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The Centre Will Not Hold

PS: We have one space (or two sharing) available for Jill Trappler’s art weekend retreat – EXPLORING TOUCH, Friday 4 February 2022. Book here

Good Morning

The Centre Will Not Hold (2017), produced by the late Joan Didion’s nephew Griffin Dunne, is an interview documentary that can be watched time and again. Joan Didion’s wisdom always inspires. Writer and art critic Hilton Als says, “The weirdness of America got into her bones and came out on the other side of a typewriter”.

Being the Mom of two daughters at early stages of their working lives keeps me alert to the extraordinary career path tales of others.  I am especially interested in the role of chance.

Joan Didion’s mother put the details of a Vogue essay writing contest in front of her then high school daughter, saying “You could win that and live wherever you wanted. But definitely you could win it.” In her Senior year at Berkeley (1956), Joan Didion won the Vogue essay writing contest and moved to New York City to join the editorial staff.

A few years later (1961), a Vogue cover piece on self-respect by another writer never materialised, and Joan Didion was asked to fill the gap. She set about writing “Self-respect: Its Source, Its Power”. A small excerpt of this, her first published piece, is included at the end. Read the full piece online, she was just twenty seven years old.

Our last born, Molly, gave me a copy of SOUTH AND WEST for my birthday, just two days before Joan Didion’s passing on 23 December 2021. It is a notebook recording her month-long road trip through the American South. I love reading Joan Didion. A favourite piece is “It is easy to see the beginning of things and harder to see the ends. I can remember now with a clarity that makes the nerves in the back of my neck constrict, when New York began for me, but I cannot lay a finger on the moment it ended… It is distinctly possible to stay too long at the fair.” – Goodbye To All That by Joan Didion

This week brought the passing of Katriena Rosina Wildschutt (1935 – 2022), mother to Rose Kroukamp and Richard Wildschutt. Many of you will remember Rose from Wildekrans Country House, having tasted her carrot cake, rusks, homemade lemonade and marmalade. Each summer, Aunty Kate proudly presented Wildekrans Country House with her homegrown Dahlias (pictured). This Saturday the Overberg community of St Mary’s Church, Houw Hoek, gathered to lay Aunty Kate to rest. Gerald Siljeur’s eulogy spoke to Katriena’s legacy and how, through mostly her actions alone, the historic Houw Hoek Church lives on.

The foresight of our forefathers has left us with their legacy, the Kogelberg Biosphere. What a joy to begin the year with hikers from across the globe. This last week we were treated to the company of Canadians, Hollanders and Gautengers. We are of course potentially all the same, but perhaps it’s our very different contexts that make us different. I learnt that Canadians are kept awake at night by climate change, as well as Biden’s lack of sensitivity to the sustainability of Canada’s automotive industry. I learnt that Hollanders are disturbed by an increasing lack of tolerance for age old Dutch tradition.

Joan Didion’s words on this topic. “I was born in Sacramento and lived in California most of my life… Don’t you think sometimes people are formed by the landscape they grow up in? It formed everything I ever think or do or am.”

With love,

PPS: To join another hiking group, Hike South Africa, in the weeks of 31 January, 7 February, 14 or 28 March 2022. Hiking outside Cape Town. Book here

PPPS: These words are from Joan Didion’s Self-respect: Its Source, Its Power“To live without self-respect is to lie awake some night, beyond the reach of warm milk, phenobarbital, and the sleeping hand on the coverlet, counting up the sins of commission and omission, the trusts betrayed, the promises subtly broken, the gifts irrevocably wasted through sloth or cowardice or carelessness. However long we postpone it, we eventually lie down alone in that notoriously un-comfortable bed, the one we make ourselves. Whether or not we sleep in it depends, of course, on whether or not we respect ourselves.”


You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Good Morning

Monocle’s Chiara Rimella is the source of my 2022 commitments. On Christmas Eve she shared that “Ultimately, it’s the things that meant the most to us that will stick. And if there’s one lesson that we should have learnt in 2021, it’s to embrace the things that really matter to us – and not to fret about the rest.”

My first 2022 embrace is of the teachings of artist Jill Trappler. The weekend of the 4th of February will bring Jill Trappler’s art workshop, EXPLORING TOUCH, to Wildekrans Country House. We have four spaces available. Jill chose this work (pictured below), as the signature for this workshop, because “Bill Ainslie allows for the materials to participate in the process of finding an image.”

To be said of such weekend, is that both beginners and experienced participants will extend their skills. This is the fourth Trappler workshop at Wildekrans Country House. You will explore how your hands and fingers respond to various materials. You will explore how these materials, plus light and music touch you, increasing your skills and ideas as you build images in new waysPerhaps I’ll get to play my all time fave Rolling Stones’ you can’t always get what you want, but if you try, sometimes you get what you need (the second part to my 2022 commitment).

The next thing to be said is that the weekend begins after lunch on Friday the 4th of February, and ends after breakfast on Monday morning (or late Sunday). The context of the teaching includes both the gardens and art collection of Wildekrans Country House, interspersed with our country style home cooking.

The third thing to be said is that you will take away a multitude of tools and perhaps have confirmed what not to fret about through the year ahead.

In Josie Grindrod’s words, “Jill Trappler is a highly respected South African artist, teacher and facilitator. I first experienced her in that role at her esteemed uncle Bill Ainslie’s Johannesburg Art Foundation. I’ve attended a number of her workshops; Jill’s intuitive yet informed approach to material and creative practise means she is able to meet any student where they are at, with gentle yet incisive suggestions regarding areas to explore or develop further.” Book here.

Jill Trappler’s thoughts on where we find ourselves today are reflected in the Ira Byock post below:

“Years ago, anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about fishhooks or clays or grinding stones.

But no. Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. You are meat for prowling beasts.  No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal.

A broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts, Mead said.

We are at our best when we serve others.”

With love,


From What Remains

PS: Jill Trappler will be teaching at Wildekrans Country House through the weekend of the 4th, 5th and 6th of February. This art workshop will focus on Exploring Touch. Book here for one of the eight spaces.

Good Morning

The Michaelis School of Fine Art 2021 Grad Show has now closed. You can view the art works of the fifty two graduates online, a privilege to visit and a privilege to revisit here at home. I love wandering the halls of Hiddingh Campus before Christmas. It’s the closest I’ll ever get to being an art student. This year was a little different with a more compact showing, intensely curated in one corner of the campus.

My take away is a strong sense of searches for identity and hope, and cries to take better care of our world. Peeking into the heads of these mostly twenty-something creatives, is an immersion into contemporary thought. In the words of graduate Ruby Wheeldon “..I can learn that my current perception of what the future will be is in fact not set in stone, and that there are multiple ways of creating a far more hopeful future”. I am still puzzling over Ariel Taverner’s Purposeful Prettiness. Daniel Tucker’s From What Remains, stopped me in my tracks. A body of work “of ecological concern – specifically the relationships between people, industry, and the environment. .. a critique of industrial scale agriculture and irrigation in the Overberg region”. Daniel’s catalogue includes Sophie Cope’s compelling Hope in the Aftermath. Central Tableau is pictured above. I do hope Daniel Tucker’s From What Remains will be shown again somewhere.

When I find myself waiting to see a doctor (happens) or lawyer (seldom happens), my mind ponders on why in career counselling,  no one advises that these two professions wait for nobody, one always waits for them. Living at Wildekrans Country House (the medical rooms and home of Dr Taylor in my childhood days), brings many delights right to our door. Last week we were visited by a Max and Tania. After some chats we discovered that Max is the son of artist Leigh Voigt (Lulu phezulu). And that Max’s father is Harold Voigt, the oil painter of many extraordinary still lifes. Harold can be seen here below resting under our Melaleuca tree in 2015. Max is an architect living in Cape Town while working “in” San Francisco. He lent me a beautiful book on his father’s work. It refers to a quote his Dad found truth in, by Churchill: “that we start by shaping our dwellings and afterwards our dwellings shape us”. Beware the dwelling you choose and shape.

On the Day of Reconciliation, we learnt about Tabula Rasa and the Groenlandberg wines of Oak Valley. Christopher Rawbone Viljoen spoke passionately about their family’s care of the lands of this diverse farm backed up against the Groenlandberg mountains. Tabula Rasa means a clean slate, an approach without preconceived ideas. Our Green Mountain Trail walkers are privileged to walk through this farm that focuses intensely on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. We tasted the Tabula Rasa CY548 2017 and CY95 2017, strikingly delicious and different. These are the two single clone, single vineyard, components of the Groenlandberg Chardonnay. Similarly the Pinot Noir 777 and 115, make up the Groenlandberg Pinot Noir. We tasted the 2018. All of this in the great company of Christopher and his mother, Madeleine, together with the Melting Pot’s Thai Steamed Fish, Five Spice Roast Duck Breast and Coconut Panna Cotta. Treat yourself to this farm’s food and wine tasting experience pool side. We have one or two last minute spaces available on our 10 January 2022 Green Mountain Trail. Book here.

Yesterday I took this pic of the anticipated 2022 pear harvest on our neighbour Dave’s farm. Dave Evans turned eighty this weekend, Paul Cluver turned eighty two weeks ago, Niekie Rust turns eighty in January. Treasured friendships with these three farmers, all born into the time when America joined the Second World War.

In a last of 2021 yoga at sunrise, our reading was the late American writer and artist Agnes M Pharo’s, What is Christmas?

It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future.

It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.

With love,

PPS: Mark Steyn’s (2011) comment amused me. The Agnes M. Pharo? A writer of such eminence that even the otherwise open-to-all-comers Wikipedia has no entry for her.

PPPS: You can read Renee Rust (wife of Niekie)’s beautiful account of her month and a half at Casa di Simonetta here.


Palimpsest

PS: walk a three day guided hike from 20 December on our Green Mountain Trail, experiencing fynbos, passionate guides, country food, Paardenkloof, Paul Cluver and Beaumont Wines. Book here

Good Morning

Palimpsest is a (hard to say) word that I have learnt from art reviews. It is commonly defined as “a manuscript in which later writing has been superimposed on earlier (effaced) writing. In other words, a palimpsest is a multi-layered record.”

The works of William Kentridge are filled with palimpsests. A few weeks back I drove to Rome while visiting Chianti. The main purpose being to visit Simonetta Palazio, who restored, now our, Casa di Simonetta. Of course, while there, I took a walk to the Tiber River to revisit William Kentridge’s TRIUMPHS AND LAMENTS (2016). Perhaps I confused the bridges, but the work was nowhere to be seen. The city grime and moss have possibly once again overlayed this 500m space. Through kentridge.studio you can relive this exciting project. Kentridge says “This was done in the knowledge that over a few years the images would fade away. The wall would darken again, through natural ageing, pollutants, graffiti; leaving a ghost of an image and a fading memory.”

I had dinner that night with Flavia Ricci at La Cisterna in Trastevere. What a joy to be in the company of a a born and bred Roman, in Rome. Flavia high schooled in Trastevere, just around the corner from the spot she chose for dinner. Seeking hiking trails South Africa, she walked the Green Mountain Trail in 2019 and has stayed in touch. Flavia had their signature Carbonara, me the Papardella zucchini flowers. It was undoubtedly the best pasta I have ever eaten.

Wildekrans Country House is in itself a palimpsest, having been layered by a multitude of owners since its first in 1811. Our projects only reflect the layers of the last twenty two, of more than two hundred years. Too many projects to list, but the first that come to mind are reusing, my mother, Roma’s rose supports on the front elevation to support wisteria (pictured), taking out the old pear orchard but leaving six behind, adding a sculpture to the garden in most years, this year repainting the shutters in their rich historical black green.

Having myself mastered in project management, finding the straightest line between A and B used to be my thing. Not so, when your life partner is an architect of the old school, carefully considering what went before, before installing new overlays. Living with Barry and art has balanced my inexhaustible search for efficiency. In the words of artist Wendimagen Belete “art can liberate new ways of seeing”.

In 2015 Site_Specific, a group of artists dedicated to land and nature art in South Africa, left this work (pictured above) as a gift, after a week of art making here. The image is of us five Green girls photographed in 1963, and used in 2007, to label  a Wildekrans Cap Classique. This, in celebration of our family’s consolidation to Houw Hoek, through my father selling Keerweer Farm, home to Wildekrans Wines.

There are a multitude of reasons for you to immerse yourself in the layers that make Wildekrans Country House what it is. Use our space this holiday to inspire fresh perspectives on your 2022, and to find the nostalgia in you. Have a close to nature holiday walking in the Biosphere and eating straight from the veggie garden. The 19th Century farmhouse has an urban sensibility while syncing with it’s history. Our address book for a great few days here includes Liberty Books (read), Compagniesdrift (eat and wine taste), Kogelberg Biosphere (walk in the fynbos), Wildekrans Country House (cook and live with art), De Rust Estate (eat and cider/wine taste). We have “Boris Johnson” special rates for the days of business we have lost in the latest shutdown. Book here

Times feel so very difficult. I am trying my best to believe The Hollies’ all I need is the air that I breathe. More compelling is the Moody Blues’ I’m looking for a miracle in my life. Instead, I am banking on Ilan Shamir’s ‘Advice from a Tree’

Feel the wind and the sun
And delight in their presence
Look up at the moon that shines down upon you
And the mystery of the stars at night.
Seek nourishment from the good things in life
Simple pleasures
Earth, fresh air, light

With love,


Black Olives

Good Morning

In April 2020, when Wildekrans Country House’s olive team was safely at home, our family of four were left to harvest the one hundred odd trees planted by us twenty years ago. Not being skilled at the task, we were not speedy, threatening our appointment at the Anysbos press, first thing the following day. When darkness closed in, husband Barry cut off the unharvested branches, carrying them to the light of the kitchen, where we were able to pull off those remaining.

Chianti’s olives ripened later this year, enabling me to exercise my new skill for a day. This time in full gorgeous autumnal Chianti light, followed by the journey to our chosen press, en route to Arezzo. All the chat this week has been around comparing kg’s harvested and how these compared to last year, which in our area was horrid due to an untimely and vicious frost.

Friends, Mimma and Franco Ferrando, expressed that their reduced loot was ‘non importante’ as olives are about oil for family and friends, and your olive trees are merely an extension of your home. This is well illustrated by the property just above us. Andrea Borghi lives between Adine and Siena where he works in the banking sector. When not banking, you will see him pacing on his terrace where he practices his passion for drama.

We hope you will share in some of this dolce vita next year. Stay at Casa di Simonetta, you can be one or eight or anything in between. We are in the process of building a small swimming pool. Chianti permissions take time and strictly control the Etruscan heritage, hence the sustained beauty. Very little has changed in twenty years. Enquire here

If traveling abroad is not part of your plan, the sweet life can be experienced right here at Wildekrans Country House. We are walking the Blue Mountain this week. We have spaces on our 20 December Green Mountain. But you don’t have to walk to rest here.  Book here

Michael Waters’ Black Olives was published in 2006. I had never read his poetry, it can be addictive. It is possibly dark, save for a robust day.

In those days while my then-wife
taught English to a mustached young nurse who hoped to join
her uncle’s practice in Queens,
I’d sip gin on our balcony and listen to her
read aloud from the phrasebook,
then hear the student mimic, slowly, Where does it hurt?

then my wife repeat those words
so the woman might enunciate each syllable,
until I could no longer
bear it, so I’d prowl the Ambelokipi district
attempting to decipher
titles emblazoned on marquees—My Life As A Dog,
Runaway Train, Raging Bull—
then stroll past dark shops that still sold only one item—
kerosene, soap, cheese, notebooks—
to step down into the shop that sold olives, only
olives in barrels riddling
a labyrinth of dank aisles and buttressing brick walls.
I’d sidle among squat drums,
fingering the fruit, thumbing their inky shine, their rucked
skins like blistered fingertips,
their plump flesh, the rough salts needling them, judging their cowled heft, biding my time. Always
I’d select a half-kilo of the most misshapen,
wrinkled and blackest olives
sprung from the sacred rubble below Mt. Athos, then
had to shout “Fuck Kissinger!”
three times before the proprietor would allow me
to make my purchase, then step
back out into the smut-stirred Athens night to begin
the slow stroll home, bearing now
my little sack of woe, oil seeping through brown paper,
each olive brought toward my mouth
mirroring lights flung from marquees and speeding taxis,
each olive burning its coal-
flame of bitterness and history into my tongue.

With love,

PS: Taste our Chianti and Houw Hoek olive oils when staying at our four star TGCSA graded accommodation in the Elgin Valley.


Why Guided Hikes Are Good For You

Good Morning

Matthew Crawford’s “The Case for Working With Your Hands, or why office work is bad for us and fixing things feels good”, while published back in 2010, is even more relevant now, eleven years on. If you’ve ever wondered why doing the laundry at your holiday spot makes you happy, read this book. In reviewing the writing, Jeremy Williams says, “Crawford’s point is that ‘manual labour’ has been devalued in an age of information.

The great thing about manual work is that it deals with real stuff, it requires ‘focussed engagement with material things’. Fixing things draws you out of yourself, forcing you to think and to care for something. You cannot be self-absorbed and be a good repairman.”

Hiking with a guide changes the fynbos game. Whether these fountains of knowledge chat to you once in two hours, or more frequently, is of no matter. You leave the mountains with a thorough understanding of the wonders of our natural world. A client recently shared with us “I would also like to say how much we appreciated Jeffrey and Patrick. Jeffrey is a walking encyclopedia, a very gentle soul, and just an amazing guide. Patrick is also a very gentle quiet soul, but just a wonderful human being.

And the same goes to your ladies/housekeepers – all just warm friendly people where no request is a problem.” From the same lovely group of life long friends, these words, “Jeffrey is a gentle power-house of knowledge. He is kind, informative, and such an interesting person without ever being intrusive or arrogant (no matter how many times we asked the same questions). We loved the spirit he brought to our walk – and loved his singing! Patrick, is also an incredible person – strong, unassuming, knowledgeable with his ever ready smile and determination. They both added in every dimension of the trail.”

In Chianti, guide of choice, Martino, is also a walking encyclopedia, explaining how the Chianti ecosystem works and the role of the vast protected forests of Tuscany. The European spring and autumn months are the best for hiking but as with fynbos, each month of year, has its highlights. And walking with a guide makes sure you get that.

Perhaps we should send Matthew Crawford’s “why fixing things feels good” to all the new SA Councillors. It seems that in whichever province you live, the officials who should have been fixing things, got klapped (and not by Aunty Pat either).

With love,

PS: 22 November’s three day guided hike (Blue Mountain), 20 December special three day Green Mountain, and 3rd January four day guided hike (Green Mountain), all have spaces. Guided hiking trails near me. Enquire

PPS: Thank you for visiting the gardens of Wildekrans Country House these last two weekends. We raised a decent amount for the Bot River Education Fund. Remember our four star graded accommodation at Wildekrans Country House as you plan your holiday spots. You get to live in nature without camping.


Fight or Flight

PS: We have spaces on our 22 November three day Blue Mountain Trail, guided hikes South Africa.

Good Morning

Paolo Staccioli is a sculptor and ceramicist living in Scandicci, on the outskirts of Florence. I visited his studio last month, a treasured experience that I hope to share with visitors to Casa di Simonetta.

We spoke first on email via his daughter Barbara, and then in person via his daughter Paola. Little bits of Italian but Paola (herself a ceramicist for a next visit) enabled some exchange on the artist’s concepts. This memorable morning concluded around the kitchen table where Paolo’s wife Gabriella was preparing spiedini for lunch, Paolo wrapping my purchase, and Paola sorting the admin.

While Paola walked me down the alley to my car, we chatted about the joy of having grandparents in your children’s lives. Paola and her family live directly above her parents. She shared that her father had begun painting when he retired from being a policeman. As a child he had helped out at a sign writing company and perhaps this had planted the seed for painting. His parents were farmers. I left with a heart swollen from the warmth of a strong connection with an Italian artist family, who had been total strangers before that day.

Antonio Natali reviewd Paolo Staccioli’s 2019 “Guerrieri, Cavalli e Centauri” exhibition in Siena. He speaks of “current creations that don’t forget ancient culture”. He elaborates on this point with “It’s humanity reinforced by a solid historic conscience that isn’t afraid of new things, but rather of the invasive and overbearing violence of those new things that leave scorched earth beneath it.” Isn’t that exactly what differentiates Italy?

Wilma Cruise’s ANCHORED IN A BOAT is showing at our Elgin Open Gardens this weekend and next. Of this work (a work that silences you, can’t think of a word for it), Wilma says “These ostriches are neither human nor animal but somewhere in between. Their inability to fly is one thing that captures their similarity to us. Like so many human and other creatures on the planet, faced with challenging environmental conditions, they are reduced to a binary conundrum: fight or flight. Being flightless in a literal sense the birds have taken to a boat in search of safer havens.” I am sharing a pic for those not close  enough to visit.

The inspiration to our Wildekrans  Country House and Green Mountain Trail teams in these last three weeks, received from groups of energetic, interesting, interested and friendly hikers, together with artists dropping in to install their work, has been almost overwhelming. It never ceases to amaze us how when different age, culture and creed walkers, join to spend a few days together, both on and off the trail, they form strong connections while appreciating that there are different ways to do life.

A three generation family of twelve were treated to the Green Mountain Trail by Grandpa these last few days. Granny brought along her fruit cake for afternoon teas, and a packet of her crunchies for each family (and us) to take home. As in Staccioli’s figures, which each carry a “school satchel like we once used”, we continue to carry our peaceful and playful childhoods.

We hope to see some of you this weekend. The garden is glorious, the works of Sheena Ridley, Guy du Toit, Greta Davis, Alice Toich and Wilma Cruise are waiting for you. This together with Roma Green’s Collection.

With love,

PPS: The Blue MountainTrail runs above Kleinmond, hiking trails south coast, with accommodation at four star graded Wildekrans Country House.


My Bestie, You Need To Book, And Elgin Open Gardens

PS: To attend Elgin Open Gardens, download the map at www.elginopengardens.co.za. Visit over two weekends between 09h30 and 17h00 on 30 and 31 October and 6 and 7 November.

Good Morning

When the daily grind gets too much, a fun “pick me up” distraction can be a life saver. Iko Iko (My Bestie) by Justin Wellington will get you dancing on the bluest morning. It caught my attention on the radio recently, and on looking it up, I discovered that this original New Orleans song  was written under the title “Jock -A-Mo” by James Crawford back in 1953! Crawford explained that Iko Iko was a victory chant that Indians would shout and Jock-A-Mo, a chant when going into battle.

Paging through Giorgio Locatelli’s MADE IN ITALY is my biggest current distraction. He writes so beautifully and inspires much thought on cooking and eating. I struggled to choose from my favourite quotes. ‘We are in this business, like my uncle at La Cinzianella, to serve people. If I didn’t love welcoming everyone to Locanda, cooking for them, trying to see that they have a good time, I might as well get a job as an executive chef in a factory producing pies. I could go to work at nine, come back at four and have an easy life and earn roughly the same amount of money. But here, at Locanda, you enter into people’s lives, and they enter yours.”

We are especially focusing on recipes at the mo as it’s Elgin Open Gardens time. Wildekrans Country House is Garden number 9. Our 2021 garden is titled ROMA’S REMEMBRANCE in honor of my late Mum, the original gardener here at Wildekrans.  We will be offering a small number of lunches on each of the four garden days. If you would like to lunch at Wildekrans Country House when visiting the gardens, you need to book now. Book here

We have invited five artists whose works both Roma and ourselves have collected. Greta Davis will return, this time with her oils on board, ESCAPE ROOTS, painted for this show. Sheena Ridley will install five ferrocement VESSELS OF LIFE created in response to the remembrance of a mother. Guy Du Toit will show a bronze DANCING HARE alongside Wilma Cruise’s ANCHORED IN A BOAT. Alice Toich will show her WILDEKRANS ROSES.

Gabriel Clark-Brown, editor of SA Art Times will open our garden and art show at noon on Saturday 30 October. He will chat about the role of gardens and artists in our 2021 lives. Would you like to attend the opening, joining us for a glass of Elgin/Bot River wine? Book here

With love,

PPS: We have spaces available on our 22 November 2021 Blue Mountain Trail and 20 December Green Mountain Trail. Book here

PPPS: Another favourite Locatelli “And, once a year in the white truffle season, my brother and I would go off to Alba with my grandfather to buy a precious truffle. Then, when we came home, there would be a little ritual by the stove: my grandfather would hand the truffle to my grandmother as she finished the risotto, she would grate the brown sweaty ball over it like Parmesan, and the fragrance that filled the kitchen would be incredible.”


Pan co’ Santi

Good Morning

Central Italy’s region of Tuscany is filled with hilltop villages. Lecchi is our most visited, being only two kilometers from the borgho of Adine, home to Casa di Simonetta. Paolo Rinalda’s Enoteca offers early morning caffé, evening aperitivo’s, supper and everything in between.

Paolo’s mum, Palmyra, had the alongside Alimentari Palmyra. Now eighty six (pictured above together), she has retired and Paolo does everything from slicing your prosciutto, to helping you put your groceries in the car.

The harvesting of grapes is now all around and with it comes the baking of Pan co’ Santi, an autumnal sweet bread that has been produced in Siena and its territory for centuries, for the All Saints’ Day feast. Itis bread with raisins and walnuts (the so-called Santi, or Saints), and flavored with black pepper (terresiena.it).

Paolo’s younger right hand, Jonota (pictured outside the alimentari), explained to me that while it is now baked in Siena, it is the same oven of Paolo’s father who died in 2010. The oven was sold to a man who continued to bake in Lecchi but then moved to Pianella and now Siena, still providing Lecchi with their daily bread, and in autumn Pan co’ Santi. Don’t you just love legacy and continuity?

A week in Chianti is not enough, but if that is all you have, a lot can be done. A visit to Florence to take in the Renaissance art and architecture, a Saturday morning to the town of Greve to experience the Piazza Matteotti market, and on the first Sunday of each month the town of Arezzo transforms into an antique market, the retro pieces are hard to resist. At least one day is needed to visit a few wine and olive farms, ending with a stroll through the village of Radda.

An afternoon stroll through the shops of the city of Siena is a must. Driving the windy roads and parking at the wall, taking an escalator to the top takes less than half an hour. Siena is one of the most visited cities in Italy and the Historical Centre has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The mornings and evenings can be reserved for walking through the forests, vineyards and olive groves that surround Adine. This is cycling country too, vespas, electric bikes and bicycles are all for hire.

All of that said, thanks to SA artists, we do not necessarily have to travel anywhere far ourselves. Five of the artists in our collection, are creating new works to show in the barn and gardens during Elgin Open Gardens. This year we celebrate the life of my mum who set out the gardens of Wildekrans Country House. Diarise to visit Roma’s Remembrance on the 29th and 30th of October or 6th and 7th of November.  Book for the opening celebration or lunch here.

I was searching for a quote I remember about seeing through new eyes. Instead I found Marcel Proust’s ‘La Prisonnière’, written around 1921.

“The only true voyage, the only bath in the Fountain of Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to see the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to see the hundred universes that each of them sees, that each of them is; and this we do, with great artists; with artists like these we do really fly from star to star.”

Artist and art teacher Jill Trappler is a great sharer of wisdom, sometimes in the form of poetry (this one by Mary Oliver),

“You wouldn’t believe what once or
twice I have seen. I’ll just
tell you this:
only if there are angels in your head will you
ever, possibly, see one.”

With love,

PS: The best hiking trails in Cape Town are just outside Cape Town.

PPS: The best Elgin accommodation is at Wildekrans Country House, we have baby Woodpeckers in one of the old Oak trees. ENQUIRE


That’s How The Light Gets In

Good Morning

Italians live a different life. A simpler one, passed through generations, and lived with great purpose yet seemingly without great worries.

Taking a lunch time and leaving your place of work is non-negotiable. It’s what you do at the same time every week day. Having a caffe’ is a treasured activity. You would not have a coffee while sending a message or writing a note. Drinking the coffee is the activity.

Other small personal highlights are the taste of the tomatoes, the sparkling wine glasses, buying and using only exactly what you need. Shopping for two or three zucchini’s and a half a loaf of bread is normal, tomorrow is another day. Of course all of these things (including sun ripening your tomatoes) can be taken on board, the world over.

We choose our paths, the 2020/1 transition has given rise to much self analysis. The age old “focus on where you want to go, not where you are coming from” has been hauled out. In an interview with Monocle, designer Paul Smith, had these startling words to say, “It’s your future, nobody cares how good you used to be.” There’s a thought.

Have you found that there seems to be an even greater intensity around the clickety clack of laptops wherever you go? What is being manufactured, or grown, that can possibly support this mass of energetic communications? I tried to find the opposite of the word, bubble. Implosion maybe? However, I recognize that I am a worrier, always have been. As a young child growing up on the farm, Glen Fruin, opposite Paul Cluver Wines, I used to count the apple trees as I feared that only one harvest a year, could not possibly support our family of seven.

September and March are special times of mild weather, when both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres experience similar weather, but are moving towards opposite seasons. In Chianti, the harvesting of the white grapes begins this this week, while in Elgin, the clickety sound of pruning is coming to an end.

Between the Green Mountain trails in the Elgin Valley and walks through Chianti, we hope to begin to offer walking experiences throughout the year. This is a very early work in progress, but should you wish to experience the simple life of Chianti, one of Italy’s many special corners, visit Casa di Simonetta.

There is so much that we have learnt from the beautiful Simonetta Palazio. Simonetta meticulously restored this 1 000 year old home. Surrounded by olive trees and vineyards, the property falls in the very centre of Chianti. With great Wi-Fi, it’s not a bad place to pound away on your own laptop before heading to one of the surrounding villages for your lunch time.

I have had some solo time this week and have found myself playing Leonard Cohen each evening. The Anthem has a classic and global message. Forgive me if I have shared this with you before,

“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in”

With love,

PS: The best hiking trails in Cape Town are just outside Cape Town.

PPS: The best Elgin accommodation is at Wildekrans Country House, we have baby Woodpeckers in one of the old Oak trees. ENQUIRE