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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MT GRACE (article first published : 2005-12-9)

In October, along with a group of other journalists, I headed for Johannesburg for the media celebration of DStv’s 10th birthday. DStv did us proud. They hosted us at their splendid Randburg premises where we were given a guided tour around the building and popped into the impressive control room where we were able to see on the monitors the programmes beaming out over the whole of Africa. We were also introduced to the new DStv PVR – television that literally “does what you want it to. The machine’s capacity to manipulate “real time” as opposed to recorded time is simply mind-blowing.

Then it was onto a luxury bus complete with “padkos” and out on the road, leaving Johannesburg behind us and heading on an hour-long journey north to the beautiful Mount Grace Hotel in the Magaliesburg.

Mount Grace Hotel was originally named The Thatchstone Inn. While it is not known exactly when it was first built, visitors often return who frequented the hotel in 1935.

In 1961, tariffs were the pound equivalent of R3.05 per person per day or R17 per person per week. This included all meals and teas but excluded baths although you could pay an extra 50 cents per day for a bath! Thatchstone Inn was a very popular resort – especially for honeymooners, many of whom return to Mount Grace for nostalgic reasons.

In 1977, the hotel was sold to a certain Mr Haydon and the name changed to the Rocberg Hotel. During this time, the reputation of the hotel plummeted and it was used mainly as a drinking-hole and a retreat for illicit love affairs. In 1981, the property was purchased from the bondholder by a group of people for approximately R30,000 and converted into a church campsite. However, a year later it was sold to one of its shareholders who converted it back to a hotel, renaming it and calling it Mount Grace because of the beauty of the area.

Major construction took place to bring the hotel up to three star rating. This required almost total internal demolition while preserving as much as possible of the charming original Thatchstone Inn. Further additions were made and by 1990, the hotel was acknowledged as being one of the three best hotels in a nationally organised competition and later given four stars by the Tourism Board.

As soon as I was shown into my magnificent thatched room, snuggled deep in the mountain bush with a plunge pool outside set in rocks, I announced to my hosts that they would probably have to call in the army, the navy, the police and the air force to extract me – because I wasn’t going to move!

However, decorous behaviour prevailed – I mean, you don’t want to make a scene in front of a whole bunch of fellow journalists … imagine the stories! – and I importantly called one of the roving electrically-powered golf carts to take me down to the evening’s function. The driver took me down to the main area through the quiet bush, the silence broken only by crickets and night beetles. The dinner was excellent and the function highly entertaining and informative. I should have stayed because there was a DStv PVR offered for the best karaoke performance and my Durban colleagues were all for me singing Climb Every Mountain (loooong story!) but – strapped to a deadline, I had to duck out early before the Journalist Idols hit the floor.

The invitation to the media celebration had posed an intriguing question – “do you want a massage, manicure or pedicure?” and “what is your dress and shoe size?” - and the Multichoice staff were staying completely mum about the reasons for needing this information.

Arriving back in my room I discovered that apart from a mountain of DStv/Multichoice marketing goodies neatly placed on the bed was a white dressing-gown and slippers surrounded by masses of rose petals. There was also confirmation of the time of my pedicure the following morning. What style, what panache, what a pleasure!

The pedicure was virtually an art form in itself and took almost an hour to complete in the serene atmosphere of one of the outside huts at The Spa, looking over a vista of vast uninhabited bushland. It became quite difficult to identify fellow journalists wandering around in their white dressing gowns, looking ten years younger than when they arrived!

I couldn’t recommend Mount Grace more for a perfect stress-free holiday. But things have obviously changed quite considerably since the R3.05 per person per day tariff in 1961. The room I occupied was one of 14 situated in the Treetops Village at a cost of R1,900 per room per night (double occupancy R1,325 pp per night) – which included VAT and a full English breakfast to the value of R89. Still, every cent is worth it!

Thank you, Mount Grace and DStv, for providing some sanity in the life of a deadline-stressed journalist! More information on www.sa-venues.com/specials/ga/mountgrace.htm – Caroline Smart




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