In the April edition... in no particular order:
- Chris Harvie wins The Battle of Trip Advisor 2013
- The outcome of the Fascinating Wardrobe Debate and some Flannelling
- Another Unusual Creature turns up at Rissington
- Some Alluring Invitations, Prizes and Pictures of Rissington
- A few Recommendations and Travel Tales
- Gapper News and some Shocking Photographs
- Some Enticements to book in at the Friendliest Hotel in the Lowveld
READ ON FOR DETAILS ...
Evening at Rissington
A Day in the Life of an Hotelier
We have given you a lot of fascinating and fantastic detail relating to our wildlife populations in previous editions of the Rag but I have never, until now, actually been scared enough actually to run away like a girl from an animal on this property. There was nothing particularly threatening, for example, about our other current or former residents: Oscar Wilde-beest, Hillman Imp-ala, Lionel the Leguaan or George Bush-pig. And we still have the usual gangs of monkeys (who are easily scared off by our rubber snakes) and our dwarf, white-tailed and slender mongoose, passing hippos, duikers, bushbuck and (at current count) the 181 bird species.
NOW, however, we have (or maybe had) a CROCODILE! Eish, yes. A real one! I never actually saw it myself and there are no pictures - I was away when it was regularly seen - but it is/was living in the dam below my house, down below the lodge. And if I haven't seen it, why did I run away? Because JJ and I were down there poking around for it the other day when he threw a clod of earth over my shoulder into the water and gave me the fright of my life!
The water level is fast reducing now as we head into winter and the water table is finally dropping after all the heavy rains earlier this year so if he hasn't gone yet, he'll be off soon. I don't know where he came from or where he's going but he won't be making it into the croc curry unless he is carved up with the brush-cutter by Patrick, who is cutting the grass down there as I type this.
But then maybe this is one of the crocs that ate Oscar when he was carted unceremoniously from here to the local Croc Farm on Boxing Day 2010, thus allowing that extraordinary wildebeest to make an unseen comeback to Rissington in a Lacoste leather jacket? We shall never know, but Oscar was a canny gnu (until the neighbour's dog bit him, that is) …
The Battle of Trip Advisor 2013
I have talked before about this industry's love/hate relationship with Trip Advisor but I think by now I must have a big flag next to my name on their in-house database marked BEWARE - DIFFICULT OWNER. I have no problem with the institution. In fact I have reluctantly to admit that it must be a good thing if we are all so aware and occasionally scared of it. I can even live with the idiot who wrote - in amongst all the glowing reports - that he thought Rissington's courtyard rooms were expensive. He can't be getting much pocket money and I replied to that effect. I do like replying ...
But I will not allow untrue facts to stand unchallenged and I don't see how Trip Advisor can dictate my marketing strategy to me.
So what happened, which so got my goat? (No, we haven't got a goat, as well. It's an expression for becoming annoyed). Well ... in brief: Trip Advisor put up a second page for Rissington's Restaurant and asked for reviews on it. I pointed out that we weren't a restaurant, we were a lodge with a dining room for our guests and that the food was already reviewed on the Rissington Inn page. Obviously we love (most of) our regular non-residents who come from time to time, and many of whom have been coming for many years, but we are not a restaurant open to walk-in members of the public like the Spur or the excellent Pioneers, down the road in Hazyview. And we do not need a restaurant page. Trip Advisor refused to take it down and told me that it was their decision, not mine. I told them it was my decision whether I was a restaurant or not. They told me that if I wasn't a restaurant, I must put on my website that we didn't take non-residents. I told them they couldn't tell me what to put on my website. And so it stupidly dragged on. Earlier in the year, therefore, we turned away all non-resident business for a few weeks ... until somebody, helpfully and uninvited, put up a review on the Rissington Restaurant page to the effect that he was turned away (thank you!) and they finally agreed to take the Restaurant page down.
Dinner in front of the fire at Rissington
So if you were one of those non-residents who were turned away, I apologise. You are still most welcome to book a table (on evenings when we our accommodation is not full) just as you always have been and we will do our best to accommodate you. The Battle of Trip Advisor is over. I have won. Now take a look at the Inn page by clicking on the Trip Advisor logo alongside and see what I said to the woman who complained about the squirrels. She started quite an entertaining debate – but I still think I might set the croc on her. It just shows that there are still a few - a very few - people out there who just don't get Rissington! I just wish they would tell us how we can improve their stays while they are here instead of whining after the event. Luckily 99.9% of our guests love it.
And you may remember our mention in an earlier Rag, of Zoover, the Dutch review site which voted us one of the Twenty Top Hotels in South Africa? Well, we haven't had a new review there since June 2012, so I guess that one's dying out (and we get to keep the title). Go Trip Advisor, I say!
Another old war - this time The Battle of The Gappers
We have had no staff move on in the last six months although we have added a chef and a couple of extra up-front staff to improve even further our restaurant service. On the gapper front, though, we have excelled ourselves with Alice and Charlie, who interestingly, knew each other when they were very young but hadn't seen each other for years when they turned up here. The picture below shows a bit of the early action. Relations have improved somewhat since Alice delivered that left hook.
There's no doubt who's coming out on top here. Alice vs Charlie, aged 2 years
We are currently looking for male gappers from July onwards, so if you know of anybody looking for a 3-6 month stint in Africa between school and university (or after university), please put them in touch with me. It's great fun, good experience in management at an early age and inevitably also gives them a few good travel jollies as well. No losers or reforming drug addicts please!
Chris loses the Wardrobe Debate, but he's Flannelling ...
Just in case you are an occasional (rather than avid) reader of the Rag - although I can't think why you would you be - here's a quick update on recent innovations before I go into the riveting wardrobe story. In the past year, we have put air-conditioning into the garden suites and hillside suites, changed all the pillows to offer a choice of feather and synthetic, upgraded the furnishings and linen, added bedheads and minibar fridges to all the rooms, improved the lighting, upgraded the hillside suites, extended the FREE Wi-Fi to all the rooms, fixed up the gardens, improved the water pressure, replaced some doors and windows, improved the day bed covers, repaired the restaurant roof, carved a mountain bike trail through the property and instituted a new dinner menu and a more with-it breakfast. You'd think that would be enough, but ...
... under pressure, including some from the Squirrel Woman and from a couple of far more sensible people, I have also now put new wardrobes in the four rooms that had old or open-shelved wardrobes. That's two of the garden suites and the two courtyard rooms. I really liked the open shelves but some people didn't, so as with the aircon. I have given in. There you are. Do you see the things I have to worry about and how much I care?! Mr Flexible, that's me.
I really don't think there's much more we can provide to improve Rissington at the moment, although through the winter, we have plans to change a few more sun-damaged doors and windows, re-lay the floors in the garden suites, continue our work on the gardens and generally keep the place pepped up.
Pristine Rissington gardens
Following my recent trip to France which reminded me - because the French are so good at it - of the importance of professional and proud hospitality and service, especially in relation to meals, I have carried out extensive training with the restaurant staff, so expect an even better welcome from now on. And, picked up in Botswana, in an innovation of which I am very proud, we shall now be offering chilled and scented wet facecloths to clients returning from Kruger open vehicle safaris, as they get off their vehicles. Wow. Very five-star!
As far as the Wi-Fi is concerned, my aversion to Skype continues. I was sitting on the bar stoep with friends the other night when someone launched into a full-on yelling Skype session about their day in the park. It took me a good few minutes of yelling in turn at my friends about my day as owner of Rissington to shout them down and send them scuttling back to their room to shout privately. Why can't people understand how rude it is to Skype or speak on a cellphone in a bar or restaurant?! HELLO. WE SAW LIONS AND TIGERS, LLAMAS AND SPRINGBOKS IN THE KRUGER PARK... THIS THE VIEW FROM HERE... GOSH YOU LOOK FAT ON A SCREEN... PUT GRANDMA ON SO THAT I CAN SEE THAT SHE REALLY IS STILL ALIVE... etc etc.
Ag well. I will change the world eventually.
The Where in the World and Birding Competitions
The answers to the December Where in the World competition:
From L to R:
- Spandaukop, Graaff-Reinet, E. Cape
- Chilojo Cliffs, Gonarezhou, Zimbabwe
- The Fort on Ibo Island, The Quirimbas, Mozambique
- Mana Pools, Zimbabwe
- Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
- Praca do Municipio, Beira, Mozambique.
We had a very small number of entries - perhaps it was too difficult - but the winner of the 3 nights for up to four people, dinner bed and breakfast, was regular entrant Tony Wood, who put in a very brave attempt including considerable research into Coke's marketing strategy in Africa. Why didn't you others enter? The prize is worth over R10 000!
This month's picture could win you a three-night stay for two, bed and breakfast. Where was this very cold picture of JJ taken? And who is with him apart from my highly intelligent nephew Oscar Harvie? (If you click on the picture, you will be taken to JJ's entire holiday homework slide show on YouTube, which would help but is not for the fainthearted).
Get the right answer to firstname.lastname@example.org before the end of May to go into the hat for the prize.
Last month's birding competition was very tightly contested. The joint winners of two nights for two and a birding tour was Steve Byrnes, who also scored a bonus point for his appallingly punny email! The correct answers were 1) African Wattled Lapwing 2) Violet-backed Starling (female) 3) Black-winged Kite 4) Rufous-naped lark 5) Yellow-breasted Apalis 6) Ashy Flycatcher. Sorry, Hannah and Darius - you were so close....
Our Best Year Ever - Free Accommodation, Special Deals
We have had our best first three months of a year ever and we are looking great for the rest of 2013. As usual though, we like to reward our Rag readers in winter so we are offering them almost free accommodation from 2 May to 22 June. Just pay R150 for your breakfast and for us to launder the sheets - and you must dine with us in the evening. But then you'd be foolish not to. The menu is a fantastic. This offer applies to return guests with names on the mailing list only. Very strictly. No negotiation! If you haven't been here yet, come now, pay R500 per person BB and we'll upgrade you, then the winter deal will apply to you next year!
Remember too that we always offer upgrades to the best rooms and discounts to returning guests whenever we can and that we have a corporate rate for bona fide businesspeople. To stir a few memories, have a look at the website www.rissington.co.za.
Our Facebook page still gives details of last minute deals and occasional tantalising photos. Sign up below. The Twitter account won't annoy you with Stephen Fry levels of nonsense, just the occasional sharp thought on an eclectic range of issues, so join us there too. Last minute specials are announced on both the Facebook and Twitter pages - click the logos below and become a follower to keep up with us.
And you can still download Do Not Take This Road to El-Karama (by Chris Harvie) onto your iPad or Kindle. Buy it on Kalahari here or on Amazon here.
The view from one of Rissington's larger rooms
On Yer Bike: Chris's Travels ...
I have been away a bit in the first part of the year but no further travel is in the cards so I should be around from now on. In brief, in February, I hired a car and drove around Kenya, for just over two weeks. We visited Mombasa, Diani, Amboseli, Tsavo and Naivasha, where, in the aptly named Hell's Gate National Park, I fell spectacularly off a bicycle in the face of a marauding wildebeest. I shall be writing about it. Then I went skiing in Tignes – perfect snow in what has to be the best skiing region in the world and with some very good last minute deals available from Tignes Reservations.
Finally, and unforgettably, I spent 4 days cycling around Mashatu Game Reserve in the Tuli Block in Botswana. It's an absolute must. Not easy, but exhilarating. And utterly beautiful. But watch out for those elephants in Ambush Alley. See www.mtbsafaris.com and www.mashatu.com.
For more information, look at my website www.chrisharvie.com as the articles appear over the next few months and catch up on other recent travels. Having said all that, I am going to knuckle down and do some hotel-work now!
FINALLY, my former-stepsister (and not everybody has one of those) has some delightful self-catering cottages (known as gites to the initiated) in Brittany, France. Here's a pic:
Look up the website at www.lamarettegites-brittany.com. I am told it is really lovely. Sarah is a renowned chef – many will remember her input into the early days of the menus at Rissington and at Savanna Private Game Reserve – and she will cook for you if you twist her arm.
All Roads Lead to Rissington
An important message: Because we take the safety of our guests very seriously, when driving to Rissington, please ignore both the signage in White River and your GPS as they will tell you to take the R538 from that town to Hazyview. It is, admittedly, very slightly shorter, but it is a terrible road. Potholes, livestock, speed limits, traffic police and densely populated. So take the wide-open empty R40 (following signs, bizarrely, to Phalaborwa) and ignore your GPS until it stops shouting "Please stay on the agreed route!" and, if it is German-speaking, that very aggressive "Falsche Richtung!" with which it berates you when you go the wrong way.
The R40 is by far the better road and much more scenic. And the entrance to Rissington is 250m further on than your GPS thinks it is, as well. So shout "Falsche Richtung!" back at it. You have no idea how good it will make you feel.
Come and stay ...
We look forward to seeing you. It's winter, it's warm and the sun is shining at Rissington. We offer fantastic value and great hospitality and the food gets better and better. And, even more interestingly, guests who stay three nights or more get to choose the special for their last night from a wide range of old favourites and new ideas.
Come and see us. It'd be madness not to ...
Chris, Hlengiwe, Shirley, Kevin from Barberton, Skinny Sheila, Sipho, Kanan the Zambian, Alice and Charlie the Gappers, Thandi, Cindy who has returned after a three-year absence, Dudu who is back from her breeding programme, Yvonne, Zelly, Hendrina, Betty, Thuli, Gladys, Sanny, Zenzile, Sisters Ntombifuthi (Foots) and Nokuthula (Noggs), Joseph, Cassim, Aubrey, Sbusiso, Patrick and Rasta. And of course JJ whose slide show you have just watched. And Bull, the dog, who has never been to the UK.
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