01 September 2014

#CityEscapes with City Lodge Hotel Group

I have always loved exploring small towns and as well as big cities. When my husband (then boyfriend) and I were at university we would always go away on camping holidays and explore parts of South Africa. I was super excited when City Lodge Hotel Group contacted me* and asked if I would like to be a tourist in my own city.

As I live in Pretoria East, City Lodge sent me to the City Lodge Courtyard Hotel Arcadia and I have to admit, I had my doubts. Moving to Pretoria four years ago, there were a few areas that I was told to avoid. Arcadia and Sunnyside were two of those... It's funny, and actually very terrible, how stigmas can influence your thoughts and views. While driving there everything looked safe and clean, and the hotel is situated in a quiet area dubbed "Embassy row" because of all the foreign embassies located close to it.

The main building of the Courtyard Hotel Arcadia is a renovated manor house and is absolutely exquisite. From the moment we drove through the gate we felt welcome and at ease. There was no awkward standing around or wondering where to go or what to do. The security guards told us where to park and even asked if they could wash our car! The lovely Ayanda at reception quickly checked us in and explained everything without me having to ask (take note, European hotels!).

The room wasn't a room, but rather a small flat! There was a reception area leading into the sitting area with a couch, coffee table, and a TV, and that was separated from the bedroom with sliding doors. The suite had an en suite bathroom with the usual amenities and also a large freestanding shower. There was also a second TV in the bedroom.

We were greeted with a fruit platter, a cheese platter, and a bottle of wine. On the bed were also little gifts to help us sleep better. They really paid attention to detail and that's what always gets the thumbs up from me!

At 17:00 we went to the lounge in the manor house for some snacks and complimentary drinks. There were a few people sitting around talking or watching TV. Afterwards we went to Geet Indian Restaurant in Brooklyn (about 2.5 km drive from the hotel) for dinner. It received very high ratings on Foursquare, but the service was extremely slow. We waited almost 20 minutes just to order, and then the main course took more than 30 minutes to arrive. The food was, however, delicious and if you have the time I would recommend at least trying it once. I ordered the coriander scented chicken curry with apricots, along with naan bread and rice and it was heavenly!

Breakfast the next morning at the hotel was a scrumptious affair, with everything from bread, cheese, and cold meats, to porridge and bacon and eggs. On our recent European trip I became quite the fan of continental breakfasts (basically cheese and cold meats), and this breakfast was no exception. I actually think they had a larger variety of condiments than most of the European hotels we stayed at.

Our waiter and the manager were very attentive and made sure we had enough to eat and drink. All the staff were also very friendly, always smiling and greeting you whenever you walk past.

As for activities and really exploring our city, there were a few standout activities that are worth mentioning.

Union Buildings

The Union Buildings are the official offices of the president of South Africa and form the official seat of the South African government. There is no entrance fee for visiting the grounds of the Union Buildings and the newly erected Nelson Mandela statue. Entry into the Union Buildings itself is however permitted as it is a fully functioning government building by day. You can pack a picnic basket and sit on the grass in front of the building and enjoy the view, but it can get busy on weekends as it is a popular spot for wedding photographs.

Distance from the Courtyard Arcadia: 2.6 km

Voortrekker Monument

This historic landmark is well worth the R65 entrance fee (there are different price options, go check out the website), as there is a lot to look at, and you can go really high up in the monument which makes for breathtaking photos. Top tip: use the elevator!

There is also a cafe where you can buy snacks and cold drinks as well as trinkets. Even if you don't give two hoots about the history, at least go for the architecture and the stunning view.

Distance from the Courtyard Arcadia: 10 km

Hazel Food Market

Every Saturday you can find this market at the Greenlyn Village Centre in Pretoria East. It's a small market in comparison to some other markets, but it is well worth getting up early-ish on a Saturday morning for. The market is very popular so get there early to get a parking spot and a table under one of the big trees. You can get anything from stroopwafels to curries, meringues, slushies, smoothies, and cappuccinos. There are also people selling fresh cuts of meat, fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as coffee beans. On the one side of the market (the main entrance: left) there are a lot of stalls selling cushions, belts, handbags, you name it. The market has a lively and fun atmosphere and you always walk away with something yummy to eat and drink!

Distance from the Courtyard Arcadia: 4.9 km

I hope you've enjoyed reading about my #CityEscapes experience! I really enjoyed doing this and I would encourage everyone to be a tourist in their own city from time to time.

Until next time!


*My hotel stay was paid for by City Lodge, but my opinions and reviews are honest and objective as always.

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