Tag Archives: Telegraph

Lucky number 7 for Cape Town, voted Best City in the world seven times in a row, voted by Telegraph readers in the UK!

 

For seven years running Cape Town has been voted the Best City in the world, by 40000 readers of the UK Telegraph

 

A quote from the publication shares the following about our special city, from a tourist perspective: ‘We”ll put up with the occasional discomfort for the sheer joy of waking up with a real natural beauty’. The City is also praised for its iconic Table Mountain, ‘and it is precisely this unique geography, towering mountains that drop, at times perpendicularly, into the vast blue, that is so seductive’. Its proximity to Franschhoek wine region is also highlighted.

London or any other British City does not feature in the Top 20 Telegraph List, showing that UK tourists are prepared to travel far from their country to enjoy their holidays.  

I am happy to see Havana and Buenos Aires on the Top 20 List too, two cities which I visited just four months ago. 

 

The Top 20 List of the Best Cities in the World is the following: 

  1. Cape Town
  2. Vancouver
  3. Kyoto
  4. Sydney
  5. St Petersburg
  6. Singapore
  7. Venice
  8. Luang Prabang
  9. Seville
  10. New Orleans
  11. Havana
  12. New York
  13. Bagen
  14. Florence
  15. Istanbul
  16. Rome
  17. Dubrovnik
  18. Tokyo
  19. Krakow
  20. Buenos Aires

Photograph: taken from Tiger’s Milk in Camps Bay. 

 

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein

 

Open Letter to The Guardian Africa correspondent David Smith: why bring race rhetoric into MasterChef SA Season 3?!

MstrChf 3 Sipho and RoxiDear David Smith

As the Africa correspondent for the UK The Guardian newspaper, I have been most interested in your interest in a relatively mediocre South African cooking show, in which home cooks vied to become MasterChef SA in Season 3.  Twice you have tried to spin a race story on finalist Sipho Mdlankomo, using her skin colour and her career as ways in which to bash our country and its people! Surely Africa could benefit from your writing skills in writing about our exciting loadshedding life, Cape Town making Best City in the world in your competitor The Telegraph, Ebola and its impact on tourism, the birth of the Monaco royal twins which have a South African link, etc.

A week before the MasterChef SA Season 3 winner was announced you started warming up the topic, by quoting Sipho in saying Continue reading →

WhaleTales Tourism, Food, and Wine news headlines: 1 September

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*  It’s the start of Tourism Month, and Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom has advised South Africans to visit the sites that pay homage to the late Nelson Mandela at the launch of the month long focus on tourism, culminating in World Tourism Day on 27 September.  The theme this month is ‘Tourism Transforming Lives’.  Domestic Tourism is an important focus for our country, especially given the decrease in international tourists which can be expected due to the new Immigration Regulations.  A target of 18 million domestic tourists has been set for 2020.  The theme of World Tourism Day is ‘Tourism and Development in the Community’.

*   Coca Cola has won Grand Prix Awards for Overall Favourite Brand as well as Community Upliftment at the Sunday Times Top Brands Awards, as well as Favourite Soft-Drink Award.  Eskom received the ‘Green’ Grand Prix for preserving the environment, and Shoprite was named the top Grocery Store Award.  Other winning brands are Nokia, Tastic, KOO, Nike, KFC, and Ricoffy.

*   MasterChef SA Season 3 Finalist Sipho Mdlankomo has made headlines in the UK Telegraph, for her Continue reading →

Mayday, Mayday – Cape hospitality industry ship is sinking!

The signs are everywhere – doom and gloom where one goes in the hospitality industry – restaurants are close to empty, accommodation establishments cannot pull in guests, and the enquiries and bookings just are not rolling in, the 50 % deposits for accommodation establishments being an important means of surviving the winter. Bookings generally are a barometer of the summer season lying ahead.   The next few months will see a bloodbath of closures, as hospitality businesses run out of cash.

It is sad to see the day-to-day reality of close to empty hotels and guest houses, with a trickle of businesspersons keeping things going, and of seeing top restaurants in Cape Town and in the Winelands standing empty for weekend lunches and dinners, not to mention the poor weekday trade.   This scenario is despite fantastic winter specials  offered by close to 100 restaurants in the Cape and Winelands, and accommodation rates that drop by close to half from May to August.  Chats I have had with owners of restaurants and hospitality establishments in Cape Town and Franschhoek paint a picture of gloom, all saying that this May is far worse than last year’s.  Last May was not great, falling into a pre-World Cup vacuum.

Disturbing is to read headlines, such as in Business Report yesterday, crying “Hotels fill more rooms, but special offers hit profit”.  Referring to now two-months old figures for March, it writes that the occupancy in 3-, 4-, and 5-star hotels rose relative to March a year ago, but that revenues ‘are down steeply and some are making a loss’, especially in 4- and 5-star hotels, due to rates cut to meet those of 3-star hotels in some instances.  However, the ‘South African Hotel Review’ oddly showed lower occupancies for 3-star hotels than for more luxury hotels.  Many hotels are for sale, and being converted into retirement homes.   Protea Hotels says that it regularly receives requests for this largest local hotel group to take over the management or to buy their properties.  The hotel group understands the financial pressures on establishments, and their inability to cut its expenses, such as taxes and municipal costs, as these are fixed.

This scenario is echoed in the STR Global report, an international hotel data tracking company, which shows that 5-star hotels in Cape Town dropped their rates by 11% on average in the first quarter of this year, thereby increasing occupancy by 9%, to achieve an average occupancy of 63%, reports South African Tourism Update.  Sandton hotels dropped their rates by 9% on average in the same period, and achieved an average occupancy of 52%.   The Average Daily Rate for a 5-star hotel room in Cape Town was R1867, the survey found, compared to R1407 for Sandton’s 5-star hotels.   Nationally the 5-star hotel occupancy rose to 55% in the first quarter, but Average Daily Rate dropped by 9% to R1629, and Revenue per Available Room dropped by 6 % to R893.

In complete contrast, the Business Report  lead article optimistically trumpeted in its headline report yesterday “Consumers now in better shape”, when most hospitality owners will say that the recession has hit South Africans hard for the first time.   The newspaper report bases its sensational headline on the good financial results posted the day before by Famous Brands (with low-cost restaurant chain brands Steers, Wimpy, Debonairs and Mugg & Bean), which opened 111 outlets until February 2011, and plans to open a further 176 outlets in the year to come, and has an objective to double the size of its business by 2013.   The company benefited greatly from the World Cup.  The Lewis Group as well as Verimark also posted good results.

What is of the biggest concern for the summer season lying ahead is that the UK market is extremely quiet, with only a few enquiries trickling in from a handful of regular guests.  Agents and tour operators report how cash-strapped British consumers are, and that they are just not travelling, due to the austerity measures and tax increases imposed by their government, and the strong Rand.  The forecast is for the hottest UK summer in years, which is not good news for Cape Town.  A small consolation is the increase in the number of BA flights, to two per day, between London and Cape Town from October, reports the Cape Argus.  The eruption of the Grimsvötn volcano appears to have had no effect on business locally, due to the low numbers of international arrivals this month.

The South African hospitality industry will be largely dependent on the South African domestic market, and the promised SA Tourism advertising campaign to encourage locals to travel in their own country has not yet been seen.  It is sorely needed.  So too is some advice and comfort from our tourism bodies Cape Town Tourism and Cape Town Routes Unlimited, who are not communicating with their members, other than to list winter specials.

The recent accolades that Cape Town and South Africa received from TripAdvisor members and Telegraph readers, respectively, earlier this month appear to have made no impact on enquiries and bookings at all.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter: @WhaleCottage

South Africa on top of the world on Telegraph Ultratravel 100 best holiday destination!

South Africa has made it to the top of the Telegraph Ultratravel 100, and its announcement fortunately contains a photograph of Cape Town, an unusual dramatic one of Table Mountain covered in a thick South-Easter cloud, with Vredehoek in the foreground.   Dubai made it into second place, followed by the Maldives, Australia, and Italy.   No motivation is presented for the choice, it being based on a Telegraph reader poll, and only the country’s website link to South African Tourism is provided.   This is the second tourism award that includes our city in a week, TripAdvisor having recently announced Cape Town as the number one world travel destination in the Travelers’ Choice Destination Awards.

South Africa also features in the Top Hotel in Africa list, the Cape Grace making it to the top of this list, and La Residence in Franschhoek making third place (right), the One&Only Cape Town is ranked fourth, and The Twelve Apostles is in fifth place.  Hemingway’s Resort in Mombasa is ranked second, and is the only non-South African top hotel on this list.

Other award winners were Cunard for best cruise company, Changi in Singapore for best airport, Emirates for best airline, Virgin Atlantic for best cabin staff, Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Heathrow for Best Airport lounge, Hôtel de Crillon in Paris best city hotel, Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah in Oman is the best Beach/Resort hotel, the Four Seasons is the best luxury chain, The Carlyle in New York is the best hotel in the USA, Burj al Arab in Dubai is the best in the Middle East, and Le Touessrok the best in the Indian Ocean Islands.

It is a shame that the results have been announced at this time of the year, when the UK market is least likely to book for the coming summer, it being too far into the future, given their increasing last-minute booking pattern.

POSTSCRIPT 18/5: The Telegraph  followed up its award announcement article with the following motivation for South Africa having been voted in number one position.  Unfortunately Cape Town is not mentioned at all!:

South Africa may be on the other side of the world from Britain, an 11-hour flight away at the southern tip of the African continent – and it may not be quite as enticingly cheap for Britons as it was (the pound now buys just 11 rand, and hotel prices are a good deal higher than they were before the Football World Cup). But the Rainbow Nation has still been voted by readers as their favourite destination – and for good reason. The country has landscapes of breathtaking beauty: raw, diverse and in the main unspoilt.

Along the coasts, some of the world’s largest sand dunes roll in from seas teeming with marine life (it is off KwaZulu Natal’s beaches that flocks of birds gather for their annual feast during the great sardine run, and whales migrate to give birth in sheltered coves). Mountain ranges thick with ancient trees are crisscrossed with waterfalls and rivers made for swimming. Game reserves as big as Wales – all baobabs, rolling grasslands and kopjies indented with rock caves decorated with ancient San art – protect the Plant Five, the Little Five and the Big Five. It’s not unknown to see lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino in one day, alongside leopard orchids, buffalo weavers, elephant grass and rhino beetles.

And the country is not just for nature-lovers, either. From the winelands in the south to the deserts bordering Namibia, there is plenty of variety to keep most holidaymakers happy: child-friendly museums, cutting-edge hotels and 17th-century Cape Dutch b&b homesteads, gourmet restaurants, game lodges housing local art, and diversions ranging from shark diving and bungee-jumping to African herbal spas. Best thing of all? It is all reassuringly familiar, despite being on a different continent. The people of South Africa not only speak the same language as we do (in addition to 10 others) and drive on the same side of the road, but, after years of isolation during the era of apartheid, relish overseas visitors. In this relatively new tourist destination, even the passport officers welcome new arrivals with a smile.

As a finalist for this award, South Africa had plenty of competition: Dubai, with its five-star hotels; the Maldives, with its idyllic island life; Australia, with its open bush, wine and fine tucker; and Italy, with its historical and cultural allure. Having won, the Rainbow Nation should dust off its vuvuzelas. In spite of its troubles, it is now among the winners of an Ultra – an achievement that really is worth trumpeting about.”  

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter:@WhaleCottage

Telegraph Top 10 SA wines

In preparation for the FIFA World Cup, the Telegraph newspaper in the UK has selected its choice of top 10 South African wines.  South Africa is the world’s 9th largest producer, according to the report, and has more than 600 wineries and 6 000 wines.   It has a 12 % market share in the UK, closely following France and Italy.

The largest volume of sales of South African wines is of Arniston Bay and Kumala.  But high-end wines such as Hamilton Russell, Vergelegen, Boekenhoutskloof, Meerlust, Thelema, Toakara, Kanonkop and Rustenberg are also imported into the UK.

The top 10 list of South African wines for wine writer Jonathan Ray, are the following, with his rationale and food-pairing suggestions: 

“1 2009 Ken Forrester Cape Breeze Chenin Blanc, 13%vol, South Africa (£4.98; Asda)

Ken Forrester knows his chenin blanc inside out, and his so-called FMC (Forrester Meinert Chenin) is a much-loved classic (and highest-ever scoring South African white in Wine Spectator). This entry-level version might sound like a shampoo or a Duluxpaint, but it’s a great value introduction to the grape, with crisp, sweet-edged fruit and a dry finish. An ideal crowd-pleaser for parties.

2 2009 Flagstone Noon Gun Dry White, 13.5%vol, South Africa (£4.99 reduced from £6.99 until Dec 1; Tesco)

Bruce Jack, one of the nicest and quirkiest of all SA winemakers, shocked many by signing up with the world’s largest wine producer, Constellation. Flagstone, housed in a former dynamite factory, is his baby, though, and he vows he’ll be left to his own devices. This chenin blanc/viognier/sauvignonblend is a typical Jack charmer, being light, aromatic and fruity. Delicious with grilled sea bass.

3 2008 Beyerskloof Pinotage, 14%vol, South Africa (£5.99 if you buy 3, otherwise £8.99; Wine Rack)

Pinotage, a cross between cinsault and pinot noir, is South Africa’s USP, loved for its fruit by some, dismissed as tired and redolent of burnt rubber by others. In the hands of Beyerskloof’s Beyers Truter, one of the grape’s most vociferous supporters, it works a dream. Here, his entry-level version is ripe, juicy and full of spicy plum fruit, withno hint of rubber. Enjoy with slow roast belly of pork.

4 2009 Stellar Organics Syrah Rosé, 13.5%vol, South Africa (£6.05; Asda, Budgens, Londis, Spar)

South Africa is strong on Fairtrade and Stellar was the first organic winery in the world to be so accredited. The winery gets its fruit from farms along the northern boundary of Olifant’s River and processes around 4,500 tons of organic grapes a year. This pink syrah is hardly complex, just delightfully fruity and off-dry in the mouth, with a dryish, peppery finish. Serve it well-chilled at parties, or with stuffed red peppers or roasted root vegetables.

5 2007 Bellingham Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc, 14.5%vol, South Africa (£8.99; Majestic)

Chenin blanc does better in South Africa than anywhere else outside the Loire Valley, and this from Bellingham’s Bernard Series (formerly the Maverick range) is a first-rate example of real style. Made from 40-year-old, high-altitude bush vines, it has wonderfully concentrated rich, ripe fruit withhints of peach, apricot and cream. A touch full-flavoured for an aperitif, it works really well with fish pie or creamy mushroom pasta.

6 2007 Paul Cluver Weisser Riesling Noble Late Harvest, 12%vol, South Africa (£11.49 per 37.5cl; selected Waitrose stores and www.waitrosewine.com)

Andries Burger of Paul Cluver Estate makes smashing wines and I’ve long been a fan of the estate’s pinot noir and their classy gewürztraminer. This is a corker too: a late-picked, botrytised, cool-climate riesling, packed with concentrated honeyed apple/peach flavours and a zingy acidity. It’s great with desserts such as tarte tatin, but even better with gooey blue cheese.

7 2005 Iona The Gunnar, 14%vol, South Africa (£11.95 – £14.95; Really Fine Wine Co 0131 669 7716, Swig Wines 08000 272272, Hic Wines 01977 550047)

Iona is celebrated for its chardonnays and sauvignons and does a fine syrah, too (and a brand new Noble Late Harvest sauvignon, which is gorgeous). This blended red, from cabernet, merlot and petit verdot, is a belter as well. Inimitably SA of course, it also has a touch of Left Bank Bordeaux style and is smoothand rounded with luscious ripe fruit. Enjoy with roast loin of venison.

8 Graham Beck Brut NV, 13%vol, South Africa (£12.99; Waitrose, Wholefoods 020 7368 4500, DJ Foodfare 020 8748 5974)

I’ve always enjoyed Graham Beck’s sparklers, made in the champagne method under the supervision of the legendary Pieter “Bubbles” Ferreira. This 50-50 blend of chardonnay and pinot noir from the Robertson region is about as good as it gets for a non-champagne fizz, being crisp and clean, but toasty and brioche-like too. A cracking aperitif.

9 2001 Morgenhof Cape Late Bottled Vintage, 17.5%vol, South Africa (£16.99; Cellar Door Wines 01727 854488, Wright Wine Co 01756 700886)

This is scrumptious stuff, the Cape’s answer to the Douro Valley. Made from 100 per cent tinta barroca, one of port’s major grapes, and aged for four years in French oak, it has raisins, liquorice and ripe damsons on the palate and a rich, succulent finish. Enjoy as you would any LBV port, with cheese, chocolate puddings or a hearty Cuban cigar.

10 2007 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir, 13%vol, South Africa (£24.99; Wine Society, Harvey Nichols)

The Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, near Hermanus, is home to some fascinating wines. Although nobody agrees on exactly where the prime valley starts and ends, it’s fair to say that Hamilton Russell put the region on the map with its pinots and chardonnays. Known as the most “Burgundian” of SA’s pinots, this is as elegant and silky as they come, with a touch of vegetalspice and dark berry fruit. Perfect with chicken and truffle risotto”

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com

Wilbur Smith’s Hermanus heaven

Wilbur Smith’s heaven-on-earth is Hermanus, he says in an article he wrote in yesterday’s Telegraph, in a series of “Heaven-on-Earth” articles written by celebrities.

Smith is an internationally recognised and prolific writer, having just published his 32 nd book ‘Assegai’, and lives in Cape Town.  He enthused about Hermanus as follows:

“Hermanus is famous for whale watching during South Africa’s winter and spring – the whales can be seen from the town’s cliffs as early as June. It also hosts an annual whale festival during the mating season at the end of September. 

The area has some beautiful beaches while the interior is quite mountainous and a great place to cycle and hike.The hinterland is dotted with vineyards, all of which are so good I find it hard to single out any one in particular. Just be sure to drink some of South Africa’s delicious wines before heading home.    I invariably stay at The Marine (0027 28 313 1000; www.marine-hermanus.co.za),a superb five-star hotel perched on top of a cliff and run by a lovely lady called Liz McGrath. It offers wonderful views of the sea from the bedrooms. It also has a fantastic restaurant, Seafood at the Marine, which I can thoroughly recommend, though if you want to find out more about the other restaurants I’d suggest visiting the town’s website (www.hermanus.co.za)