EXPERIENCING THE LANZERAC - STELLENBOSCH
I must confess that this was the most unique hotel experience I’ve ever had. Imagine being lodged in a huge classically decorated room with its own fireplace, a bathroom almost as big as the room and its own outdoor garden patio where you can enjoy the spells of good weather under a secular oak tree, while sipping from a glass of home-produced good old wine and facing nothing else in the horizon but the imposing view of the mountains and the sky… All this inside a private working wine farm located in the famous Jonkershoek Valley, surrounded by the picturesque Helderberg Mountains… This is the Lanzerac Hotel and Manor, in Stellenbosch - South Africa, where you are received with the phrase: “We’ve been preparing for your arrival for 300 years”!
Four years ago, in my first visit to Stellenbosch, I stayed for two weeks at the then newly built local Protea (for a series of workshops on International Trade sponsored by TRALAC, UNCTAD and the WTO), where the views from my room’s balcony were all vineyards, mountains and wondrous skies constantly changing with the mood of the local micro-climate. And I thought that was as good as you could possibly get as far as experiencing Stellenbosch went…
Then, about a year ago, I stayed for three days at the Stellenbosch Hydro Natural Health Resort, thus presented: “Nestled in the tranquillity of Ida's Valley just outside Stellenbosch, the surrounding woodlands, magical gardens and crisp mountain air make it one of the most beautiful and serene retreats on earth.” Again, that was a most memorable and reinvigorating experience.
Now, the Lanzerac is an altogether different (hi)story. As it goes: “In 1692, governor Simon van der Stel granted a considerable tract of land in the majestic Jonkershoek Valley of Stellenbosch to Isaac Schrijver who named the farm Schoongezicht (beautiful outlook) and planted the first vineyards. Over the years, the Estate passed through a succession of owners who each contributed by building on to the farm. Records show that Coenraad Fick built the cellar in 1815 and the U shaped homestead in 1830. This distinguished Manor House with its neo-classical main gable still stands today and exhibits a high level of sophistication for Cape Dutch architecture of the period.
In 1914, Schoongezicht was bought by Elizabeth Catherine English who changed the name to Lanzerac and bottled the first Lanzerac wine from grapes grown on her land. The two Rawdon brothers bought the farm in 1958 and converted the homestead and outbuildings to a luxury hotel furnished with English and Cape antiques. These buildings were declared national monuments.”
I was invited there by a group of institutional bodies and governmental think tanks sponsoring APORDE – “African Programme on Rethinking Development Economics”, a spinoff of CAPORDE - the "Cambridge Advanced Programme on Rethinking Development Economics", of the University of Cambridge, UK. It congregated a number of academics, researchers, government officials, development policy practitioners and civil society activists from different African countries and other parts of the world bent on turning Development Economics on its head.
They were expected to wrap-up their business today and I hope they’ve succeeded at their endeavours – I just felt compelled, for particular reasons, to leave them just at the beginning (yet, having arrived earlier, on my return from the Okavango Delta, I could still enjoy a good five days of the Lanzerac experience) and, I’m afraid, not totally convinced that they’ll succeed at their stated intentions… Still, all the best are my wishes, specially for the many enthusiastic Africans who took part (... there was even one talking of "a revolution about to happen" there, while wearing a t-shirt stating "Africa is not for sale", to which I responded "this revolution won't be televised"... it's being blogged though).
Afrika could well do with a serious change in mainstream development thinking and practice!