Year: 2016

At One with the Wild Things of Madagascar

First published on the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog. If it is true that fear is the opposite of love, Anjajavy is one place your heart can be sure to find itself again. There are many things that scare me – the more tangible in nature, like baboons, the big cats and black mambas, but also matters of the heart, like love, truth and trust, and the possibility of losing them. Because of this, because I value courage, because I am in awe of the wonders that exist on the other side of fear, I challenge myself to cross over. Travelling to wild and remote spaces in Africa, my courage is put to the test constantly. And each time I make the leap, I am rewarded. By an excitement that makes the skin on my arms blush – from a gaze shared with an animal much larger than me. By the honour of nature’s acceptance – when a snakes slithers into my space and lingers, gently, before moving on. By the greater understanding that comes with seeing …

An Epicurist’s Guide to Starting the Morning

Published on the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog here Epicurist. n a person devoted to refined sensuous enjoyment (especially good food and drink). Lemony Snicket (the American writer also known, much less excitingly, as Daniel Handler) once said that, “how you spend your morning can often tell you what kind of day you are going to have.” While some of us prescribe to the winging-it philosophy of life, many have discovered and held onto set routines that have become a strict guide to living. These rituals help to make sense of and to better control the infinite routes a day can take, and to ensure that we get to fit in time for that which should always come first, like family. Or breakfast. Of all the morning routines of the world’s rich and famous, Steve Jobs’ simple but significant daily ritual speaks to me most. According to Fast Company, the late Apple CEO once said, in a speech to a graduating class at Stanford, “For the past 33 years I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the …

20 Seconds of Insane Courage

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” – Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo I remember hearing these words for the first time, watching as Matt Damon, playing Benjamin Mee in the film, We Bought a Zoo, imparts some fatherly advice to his son. I remember my chest suddenly feeling unsteady, taken over by a sort of vertigo, waiting to fall. Not because I so was taken by Damon. And not, I told myself, because I was a big softie. It was because the film had managed to do what all art attempts to do. It spoke to me. Right to my core. To the adventurer in me that longs for new and wild experiences but sometimes needs a little push out of the plane. There are certain times when the brave soul inside each of us is called into action. For some of us, it is the simple act of making the first move in love. For others, it is …

How to Collect Wild Elephants

Published first on the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog There is a joke that goes, Five people — an Englishman, Russian, American, Frenchman and Irishman were each asked to write a book on elephants. Some amount of time later they had all completed their respective books. The Englishman’s book was entitled “The Elephant — How to Collect Them.” The Russian’s book titled “The Elephant — Vol. I.” The American’s book called “The Elephant — How to Make Money from Them.” The Frenchman’s book was “The Elephant — Its Mating Habits.” The Irishman’s named his book “The Elephant and Irish Political History.” Despite not being French, but perhaps heavily influenced by the roots of Relais & Châteaux, I gravitate toward the Frenchman’s title on the proverbial book shelf. Being South African, there isn’t a title suggestion from our camp, but I could offer the cruder, “How to Braai an Elephant”, or, rather, “An Elephant’s Guide to the Vuvuzela”. Once wisened to the mating habits of these rather unsexy individuals, I’d go the Englishman’s route. Which brings me to today and …

The 10 Commandments of Lemur Life (Or, How To Be A Lemur)

Published on Relais & Châteaux Africa’s blog There are many things lemurs can teach us about life. Like how to keep the mystery alive (new species of lemur continue to be discovered even to this day); how to dance like no one’s watching (case in point: the coquerel’s sifaka that make the garden at Anjajavy l’Hôtel their own dance floor, while guests look on from afternoon tea); and how to look at life from different angles (the sifaka are wont to dangle upside-down languidly from tree branches). Here are 10 more lessons in lemur life that can be observed while at Anjajavy l’Hôtel and exploring the greater island. Consider it The Law of the Lemur, the only self-improvement guide you’ll ever need. Thank you, lemurs, thank you very much. 10 Commandments of Lemur Life 1. Learn to raft It is believed that lemurs first arrived on the island of Madagascar eons ago, via raft – in the most basic sense of the word, “raft”, as in large buoyant logs or floating carpets of vegetation, according to National Geographic. Following their arrival, they continued to …

The Secret To Understanding Art

Above: Anton Smit’s Faith sculpture at Delaire Graff Estate [Published on the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog] Most of us start out in life as rather eager artists. Our first art studios are the creches or primary schools of our youth or the tables of our family homes (also, sometimes the canvas itself, along with the walls and bed linen for the more avant-garde little ones). Our first materials are any pencil, pastel, play-dough or paint we can find; sometimes toes and fingers replace paint brushes, but the idea is the same. We engage in art for fun, as part of the explorations typical of childhood. Some of us create our art for chaos sake, or to express an emotion we don’t have words for, or that words are not enough for. Sometimes we do it for reward – the approving smile or words of affirmation from our teachers and parents. Not much has changed for the men and women of the brush or charcoal stick, clay or pottery wheel. Art’s purpose, our purpose in pursuing art, goes far beyond the simple statement, “art …

The Je ne sais quoi of Johannesburg

The question has often been asked. Do people make places? Forbes once addressed it in their blog, noting, “Some cities have been smoking hot for a while now; others are just recently catching fire. They share a lot of DNA, generally having universities, an investment-friendly culture and political will to support innovation. But perhaps most important is the humapn factor.” In my experience, it’s quite simple. Yes. Yes, they do. People make places. Even for non-people-people, there are many special places in the world that manage to bring out your gregarious, telephone-number-swapping side. Places where the hidden social butterfly patters its wings a little harder, a little less incognito, in answer to the like-minds whose paths you cross. It is this phenomenon that draws me to AtholPlace Hotel & Villa in Johannesburg. People say that, as a city, Johannesburg is notably friendly. In a going-out-of-their-way-to-help-you kind of way that always ends with the words, “We’re having a braai on Friday. Why don’t you join us?” This is unusual in big cities, but it’s a theory that rings true for AtholPlace as …

The African Food Safari

In the name of seeking out those dishes that make you wonder what on earth you were doing eating anything else before, read “The 5 Stages of Dining – A Food Safari at Morukuru Family” on the Relais & Châteaux Africa blog.

Night Time Is The Right Time

First published for Royal Chundu’s blog. “Darkness — like silence, like solitude — belongs to that class of blessings increasingly endangered in modern life yet vitally necessary to the human spirit,” Maria Popova writes in her piece, In Praise of Darkness. As a civilisation, we have, largely, voluntarily, become blind to the beauty of darkness, nightblind, so to speak; constantly, anxiously, trying to replace nightfall with extended day. When last did you sit outdoors and take in the entire night and only the night, giving it your full dedication and seeing in it the poetic beauty it intrinsically holds? Night is the stuff of songs, the muse of musicians… Van Morrison’s Wild Night. Van Morrison’s Here Comes The Night. Ray Charles’ Night Time Is The Right Time. Jimi Hendrix’s Long Hot Summer Night. Frank Sinatra’s Strangers in the Night. What is night good for? What is it not good for? To Ray Charles, night time is the right time to be with the one you love. The Greco-Egyptian writer, Claudius Ptolemy called it cosmic ambrosia. American writer and naturalist, Henry Beston, in his …