolate Fondant was under the stars, attended to by our jovial and excellent waiter George.

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Dining is a lavish, decadent experience at Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge

The staff at Earth Lodge are worthy of extra mention. At many top lodges, even in the very highest price bracket, staff will be competent but wooden, where you’ll feel comfortable but not at home. At Earth lodge, the hospitality comes naturally, and the barmen and waiters don’t need to ask your name: they know it already, and they don’t forget.

From afar, the well-spaced suites resemble termite mounds, little earth domes protruding from sunken caves, and inside too, with the earth-like, straw-textured walls and small skylights sending shafts of sunlight into the dark interior. The suites actually blend in so well that it is not unheard of to spot lions perched on the rooftops. Keep an eye out…

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Solitude, peace and out-there architecture, Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge

The furnishings are minimalist but very comfortable, with the same driftwood theme that characterizes the main lodge. Outside you can perch on a huge sculpted Leadwood bench next to the plunge pool, or relax on comfy loungers set in the bushveld itself. All with absolute privacy.

At 6am next morning sleep is interrupted (I was dreaming of giant termites invading our suite) by our wake-up call for the morning drive, and after a pre-breakfast we’re off into the cold, winter sunrise. Hornbills sit motionless in the trees until the weak sun warms their feathers and starts to warm us too, on our way to find rhino and wild dog.

Sabi Earth lodge, Sabi Sabi’s flagship lodge, is more than a statement, it’s a declaration. In their own philosophy, its futuristic lines represent ‘Tomorrow’. The nearby Bush Lodge and Little Bush Lodge represent ‘Today’ and it’s here that you’ll find your traditional contemporary, quintessential African safari themes. Bush Lodge is big, with outstanding child facilities, while Little Bush Lodge is small and intimate, with just six chalets.

Finally, Selati lodge is themed on the historic Selati railway line that ran close by, full of colonial charm and memorabilia from this golden age, and represents ‘Yesterday’. (It also overlooks a cracker of a waterhole, with great game close to the lodge).

But if it’s your thing, the prize is for Tomorrow.

Good for: Big splash out, something you can’t experience anywhere else.

Not so good for: Intimate, cosy feel (although if this is your thing, Little Bush Lodge offers plenty of it).

Our verdict: Out-of-this age architecture, something genuinely astonishing in South Africa’s premier game viewing reserve.

Nottens Bush Camp, Sabi Sand Reserve

Review by Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby

When most people think of Sabi Sand Reserve, they think big, 5-star safari lodges with a price tag to match. Think again. Tucked away in a little corner is this family-run gem, where rustic charm replaces extravagant luxury.

At Nottens, things are done the way they’ve been done for years – yet nothing about this lodge feels dated, including the wonderful staff, some of whom have been at Nottens for decades. Dale, the assistant general manager and a member of the Notten family, has been coming here all his life and from talking to him you sense the pride that he and his family takes in the place.

Despite being the most affordable lodges in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve Nottens provides a top-notch safari experience with the most low-key, heart-warming and incredibly hospitable atmosphere we’ve experienced for a long time. On our first day at the delectable buffet lunch, all our fellow guests swing by our table to introduce themselves – informality is the order of the day at Nottens. And that’s wonderfully refreshing!

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View from main lounge area, Nottens Bush Camp.

Although Nottens is on a small concession within Sabi Sand, traversing rights are shared with neighbouring Sabi Sabi so guests have access to a large game viewing area, and guides all share information on sightings. On our first game-drive with our excellent guide, Thomas, we are lucky to see a large pride of 11 lions all sharpening their claws on the same tree, perhaps in preparation for their next meal…

Back home (and at Nottens, it quickly feels like it), we freshen up for dinner in our tastefully decorated, candlelit room. All suites do have electricity, but no lights are fitted, which means lighting sources are from paraffin lamps and candles. This is as it’s always been – no fuss, no frills, just you and the African bush. The suites are nicely spaced and overlook the waterhole in front of the lodge; and for those visiting in the heat of summer there is a beautiful lap and plunge pool to cool off in.

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Deck overlooking waterhole, Nottens Bush Camp.

For dinner we’re treated to a feast beyond expectation – Dale takes on the role of braai master while the rest of the kitchen cooks up a storm of a 4-course meal. The intimate feel of Nottens becomes particularly evident in the evenings, where guests dine together by candlelight at one long table in a cosy dining room with a roaring fire in the background. The African bush tends to draw together like-minded people and we quickly find ourselves indulged in fascinating conversations. One of our fellow guests is a 93-year old ex-WW2 glider pilot, bolt upright and sharp as nails, it all made for a lively evening.

The following morning a flask of hot water is delivered to our room along with that (very early) wake-up call. The essential pre-game-drive coffee or tea is also available in the lounge should you not wish to make your own. We set off in the cold on our last game drive and are rewarded with very close-up sightings of white rhino along with antelope and giraffe – and as we drive back into camp, a large herd of zebras come gallivanting down to have a drink at the lodge’s waterhole.

After a scrumptious breakfast we go for a very entertaining and rewarding bush walk with Joseph, the oldest (and wisest!) guide at Nottens. Walking in the wild African bush is always a highlight for us, learning about the smaller things. And we were deeply impressed not only by the level of Joseph’s knowledge but also by his legendary incredible animal sound impersonations!

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White rhino on morning game drive, Nottens Bush Camp.

All in all, it became evident to us (after only one night’s stay!) that the bush heart beats loud and clear at Nottens. The lodge, and many of its staff, have been around for decades and guests come back year after year. Before long you’ll also feel part of the Nottens family. And when that magical experience comes at a very affordable price, you have a winner on your hands. We were deeply impressed by the low-key atmosphere and intimacy of the lodge – and its sense of timelessness and familiarity will stay with us for long time.

Good for: Families, bush lovers, value-for-money

Not so good for: Luxury extravaganza

Our verdict: Quaint, old-school feel and great value in South Africa’s top safari area.

Babylonstoren Farm

Francois talks about their trip to BABYLONSTOREN.

Babylonstoren is one of the oldest Cape Dutch farms. It has a fruit and vegetable garden of beauty and diversity, unique accommodation, fine food and a sense of wellbeing.

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Klein Collection (‘KC’): How far is BABYLONSTOREN from Cape Town?

Francois: BABYLONSTOREN is located in the most beautiful surroundings between Franschhoek and Paarl about 60 kilometers from Cape Town.

KC: What made you decide to stay at BABYLONSTOREN?

Francois: I love good food, quality wine coupled with privacy and space – the perfect setting for our 9-year wedding anniversary.

KC: What was your first impression of BABYLONSTOREN on arrival?

Francois: An abundance of trees, manicured vineyards and open spaces – beautiful garden and friendly smiles everywhere.

Babylonstoren

KC: What was the service like?

Francois: BABYLONSTOREN’s staff has a true genuineness about them – and it really felt like we were visiting old friends of ours on their farm. I also liked the fact that everything in the room was included in the standard rate (even the laundry!) – all part of feeling welcome and able to relax from the minute go.

KC: Is it child friendly?

Francois: Yes, BABYLONSTOREN is a paradise for children – open spaces and all the natural healthy elements we want our children to be surrounded by. From an accommodation point of view there are two-bedroom family suites  available.

BabylonstorenKC: What activities are offered at BABYLONSTOREN?

Francois: BABYLONSTOREN offers it all: spa treatments, wine tasting, the freshest  culinary experiences (breakfast, lunch and dinner), mountain biking, running, swimming, canoeing, and more! The signature eight-acre-garden tour allows the visitor to experience and to be inspired by true organic farming.

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KC: What was the food like?

Francois: Karen (BABYLONSTOREN’s artisan baker) really outdid herself with the fresh ingredients and quality – by far the best pasta I have ever eaten in my life. We were fortunate to taste some of the BABYLONSTOREN wines during dinner. I unexpectedly discovered a new top wine producer. All in all an unforgettable experience!

KC: What was the highlight of your stay at BABYLONSTOREN?

Francois: The food ,the wine, the people …. Just everything,

KC: What should potential visitors take note of?

Francois: You will not want to leave.

KC: Who is BABYLONSTOREN ideal for (i.e. the type of client you would sell this product to)?

Francois: Discerning travelers looking for something different – needing time away from the hustle and bustle; being treated with fresh food, top wine, warm service and open farm spaces.

Point out of 5
Service  5
Location  5
Food  5
Facilities  5
Décor  5
Attention to detail  5
Value for money  5

Should BABYLONSTOREN sound like music to your ears, contact Klein Collection at info@kleincollection.com to book your stay.

Gorah Elephant Camp, Addo Elephant National Park

– African Safari Review by Jonathan & Sophie Ellaby

Set on its own exclusive concession in the heart of Addo Elephant National Park, we find a unique blend of nature and history at Gorah that makes for a delightful stay.

It’s easy to spot Gorah from afar, perched in rolling hills, each luxury safari tent with a commanding view of the bush and no fences to interfere with it. But it’s only when you get there that you appreciate how intense it can be and how different it is to anywhere else in Addo, or for that matter, South Africa. As seasoned bush hands, we were simply blown away.

First, a step back. The modern-day lodge is on the site of a farmhouse dating back to 1856, since lovingly restored, and the house oozes a sense of family history from the moment you step through its doors. Open verandas, lots of wood and old furniture and giant fireplaces are designed to conjure up images of hunting parties and colonial splendor.

The farming history is apparent in the large swathes of grassland previously used for cattle grazing, now the domain of larger herbivores such as zebra, kudu, hartebeest and eland. And elephant of course. Ironically, these open grasslands (which ought naturally to be thickets) make you feel more than ever like you’re in Africa, evoking the great savannah plains of East Africa.

Up close and personal - Gorah Elephant Camp

Up close and personal – Gorah Elephant Camp

We sit out on the colonial-style veranda for a ‘light lunch’ gazing out onto the plain, with herds of elephant just metres away and no fence in between – this comes close to many people’s vision of what a safari ought to be like. And we have to say, having spent many months in the bush, that this is pretty damn good. With a waterhole a stone’s throw away, you have a good chance of observing most of the plains game as well as elephant, at close range, while enjoying every gourmet meal Gorah’s superb staff lay on for you.

There’s little to fault the service either – from the meet and greet, waiting staff, guides and tent escorts – there’s everything you’d expect for a five-star lodge. The camp runs on solar power so there are a few compromises on things some take for granted – no air-con for example, and to get a battery charged you have to give it to your guide to take away overnight. But these are small things in what is otherwise a very luxurious set-up.

Relaxing by the tent at Gorah Elephant Camp

Relaxing by the tent at Gorah Elephant Camp

It’s the lack of electricity that gives the historic lodge its charm in the evenings – the whole place lit only with candles and heated by blazing wooden fires in each room, and after a post-game drive drink in the paneled lounge, we sit down to a superb 3-course dinner (by candle light of course: there’s no other way).

After dinner, we step onto our private tent veranda for one of our most memorable bush experiences ever. There’s nothing but wild bush everywhere in front of us, all lit up by an almost-full moon and the air is dead still, punctured only by nightjars and the shrieks of a barn owl. Then comes the first rumbling, then another, and a big bull elephant is standing right in front of us, tearing grass from the very edge of the veranda. We sit motionless, spellbound, close enough for him to touch us with his trunk if he tried. Next morning, recalling this encounter in the silvery swathe of moonlight seems like it was a dream.

Elelphants up close, Gorah Elephant CampOur evening game drive yielded more special elephant moments. Gorah is unique in Addo in being allowed to use entirely open-top vehicles, with not even a canopy to shield you from the grey beasts. Make no mistake – this results in far more intimate encounters (and also ensures you’ll get a soaking if it unexpectedly rains, as it did for us next morning). With 5,000-odd hectares of private concession to themselves, as well as access to the rest of Addo Main Game Area should the need arise, the game viewing is exclusive, as you’d expect. We miss the lion, but glimpse a black rhino across the hills (there are regular sightings of this extremely rare animal).

Sipping complimentary sparkling wine on comfy chairs in the luxury of your tent, while gazing out at vast herds of kudu (we counted 52), elephant and other game, you’ll most likely have a ‘pinch-me-is-this-real’ moment. We did. And if one of Addo’s 12 lions took down one of those kudu at that moment it would be, well, unreal. But it could just happen. At Gorah, you hardly need to go on game drives. The game comes to you.

Good for: Classic luxury tent safari in a spectacular setting (ask for tent 10 for the most spectacular experience of all)

Not so good for: Those who demand the highest level of creature comforts (the lodge runs off solar). Ticking off all the Big Five

Our Verdict: The combination of old family history and an exquisite camp almost guarantee an unforgettable experience

For enquiries, please contact us on +27 21 813 6961 or info@kleincollection.com. Alternatively, please complete the short enquiry form below.

Cellars-Hohenort Hotel

Francois talks about his family’s recent trip to CELLARS-HOHENORT.

The owner-managed Cellars-Hohenort, with its panoramic mountain and garden views, is a must for those looking to add a health dose of peace and tranquility to their lives. The Cellars-Hohenort rests on the breathtaking slopes of Table Mountain. Located in Constantia, Cape Town, it shares its home with some of South Africa’s most historically significant wine estates.

Klein Collection: How far is CELLARS HOHENORT from Cape Town?

Francois: About 25 km from Cape Town city centre, located in the Constantia Valley.

Klein Collection: What made you decide to stay at CELLARS HOHENORT?

Francois: I had a meeting in the area and impulsively decided that Carien should join me for an evening at this well respected establishment (after dropping the kids at their grandparents … of course).

Klein Collection: What was your first impression of CELLARS HOHENORT on arrival?

Francois: Proper old world charm and extremely friendly staff.

Klein Collection: What was the service like?

Francois: Warm, friendly and efficient. Liz McGrath standards.

Klein Collection: Is it child friendly?

Francois: Yes, but only partially. Children must be 8 years old or older. However, if you’re looking for a family holiday, we have other establishments that are probably better suited for this.

Klein Collection: What activities are offered at CELLARS HOHENORT?

Francois: Culinary experiences at the Green House or at the Conservatory restaurant, the Fresh Wellness Spa and the unique traditional Cape Malay high tea.

Klein Collection: What was the food like?

Francois: We did not have dinner at the Green House, but I have heard that it is really worth every cent. Our breakfast and dinner at the hotel’s restaurant was really very good – especially the omelette!

Klein Collection: What was the highlight of your stay at CELLARS HOHENORT?

Francois: Warm friendly service, beautiful lounge area and fireplace and large scenic grounds.

Klein Collection: What should potential visitors take note of?

Francois: Make sure you have the directions – it can be tricky to find the hotel if you do not know where you are going.

Klein Collection: Who is CELLARS HOHENORT ideal for?

Francois: Discerning guests appreciating old world architecture with modern luxury combined.

Point out of 5  
Service  5
Location  5
Food  5
Facilities  5
Décor  5
Bedrooms  3
Attention to detail  5
Value for money  4

Should CELLARS HOHENORT sound like music to your ears, contact Klein Collection at info@kleincollection.com to book your stay.