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Stanford Revisited

There’s an apocryphal story about a neighbour who wasn’t too happy with his new German neighbours on the Wortelgat Road outside Stanford.  But the German neighbours invited him nonetheless when they opened their new restaurant… and he accepted.

Springfontein Eats
Springfontein Eats

During the long lunch at Springfontein Eats, he had a phone call from his daughter, concerned about the rising level of the Klein River which passed right in front of his home.  He told her he couldn’t worry about it now, he was enjoying the meal too much.

His daughter called again half an hour later to say that the water was at the door.  Again, he said the meal was too good to leave.  Her next call was to let him know that the water was up to knee height in the house.  He told her not to worry, the house was insured and the meal was truly exceptional.

Yes, Springfontein Eats is that good.  And although it opened five years ago, it’s still producing some of the most memorable gastronomic experiences you’ll get anywhere.

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Fancy a gypsey caravan?

There are always unusual things coming out of Stanford.  Like the gygpsey caravans Howard Dunbar builds.

He’s built about 16 caravans over the past four years, mainly in two sizes — 5.4 metres and 3.6 metres.  A fully kitted caravan — with complete solar power system, pumps, fridge, fitted kitchen and bathroom — costs between R135,000 and R175,000.

Howard Dunbar and his 5.4 metre gypsey caravan
Howard Dunbar and his 5.4 metre gypsey caravan

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The social hub of Stanford

Stanford Hills Estate has become the de facto community hub of Stanford.  It’s child-friendly… and has one of the best kids’ playgrounds anywhere.  It’s also pet-friendly and dog walkers from the village take to its hills every day.  If you don’t have a dog to walk, one or both of Peter & Jami Kastner’s Ridgebacks will happily take you for a walk.  And you might come across the weekly art classes, the weddings and other functions… and the music events.  It’s a friendly, unpretentious and… to use a word Peter and Jami use often… rustic place to relax, stay, play and and enjoy good wine and food.  Peter and Jami really do enjoy people enjoying the place and they make an effort to make sure that locals feel part of it.

Jami & Peter Kastner
Jami & Peter Kastner

Stanford Hills has grown organically.  Unlike many wine estates, there was no corporate budget to support the farm.  It grew as and when finance became available.

Peter and Jami never set out to be farmers.  Peter had a restaurant in Hermanus and Jami a flower exporting business when they bought portion of the old Weltevrede Farm, which they bought for its flowers.

Then one self-catering cottage became two, AfriCamps was added with five luxury “tents”, and the Manor House was converted to cater for larger groups.

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Southernmost Tip of Africa iconic site

In 2002, the then municipal manager of Cape Agulhas municipality, Keith Jordaan, asked me for ideas to improve the area for tourism.  I gave him three ideas:

  • Create a world class, iconic site at Cape Agulhas to celebrate it as the southernmost tip of the African continent and where two oceans meet.
  • Napier was a dry and boring little village then with a largely ugly main street, so I suggested removing half of every third parking bay — which are rarely used — to plant an avenue of trees. (The sidewalks were too narrow for planting.)
  • Restore Bredasdorp’s old railway station — the southernmost on the African continent — and get tourist trains running there… steam trains preferably.

I discussed these with my old friend and respected colleague, David Jack, on his farm outside Napier over breakfast one morning.  There are few people whose judgement I trust more.  He was enthused by the ideas, and started telling me about the work of an American landscape architect he had seen recently, which would be so appropriate for Cape Agulhas.  We spoke about a competition for designs and a possible champion, when we discovered that the then-CEO of the WWF had a house in nearby Struisbaai.

For Napier, Dave asked me to tell the municipal manager that he would donate the trees!  I did, and at a subsequent municipal meeting I was asked to repeat the offer.  The official responsible for services said he couldn’t allow it because it would mean raking up leaves!

In 2014 I became aware of a competition for the design of an iconic site at Cape Agulhas.  I read the competition document and found it a bit wishy-washy, so I called one of the judges — the late Fabio Todeschini.  He wasn’t aware that he was one of the judges and hadn’t formally accepted any invitation!  So I wasn’t going to hold any high hopes…

Then Bernie Oberholzer, a landscape architect I’ve known and respected for decades, recently asked if I had been to see the iconic site.  He sent me information about it… and I started looking forward to seeing it with eager anticipation.  Might they have just got this right?

It’s against that background that I visit the so-called iconic site.

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General Dealer Museum at the Stanford Hotel

“It was originally a general dealer, then a men’s bar, a wine bar, a place to buy picnics, a function space — but it never quite worked. Then it occurred to me that Stanford didn’t have a museum — so I turned it back into a general dealer — as a museum.”

A compulsive collector since the early 1990s, Penny van der Berg, owner of the Stanford Hotel, has had so much fun with this corner-store museum, sourcing goodies from across the country and describing it as, “A little bit Selfridges, a little bit Stuttafords, using my own poetic licence.”Read More »General Dealer Museum at the Stanford Hotel

A Lesson for all Tourism Offices who whinge about inadequate budgets

Most tourism offices whinge about inadequate budgets without demonstrating that they do provide value for money or create significant numbers of extra jobs with taxpayers’ funding.

Well, Swellendam has turned the “liability” of development on its head and gained itself a cash budget of R11 million a year for the next three years.  And there’s much more in kind.

Brand Swellendam is the winner and it’s a credit to the board of Swellendam Tourism Organisation (STO) and the Municipality that this has been achieved.  And to Peter Gratton for his dedication and perseverance — the submissions to DBSA were rejected twice before a visit to them convinced them of the benefits.

We (that includes Beezus) met Peter Gratton, who drove the project, and Rob Hicks, Swellendam Tourism’s development planner (discovering that we had crossed paths in a previous life) over breakfast at the pet-friendly Grace Walk B&B.  It was a memorable breakfast in every respect… thank you Esther.

Rob Hicks, development consultant, and Peter Gratton, head of Swellendam Tourism
Rob Hicks, development planner, and Peter Gratton, head of Swellendam Tourism

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