I get excited just thinking about the green gem. Why not? I am a May baby. My birth stone is Emerald.
Green was certainly meant to be my color. I went to three schools with green as the/one of the school colors so I like green… more than blue. Yeah, Animo! I suppose it was expected I would like the Vaal’s Emerald Resort and Casino (“Emerald“), and not because of its casino. In fact, the casino isn’t the main feature of the resort; definitely not if the Joburger has the big casinos of Emperors Palace and Montecasino closer to home. Thus, going to the Vaal for me meant staying at the Riviera on Vaal. After all, it is pretty.
It did take me a long time to finally visit the resort. I had to connect with the Resort Director to hit the booked (a weekend) button. I did contemplate on trying out the place even just for an overnight stay but the hotel seems to be fully-booked every time I had the opportunity to go away.
What Emerald’s website says:
Set in a magnificent private estate on the lush banks of the Vaal River less than an hour from Johannesburg, Emerald Resort & Casino combines a tranquil, luxury escape with exciting gaming, resort experiences and entertainment.
Work, play, relax and experience an adventure you’ll never forget at the world-famous Caesars Entertainment’s premier leisure and business destination in South Africa. There’s something here for everyone.
Seeing the hotel from the play area, I decided I would have to go back, but it took me over a year, on Valentine’s Day. I was forced to pop in for lunch and a massage. (Alone! On Valentine’s Day! Ha-Ha!) I had just been diagnosed with hypertension and driving from the city to drop off hubby at work not far from the resort (and there was still a drive back) was no good for my blood pressure. Fortunately, the hotel spa was able to assist me without an advance booking. The hotel bar staff was also most welcoming, making me half a glass of pure lemon juice, at no charge. The bar had no green tea for me. I wasn’t going to have water. And it was early for alcohol! I did have a huge bowl of salad. It was too much for me to finish and I took it home.
Emerald Resort and Casino is only about 100km from Fourways, Sandton. To be exact, according to Google, the drive from Fourways to Emerald Resort via the N1 highway / Western Bypass takes about an hour and nine minutes. The distance is 95.8km. If for any reason, the Western Bypass is no go, the distance of 106.4km via R59, would take about an hour and thirteen minutes. It really is just a matter of preference. Living not far from the William Nicol on-ramp, the N1 is our ideal.
Our first stop upon our arrival in Vanderbijlpark was the liquor store… Kidding. Not! And the grocery store. 🙂 We had to stock up in food, snacks and drinks. Carrying them from home would mean a packed trunk (boot, in SA). Not carrying too much from home also allowed us to start enjoying our weekend away immediately. (Personally, I’m not crazy about unpacking. Or packing.) We were determined to make the most of it, from that Friday afternoon until late Sunday afternoon. We checked out our units, walked around a little, met the resident beauty on the road and the chill session commenced.
After a drink or two, with our stomachs slightly complaining, and in the absence of the desire to cook, we headed out to the restaurants.
We also checked out the casino… of course. But we did not stay long. Our friend S is allergic to gambling. We also somehow misplaced our luck. We decided to take it easy in the chalet. At midnight, we were pleasantly surprised with our special delivery.
Yes! We got not one but two darned good champagne! Thank you so much, Mark! It was such a lovely surprise. We thoroughly enjoyed the extravagant gift. I hope next time I visit, I will get to meet you. Cheers!
We forced ourselves to leave some for our other friends who went to bed early. Unlike the Moët & Chandon that I’ve had a few times, this Veuve Clicquot was much better. I had to educate myself a bit so I googled the different champagnes and found that I must have been drinking Moët & Chandon Brut, not Imperial or whatever other variation. Veuve Clicquot also has the cheaper Brut as well but I know now to only drink the Rich. Veuve Clicquot Rich is a most awesome night cap.
The breakfast in the hotel is not complimentary to the chalet residents, which makes sense as guests who choose the self-catering accommodation would normally opt to make their own breakfast and eat in the comfort of their chalet. We were not the usual chalet people. We were not going to cook our breakfast, or perhaps the intention was there (we could easily go to the town center to do grocery-shopping) but one of the chalets was not satisfactory and time was spent sorting out the matter. The resort had renovations done and the unit still smelled paint and a couple other minor issues. Therefore, we got free breakfast. Oh, and a new unit to replace the one we refused to occupy. Overall, all our three chalets turned out good.
It was worth it! It does not make sense to sweat and slave behind a stove, making breakfast, on a fun weekend away (or on vacation). We couldn’t have topped what the hotel chef fed us, and we did not have to worry about dishes or cleaning up. We surely couldn’t have prepared all the variety available to us. It means being able to enjoy the place more.
After the barbecue (braai, in SA), the gambling team (ha-ha!) braved the casino area once more while the more responsible adults took the kids to Aquadome. We also walked around a little so we did have some nature and clean oxygen. The Aquadome is not complimentary to chalets residents either, although it might be to hotel guests, who can also visit the animal world for free. The chalets have a pool facility, which the kids utilized to their hearts’ delight.
Much later, some of us showed off our skills, or lack thereof, in bowling. We did have to wait as the place was busy. We did get there late. As a result, we could only manage one game to S’s disappointment. Being a non-gambler, she would have happily bowled the whole night. The bowling alley is complemented with a bar. One must drink and bowl. (I sound like a huge drinker, don’t I?)
Sunday was our spa day. My friend T is not easy to please so while she was not happy with the service at the spa, I had a wonderful facial and the kids loved their manicure and pedicure. Being pampered in that natural setting was an absolute relaxation.
After the spa, our non-gambling friend without a child, the one allergic to gambling, decided she was going to go for a game drive. This is an additional cost which she said was worth her money and while.
There is also an animal world in the resort and the children insisted on going. (I did not go, so pictures were taken by T. The cool casino was my preferred venue.) My little princess had many stories to tell when she returned.
On Sunday, although some of us spent a little bit of time in the casino first, we all ended up in Aquadome. It was the right thing to do – for the children’s sake. But by golly! That dome isn’t just warm; it’s hot! And not sexy hot! Ha-ha!
To escape the heat and stuffiness, one can choose to leave the dome for some fresh air. On busy days, such as summer weekends and public holidays, the place is much too packed for me. The casino is more spacious, undoubtedly.
I am sure there are a number of places better than Emerald Resort and Casino, but despite the initial challenge with one of the units allocated to us, we had a fun weekend, and if a place can give an overall enjoyable experience, it is a lovely place. No matter how cheery and fun-loving we are, if we end up in a horrible place, we will either leave or we will have a lousy time.
The resort has so many activities that all the guests will be kept occupied at all times. It is impossible for anyone to get bored. The activities and facilities are varied so almost every single guest is catered for. If a group of friends or a big family is able to spend part of the time at Emerald doing different things, then everyone will leave satisfied. Going away with people can be quite a mission but our group did more than manage nicely; we had a fantastic weekend. The most important thing was the children were happy, too. My little handful was already asking when we would go back and we had not left the Vaal yet.
I will go back to Emerald. But, instead of booking the chalets, I’d rather be chilling in the hotel, getting some pampering, with my special people or just my family. (The chalets though would be perfect accommodation for the more outdoorsy folks. This self-catering option is also more economical.)
I did all our bookings via Expedia and I will happily use Expedia again.
Note that the R59 entrance is closed and entry to Emerald Resort and casino is on Frikkie Meyer Boulevard.GPS: S 26° 44’31.933″
E 27° 51’27.586″Contact details: +27 (0)16 982 8000 |firstname.lastname@example.org