STRAND HOTEL – VIBRANCE, VIEWS, UNPARALLELED HOSPITALITY BY MARTHA MUKAIWA
At an early hour of a crisp morning, a man walks into the icy sea.
The locals taking their breakfast on one of Strand Hotel’s ocean-facing terraces don’t pay him much attention. The waitress frantically waved over to send help about a supposed “suicide” chuckles with incredulity at what is a familiar sight and one is left to settle down, sip some Slowtown and watch in wonder as the lone and excellent swimmer fights the good fight against the cold Benguela current pushing him back towards the beach.
For those who’ve wound their way through Farmhouse Deli’s veritable breakfast wonderland to savour salmon terrine, homemade berry compote or fresh croissants beneath blue sky, it’s a magnificent matinee. A dazzling display of man amidst indifferent nature that is the hallmark of Namibia’s adventure capital best explored from the Strand Hotel.
Situated in the otherworldly coastal locale of Swakopmund, dreamily ensconced 300km west of Windhoek between the Namib Desert’s rolling dunes and the invigorating Atlantic, Strand is a glistening jewel reflecting the ocean and boasting fathoms of charm.
Whether you’ve reached Strand by automobile or by air after which a dapper driver will spirit you 30kms north of Walvis Bay International Airport to the Swakopmund hotel, guests will find themselves in the atrium.
A floor to ceiling glass entranceway filled with low trees, hanging lights and silver boards teasing the hotel’s delights. Three restaurants, a lobby lounge, an ice cream parlor, gym as well as the opulent Atlantic Spa where an African Calabash massage may very well be the antidote to some of the wear and tear of city life. All this, if you ever bother to leave your room.
The sea foam oasis Strand’s unwavering friendly staff will deposit you in after a welcome drink and an appreciative walk through the hotel’s carpeted halls adorned with large black and white photographs recalling the town’s history, vintage travel inspiring maps, picture windows, cozy lamp lit leather rest areas and signature gold elevators.
Left alone in one of Strand’s suites, standard or luxury rooms, there is a real danger of never being seen again, particularly if your understated but cozy en-suite embellished with rustic lamps, plush leather armchairs and antique graphics boasts one of the hotel’s gorgeous ocean facing views.
Instead, you’ll take in the world from a neat Juliette balcony, order swift and delicious room service from your selection of the hotel restaurants and sink into the envelope of your spotless white bed, drifting off to the dull roar of the great Atlantic hours before the same sea gently nudges you awake.
While a toothsome buffet breakfast calls from the Farmhouse Deli, Strand is no one-trick pony.
Rather, and quite unlike your average hotel where the in-house eatery is regularly a guest’s last ditch after a long day, the establishment is home to some of the best restaurants in town - upscale Ocean Cellar, laid-back Brewer & Butcher, hearty and Italian cuisine serving Farmhouse Deli and the stylish Welwitschia Lounge.
With each one facing a stunning expanse of ocean visible beyond the town’s famed Mole, Strand Hotel offers another sought after view – the vibrant bustle of tourists or ambling, jogging, sun catching locals taking it slow on the cobblestone promenade if not dashing after giddy children as they make a break for the sea.
Open to both hotel guests and the public who can access the restaurants from individual entrances on the Mole, one’s choice of Strand’s diverse dining options is an indulgence of mood, appetite and fancy.
German style Brewer & Butcher, situated at the far end of the Mole is the answer to ambitions of great beer and fantastic cuts of meat with Swakopmund Brewing Company presiding over an in-house microbrewery offering tastings or full pours of Helles and Märzen brewed expertly on site.
The place to enjoy pulled pork burgers, grilled brisket Rueben, plate size pork schnitzel, flame grilled lamb and beef each paired with the most appropriate beer, Brewer & Butcher is your stop for ease, sports watching, finger licking and fun.
In contrast, Ocean Cellar is no less than Brewer & Butcher’s upmarket older sibling.
The kind of discreet and understated spot where a champagne party gone on a little long sees a group of locals skip the danger of driving under the influence and happily check in to one of the hotel’s luxurious rooms a short walk from the indisputable belle of the promenade.
A contemporary fine dining restaurant inspired by the Atlantic, Ocean Cellar is a sparkle of blues, copper, glass and wood serving the best that the big blue has to offer – sesame and pepper tuna, misoyaki linefish, prawn tom yum, a fabulously fresh catch of the day or mouthwatering sushi and sashimi.
A must for the cuisine curious amidst an excellent and extensive wine list is the World Oyster Journey featuring juicy Walvis Bay oysters topped with condiments in the style of Mexico, Japan, France, England, Columbia and Vietnam.
For those hankering instead for the Hamptons, there is the wonderful Welwitschia Lounge.
With its plush salon, elegant bar with cordial tenders, understated bungalow style luxury and cocktails served on the sea facing terrace, Welwitschia Lounge is Strand Hotel’s lowkey lobby lounge perfect for some light reading, a little late afternoon tipple or some sampling of appetizing bierhappen.
Casual and cosmopolitan, the lounge is also a buzz of information.
As tourists return from myriad day trips and settle down to reminisce on the afternoon’s events, this and the Strand’s Activities and Adventure Office is where to get the skinny on which of the town’s seal colony, dolphin, moon landscape, Skeleton Coast or cultural tours as well as quad biking, skydiving and adventure escapades will really blow your hair back.
Dream of this, smiling catering to your every whim and more at this sparkling beach hotel.
A hide of vibrancy, views and unparalleled hospitality in the extraordinary and unforgettable place where the desert meets the ocean.
Martha Mukaiwa is a freelance writer and columnist based in Windhoek, Namibia. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and on her website.
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