Constantia History – The Alphen Boutique Hotel

29 Jul

You are the History of the Future at The Alphen 5 Star Boutique Hotel!

When studying The Alphen 5 Star Boutique Hotel archives one soon realises what rich history can be found within the walls and grounds of our amazing homestead and grounds. What is even more impressive to note is how this 300 year old living landmark ties into the rich history of the Constantia Valley.

Back in the Day in a little Valley called Constantia
The beautiful Constantia Valley is not only the oldest wine-making region in the Southern Hemisphere dating back to 1685, but also the Cape’s most intimate wine route consisting of just nine wine farms, each boasting their own history, legends and, most importantly, premium wines. Groot Constantia, Buitenverwachting, Constantia Uitsig, and Silvermist are but just a few of the producers of Constantia Valley’s world renowned wines. The wines produced in this area have been enjoyed for over two hundred years by royalty and aristocrats in and around Europe, including names such as Napoleon who, even after his confinement to St Helena, still stocked his household with Constantia wines. The origin of the area’s name is a story of much speculation and has many versions. One of our favourite versions is one by writer Hymen Picard who claimed the name commemorated the daughter of Pieter Sterthemius who commanded the fleet which Simon Van der Stel sailed in 1659. The story goes that Van Der Stel had fallen in love with the daughter, named Constantia, during this voyage. Unfortunately Constantia had not stayed in the Cape and later died in the Netherlands.

Where does the Alphen fit in this pretty picture?
The Alphen estate originally formed part of the original Groot Constantia estate and for a long while ran as a rickety little farm. It took a good few centuries for the farm to cocoon and emerge as the immaculate, manicured estate it now is. The Alphen homestead was first built in 1753 and played host to the who’s who of society, including names such as Lord Charles Somerset, Cecil John Rhodes, Mark Twain and Captain Cook. The now restored manor house has been converted into a 5 star boutique hotel which proudly holds onto its heritage and history. You can still find original antique furniture from the original homestead which includes a chest of draws, said to have come off the Drommedaris, one of the three ships Van Riebeck sailed to the Cape.

If these walls could talk…
If these walls could talk, my what a story they could tell! One of our favourite tales! we enjoy sharing is of the Dreyers’ daughter. The Dreyers originally owned the Alphen before the Cloetes had bought it; the story goes that the Dreyers daughter was exceptionally attractive and one day had two visitors, Captain Josias Cloete and James Barry. James was said to have quite the temper and challenged Josias to a pistol dual as he believed him to be paying too much attention to Miss Dreyer. To much relief, both missed. It has been presumed that this was intentional as they were lifelong friends.

An even more interesting story that ties into this (and truly history in the making at the time) is that of James Barry. This talented surgeon was the first to have performed a caesarean section in South Africa. He continued to do so throughout his lifetime. What is even more interesting is that it was later discovered on his/her death bed that James was in fact a female who had been parading as a man all her life.

The Present of the now…
As a proud heritage site, The Alphen still boasts one of the oldest mills in the Western Cape, amongst many other interesting findings on our estate. We like to think of our grounds as being a site where history was not only made, but is in the process of being made. In fact we like to take it a step further in saying we are in the process of creating the history of the future. The farm has been owned by the Cloete family for the past 150 years. It was first converted into a hotel by Sandy Bairns father Cloete in 1962. Now it’s the domain of experienced restaurateur and entrepreneur, Paul Kovensky. Paul saw the potential in this national treasure and with the idea of keeping history alive and creating union with his contemporary style, shaped a world of hedonistic glamour where everything is a little eccentric, somewhat bohemian, casually smart and definitely sensual. We believe this bold step will most definitely be added as an important chapter in the Alphen’s history book and we invite you to write your part in it.

Attractions in and around Constantia
Constantia’s central location allows you to not only take a trip down Cape Town’s historical wonderland but to enjoy some of the most famous attractions this beautiful city has to offer. (Note times: we have not taken into account peak traffic)

  • Waterfront and Cape Town Central, 20 minutes
  • Table Mountain Cableway, 20 minutes
  • Newlands Rugby and Cricket Stadiums, 15 minutes
  • Golf Courses, Mowbray, Rondebosch, Royal Cape Clovelly and Steenberg 10 to 20 minutes
  • Hout Bay Fishing Harbour and Beach, 20 minutes
  • Chapmanā€™s Peak scenic drive, 20 minutes
  • Muizenberg Beach, 15 minutes
  • Kalk Bay (for its harbour, and art and craft shops), 20 minutes
  • Simonstown (historical naval town), 30 minutes
  • Boulders Beach penguins, 30 minutes
  • Cape Point Nature Reserve, 40 minutes

Be the History of the Future!
At the Alphen we have a little saying, “Expect the Unexpected” and we really do try, but still find ourselves pleasantly surprised with so many things! Whether it’s how amazing la Belle’s baked goods are that day or just the stories shared by guests… Which makes us think; “Its happening right now, history in the making!”

So in closing, come on, we dare you! Write your part in the Alphen’s history! You never know, you might just be the next George Bernard Shaw or Sir Thomas Cullinan and someone could be writing about your visit in a few years!

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