An easterly breeze blew through the streets of downtown Swakopmund, bringing with it the searing heat of the Namib Desert just outside the city limits. As I roamed around this coastal Namibian city, admiring its legacy German art nouveau architecture and resident helmeted guineafowl comically strutting around the local parks, I could feel my skin crisping under the midday sun. But I knew that, at the end of the day, the cool comforts of my hotel would welcome me.
I had arrived the day before and was escorted by a porter who toted my luggage past the water fountain and the palm trees wrapped with twinkling white lights at the entrance to Strand Hotel and led me into the cool and comfortable lobby. A perfectly lovely lady handled my check-in, happy to assist me with my questions and even happier to learn that I had chosen her country as the first place in Africa I had ever visited. She offered me a complimentary glass of either port wine or refreshingly delicious rooibus iced tea with honey and cinnamon — or both — before alerting me to some expected power outages as the city would be rebooting its power grid that day.
“Not to worry,” she explained. “We have our own generators.”
Despite that assurance, I used the stairs to ascend to my room, where my luggage was already awaiting me. My perfectly comfortable accommodations featured a large, body-caressing bed, flat-screen television, a variety of teas and coffee, and a spotless, well-lit bathroom.
Sleeping at the Strand is a delight, but so is eating in any of its three restaurants. A bountiful buffet breakfast greets you every morning at the Farmhouse Deli. If you select, for instance, some red grape juice, a cooked-to-order omelet with cheese, tomatoes, and mushrooms, a warm biscuit, some bacon, smoked salmon, roasted potatoes, yogurt with fresh pineapples and banana chips, and Nutella spread on toast one morning, you can rest assured that you won’t have to repeat any of that the next morning. Dinner is an even more intricate creation. At the outdoor seating of the Ocean Cellar, you can enjoy a cool ocean breeze while you savor, for example, hake croquettes with preserved lemon crème fraîche and harissa beetroot puree; poached salmon with crispy skin, lime sabayon, leeks, and potatoes; a South African Arabella sauvignon blanc; and a Swiss roll of dark chocolate and hazelnut ice creams, baked apples, and caramel sauce. In between such generous meals, be sure to pick up a snack here, like the truly odd-sounding but authentically delicious peanut butter, banana, and bacon smoothie.
Before dinner every night, I would study the archival photos of Swakopmund and the antique maps of Africa lining the hotel’s halls before heading outside, across the parking lot, to the adjacent beach to watch the sunset — a seductive gradual display of color. Flocks of birds flew across the full spectrum in beautiful silhouettes. A lone canoeist headed to shore for the night as the reds, oranges, and yellows grew more fiery over the Atlantic Ocean before cooling and slowly decoloring to a deep blue and then a solid ebon. Bright stars began to puncture the sky as powerful waves crashed onto the sand and the temperature receded from the day’s heat to a welcome temperate level. Behind me, the lights in entire sections of town disappeared, as if someone had simply turned off the switch for a quarter of the city, just as I had been forewarned earlier. The Strand’s lights, however, returned seconds later, and the beacon of the red- and white-striped lighthouse still guarded the coast.
Conveniently located within walking distance of the city’s main attractions — the lighthouse, the long jetty, the only aquarium in Namibia, the outdoor crafts market, several parks, the Crystal Gallery, and the downtown’s shops and architectural treasures — Strand Hotel still manages to remain a peaceful and relaxing oasis where you can easily let the efforts of your day’s activities ebb amid a luxurious setting and among an admirably attentive staff. The Strand is consistently ranked among the best hotels in Swakopmund. I’m sure that, as soon as you check in, you will agree.