a B&B life...
I could not possibly tell you about every guest that jumps to mind immediately, but the truth is that over the years many people have arrived as guests and left as friends. Initially we would receive letters of thanks after a memorable stay and as I even in these modern days love to write a letter, I would inevitably reply and that would lead to more letters and, joy of joys, Christmas cards decorating our fireplace mantel any time from November. Today it is Facebook, WhatsApp and e-mails that allow us to keep contact.
I still remember my first ever guest. She was from Germany; she came to Fairview after she picked up our brochure at the local tourist office. Her name was Ulrika and she paid R110.00 for bed and breakfast. A few years after she stayed that first time, she arrived unannounced at our door and was most surprised when I exclaimed, ‘Ulrika!’ and gave her a big hug.
Then there is the truly remarkable Ms Meyer, descendant of the Justus Meyer who built Fairview. As a sprightly eighty-year-old she traveled from America to visit the country of her forefathers. When she arrived in Cape Town, they did not have an automatic vehicle available for her, but no trouble to her – she had last driven a shift car when she got her driver’s license as a young girl, but she drove around in the parking lot a bit and then took to the road to drive the 450 km to George. “Wrong” side of the road no trouble either.
Subsequently she has stayed with us several times, charming the hosts and other guests with her knowledge, wit, and stories. The room that she stayed in used to have an old mahogany cupboard that had a doorknob that always fell off. Prior to her arrival I had asked Desmond to fix it. When I walked into her room the next day, I was surprised to find the job done, as I normally must ask Desmond at least three times to fix anything around the house, his excuse being that he is a gardener and not a handyman.
When I thanked him that evening, he admitted sheepishly that he forgot. I asked Thea and she, with a shrug of her shoulders, replied that when she drove past the hardware store, she knew exactly what type of screw I needed to fix that doorhandle, so she quickly popped in to buy it and fixed it herself. Now how can any guest house owner not remember such a guest?
When the South African corporate travelers could travel again, after nearly a year of Covid-19 lockdown and remote working, one of our most our long-standing guests arrived at the door with a big bunch of white roses. I still get emotional just thinking about this kind gesture. When he stayed with us the first time, he asked me if I would mind if he practiced his flute in the afternoon. Now I must explain, all three our children played the recorder and I have had to suffer through many a false note for many years. So, I am sorry to say, but I held my breath for a few seconds before I said that I would have no problem with that, if it was not into the evening. Oh, my goodness – I could only stand there and smile like an idiot as the sound of the most heavenly music drifted down the Fairview corridors.
I am reminded daily, as I look upon a set of red leather-bound English Classics, that a widower had delivered those to my house after a stay during which he attended the funeral of his brother. He explained that his one son had emigrated to England and the other to Australia; they had taken what they wanted from their family home and the set of books was left unclaimed. As he was now also moving into a Retirement Home, he was selling off the last of his possessions but could not bear with the thought of that collection being split up as he and his wife bought it together as young students at Stellenbosch University. He saw that I loved old books and asked me if I would take care of it. Every time that I dust the set, proudly displayed in my lounge, I think of him.
During the past year with international travel suspended, I have been communication with several overseas guests via social media and per e-mail. It brought it over to me just how many people have impacted my life after a stay at our B&B. When we moved to George, Desmond had just turned 40, I was in my 30’s, as old as my daughter is now. Now we are talking about retirement, our arthritis and lack of energy. I remember an elderly Dutch couple who came to us for many years for their annual golf holiday to the Garden Route and on greeting me the one gentleman took my hands and told me solemnly that this would be their last holiday to South Africa as they just thought they were getting too old for the long trip. We both had tears in our eyes. Those are the kind of guests I remember.
On the 25th of March 2020 we had nothing but dread for the year ahead. So much has changed in the past year. My plans for 2021? It would be a year of trips as I had wonderful Thereasa with the Fairview reigns firmly in hand. A trip to France, a trip to Australia to spend some time with our Ausie children and grandchildren, a trip to Cape Town where Desmond was going to attend a conference and I was going to spend time with my Cape Town friends, and of course our Cape Town children and grandchildren.
Covid-19 clipped the wings of the whole wide world. Literally.
Yesterday somebody sympathised with me as he felt that the hospitality industry was probably the worst affected. I immediately started listing the industries that were as bad off, if not worse. Corona strengthened my belief that it is not just about me and mine. We are all in this together.
Thereasa is now a receptionist at the Intercare Mediclinic where Desmond works. Desmond and I are both well, and happy with life at a slower pace. Like many accommodation establishments (12 when I last counted) we did consider selling, but we will be able to ride this out by changing direction, cutting down the overheads and reverting Fairview back to a family home, offering just two of the guest rooms on B&B. Thank you to all South African guests for the continual support, thank you to every e-mail or WhatsApp with words of encouragement. This too shall pass.
Our children were all three still in primary school when we moved into Fairview. Within months I received my first paying guest and our children had to learn a new set of rules: ask before you take fruit out of the fruit bowl, tell me when you finish the juice or milk, no sport equipment lying around, no loud music, no loud shouting and the one that drove them to distraction - no telephone calls on my dedicated guest house telephone number! This was prior mobile telephones and even though we had a private number too, their friends would phone on the guest house number and that would not be tolerated as their teenage calls could go on for hours.
Apart from the frustrations we also had funny incidents - once my son ran into the breakfast room, changed the Gregorian Chant music that happened to be playing as 'soothing' background music and ran off to school with blazer tails dangling in the wind. When he came home I asked him why did he change my music? His answer: "Mom, I walked by, heard that freaky music and thought to myself - these poor people will never get their breakfast down listening to that".
We did learn that it was absolutely necessary for us to close down over Decembers (our summer holidays) so that the children could enjoy their home and yard without having to share it with outside guests. Now that they are married and we are grandparents it is still just as important to keep Fairview to ourselves for the period from mid-December to 5 January.
I believe that growing up in a guest house taught Eckart, Alex, and Nelleke very important life lessons: to be considerate, mind their manners, be hospitable, not to shy away from house chores, It also opened their minds to the big world out there where people have different accents, speak different languages, come from different cultural backgrounds. All three love traveling, cooking and are excellent hosts.
The basic shopping has been done, the house has had a spring clean of note and at Fairview Homestead, we are ready for the 21-day lockdown. As we are going to be joined by two of our children and their families, one inevitably wonders about self-isolation in the case where one family member gets flu-like symptoms.
It is still strange to come down to my office in the morning and have no queries to answer. I have a dreadful feeling that the hospitality industry is not going to recover from this anytime soon. But we choose hope and not fear. Thank you for choosing us when you were looking for accommodation in the Garden Route in the past and please support us again once this is all over. Stay safe.
When our daughter moved into her first flat the two of us went to the factory shop in York Street to find a few basic items in their little 'reject' room. She was sitting flat on the floor, sorting the Wonki Ware into little piles of four. Di Marshall happened to walk in and gave her an amused smile at which the 18 year old, not knowing she was speaking to THE Di Marshall, started telling her what amazing crockery this was - pointing out the artistic designs, beautiful colours and delicate, yet durable quality of the items.
One of their bestsellers is called the lace design. They make this plate by pressing real lace into the soft clay before the plate is fired in the oven. Then, as it is placed in the oven, the lace design burns off, leaving behind a ghostly pattern. They are manufactured from non porous clay and the glazes are non toxic and lead free ; chip proof, oven, microwave and dishwasher friendly.
Her tableware is also used by the Swedish and British Royal families. The business also have outlets in UK, Netherlands, Australia, Sweden, Germany, Norway, Switzerland and Ireland . So there you are all the South Africans in London - go and look at the Wonki Ware in Harrods when you get homesick! You can also go to their website and order your items prior to coming to George. Address: 42 York St, George South, George, 6530.
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 8.30 am to 5 pm.
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org | Tel: +27 (0)44 884 1883
9 people sharing, 8 people asking, 7 agents phoning, 6 guests a-parking, 5 children swimming, 4 telephones ringing, 3 drop-ins knocking, 2 couples asking, 1 call for multitasking - and no golden eggs.
Yes, it's that time of the year again...
You have to understand - as much as I hate the start of blaring 'Jingle Bells, jingle bells,jingle bells' rocking in my ears while I'm shopping for our daily bread, eggs, bacon, mushrooms... IN OCTOBER! As much, do I love the advent of Christmas.
I light my 4 candles in anticipation of the last candle - one on each Sunday and the last candle we light on Christmas eve. I hang an advent wreath on our front door, I use my navy blue cloth napkins with the golden stars that my children helped me to stencil on when they were small. There is always a small Christmas tree - often one concocted with thorn tree branches. In Namibia (where we lived for 13 years) this is quite a traditional Christmas tree - the thorns are perfect to hang the tree decorations from and I also find the thorn tree symbolic of the thorn wreath that was put on Christ's head during the crucifixion.
Our friends in the northern hemisphere probably find it incomprehensible that we can have Christmas without snow, but yes that is our reality: Christmas day temperatures average about 27 degrees Celsius. Some people do the whole hot meal with turkey and gammon, others prefer to go the more sensible route of salads and cold meat or salads accompanied by meat grilled over the coals (a braai).
This year we will be spending Christmas on the Namibian coast, leaving Fairview in the capable hands of Thereasa. We will be accompanied by our two Namibian born children and their small families. Most of the time will be spent on the coast - a week in Walvis Bay where Desmond can windsurf to his heart's content and a week in Swakopmund where the children can play in the rock pools and the parents can laze under umbrellas.
And on that note we would like to wish all our guests (and potential new guests) a blessed Christmas season.
George is renowned as the Western Cape's Golf Capitol, with over 9 different golf courses within a 60 km radius of George.
The George Golf course is a beautifully manicured, 72 pars, 18-hole course, with bent greens
The Kingswood Golf Course consists of 18 holes over rolling fairways with undulating green
Originally designed by Gary Player, Fancourt’s Montagu course has developed into one of the finest 18-hole parkland layouts
Designed by Gary Player and named after the mountain range that forms its breath-taking backdrop, the course is pristinely conditioned to accommodate a large volume of players
Private membership to the Links Club affords the course and its facilities with a sense of exclusivity that befits a world-class golfing destination
Ernie Ells course designed 18-hole championship golf course and driving range.
VARIOUS GOLF COURSES BETWEEN 60 & 90 MINUTES’ DRIVE FROM GEORGE
Designed by Bob Grimsdell that was built over a period of two years.
Mosselbay is an 18-hole, par 72, links-style golf course with a 71 rating. Length: 5940m
Copyright © Philda Benkenstein All Rights Reserved
The peppadews growing at Fairview self-seeds and we find ourselves in a constant supply of these deliciously piquant little peppers. The green shaped ones will all turn red at some stage - I quite like the look of a combination of green and red in one jar. I use it in omelets, pasta dishes, in salad and stuffed with cream cheese it makes a lovely snack served with an ice-cold beer. When we lived in Shoal Lake in Canada, I had a Ukranian neighbour (Baba Stech) who taught me a thing or two about pickling, but a word of special thanks have to go to David Elston who got the plants from us, but took the pickling process to the next level. I gladly share my recipe with you:
Preparation: (Done the night before)
1kg red-ripe but firm little peppers
100g coarse salt
1. Dissolve the salt in the water. If you leave it overnight in a brine mixture, it will prevent the chilies from becoming soft over time once bottled. Do not use table salt as this could make them go cloudy, but make a simple soaking solution of about 100gram pickling salt or coarse sea salt on 1-liter water.
2. Like any chili/pepper the burn lies in the pips, so you can make it less sharp by cutting off the stem and scraping out the pips with a small spoon. You have to cut off the stem anyway to allow the pickling solution to get in. When pickling the Peppadews I use surgical gloves to protect my gentle hands :) but I've also heard that it helps to rub sunflower oil, or olive oil if you want to be wasteful, all over your hands as it forms a protective layer
3. Soak the prepared peppers overnight in the brine at room temperature. Make sure they're all in the brine by putting a plate on top.
4. The next morning you drain them, give a rinse with freshwater and now you're in business:
To Pickle I use my big stainless steel pot and add:
750ml white grape vinegar
600ml white granulated sugar
8 pieces (cherry-size) fresh ginger, peeled
8 cloves garlic, fresh, peeled
8 bay leaves
Method:5. Measure out all the pickling ingredients (except the little green chilies) into a large cooking pot, stir well over low heat until ALL the sugar has dissolved then bring to a rolling, foamy boil.
6. Add peppers and chilies, bring back to the boil and boil them for only about 1 minute.
7. First, fill the STERILE bottles with peppers and then fill to about 1.5cm from the top with the boiling liquid and seal while hot.
This you bring to the boil while stirring for the sugar to dissolve. When it is bubbling you add the Peppadews for about a minute and then start bottling:
You fill the jars with Peppadews, then ladle the pickling solution into about 1cm from the top, (push the peppers down to allow the solution to fill their cavities)
Re. the bottles/jars: your mother will heat the oven to 180°C and put the washed jars and lids in there for at least 10 minutes prior to bottling. I just pour boiling water over the lids and pop the glass jars 3 at a time into the microwave oven for a minute...
As a Guest House, I joined an accommodation bartering site called Swop and Stay. I love their website - the swops work on a point system (you do not have to stay with the establishment that you host) The automated swop process, once you have accepted the swop request, makes the process of gaining or losing points so much easier.
Swapping accommodation with fellow accommodation providers makes so much sense. Not only do we get to stay for free, but we also get to establish network opportunities and we get to learn from each other.
Which brings me to the topic of my blog post - why are we so averse to bartering ? If there is one thing that gets me hot under the collar it is when a prospective guest wants to bargain me down. Is it even fair to lower my price and in that way take the business away from another establishment and forcing them to lower their rates to the point where it is actually costing them to fill their rooms? I'm not exaggerating - I know of one B&B that cut her prices to the point where she was actually subsidizing the guests sleeping over - how crazy is that?)
Yet, I have just exchanged 3 boxes of wine from a well-known wine estate in exchange for a weekend's accommodation. Sitting down with a glass of excellent Pinotage, which we would otherwise never have sampled, as it falls into a price range we consider above our limit, I just realized what a clever concept this really is. It's a win-win situation Being a strictly a one-glass-girl already half a glass above my limit, I drew my laptop closer to research this bartering story further. That left Desmond obliged to sample the Pinotage further and his nods of encouragement at my excitement over the bartering system just became more encouraging as the level of the bottle dropped. Understand, this is a man who is cheeky enough to walk down to the corner deli with a bag of homegrown peppadews and come to an agreement to exchange it for our daily bread and milk! According to him, he was just desperate because I was too lazy to bottle his abundant harvest of peppadews, but that's a story for another day...
The definition for bartering reads: Bartering is a trading system in which you offer products in return for credits to purchase other products and services in your barter group. An American girl innocently required: "i'm doing a travel project for school and i need to know if you have to barter in South Africa? " (At least she had the good sense to use capital letters for South Africa...)
To this naive question she received two rather indignant replies: "NO, we do not barter! South Africa has a very well developed economic system, while the country was very socialist during Apartheid, the country is now far more free market. We have our own currency, the Rand. We also have one of the best banking systems in the world."
"We aren't a group of uneducated idiots who live in huts and hunt lions... We actually have a currency, its called the Rand." And then from someone calling himself Bob Mugabe: "I do not barter. I take." Well, it's certainly true that we have a well developed financial system here in South Africa and we rarely barter, but perhaps we should not be so quick to turn up our noses at the time-honored tradition of bartering. I have come to the conclusion that a good barter system must have the following:
I'm sold on the idea of bartering! But not on bargaining my rates down. I have recently been asked to quote for a one-night booking for the 1st of January - giving my 'best price'. Why would I give a discounted rate for a one-night booking on a public holiday when I have to pay double time to my staff -surely that should make no sense even to the person requesting a 'best price'?
In the winter it actually costs me more to run my guest house - the rooms need heaters, electric blankets, and the linen have to be tumble dried- so why should I lower my rates in the off-season?
Bargain, no. Barter, YES!
About the blog
This is the story of our house, lovingly restored and shared with guests and family since 1995.