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A few years ago in Muizenberg, the Empire Cinema complex stood empty and in a state of disrepair and neglect. The surrounding beachfront area became abandoned at night as locals were too scared to enjoy an evening walk due to crime in the area as the gangs and druglords moved in. Then things began to change. Locals decided to make an effort to reclaim their suburb, starting with re-painting their shops, turfing out the riff-raff, tearing down unsightly buildings and restoring historic ones. The Empire Cinema complex is one of those buildings and now consists of trendy residential apartments with underground parking, restaurants, coffee shops and retail shops.

I stayed in one of those trendy residential apartments, owned by Whale Watchers, over the weekend with a friend and my two dogs and was suitably impressed. The apartment was spotless and the view was incredible. I also loved being in the thick of the surfing culture which I could watch from my balcony or bedroom window without having to don a wetsuit and get my nasal passages cleared out by salty water – yes, I have tried surfing and enjoyed it, to a degree! The apartment was perfect for pets (and surfers) with it’s tiled floors and had a modern, spacious feel. The heavy curtains when drawn took away any light from the street lights and when the sliding doors were shut there was absolute silence, even from the sea. In fact it was so quiet I never heard any of the surfers arriving at 6am in the morning and was suprised to only wake up at 8am when everything was in full swing at Surfer’s Corner and people were already on their second cup of coffee at Knead.

I also felt perfectly safe. So safe that my friend and I walked across the railway line to York Street in the early evening to Carla’s, a divine little Portuguese-bohemian restuaurant who serve the most divine prawns. We also walked back to our apartment and took the dogs for a quick midnight stroll without once feeling nervous. The apartment block itself has extremely strict 24-hour security and the Whale Watcher’s apartments all have their own designated parking bays underground. So there really is no need to be afraid of Muizenberg and Surfer’s Corner anymore. In fact my advice is that you go there soon. There are restaurants to enjoy, surfers to oggle at, walks on the beach and fresh bread from Knead. If you stay at Whale Watcher’s, you can take your dog with too.

Whale Watchers’ luxury self-catering accommodation

Whale Watchers have over 30 beachfront and seaside properties in Muizenberg, Fish Hoek, Sunrise Beach and False Bay for you to choose from. The apartments have immaculate accommodation and many are pet-friendly. We stayed in the Sandpiper apartment in the Empire Building which offered beautiful views, good security and had all the amenities we could ask for. There was also a handy booklet on the kitchen counter giving information on what to do in the area, including sightseeing and restaurants with contact details.

What to expect:
The view really is fantastic and the sliding doors open wide to let it all in along with the salty sea air. You couldn’t stay much closer to the ocean if you tried! The kitchen is fully equipped with everything you could need, including crockery, cutlery, stove, fridge/freezer, kettle, microwave, toaster and coffee machine. There is DSTV with selected channels and a dvd player. There are two bedrooms and two bathrooms, one of which is en-suite. You have a choice of a shower or a bath and linen and towels are provided. Apparently there is underfloor heating and towel rail heating, but we were there in summer so didn’t need it.

What we loved:
The apartment is sound-proofed from the outside world when all windows and doors are closed. The beds envelope you with their down duvets and comfy mattresses and you get to watch all the surfing action whilst having a coffee on the balcony. You can also nip down the stairs to grab a fresh chocolate croissant from Knead to go with that coffee!

Need to know:
Dogs are only allowed on the beach at certain times and must be leashed at all times. As the apartment does not have a garden, you will need to remember to take your dog out regularly for them to do their ablutions (and remember to pick up after them). I also discovered that my small dog was visiting all the apartments on the floor as he could get through the railings dividing the apartments! So be aware that small dogs may do this (and watch that they don’t leap over the balcony in their excitement at all the action down below).

Where to eat:
We were very intrigued with the many interesting restaurants in the area so are going back to investigate further! But we did go to Carla’s in York Street for delicious prawns served in a bohemian-relaxed atmosphere, had decadant flaky chocolate croissants with our coffee from Knead and an extremely filling breakfast (brunch) with the best creamed scambled eggs at Olympia Cafe in Kalk Bay (which is also pet-friendly).

Who to contact:
Call Belinda on 084-460-5987 or Lizelle on 076-224-7032, email belinda@whalewatchers.co.za, www.whalewatchers.co.za

Added extra:
Join the Pet-Friendly Travel Club and you will get one night free for every four nights you stay at Whale Watchers’ luxury accommodation AND you’ll get a packet of Hill’s Canine Treats. Go to  www.petfriendly.co.za to find out more.