Fairview Homestead | Fairview Homestead
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In 1994 we moved from Namibia to a town called George on the Garden Route in South Africa - we found this wonderful property, first registered in 1861. The place was very neglected, but I undertook to start a guest house so that the house could at least pay for its own upkeep after the restoration. We embraced the challenge to restore this historic George landmark – always bearing in mind that the challenge in restoring and maintaining any old building remains to stay true to the authenticity of the structure. We are so thankful that the grounds remained large enough to give the house a garden it deserves too.

I recently found the old Garden And Home Magazine (October 1998) with the article of our house - talk about a blast from the past: Romancing an era - a long-neglected historic George House gets a make-over... Because it was partly hidden behind high boundary walls, the true beauty of Fairview only became obvious once I drove through the new gates. Then the regal proportions and straight-lined design of the double storey dwelling, circa 1861, could be properly viewed.

We have just harvested the first beans of the season. I just have to share  our daughter's memories of harvesting beans with you: Long before I knew I would make a career of my passion for food, my childhood summers were marked by warm evenings congregated around the kitchen table, top- and tailing beans. In winter, my brothers and I were asked to squeezed one liter of orange juice per day as part of our daily chores and together with the bean harvest, these were the rhythms that marked the seasons of my childhood. As long as I can remember my father has been a keen vegetable gardener. He fought the odds in the harsh Namibian climate by building an elaborate shaded frame over his vegetable garden; and during one short summer spent in Canada, filled our basement with the sweetest sweet corn and buttery new potatoes. My mother has had to become very creative with my father’s harvests, be it spinach, broad beans or rhubarb there is always more than needed! She’s had to come up with a number of ways to preserve and capture the deliciousness for another day or season and this broad bean and garlic spread is just one of those recipes.

Certainly one of the joys of running a guesthouse is that you never know quite who will walk through the door...   imagesOne of my favorite stories is of when I had Robert Redford and Winnie Mandela staying over - well, maybe not quite: I received a call from a gentleman in San Francisco with a voice a smooth as Robert Redford's (I looove Robert Redford...) He told me that he had just e-mailed me a request for accommodation, but that he was phoning to make sure that I would not have a problem with his partner being black. That's where Winnie comes in.  

I have noticed that guest houses will often set the television to a news channel during breakfast.To me that is just one notch above listening to rap while having a meal - who wants to start his day with bad news, and let's face it, 'news' will inevitably be bad news. For seventeen years my background music of choice at the breakfast table has been light classical music, but I also have quite a collection of 'soothing' background CD's. I think one should be careful with vocals and I prefer to play soothing instrumental music if not light classical.

It is grapefruit time again and when my guest told me how much she enjoyed her grapefruit starter (a take on Bircher Muesli served with grapefruit) I remembered how my daughter loved her grapefruit. As she remembers: ' When I was a little girl my mother would give me half a grapefruit sprinkled with sugar, each segment delicately cut loose for me to eat it more easily. I still remember that bittersweet deliciousness, it's such a fond memory, but thinking about it now I realise it was quite unusual for me to be eating, not to mention enjoying grapefruit at that age! Somewhere along the line, probably when I started doing my own shopping and choosing what to fill my fruit bowl with, grapefruit didn't quite make the cut and many years passed without me giving them much notice.'

I have a few friends who also run B&B's and whenever we get together, you can be sure that within minutes we'll be sharing tips, recipes, a joke or a funny incident. Exactly a year ago my friend Liza encouraged me to write candidly about the joys (and frustrations) of running a guest house, categorized on my blog as "My B&B Life". This week I want to tackle tricky issues around accents and cultural differences. An Afrikaans speaking person will ask for breakfast at 'half sewe' (6h30), someone from England will talk about 'half seven' (7h30) and another person may talk about 'half-past seven' - three different meanings to similar-sounding request, fertile ground for misunderstandings! I'm sure fellow B&B owners will sympathize with my frustration (because it's probably happened to them often!) when a guest who requested breakfast at 6.30 (which requires a wake-up time of 5.30 for the guest house owner) then casually waltzes in at 7.30. The problem is that you've been robbed of an hour of sleep with only yourself to blame as, chances are, you were the one who made the mistake with the half-past six / half six story.