Tag: itsfamilytravel

Champagne Castle Hotel Review

Champagne Castle Hotel Review

It has it all.

Visual impact, luxury of years gone by, activities to entertain everyone, and enough food to feed the pre-slimmed down Royal Family 🙂 We were even blessed with the beautiful Drakensberg “mist” that added to the charm of our stay, giving it an ethereal feel.

Champagne Castle Hotel is pretty close to being an ultimate experience. There is no better hotel positioned with more dramatic and immediate views of the Drakensberg than this one, you are literally in the heart and center. We arrived when it was misty which actually made it even more magical. As the mist lifted you just saw more and more incredible mountains and peaks around you.

Self Catering Chalets


As this is a family blog I’m going to focus from a family point of view first, though if you are looking for a hotel that boasts it all for the more discerning guests, then you have certainly found it here as well. If you are looking to book for a family, you have two options. The deluxe family rooms which are 6 double-storey family rooms, with each having a patio and balcony.

Deluxe Family Rooms at the Hotelh

You can also choose the self catering house, which we did, as we went with a bunch of friends and it allowed us more space to “take over”. The family rooms have a upstairs and downstairs bedrooms each with an en-suite bathroom off the room. Whilst the self catering houses have up to 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, kitchen, dining room and a lounge with a fireplace. I’m pretty sure they were bigger then my own house and had a fully equipped kitchen, complete with high chairs for the little ones. They were heavenly and from what I understand, a bit more “modern” then some of the hotel rooms. The hotel itself is old but the self catering chalets were added on afterwards, so they have newer finishes to them.

 The Food

If you stay in the hotel then breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus morning and afternoon tea are all included in your stay, except of course, for the self-catering chalets. So if eating and drinking is your thing, then you have scored big time. There is always something on offer, so best to make use of those walking trails to burn all the excess calories off.

Breakfasts include cereals, fruits, and yoghurts to cooked options and continental ones, without forgetting the ever popular pastries, waffles, and pancakes.

The hotel also has two lounges, one casual and one a bit more formal which is an adults only lounge. No shorts are allowed in the dining room after 6 pm. I have to say, this may annoy some people, but for me personally, with 3 young kids I can fully appreciate this. “Old school” rules are actually sometimes nice and people appreciate them. It adds a bit of elegance.

There is no shortage of selection in terms of food, with options from soups and breads, cooked meats, vegetarian, pasta, fish, roasted veggies, accompanied by a whole host of divine desserts and cheeses. We stayed self catering so didn’t personally dine there but from what I have heard the staff in the dining room are exceptional.

The Activities

This is what I rank a “family” resort on. The availability of activities to do, not only for the kids, but for mum and dad too. It doesn’t have to be purely within the hotel boundaries, but near enough to enjoy. Champagne castle has an incredible animal farm for children to explore. Chickens, rabbits, ducks, goats and ducks; petting farms are always a winner with younger kids. They also have stables on site and you can choose from a walk around the paddock for your kids to more advanced rides through the mountain trails. This applies for residents and day visitors to the hotel as well.

They also have an aviary towards the back of reception. I’ll be honest though, this needed a bit of work and seems to have been a bit neglected. Though we did spot a tortoise and some colourful birds, but it didn’t overwhelm us at all.

Growing up I remember always running to check out a resorts “playroom” and I still get excited when I see hotels that advertise them. I think it’s a charm of years gone by and I love that the boys are at the age now where they really enjoy a game of pool or table tennis. The hotel has a playroom, although again, its in desperate need of a bit of an update. There’s table tennis, a pool table and a lounge area for board games to keep up the entertainment if the weather outside is miserable. There is no shortage of outdoor activities either, the pool, tennis and badminton courts, volleyball, lawn bowls, giant chess, a jungle gym and well as a dam to fish. It really does cater to everyone’s needs. Let’s not forget that the majority of guests do come to do a little hiking in the pristine countryside.

The entertainment room is in need of a little update
Beautiful outdoor chess set

The hotel offers guided walks at 09.15 every morning, with a return promised before lunch. Maps and routes are also available from reception should you wish to do a self guided walk, though I’m not sure if I trust my sense of direction.

Swimming Pool with a view

Sadly I didn’t get a chance to check out the spa facilities, but fully intend on maximizing on this for our next stay. (Yes, I would return in a heartbeat).

The surrounding area has no shortage of activities either;

  • The Drakensberg Canopy Tour is a fun adventure for the whole family.
  • Falcon Ridge Bird of Prey Center is right next door to the hotel.
  • There is no shortage of golf courses in the area, both a 9 hole as well as an 18.
  • Champagne castle Adventure Centre is within about 5 minutes of the hotel and offers team activities such as archery, abseiling, paintball, river rafting, zip-lining and quad-biking as well as a younger kids area (3-7).
  • Explore some of the beautiful home industry bakeries

My focus for the last 2 years has been on finding local places for our family to travel, finding locations across South Africa that are affordable, and family friendly with activities and amenities for the whole family to enjoy in comfort. If you are looking for a great weekend away, then Champagne Castle Hotel ticks all of these boxes and then some.

If you are looking for a truly magical weekend away, less than 4 hours from Johannesburg, Champagne Castle Hotel is magical. There are other hotels nearby that may cater more for children, but for us, and our children, Champagne Castle Hotel was perfect. It was particularly misty when we were there, which just added to the magical charm. With the horses grazing in the paddocks, overlooked by the giant mountain peaks,  I felt like I was walking through a storybook.

Finding Romance In Rome

Finding Romance In Rome

With its beautiful cobbled streets, historical fountains, picturesque piazza’s and grand monuments, Rome is without a doubt one of the most romantic destinations in the world. That’s not a word that gets used often on this page, “romantic”. It gets put on the back burner with 3 kids and 2 careers. Everyone had their own unique “love language” and mine are actions and travel. Travel… ahhhh… something else that has been put on the back burner since the arrival of our little munchkins.

Italy is an absolute must-visit country and undoubtedly, one of the most travelled to destinations in Europe, with so many unique highlights in one country, you certainly need more then one trip. I still haven’t touched the beautiful Tuscan Countryside, or the most romantic canals of Venice, but I have done the picturesque, cobblestones streets of Rome and the breathtaking Amalfi Coast.

Positano is the absolute gem of the Amalfi Coast and is undoubtedly one of the most charming, romantic towns in Italy. The views are what storybooks are made of (literally), and it is well worth taking 3 days to visit if you go to Italy, but lets leave that for its own blog. Here I want to focus on Rome, and my top romantic must see’s in this historical city. (I’ll take you there one day soon baby, I promise).

If you are going to visit Rome, I would recommend at least 3 full days. You could do it in two but allow for three to fully appreciate every single inch of history this cultural haven has to offer.

Where to stay:

Rome has no shortage of accommodation. My one piece of advice would be to choose something central, where it is easy to walk between the historical sites. Be careful though, the further “in” you go, the more pricey they become. Every time I have gone to stay in Rome, I stay in the same hotel, its right up the street from the Colosseum and a fairly easy walk to most landmark sites as well as the train station. The Grande Hotel Palatino, on Via Cavour. It’s not the fanciest, but its 4 star, is in an awesome location and has a certain “Ritz” feel. It’s also right across the street from a beautiful Basicilia that has the most incredible statue, Mosè di Michelangelo.

As you stroll through the postcard streets, these are some of my “must visit” landmarks:

Visit to the Colosseum

Seemingly obvious, but I had to include it. If you really are interested in seeing inside and learning the history it is absolute worth joining a tour. You can wait a little longer but I don’t regret this for one minute. Standing tall and proud next to the Colosseum is the Arch of Constantine, you can’t miss it. It is one of the largest of Rome’s ancient triumphal arches. It celebrates Emperor Constantine the Great’s victory and the battle that made Christianity the religion of Rome.

Stroll through the Roman Forum

Visit the Roman Forum – The “excavated heart” of the City. You can literally feel the history in every corner. The Trajan markets were the first “multi level shopping ‘Mall’” in the world. The views in the Roman Forum are absolutely breathtaking and you can imagine what the city looked like in all its glory.

Palatine Hill

Palatine Hill houses the ruins of the Imperial palaces. It is one of the most ancient parts of the city and still has the beautiful gardens and fragments of all the ancient wealth.

Trevi Fountain

You didn’t think I would miss out on one of my favourite landmarks do you? No trip to Rome is complete without tossing a coin into this majestical beauty. You should prioritise this for first thing in the morning, or later in the evening to get a good view and avoid the crowds. It’s far too busy midday so plan your day around it. After making your wish, stop by one of the local gelato stores to indulge in some authentic Italian ice cream.

The Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica

Starting to see why I say three days now? Plan an entire morning for the Vatican and once again, GET THERE EARLY! We went first thing and didn’t regret it for a second. St Peter’s Basilica opens at 7am so you can start there and move onto the breathtaking Sistine chapel which houses Michelangelo’s masterpieces. Once again, I would recommend joining a tour group for this one. The knowledge that you gain is worth every cent, you can always peel off if it doesn’t suit your fancy, but we found it very valuable.

Watch the Sunset from Capitoline Hill

At the end of your day visit the historic Piazza del Campidoglio, which is considered to be one of Romes most beautiful squares. If you go around the back of the central building you can get the most beautiful city top panorama, with all the domes and Colosseum in the background. It is truly breathtaking.

Sign the Register at the Pantheon

The only ancient Roman temple to survive almost completely intact, this is one absolute must see! Take in the incredible stature of the building from the piazza before heading inside and staring in awe at the height and architecture of the building.

Piazza del Popolo

No trip to Rome is complete without a bit of “people watching”, and Piazza del Popolo or “the peoples square” is perfect for this. Grab a cappuccino and take in the sights. Always be careful of pickpockets!

Have a seat on the Spanish Steps

Would it be a romantic list without the “lovers steps”? Set in the beautiful Piazza Della Spagna, the fountains, buildings and ambience make it such a buzzing place to be with your loved one. In summer beautiful bougainvillea cascade down the steps, it’s the perfect spot to sit and have some gelato after indulging in a little shopping on Via dei Condotti.

The Tiber River

This river defines the city of Rome. Take a stroll along its banks along the beautiful St. Angelo Bridge as you literally walk through history. There are some fabulous cafes along it where you can enjoy a sundowner or coffee with your lover while watching the sun set across the ancient city.


Get Lost!

I had to add this one in there, because this is how I first “stumbled” across the Trevi Fountain, by “getting lost” along the tiny cobbled streets. It’s the best way to find the most authentic restaurants and traditional Italian shops minus the touristy stuff. With your map in hand you can be certain you will find your way again at some point.

If you need a quick escape from the hustle of the city, hop on the train to check out Sperlonga Beach. It is about an hour train ride from Rome and makes the perfect day trip. Its sandy beaches and crystal clear shallow waters make the perfect refresher after 3 days exploring the city.

If you are looking for the perfect romantic trip for you and your partner, or in my opinion, the perfect babymoon then Italy is one of your safest bets. I wouldn’t rush to take young kids to Rome, but I long to roam the streets hand in hand with my hubby. Travelstart has some incredible deals on trips to Rome, check out https://www.travelstart.co.za

Whats good to know:

Credit Cards and ATMs: Keep small cash handy for things like street souveniurs, on the go cafe lattes or gelato, but most of the tour operators and cafes accept foreign credit cards.

Electricity: European standards, so I would definitely recommend taking a travel adaptor.

Safety: Italy is generally a safe destination. However be on the look out for pickpockets and “gypsy” beggars. Mainly around the busier Piazza’s.

Getting Around: Rome is incredibly easy to walk around and there are loads of scooters to hire if you are brave enough to as well. If you venture a bit further, I loved travelling by train and it also makes you feel a little more “local” 🙂 It also gives you the opportunity to sit back and relax as you cross the beautiful countryside.

*This blog post was written in collaboration with TravelStart

** All photographs are my own, unless stated otherwise, and are subject to copyright.

***PPS: Cobbled streets? Not so great for the stilettos 🙂