I’d always been entranced by Paternoster, even though I had never been and knew almost nothing about it, except that it was up the West Coast and only a few short hours away from Cape Town.
Building something up in your imagination is an odd phenomenon.
Most of our lives happen in our minds – our greatest hopes, our worst fears, the constant chitter-chatter of our thoughts narrating every event, every circumstance, every meaningless moment, turning whatever we perceive or imagine into a story we tell ourselves.
Sometimes reality doesn’t match up to the story we tell ourselves.
But sometimes, just sometimes, reality far surpasses anything we could have imagined.
Driving the long winding road to be met by a picturesque conglomeration of white houses that make up Paternoster was just that.
I knew Paternoster was a sea-side town. I knew it was quaint. But I did not expect it to look like a painting had come to life. It’s too perfect, too planned, too untouched, and almost too mythical to be real.
But, alas, it is real, and the first picture I was greeted with was only a taste of what I would experience on a weekend away at the equally perfectly-designed Gonana Guesthouse.
The West Coast
I had only driven up the West Coast twice before, but it’s a stretch I’ve already come to love. It’s an odd landscape, not quite much of anything, but beautiful in its alienness.
Part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, the West Coast is bountiful in thousands of plants, 1500 of which are endemic. Fynbos, for instance, is indigenous to the region and found nowhere else in the world.
Add in unpolluted skies, almost untouched beaches with rolling, white dunes, and an ocean that seems much brighter than the dark waters surrounding Cape Town; it’s easy to understand why the West Coast is so appealing.
Welcome To Paternoster
Paternoster is no different.
Building regulations have ensured that all structures adhere to this old fishing village’s architectural style, and homes remain low and whitewashed, almost glaringly so under the harsh African sun.
If I described Paternoster in one word, it would be bright – the ocean and sky are bright blue, the beaches and houses are bright white, and everything seems to survive under the illumination of celestial objects.
The Gonana Guesthouse
Unsurprisingly, Gonana Guesthouse is situated in one of these bright and whitewashed family homes, true to Paternoster style, right at the edge of town and bordering the Columbine Nature Reserve.
It overlooks what I would almost describe as a private stretch of beach. It’s not, of course, and the whole stretch of houses share the same beach.
But it may as well be.
Even though the guesthouse’s exterior is akin to the fishing village style, the interior will instantly transport you to an entirely different world – that of Swedish minimalism.
Designed by Swedish owner Jonas Sandström, the interior almost materialises tranquillity, and you’re bound to breathe in a wave of calm upon entering.
The main attraction is the communal lounge and dining room on the top floor of the two-floor guesthouse, which remains exclusive with a mere eight en-suite rooms (6 double rooms, 1 triple room, and 1 studio).
The lounge features a long driftwood communal dining table in the middle, surrounded by nooks and crannies filled with all sorts of wonders, including books, magazines, and games.
An open-plan kitchen and “honest bar” (with a variety of drinks and snacks laid out for self-service with a little notepad for you to keep track of what you take) graces one side of the room, and the length of it leads out to a terrace that overlooks the unspoilt beach and the Atlantic Ocean.
Minimalist Gonana Rooms
We stayed in a room at the top of the guesthouse (most other rooms are located on the ground floor), and the neat and ordered space of the lounge certainly extends to the rooms.
The rooms are uncluttered.
Ours featured light wooden floors, wooden wall art, a double bed, reed sofas, and a minimalist bathroom equipped with the bare necessities, including Simply Bee hand and body wash, soap, lemongrass room spray, and Woolworths no-flush toilet drops.
A Focus On Sustainability
You may find the latter bathroom amenity a little odd, but it’s all part and parcel of Gonana’s overall emphasis on sustainability.
Where possible, the guesthouse relies on natural, locally-produced products, which are also for sale in the lounge area.
The establishment as a whole is also eco-friendly.
The bathrooms use greywater. Rainwater is collected in tanks and used to fill the pool. Hot water is obtained from solar energy. And the rooms all have water-saving showers.
The Vegetarian Breakfast Buffet
This focus on sustainability continues with the vegetarian breakfast buffet available every morning, a far stretch from the usual excessive eggs-and-bacon-and-waffles-and-syrup breakfast I’ve come to know.
The buffet includes a range of fresh fruits and cut-up vegetables, cheeses, breads, muesli, yoghurt, and eggs.
I’ll place an extra emphasis on the freshness of it all.
Very often, fruits at breakfast buffets, for example, taste like they’ve been laid out for quite a while (which they undoubtedly have). But every bite of the buffet at Gonana tastes like it’s just been bought fresh at Woolworths.
And, that’s a good thing, in case you weren’t sure.
Breakfast is served in the lounge area, and you can eat seated at the communal table or carry your food outside to enjoy the ocean views while sipping your coffee.
What To Do In Paternoster
Now that I’ve given you an overview of Gonana, let’s head to what you can do at the guesthouse and in Paternoster as a whole.
Nothing. There is nothing you can do in Paternoster.
And therein lies the key.
There are no shopping malls or cinemas to distract you. There are no dodgy bars or nightclubs. There’s not even a television in your room at Gonana.
This forces you to leave the world behind, tune in to yourself, and, finally, relax.
Here some suggestions:
- Spend some time walking on the beach.
- Explore the nature trails in the area.
- Take a dip in the ocean (yes, it’s cold, but I promise that there’s nothing quite like it).
- Play some card games.
- Make yourself a mug of coffee and breathe in the sea smell.
- Sit on the beach and meditate.
- Walk through the streets and move your body.
- Lounge by Gonana’s pool.
- Do some yoga on the beach or near the pool.
- Visit one of the many extravagant restaurants in Paternoster and savour every bite.
And, yes, I am all about that food, so let’s take a quick peek at Paternoster’s many gorgeous restaurants.
Dining In Paternoster
It’s hard to imagine that a town as tiny as Paternoster would have such an enormous offering of world-class restaurants.
But, I’ve already figured out that this town is all about surprises.
There are many more I may be forgetting, but here a quick overview of the restaurants you can visit:
- Wolfgat: Named the Best Restaurant in the World at The World Restaurant Awards in 2019, Wolfgat is a cave of culinary delight with seasonal tasting menus. Advance booking required.
- Leeto: Fine dining with a mix of seafood, venison, and steak dishes.
- The Noisy Oyster: Good food in the heart of Paternoster.
- Gaaitjie: Unbeatable location with ocean views and fine dining.
- De See Kat Restaurant: Combining the calm of the ocean with the hub of Paternoster’s most-visited attraction, the Paternoster Waterfront & Crayfish Wharf.
- Mondvol: Slightly further out of town with phenomenal breakfasts.
- Voorstrandt: Right on the beach; less fine dining but good, hearty food.
Don’t forget to also check out the phenomenal On The Rocks fish & chips in Paternoster – fresh catch, deliciously prepared, and best ordered for take-away and enjoyed at the beach.
The Gonana Dream
Visiting Gonana left me feeling revived and rejuvenated – and undoubtedly ready to come back for more to enjoy the peace and tranquillity this gorgeous location brings.
I have to add another note on the exceptional kindness of the staff.
Every person at Gonana, most notably the exceptional Thandi, who takes care of all the guests, will leave you in love with humanity, a rare gift in today’s world.
Visiting Gonana Guesthouse
Prices & More
Prices at Gonana Guesthouse vary from room to room and general availability, but you’re looking at an average of R1140 per room per night for one person, with an average of R500 per additional guest.
Most rooms sleep two, but there are also triple rooms and studios available, which are great for families or friends.
You’ll find all the links to Gonana Guesthouse and to make your booking below.
Article Date: March 2021
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