I would just like to thank you for such excellent service and incredibly delicious meals!Read More
Filtering by Category: South Africa
We've been much awarded at Summerhill and Hartford over the years, but this was the most extraordinary dance performance I had ever seen, and the adulation the Ngobamakhosi enjoyed at last year's Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo as the big hit of the world's biggest arts and crafts festival, was little surprise to us. We all have our strengths in life, and when it comes to song and dance, our Zulus are up there with the best anywhere.Read More
You will not find a more beautiful destination anywhere, the attention to detail is unmatched and the personal service is warm and comforting.Read More
"Increasingly, travellers seek destinations that accommodate lifestyle and weather, bespoken to their surroundings and community."
Cheryl and I have been travelling a lot of late. The Wild Coast (there is only one) Cape Town, Jo'burg, Thanda Game Reserve, Phinda of the same, Melbourne and Yasawa Island in Fiji. Quite a mixture. It's premature to talk about Fiji, because we've only just arrived, but it's fair to say that it measures up to everything Captains Hook and Bligh said about it in the good old days ( in Bligh's case, before the Bounty Crew made him walk the plank!)
Being racehorse breeders and hoteliers, you can't avoid the comparisons between the way we do things and how others go about their businesses. Survival in the modern world depends upon how you distinguish your product from others, and I suspect that whatever Summerhill and Hartford are, it's because they were built without money. When you have the funds, you simply pay and you get. When you don't, you have to be creative, you have to be intuitive about what gets a pulse racing. It's about authenticity, atmosphere and adventure, sounds, scents and scenery, tastes and taboos. Good hotels and good horses always reflect a sense of "place", their environment, their histories, their traditions and importantly, their people. In the world of travel, a high level of discernment is creeping into every arena. Today, the customer's interest in artisanal beer and food, for example, is echoed in an interest in artisanal hospitality. Hartford House is dedicated to sating people's interest in the world's distinctive places: you quickly lose any sense of being in a unique environment when staying in a typical high-end hotel in London, Paris or Shanghai, Cape Town, Sydney or Dubai.
Increasingly, travellers seek destinations that accommodate lifestyle and weather, bespoken to their surroundings and community. Hotels should reflect their past, and the architecture of their neighbourhood; discerning guests understand the difference between décor and design, and seldom mistake decoration for good design.
Travel these days takes more than money. It takes the most precious commodity of the lot: time. Most people can buy a car, a handbag or a smart pair of shoes, but travel calls for energy, curiosity, a degree of adventure, even bravery. Not long from now, the greatest indulgence will not be a Ferrari; it will be a fortnight in Zululand, or even a living being; let's not forget, the greatest creature the good Lord ever created, is the racehorse. And you can come by yours with a week at Hartford. An Argentinean polo player on a recent visit to us, tells it like this: "I was waiting for that combination of bliss and despair which makes African journeys so memorable - a melodramatic pose, a "Hendricks" and tonic coursing through my veins, a three day scruff of beard, a whiff of revolution in the air!".
Our places thrive because of their originality, they survive on account of their old fashioned values. The more technologically focused the world becomes, the less people want to check-in via iPad and have their pillow preferences stored in a computer. Instead, our guests like to arrive and be greeted by their surnames; they soon get to know themselves again by their first names. And if you'll give us the time to unpack for you, you'll find your clothes pressed and hanging in the closet. Simple, old-style service is the most pleasant luxury.
Hartford and Summerhill have become beacons of their trades. In a world in which it's no longer so "cool" to be a waiter or a groom, we remember, every day, what an honour it is to serve.
"It's a Wonderful World..."
It's a universal fact that you can't speak of the world's most beautiful places without accounting for South Africa. There are many who believe that our valleys and hills are the most enchanting farmland on the planet; others point to the Drakensberg and the Golden Gate National Park, while we'd challenge anyone to reveal a more spectacular coastline anywhere in the world, than our neighbouring Wild Coast. And then we have our wild places, Northern Zululand and Mpumalanga, and a Karoo that makes the Outback look ordinary. The winelands of the Cape have no competition in the world of viticulture, and just this week the New Seven Wonders Foundation identified Table Mountain as one of only seven new wonders of nature. It's in good company; the Amazon, Halong Bay, Iguazu Falls, Jeju Island, Komodo and Puerto Princesa Underground River.
A tough contest when places like our district's Drakensberg Mountains, Kosi Bay, Victoria Falls and the Okavango Delta etc missed the cut. You can excuse the organisers for omitting the Wild Coast - it's so inaccessible, it's unlikely any of them has ever been near it. And that's the prime reason why it remains one of the last natural beauties of the world.
In an independent impact report conducted by Grant Thornton, a leading tourism, hospitality and leisure research company, it was predicted that a R1.4 billion annual tourism return can be expected for South Africa. Basing their projections on the New 7 Wonders of Nature, in which a 100 million votes were cast worldwide, Grant Thornton estimate that tourism could increase by as much as 20% as a result of this latest finding.
While Hartford House remains one of the nation's favourite destinations, if Grant Thornton are right, we have something to look forward to.
(Photo : Leigh Willson)
"We're on Fire."
We're on fire. No wonder Emma Stephenson's telephone lines are burning. Most Hartford fans know that Emma manages our front desk, and is our reservations queen. We're only a few days into July and she's already made her monthly budget, and bookings into January 2012 are already looking encouraging. How lucky we are in this day and age to have the clientele we do. Looking at the international website ratings (courtesy of Alexa) it's evident why this is the case. Hartford leapt some 46,000 places in the international rankings last month, which partially explains why accommodation bookings into the new year are so favourable. The other part is because they are running a darn good show.
(Photo : Durban Tourism)
Durban, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa
There have been many stories written about Elizabeth Graham, who enjoyed extensive attention in investment guru, Warren Buffett’s biography. Her legend arose through her fearless stewardship of the worlds most celebrated newspaper, The Washington Post, which famously broke the news on Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal.
The Post is represented at the World Cup by Steven Goff who penned this note on his impressions of his favourite South African city :
I never made it to Cape Town (the San Francisco of Africa) or Nelspruit (the remote city on the edge of Kruger National Park). I spent too many days in bustling Johannesburg and too many hours on the road to and from Rustenburg.
And now with the World Cup winding down, with four teams and four matches remaining and my departure a week away, I have discovered what is surely South Africa's most appealing venue: Durban. It's Miami Beach with a world-class stadium a few hundred yards from the Indian Ocean. It's surfers and sandcastle artists, beach soccer and beach cricket, art deco hotels, a casino, seaside Indian restaurants, soft winter breezes and temperatures in the 70's.
Beach Festival offers carnival rides, jugglers, artisans, surf lessons, an official FIFA Fan Fest viewing area and seven piers - essentially, a boardwalk scene without the boardwalk. Or fried dough.
Cargo ships the size of El Salvador interrupt the horizon on their way to Durban Harbor, the busiest in Africa. Hotels and apartment buildings line Marine Parade, the beach road.
Like any resort stretch, there are upscale blocks and downscale sections. You'll find me in the dumpy high-rise with 1970's-era, brown-spotted design curtains and an air conditioner lodged into the wall on the alley side of the building. (Steps from the sand, what do you expect for $110?)
The crowds strolling the promenade are a mix of white, black and Indian. There are local families, pasty World Cup fans, street performers, fast-talking hustlers ("official" Adidas sunglasses for 50 rand - $6.50? Sold!), aggressive beggars, gossiping teenagers, and a heavy police and security presence.
A 15 minute stroll north brings you to Suncoast Beach, where colorful rickshaws and their entertaining owners await customers. It's a service dating from the early 20th century. Behind a casino/mall/multiplex theater stands seven-month-old Moses Mabhiba Stadium, site of seven World Cup matches, including Wednesday's semifinal between Spain and Germany. It's a gorgeous sight. (For $450 million, it better be.)
From the beach, a wide walkway passes under the M4 road and surfaces across from the east entrance at Masabalala Yengwa Avenue. The arch above the field, 344 feet high at its peak, is accessible by funicular. (For security reasons, it is closed during the World Cup.)
For many fans, buses and taxis are not necessary. Unlike Soccer City Stadium, stuck in a dirt/dust bowl in an industrial area near Soweto, or Ellis Park, in a gritty downtown Joburg neighborhood, the Durban facility is within walking distance of hotels, cafes and bars. For many others, a train station provides service just beyond the northwest gates.
Next to 62,760-seat Moses Mabhiba is 52,500-seat Absa Stadium, home to the Natal Sharks rugby club and a venue during the 1995 Rugby World Cup. The Shark Cage team shop rivals any American merchandise store.
I've got three more nights in Durban before returning to Jozi for the final weekend. It's not going to be enough time...
FIFA WORLD CUP 2010
The reverberation of vuvuzelas, and motor vehicles of all makes and shapes sporting a flag or three, heralded a national unity unseen since 1995. The 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup has arrived – and anticipation is behind us. Continued enthusiasm, spirit and ubuntu are inspiring and I’m stirred by a warm, fuzzy proudly-South African sensation. With the month-long festivities and little time to indulge in cookouts, I suggest a selection of sensational bites.
Ensure you always have available thinly sliced biltong, the cheesiest-of-cheesy cheese straws and a selection of lightly-salted hot nuts. An assortment of olives and pickled onions are also an option. These quick-and-easy nibbles are the basics of my 'emergency kit'.
The easiest samoosas are the gorgonzola-filled option and they never fail to impress. I relish the warm centre of oozing gorgonzola surrounded by the crisp spring-roll pastry. Simplicity at its best!
A smoked snoek spread brings South Africa into your television room. Serve this with paper-thin Melba toast, bowls of roasted garlic, caper berries and sundried tomatoes. Scrumptious!
I enjoy something slightly spicy when having a drink or two. This sparks memories of Dodo’s vegetable market in Church Street, Pietermaritzburg where my mom would stock up on supplies and my dad would buy a large paper packet filled with greasy chilli bites for my sister and I. The outer crispness and the inner slightly-spicy softness - almost sponginess - is a texture sensation. I add onion, tomato, pepper and lots of roughly chopped dhanya. For its intensity and versatility I rate dhanya one of my favourite fresh herbs and served on Camembert it makes a memorable meal with a homemade sweet chilli sauce, or with curry, or in samoosas, or in salads or with chicken livers. The options are endless.
On a healthier note, an avocado guacamole served with crudités (raw vegetables cut into bite-size strips) is light and satisfying. Nearby, place slices of old-style homemade cumin flavoured white bread and excellent-quality balsamic vinegar and olive oil. This will allow guests to drizzle vinegar and oil on the bread and, for a more substantial portion, finish with a spread of guacamole.
I am sure these quick, uncomplicated snacks will serve you and your guests well. Keep the spirit alive… Ayoba!
Take these recipes and try them.
SOUTH AFRICA ROLLS OUT UBUNTU IN ABUNDANCE
Our countrymen have surprised themselves, it seems. There was so much apprehension in the world about our ability to stage a successful World Cup, we’d begun to believe it ourselves. That it’s been a resounding success, is evident from this article by the exalted American International Development Executive in the Public Health sector, Shari Cohen. Read it; it’s worth it.
"South Africa Rolls Out the Ubuntu in Abundance"
I went on a rant the other day regarding the cost of the 2010 World Cup versus all the critical needs South Africa is facing and whether or not the most vulnerable of this country would gain anything from having the World Cup hosted in their country. At that time, I also had some very positive things to say about our hosts for the 2010 World Cup and I wanted to share that side of the coin as well, because it is equally important.
To say that I have been blown away at the hospitality South Africa has shown the rest of the world would be an understatement. I think back on recent Olympics and struggle to remember much reporting in the USA of athletes from other countries. I remember when a Togolese guy won a bronze medal in kayaking and NBC reported it and I thought to myself, "where are all the other fascinating stories like this one… like the Jamaican bobsledding team." In today’s America, sadly, we have drifted so far towards being so US-centric that we only seem to root for the Americans.
Not so here in South Africa. I’ve been here since early May and each week I have become more and more impressed with the global embrace that South Africans have offered up to the world. On the way to the airport a couple of weeks ago, I heard a radio program that said each day they would focus on one country that would be coming to South Africa for the World Cup, and they would explore not only that country’s history in soccer, but also their politics, religion, and socio-cultural practices. On the television, I’ve seen numerous programs that focus on a particular country and its history of soccer and how the history of that country is intertwined with their soccer history. I’ve seen programs on India, exploring why India enjoys soccer but hasn’t really excelled at the global level… yet. And I’ve seen shows on soccer in Muslim countries. Maybe it’s planned, maybe it’s unplanned, maybe it’s by chance, but it is happening. It’s not just about South Africans showing off their varied and multifaceted culture to their global guests; it’s also about using this opportunity to educate South Africa on the rest of Planet Earth’s inhabitants.
As I moved through my work here in the provinces over the last six weeks, I had a pivotal meeting with the Board members of a rural NGO. They were explaining their guiding program philosophy of Ubuntu. No, not the Linux program. I’m talking about the traditional African philosophy of Ubuntu that essentially says, "No man is an island."
I found a better explanation from Wikipedia :
Archbishop Desmond Tutu further explained Ubuntu in 2008 :
"One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu - the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality - Ubuntu - you are known for your generosity."
We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.
To me, Ubuntu is the acceptance of others as parts of the sum total of each of us. And that is exactly what I have experienced during the lead up to, and the initial days of this World Cup. There is nary a South African citizen that I’ve met on the street, or in shops or restaurants or hotels, that hasn’t gone out of their way to greet me and make me feel like I am home. And I don’t mean that in the trivial, "Oh, aren’t they nice, homey people here…" sort of way. I mean real, genuine interest and questions. People seriously want to know where I come from. What it’s like where I live. How does it compare to where I am now. What do I think of South Africa? Oh yes, and what do I think of Bafana Bafana… The questions and conversations are in earnest. They are honest. And they are had with enthusiasm and a thirst to know more. South Africans are drinking deeply from the cup of humanity that has been brought to their doorstep. I would never imagine that an American World Cup or Olympics would ever be this welcoming to the rest of the world. And that saddens me for the state of my home country, but it also makes me feel the pride of the South African people.
I have been truly humbled on this trip. And while I have my gripes regarding development here, I cannot say one negative thing about how South Africa has handled its duties as host and hostess to the world. If I could say one thing to sum up being here during this once-in-a-lifetime experience, it would be that I’ve learned the value of Ubuntu, and that when found and offered in abundance, the world is indeed a better place to live in.
So, if South Africa accomplishes nothing more on the playing field, it will still have won as a host country. I am a cynic, no doubt about that. And yet I have to admit, I’m a little teary just writing this because I leave for home next weekend and I will be leaving a little piece of myself here in South Africa. I just hope I have learned enough to bring back a little piece of Ubuntu to my homeland, where perhaps with a little caring and a little water, it will take root as naturally as it does here, in the cradle of civilization. It’s funny, many people in America still ask me, "are the people in Africa very primitive?" Yes, I know, amazing someone could ask that but they do. And when they do, I usually explain that living in a mud hut does not make one primitive, however, allowing kids to sell drugs to other kids and engage in drive-by killings - isn’t that primitive behavior? I think it is. When I think of Ubuntu and my recent experiences here, I think America has much to learn from Africa in general, in terms of living as a larger village; and as human beings who are all interconnected with each other, each of us having an affect on our brothers and sisters.
As the 2010 Cup slogan goes, "Feel it. It is here." Well, I have felt it, because I am here. Thank you South Africa, for giving me this unexpected gift. I am humbled."