The heat of the afternoon had lured me through the halls and stair wells of Villa Simonne to seek a brief reprieve in the cool water of the pool, where I was watched, not only by a stern mermaid and God statues, but also by a small army of large, out of place, green buttons. They were everywhere, sewn with care into each cushion of each seat, from loungers to the large covered day bed placed squarely upon a podium overlooking the pool, just in case you wanted to feel like royalty as you soaked up the sun. With feet dangling in the cool water and a mimosa in hand I simply allowed my eyes to wonder over the details that brought the extraordinary property to life. I do not say this lightly as the remarkable thing about Villa Simonne is the life experienced could not be from just one person or one lifetime, in every nook and every cranny there was something to fuel the imagination with possibilities of what story could lie behind its unintrusive presence. Across from me, in a wicker chair suspended over the pool sat a tree ever so casually, and in any other setting, any other place on earth this would have seemed placed, planned but here the tree sat in its chair as if it had been sitting there for years, as if this was where it had always belonged, guarded by green buttons a mermaid and the Gods themselves. This was Villa Simonne and the experience is almost inexplicable.
Driving down West Street in Houghton the excitement to stay in the prestigious Villa Simonne hit its climax as the car turned into the driveway and the gate opened to reveal the Goddess Pomona, who offered a silent greeting and welcoming to what would be the most extraordinary, trippy and yet altogether luxurious two days that I would experience to date in the buzzing metropolis that is Johannesburg. Yes, yes, yes there are concierges, staff at your beck and call and world class service that is synonymous with any definable luxury establishment, but this would be an adventure that will not soon be forgotten, this wonderland would become my partner’s and mine very special place, so special in fact that I am hesitant to share it with anyone, I have become jealous and covetous of my Villa Simonne, she is that special to me.
The three story mansion towered in front of us and the very friendly manager on duty greeted us at the threshold, checked us in with speed and escorted us through the labyrinth of corridors, stairs and themed rooms as well as suites to the third floor where the Marakesh Penthouse Suite awaited. True to its name the room transported us into an Arabian Nights fairy tale. The bedroom was built into an alcove separated from the rest of the room by Moroccoon-style drapes with a lotus light, surrounded by delicate draping, suspended above the bed. The living room was decorated by ottomans, an ornately designed wooden chair with detailed cushions and upon the living room table, which would be lit by candles that evening, stood sparkling wine on ice. Our very own private balcony and sun deck was also decorated with Arabianesque whotzits and doo dads, tiny little touches specific to the suite’s theme and I could not help but wonder where these little touches had come from. There was certainly too much time taken, too much love given for these items to have been sourced and simply placed. Every single detail told a tale of someone, maybe many someones, that had loved each inch, each corner, each bauble, each whotzit and thingamajig from ornamental oil lamps, to suspended bonsai trees… this mansion had once been a home, there was no mistake about that, and the people who had lived there had loved every corner. These were the thoughts I contemplated as I sipped on my bubbly in the looming shadow of a four story tree that homed the largest, and most beautiful, pink bougainvillea I had ever seen. I simply had to see and explore more.
I decided to make my way to the pool and explore the property. Just outside of my suite door was the Penthouse Outdoor living area, reserved for Penthouse Suite guests. The third floor houses three other beautiful Penthouse Suites which, with superb attention to detail, are themed and named as the Geisha Penthouse Suite, the New Orleans Penthouse Suite and the Olympia Penthouse Suite. Just down one flight of stairs was the New York Ladies Lounge and bar (one of many bars to be found) which was decorated in one corner with a purple furry couch, built into the wall. Taking a meander through the corridors revealed a total of thirteen suites, nine of which are deluxe and so as not to disappoint were each themed and named from the Bali garden Suite to the Moulin Rouge Suite, each delightfully private and transporting one to another country, another era and yet still somehow all gloriously connected and in sync with all other parts of the mansion.
Finding myself in the Saloon and Games room I felt slightly sheepish as the owner of Villa Simonne, Dimitri, walked in to find me with my mouth hanging to the floor in awe that I could not shake from one room to the next. We exchanged polite pleasantries in our brief conversation wherein he told me that this beautiful mansion had once been home to him and his family and his love for the propery was obvious. Before leaving me to my adventures he advised that the rule of the room is that anyone who enters must wear a hat, from the nearby rack, until they leave. From Moroccan splendour and New York swag to an old Western Saloon and finally the Romanesque pool, I felt I had lived four different lives in the space of just a few hours, during which time I had been hissed at by a gigantic tortoise whom it would seem had a fondness for a concrete lion head which was mounted on the wall and instead of functioning as a fountain had a novelty sized match wedged between its jaws. There was no end to the little wonders to be found.
After an afternoon spent lazing by the pool we retreated to our balcony where we enjoyed sundowners and to my delight the gardens, which could be seen from the sun deck, lit up in an unbelievably splendiferous display. The adventure had not yet even begun and we made our way down to the main lobby and into the gardens where trees were adorned with spirals of light up the trunk, LED snow drops and a smattering of ambient lighting. During our stay we would dine alfresco on the romantic Stairway to the Stars as well as in the gardens themselves topped off with post dinner walks where we found wonder after wonder from the Pantheon, where one could watch movies under the night sky to the boma and finally my absolutely favourite place, the 1920s themed Gatsby Piano Lounge and Night Club, that we had accidently happened upon from the lush gardens.
Musing upon my “travels” over a cappuccino, the likes of which I had indulged in far too much during my stay, I realised that the two nights spent in Villa Simonne had left me feeling as though I had been jet setting and holidaying for two weeks and not two days. My partner and I were in awe of the affects of our stay, the deep seeded relaxation felt, and the only thing we could not decide on was whether our wanderlust had been somewhat satiated or fuelled.
My most very special place receives a six star rating, the sixth star is simply for the pure magic experienced and still longed for.