I have not always been a city girl. I was an island girl for the first 12 years of my life. In fact, it must be that small-town girl with an inferiority complex that found a way to get out, over-compensating, settling in the city, evolving. Not that I’m saying that city folks are more evolved than town folks. And since that’s a different story altogether, I shall leave it at that.
I don’t live in Manhattan and I don’t run away to the Hamptons when the desire to get away from the city comes up. That’s me in my dream world. I am not even in “city proper”, being a suburban resident. Still, as a member of the working population of the City of Johannesburg, there comes that exhausting and stressful week in one’s life when that unadulterated feeling of need to run away from the fast pace of the urban jungle cannot be ignored. However, when it is not possible to take a day or two off to make a long weekend, I run off to some relaxing place within a couple of hours’ drive from dear ol’ Joburg.
Closer to Johannesburg than Sun City is the Vaal Triangle, made up of the city of Vereeniging and the towns of Vanderbijlpark and Sasolburg. Therefore, the Vaal is actually an urban area. But, the city of Vereeniging isn’t anything like Johannesburg. It has the ambience of a town, for me anyway, and that is why the Johannesburgers go there to chill. And V-Town, as my husband, who’s originally from Vereeniging, calls it, has Bon Hotel’s Riviera on Vaal. Sun City is for a lot of activities and fun, fun activities, and excitement; the Riviera on Vaal or the Vaal in general is for relaxation, away from the crowd and the hustle and bustle of the city. It is only about an hour away by car.
I can’t remember the first time I visited the Riviera on Vaal. I know it was ages ago. It was not a Bon Hotel yet. It was before I saw its pool area under water after the incessant rains that resulted to a very full dam. It must have been one of those golfing days. Maccauvlei Golf Club is only around the corner. I have played the course a couple of times but I have not tried the Riviera on Vaal Country Club although the two courses are only separated by the river. My husband says that Maccauvlei is better than the Riviera because the latter’s soil is clay (so the ground is hard, but I’m not saying it with certainty so you’ll be simply taking my husband’s word at face value) and doesn’t retain the water when it rains. But, Riviera has a mashie course and Maccauvlei doesn’t.
Golf course or not, the hotel grounds make up quite a massive area to roam, different from the city hotels, and its location provides a lovely view. I love its pool area but beyond that are the river and a small marina. You can take a good stroll and enjoy it.
The hotel’s main restaurant is Matthews. All the meals – breakfast, carvery, lunch, dinner and everything in between – are served there. Light meals, for snacking anytime of the day, are served mainly in the Matthews Terrace Café. My opinion is that you don’t go there for the food but it is good enough and the servings are more than sufficient. For those who are passionate about the palatability of the food they eat, perhaps The Terrace Grill on Vaal, a short walk from the main hotel area, would be preferred. Do bear in mind that the service might be slow, in both restaurants, although I found The Terrace Grill worse than Matthews, or perhaps it was on a crazily busy day. Then again, a friend and I once walked away from the pool area without paying, on purpose, because we gave up on the waiting game. Provided they don’t make a habit of giving away free drinks, a couple or so every now and then, for slow service, can easily be recovered from the overnight stay.
The hotel is child-friendly. They have 3 jungle gyms / play areas that vary in size so they do cater for children of all ages. There is also a life-size chess near the pool. The pool is definitely man-size, with the shallow end being 1.2m, so not at all for children who can’t swim or can’t swim well. At least, there is a kiddie pool for the little ones.
Although a place of relaxation, there is still enough to do for everyone. The boats and the river provide a few activities for the more adventurous, active and less chilled guest. Do check out the hotel’s website.
Overall, I enjoy the Riviera on Vaal and it is a favorite, despite it being only a 3-star. It can do with some refurbishment but you don’t have to lock yourself in the room. In fact, you’d want to stay outdoors and why not? It is pretty!