Victoria Falls Continued...see last post (with lots of animal photos children might like) – I just added a few more to that post.  In this post I focus more on the design and architecture of the hotel (Ilala) which was so interesting in both an aesthetic and functional way + the landscape design has been created in a thoughtful and beautiful way.   So more a post for the architecture/garden lovers like me!

A diversion that might interest granddaughters 1 day…skip over if not interested…

Where did my interest in architecture and gardens come from?

For many years, I worked as an Office Manager for Architects in Canberra – Neil Renfree, who was President of RAIA (in those days – late 70s/80s a “Secretary/Bookkeeper”. I had an “Advanced Secretarial Certificate” after doing HSC (a 1 Year course after Yr 12) so pay was better than average “secretary”😉…quite proud of that for the time when many girls, from backgrounds similar to mine, were discouraged from University studies – even though I did well in HSC and was accepted at many Unis including Sydney Uni. I was an “average student” in early HS but studied hard in Yr 11 and 12. I just loved my job, although after 6 years did feel like a change and more learning – hence the move into Education and Teaching. From working with the Architects, I learned so much and developed a keen interest in good design (eg. Passive solar), including landscape design.

There is now a book called “Canberra Homes” which I plan on buying as houses designed by Neil Renfree & Ass are in it + many other very interesting homes. I also stayed life long friends with one of the Architects…she occasionally checks out this blog, particularly posts about Poland (where we hope to return) in between caring for her grandchildren + travelling (+ Skiing!) herself now semi retired. She did many of the house designs during our time at NR & Associates and won a major environmental award for the design of her own passive solar house in Canberra. She also designed our family home which included many passive solar features – a pleasure to live in as Canberra has cold winters but often sunny too.

I’ll do a blog on Canberra one day soon (now has international flight connections) and include some photos of the house. We sold it 2 years ago to downsize to an inner city suburb – a ground floor apartment…still with a small courtyard garden. Couldn’t live without a small herb garden for our cooking!

BACK TO VICTORIA FALLS…

Photo of the Ilala Hotel (where we stayed) above: The hotel architecture and design is so interesting. The walkways between buildings not only gives wonderful views towards the National Park but also protects people from wild animals, especially in the evening when they move onto the lawns to feed on the grass. At night we only walked along the walkways and through the buildings – we felt very safe as there were security guards positioned around the hotel as well. Our room was in the building on the right of this photo – ground floor so we had a courtyard which was nice and sunny in the mornings. This photo was taken after breakfast.

Photos below: Buffet breakfast + table service…tables on the left look out toward the National Park. You can’t see the Falls but you can sometimes feel the mist but it was only very light when we were there so that was very pleasant. Dining at the hotel in the evening was under the verandas and inside – because the weather was very pleasant we dined outside…looks quiet in the photo but a large group arrived shortly after us so there was a lively buzz throughout our evening. We’re glad we arrived early as the large group next to us seemed to have a long wait; of course some people enjoy that, especially if travelling with a large group but at this point in time my back was bothering me, so long periods waiting around for meals to arrive wasn’t at all appealing to me. The food was what you would expect for a large hotel catering for larger groups – all quite tasty but not particularly imaginative or memorable…traditional English style cooking so a bit disappointing as we would have liked to try some uniquely African flavours. We hear that Johannesburg is more the place to find interesting restaurants like that – Victoria Falls is very much a tourist destination and very popular with both British and Americans so all the restaurants in the area appear to reflect that. Consequently, learning about the different foods of Africa wasn’t a highlight here. We enjoyed our stay as the hotel was so beautiful but Victoria Falls is one of those places you just visit once in a lifetime, unless you decide to explore more of the region around Zimbabwe.

Gorgeous, spacious rooms at this hotel and we also loved the large courtyard which can be seen in photo above…we had the room on the corner which we booked after reading a room tip on Trip Advisor. Glad we did as the views were lovely especially first thing in the morning as many small animals came up onto the grass from the National Park (about 100 m away)…the animals stay away from the courtyards (signs around saying not to feed them). In the late evening, the monkeys get cheeky and come quite close so we ended up going up to the bar for a drink – trying to get a monkey (or worse still a baboon) out of the room wasn’t an appealing consideration; apparently that can happen in the evening!

Unlike other parts of Africa, food and beverages are expensive in Victoria Falls; however, there is a casual bar/restaurant next door to this hotel called “The Three Monkeys” – it has better prices/good food. We went there one day for lunch, the 2nd day was at Look Out Cafe very close to the Falls (views towards gorge and “Zambezi swing”) and the 3rd day just some toasted sandwiches by the pool late in mid afternoon. The breakfast is huge (if you want it to be) so we didn’t really eat much until the evening meal anyway. Of course, some people think “we’re on holidays let’s splurge” &/or they have some rich rel who has set them up for life…we’re not in that boat + we like to travel for extended periods once we’ve done long plane flight from Australia. Even though this hotel is still $$$$, we thought it was a good choice as less expensive compared to The Victoria Falls Hotel – which does have the ambiance of a grand, historic hotel but the rooms don’t have the outdoor spaces + walkways etc. like the more contemporary design at Ilala, so we just visited The Victoria Falls hotel for a walk around (photos below eventually!…see note below) + a drink. It’s a 10 min pleasant walk between Ilala and Vic Falls Hotel.

Photo above:

Taken in the evening (from our hotel room courtyard at Ilala); the breakfast was either/or a beautiful buffet or table service. We liked the tables on the huge patio as they overlooked the National Park and you could hear Victoria Falls and sometimes feel a very light mist. It was also possible to see quite a range of small animals both at dawn and dusk. We did hear that a herd of friendly elephants occasionally stroll across the lawn but we weren’t lucky enough to experience that!…only the excitement (combined with a hint of fear!) of a roaring lion on our doorstep near Kruger National Park!…see Inyati post + more posts in coming days. We would highly recommend this hotel – loved our stay here.

Photo below at Ilala:

img_0836Spacious and elegant hotel room with fan + aircon (it gets hot here in Vic Falls) plus indoor & outdoor table and chairs. It’s almost like a 1 bedroom apartment so while comparatively expensive to other hotels in Africa, the facilities are top end. It’s built/decorated in a classic style but if you want to experience more historic/colonial ambience, we suggest going to The Victoria Falls hotel for lunch or even just a drink and walk around. We did both – a very busy place with many large tour groups staying there but if you enjoy seeing the very British style of architecture + a good collection of Art Deco artefacts, lighting features etc., it’s definitely a place to visit (see next Para + photos).

PHOTOS BELOW: THE HISTORIC/VERY GRAND – VICTORIA FALLS HOTEL

Some large tour groups stay here; however, considering the price, they don’t have much time to linger in the beautiful surrounds and soak it all in – it’s very much a buzz in/out visit when you look at the itineraries. It is definitely worth a visit, even just for a walk around even if you’re staying elsewhere like we did – they also have a range of lunch options at the very pretty cafe too. Do dress appropriately as security check you out at the front entry/lobby and we saw some young people in thongs (flip flops😉) being turned away at the foyer.