Around this time each year, I’m tasked with writing an end-of-year missive to you, our Ellerman House family and friends. It’s a rewarding exercise as I gather notes about accolades received, staff accomplishments and warm memories of guest stays. But of course, there has to be a theme to this letter and I admit I was a bit stuck until I heard our owner, Paul Harris, speak to a small gathering here at the hotel for his 70th birthday. In between making us all laugh, Paul said something that I have been unable to stop thinking about. Quoting Scottish writer Alexander Chalmers, he said: “The three grand essentials to happiness are: something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for”. It’s a fantastic philosophy and one which I believe we consciously or unconsciously follow here at Ellerman House!
SOMEONE (AND SOMETHING) TO LOVE
What makes Ellerman House a place we are all passionate about is an element of love that exists within its walls and within the people who work here and guests who stay with us. The Harris’ love for everything South African lives and breathes through our artwork. This year some beautiful new art breathed fresh life into the house. Sam Nhlengethwa shares our passion for music and his pieces ‘Keith Jarrett’ and ‘Miriam Makeba’ ooze love for Jazz and World Music. Angus Taylor’s ‘Layered’ sculpture, depicting an entangled head, is a celebration of our collective love for this continent, symbolising how Africa shapes us and how we shape Africa.
With over a thousand pieces in our art collection, we constantly search for wall space to hang new works from artists such as Simphiwe Ndzube, Jaco Benade, as well as Margaret Gradwell, our Art Curator who was finally coaxed into bringing her passion for art and our country into Villa One with her very own ‘Crossing the Valley’ acrylic and oil on canvas. These are just a taste of many of the new artworks on display. If you haven’t experienced Talita Swarts’ Art Tour you are seriously missing out on a journey capturing key moments of South Africa’s history and sharing the joy and reward which art gives the Harris family and all of us at Ellerman House.
And what better way to portray our love for South African music than with our Ellerman Sessions? These musical nights in our Wine Gallery included performances by Arno Carstens, David Kramer, Majozi and Zolani Mahola who created magical memories for everyone present. The Johnny Clegg Tribute continues to garner support and has so far hit over 1,150,000 views and raised more than 1 million rand for The Click Foundation. These contributions will be an ongoing reminder of Johnny Clegg – a true South African hero and global music icon who sadly passed away during the year. Like all music lovers we mourn his passing and record our deepest sympathy to his family and friends.
The Click Foundation is part of our DNA at Ellerman House and the passion and love that Nicola Harris and her team have for transforming the lives of over 78,000 students through their tireless work on the ground, in rolling out literacy programmes across the country in under-privileged primary schools, is infectious and heart-warming. Help us reach our target of 1 million active learners by the year 2024, by adopting a future from as little as R500 per child.
In addition to the money raised through “The Crossing” song we held the annual ArtAngels Auction in October, raising a staggering R3,200,000 for the Foundation. The programmes offer young learners the opportunity to work at their own pace through fun and enjoyable activities, navigating their learning journey by means of technology. The literacy project supports the Department of Basic Education’s policy goal of all children learning to read fluently, and with comprehension, by the end of Grade 3.
Then, our guests once again brought so much love into the House. A brilliant aspect of our job here is that we witness people celebrating key moments in their lives with us. This year we again witnessed a number of wedding proposals which had a 100 percent strike rate! Two of our regular guests/close friends who have spent years visiting us decided to not only propose, but celebrate their special wedding celebration with us. It was a wonderful occasion filled with love, laughter and fun.
Honeymooners always create such joy in the house and this year a couple from New York remarked that at their wedding there were five other couples that celebrated their honeymoons at Ellerman House. In addition, we had numerous anniversary celebrations. A kind, beautiful couple from Napa Valley still have as much fun today as they did 60 years ago when they got married. A special anniversary of our own was a couple’s 45th stay at Ellerman House over the last 21 years.
Sadly, we also were extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Peter Stock. He was always full of fun, love, humour and kindness and we all miss him. We wish his family the very best during this tough time.
SOMETHING TO DO
Our staff also celebrated some magic moments this year. Our bartender Lovejoy Neshamba won the Distell Interhotel Challenge for wine service, which has been extremely motivating for him. Part of the prize was a bursary to write the SASA (South African Sommelier Association) Junior Sommelier Exam. He was placed first in his class!
Wayve Kolevsohn recently wrote the Court of Master Sommeliers Certified Exam, which was a huge challenge for all those participating. This was the first time the exam was held in South Africa. Of the 24 candidates who wrote the introductory course, only ten advanced to the certified exam. Of those ten, just five passed, two of whom were from Malaysia and Singapore and were re-writing. Wayve passed the certified exam on her first attempt, making her the first SA female to pass this exam on the African continent.
One cannot mention wine without pairing it with exceptional food at Ellerman House. This year Peter Tempelhoff was appointed Culinary Director of Ellerman House. He is a celebrated member of Relais & Châteaux’s World Culinary Council and a chef with over 20 years of experience in Michelin-starred Relais & Châteaux restaurants across the culinary capitals of the world. Rudolph Blaauw also joined the team as our new Executive Chef, and together they are taking Ellerman’s dining experience to new heights.
David Dube underwent Professional Butler training through the Butler Academy, completed his course and is now a qualified Butler. We are very proud of his achievement and are utilising his new skills at Ellerman House. Yvette Korff completed an intensive yoga teacher training course, certifying her as a Yoga Instructor, and Vicky Dennett is currently studying Pilates, further adding to the experiences available at the Ellerman House Spa.
SOMETHING TO HOPE FOR
Ellerman House has worked tirelessly on our first Wellness Retreats in 2020, coinciding with the launch of Africa’s first Sleep Rooms, specially designed by Harry Jameson. We are so excited to offer a holistic experience to future attendees.
In terms of physical changes to the House, Nell Harris once again showed her creativity and flair in the delicate way in which she deftly balances the need to adapt yet retain the essence and history of the House. Our guests have loved the changes. Villa One has a fresh new look and more changes are on the way, as we close our doors from May 4th to June 10th, 2020 to refresh the hotel from top to bottom.
We pushed the boundaries in terms of where hospitality begins and ends with our collaboration with BMW. What started out as a partnership with the Ellerman Sessions led to strong friendships and a joint commitment to learn more about what luxury actually means and why luxury is so much more than creating a great engine or having beautiful rooms and endless ocean views.
Paul Harris and renowned South African artist, Nic Bladen, flew to Germany and continued this phenomenal partnership with the BMW engineers in creating our own tailor-made 7 Series. The vehicle will be ready during the early part of 2020 and we can’t wait to see it. The team at Etched Space is creating a great series of videos to follow this journey:
Episode 1 | A Fyn Concept
Episode 2 | A Blank Canvas
Episode 3 | The Harvest
As many of you know, 2019 was not the easiest year for South Africa. Cape Town survived the real threat of Day Zero, but one of the consequences was a downturn in visitors to our city and country. Politically, things were turbulent and uncertain. Here at Ellerman House, there was the less serious, but still impactful sound of drilling into granite rocks as a site next door was cleared.
But the wonderful thing is that soon enough, the rains arrived, the drilling subsided and as has happened time and time again in South Africa, things are turning around. The collective mood has shifted. And just recently, the Springboks won the Rugby World Cup — a massive moment, that for all of us, was about so much more than a victory on the field. It’s all led to a spirit of hope and togetherness both here at the hotel and throughout the country.
The Telegraph voted Cape Town the best city in the world for the seventh time in a row and Ellerman House won Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards No. 1 City Hotel in Africa and the Middle East, and overall, No. 16 out of the Top 100 Hotels in the World. In the 2019 Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards, Ellerman was voted No. 7 out of 30 hotels listed in Africa and Villa Two was also awarded the Best Villa in Africa in the 2019 World Travel Awards. And that is thanks to all of you, our greatest ambassadors, who have supported us through thick and thin.
Our Sales and PR teams spent incredible moments with our partners across the world once again this year. Thank you for sharing the essence of Ellerman House far and wide. We look forward to sharing even more good news in 2020.
To all our loyal trade and media supporters, you guys make this business fun and exciting and without your incredible support and friendships we would not have this business, so thank you to each and every one of you.
To our loyal guests, thank you for sharing your love and passion for your loved ones, for travel, South Africa and Ellerman House. You make this an exciting, special and beautiful place in which to work.
To my team, thank you for your dedication, wonderful support, hard work and passion for everything you do. Thank you for always pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the sphere of hospitality.
To the Harris Family, thank you for your unwavering support and for encouraging us to always be better versions of ourselves.
Something to do, someone to love, something to hope for. I’m taking Paul Harris’ wise words to heart in steering the course of my own life and in managing Ellerman House. I wish these things for all of you in 2020 as well!
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