January 2017 Newsletter from Liz at Lancaster

2016 rushed to an end like a huge high-speed train on steroids so this newsletter comes with belated good wishes for 2017.  Although an eventful year globally and nationally to say the least, for Liz at Lancaster, it well went quite smoothly.

AWARDS

Derek Hanekom Minister of Tourism presenting the Provincial Award to Tagala Mlalzi and Catherine Mahlangu of Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse

Derek Hanekom Minister of Tourism presenting the Provincial Award to Tagala Mlalzi and Catherine Mahlangu of Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse

Catherine and Tagala attended the Department of Tourism Lilizela Awards ceremony in September where they were delighted to walk away with the Provincial Winner’s Award in the category of 4 star guesthouse.  We did not feel too bad losing out at national level as the winner, The Three Boutique Hotel, is a beautifully restored historic building with 18 rooms and a roof deck with panoramic views of Table Mountain and Cape Town City Bowl.  Liz at Lancaster’s garden setting is a little less glamorous!

We are delighted to have remained no 1 on TripAdvisor’s ranking of 279 B&BS/Inns in Johannesburg, a position we have occupied for over five years now. So a very big thank you to all those who have reviewed us over the years and those who haven’t and would like to you to, you can Click here

LIZ AT LANCASTER NEWS

2016-09-18 16.26.58Tagala (aka Mr T) has stepped into Zac’s very big shoes and fitted them perfectly. He runs his kitchen like a well-oiled machine, handles ordering and procurement of supplies with quiet efficiency, and awaits collection of guests at the airport with his recognizable marker:  his red peaked cap.  We no longer have a microbus for guest transfer but rather a Toyota Corolla sedan.  Catherine and Thandie continue to work marvels with their housekeeping and general caring attention to guests. Rose steps in on their days’ off.  And John who joined the business in late 2015 has freed up Liz greatly. He’s a whizz at sorting out technical issues and maintenance stuff (Liz hyperventilates at this part of the job). He works 2 days a week enabling Liz to spend more time with grandsons and he also acts as locum when Liz is away.  And last but not least: Alick’s green fingers and gentle touch keep flowers blooming and a lush garden at Liz at Lancaster.  A huge thank you to you all – our top ranking on TripAdvisor is due to your dedication to service excellence. Further value-added services and facilities at Liz at Lancaster include a great new DVD lending library (free of course) as well as installation of air-conditioning in our 3 studio flatlets.

Red city Bus 2JOBURG TOURISM NEWS

Uber continues to be well-utilized by guests who have a Smart Phone and can download the Uber App.  It’s reliable, efficient and cost-effective.  Plus Uber has now added another App to their transport offering.  Uber Eats is easy to download and incredibly efficient.  It tracks the making of the food, departure of the courier and exact arrival time. So guests have accurate timing for meals and a large selection of restaurants to choose from.  And more exciting tourist news is that the Red City Hop-On Hop-Off Bus (an ideal way to get an overview of the city), now leaves from Rosebank on a Green Tour with various stops in the Parks region before joining the Red Tour at Constitution Hill.  This is yet more recognition of Rosebank as a major business and leisure hub.

ON THE POLITICAL FRONT

While internationally 2016 is coming to be known as the ‘post-truth’ year, I think SA  2016 should be known as the ‘year of the interdict’.  It seemed that daily interdicts were being applied for, overturned, granted, withdrawn ….  or not!

It was Malema who supported Zuma to oust Mbeki in 2008. Source: News24.com

It was Malema who supported Zuma to oust Mbeki in 2008. Source: News24.com

The term ‘state capture’ came into popular discourse after SA’s 9/12 (9 Dec 2015), when Zuma replaced the well-respected Minister of Finance Nhlanhla Nene with an unknown failed mayor of an unknown small town in an appointment which lasted 4 days before Zuma was forced to instate Pravin Gordhan as Minister. See John Battersby’s excellent  article  which refers to the Gupta brothers’ probable involvement in the decision to replace Nene and the first major rumblings of state capture. While the more radical left (Malema and the Economic Freedom Front (EFF) – those of the eye-catching red workers’ uniforms in Parly)- reacted in 2015 to Zuma’s use of state funds to fund his private residence Nkandla with the effective  rallying cry #PayBacktheMoney, ‘Nenegate’ as it has come to be known, further incensed the middle class and business.  The ongoing unfolding of the Gupta involvement in state affairs led to another social media hashtag: #ZuptaMustFall – The EFF and Malema are very clever at creating catch-phrases which capture the popular imagination (as are other politicians to our north!).

Madonsela proved to be one of the many extraordinary South Africans who worked tirelessly, ethically and courageously in public office. She will be sorely missed. Source : ENCA

Madonsela proved to be one of the many extraordinary South Africans who worked tirelessly, ethically and courageously in public office. She will be sorely missed. Source : ENCA

Several court rulings during 2016 evidenced the turning tide against Zuma:  that he #PayBackTheMoney; that he broke his oath of office; that dropping Zuma’s corruption charges in 2009 was irrational; and in November a court ruling instructed the Office of the Public Protector to release the State Capture Report prepared under huge time pressure by Thuli Madonsela in her last months in office as Public Protector. (It was being withheld by the new Public Protector- a Zuma follower).  With the State Capture Report on the Gupta’s involvement in state affairs mentioning the President, ministers, cabinet members and hundreds of different entities, the fallout has barely started. The climate of discontent with the ruling party resulted in its very poor showing in the August local elections with the ANC losing 3 major metro municipalities – Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth); Pretoria; and Johannesburg – to the opposition party the Democratic Alliance (DA). However the 2017 will see whether Zuma reshuffles his Cabinet to ensure he and his backers have more allies in the most important positions of power.  2017 will also be dominated by the succession battle for the new ANC leader who is to be elected at the party’s national conference in December 2017 (prior to the country’s general elections in 2019).

Source: Ashraf Hendriks Daily Maverick 30 Sept 2016

Source: Ashraf Hendriks Daily Maverick 30 Sept 2016

And finally as a symptom of the wider climate of discontent, the #FeesMustFall campaign at Universities with the major disruption and violent flare-ups including destruction of property, resulted in devastating polarization amongst both staff and students.  The initial cry of #FeesMustFall became absorbed into wider calls for transformation (of staff demographic); decolonizing the curricula and institutional context; and stopping all outsourcing of cleaning and maintenance staff. It was an extraordinarily stressful time for those who kept Universities open and ensured that students (the majority by far) who wanted to complete the academic year, did.  I know if I had still been teaching I would have been one of them but I am extremely grateful that Liz at Lancaster was my focus.

SOUTH AFRICA: THE GOOD NEWS

And after all that somewhat negative news from SA, there is also good news. Steuart Pennington fascinating and revealing summary of the 2015 South African Institute of Race Relations Report makes for fascinating reading.  Read here He compares where SA was in 2015 (little outdated but nevertheless enlightening) with where it was in 1994.  As he says – these are stats and facts which don’t make the news headlines.

Johannesburg IYP routesWHAT’S ON IN JOBURG

Liz continues to communicate what’s happening at the guesthouse and in Johannesburg through TwitterFacebook; and blog posts.  To get notifications of new blog posts (a couple a month) see the ‘subscribe to our blog’ button at the bottom of  this page.

And the amazing Johannesburg In your Pocket booklet continues to be available at Liz at Lancaster for guests to read and take away with them.

We hope that we will connect with many of in the upcoming year. Thank you for your on-going support and if you have not stayed with us, we hope that when you next enquire we will have ‘room at the inn’ for you. There is one thing that is for certain – 2017 is sure to be another roller coaster year for South Africa and indeed for much of the world.

 

 

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Posted in Liz at Lancaster News and Views | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Big Five on Liz at Lancaster’s doorstep!

RAINS TRANSFORM THE PILANESBERG NATIONAL PARK

Before the rains Source: Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse

Before the rains Source: Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse

Kudu drinking at a puddle Source: Liz at Lancaster

Kudu drinking at a puddle Source: Liz at Lancaster

Having not been to the Pilanesberg National Park for several years, I was lucky enough at the end of last year to visit twice in 3 months – in October – when it was still quite brown, dry and dusty and again in December when it was transformed into a rich, green, verdant landscape. And despite the differences, (or maybe because of them) I was struck yet again, by what a little gem this game park is.

THE BIG FIVE SO CLOSE TO JOHANESBURG

Setting sun behind the layers of rocky mountains

Setting sun behind the receding planes of rocky mountains

Source: A.Delmont

Source: A.Delmont

Proximity to Joburg is its first major plus.  It’s an easy two and a half hours from Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse. Plus the landscape is truly special as the reserve area is located in one of the largest alkaline volcanic complexes in the world so it is not only very beautiful but also geologically unusual. There are only two other known alkaline volcanoes in the world:  in Russia and in Greenland. (To be honest, I have NO idea what the significance of an ‘alkaline’ volcano  is!)

GEOLOGICAL HISTORY OF THE PILANESBERG

The Pilanesberg volcano first erupted 2 million years ago and had its last eruption 1.2 million years ago. (Do the math as to how long it was active!)  Over time with the outpouring of lava, craters collapsed and rings of fractures occurred around the volcano. Magma squeezed into these fractures which resulted in rocks of different ages like ‘onion rings’.  Erosion over millions of years has stripped away the mountain leaving only these magma pipes that were located very deep below the volcano’s summit.  The accompanying diagram shows a cross section of one such magma pipe.  At its highest the volcano was 7000 meters tall.  For comparison, Everest is 8611 meters and Mount Kilimanjaro is 5895 meters.  But the highest peak in the Pilanesberg is now Matlhorwe which rises a mere 700 metres above the valleys.

Volcano Diagram

Volcano Diagram

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The whole area is known as the Pilanesberg Alkaline Ring Complex (PARC) which has some rare minerals and comprises 3 rings of hills with an outer diameter of 24 kilometers. On the outskirts of PARC sit many of South Africa’s platinum mines (with their dark history both pre 1994 and post). The satellite photo below shows the distinctive ring /circular structure of the PARC.

Satellite photo showing ring complex of mountains

Satellite photo showing ring complex of mountains

 

WIDE VARIETY OF WILD LIFE IN THE PILANESBERG

Source: Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse

Source: Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse

Source: Liz at Lancaster

Source: Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is an amazing variety of game species and because of the open plains and low scrub there is excellent visibility for game-viewing.

Tsessebe Source: A. Delmont

Tsessebe Source: A. Delmont

Reedbuck Source: A.Delmont

Reedbuck Source: A.Delmont

The Pilanesberg was established in 1979 when it was fenced and Operation Genesis, (the name given to the programme to re-introduce long-vanished species), began. It is now incredibly well-stocked with all the ‘Big Five’, 15 species of antelope, plus cheetah, leopard, and wild dog.

Source: A.Delmont

Wonderful camouflage of a young female Leopard. Source: A.Delmont

Other predators include the African wild cat,caracal, serval, jackal, bat-eared fox, brown hyena and the nocturnal aardwolf. (There are no spotted hyena in the Pilanesberg as the environment is apparently too competitive for them to survive.)  There are over 7000 animals in an area comprising 55,000 hectares, with over 200 km of roads. You can either self-drive; take a drive on a lodge game-viewing vehicle; or arrange for a day-tour with a tour operator (see below).  Unlike in the Kruger National Park, all camps in the Pilanesberg (except for Tshukudu) are at the edge of the actual reserve. Visitors have to pay an entrance fee and keep the form and disc that is valid for the period of their stay.

 

SOCIAL HISTORY OF THE PILANESBERG

Iron Age settlements many visible from the road in the Pilanesberg

Iron Age settlements – many visible from the roads in the Pilanesberg

As with all land reserved for wild life, there is always a fraught history of human occupation and later displacement to make way for a park area.   Stone Age artefacts found in the Pilanesberg and surrounds is evidence that human beings have been here since the Middle Stone Age. During the Iron Age, ancestors of the Batswana and the Basotho occupied the area as cattle farmers and pastoralists who also worked copper and iron.  By the late 18th century large towns of 10,000 or more were established in the greater Pilanesberg area.  This settled urban way of life was disrupted during the Mfecane in the late 1820s, when Mzilikazi continued the widespread domination of various groups by his Ndebele clan.  The Voortrekkers in the mean time had come north to escape British Rule in the Cape and they joined with local Tswanas to rout Mzilikazi (who moved on north to Bulawayo).  The land became largely farmed by white farmers with a minor portion of land being farmed and inhabited by indigenous Bakgatla people.  In the early 1960s , when the homeland policy of Verwoed’s high apartheid regime became a reality, the land in the Pilanesberg and surrounds was expropriated to make land available for settlement of Batswana people in a so-called ‘independent homeland’: Bophuthatswana (established 1977). It was largely the Bakgatla peoples who lived in the crater complex itself and so it was they who were displaced to make way for the founding of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve in 1979.   Declared a National Park in 1984, it claims that it was the first protected area in Africa to be developed not only for conservation purposes, but also with the ‘specific intent of generating socio-economic benefits’ [for local communities]. (Pilanesberg Map and Guide Book p5). This seems quite a sweeping claim so I have my doubts as to how valid it is.

WIDE CHOICE OF CAMPS AVAILABLE

'Two bedroomed' chalets at Manyane

‘Two bedroomed’ chalets at Manyane

Rate included a buffet breakfast served until 10

Rate included a buffet breakfast served around the pool until 10

In October I took an American guest-turned-friend  for a one night stay in the Pilanesberg. We booked into Manyane Resort  where we stayed in a self-catering chalet comprising a sitting room and open-plan kitchen and a bathroom and bedroom downstairs.  Although described as a 2 bed-roomed chalet, the second bedroom is in fact an upstairs loft with single beds and – be warned – there are no windows and NO air circulation so it was very hot. In the current dry conditions with no grassed areas, the camp was bleak and a bit of a dust bowl but my guest was delighted with the bird life including a crimson breasted shrike. The buffet breakfast was served around the pool area and we were lucky in that mid-week it’s not very crowded. In a camp that can take nearly 1000 people, over week-ends it is probably mayhem.

Pool at Bakubung was fabulous for the small people in our party in December (and refreshing for the big people!)

Pool at Bakubung was fabulous for the small people in our party in December (and refreshing for the big people!)

Above the left fork in the tree, there are 2 further forks. If you look carefully at the left one, there is a leopard lying with his 2 front legs hanging over the branch. Classic pose. Photo: A. Delmont 2016

Above the bottom right fork in the tree, there are 2 further forks. If you look carefully at the left [front] one, there is a leopard lying with his 2 front legs hanging over the branch. Classic pose. Photo: A. Delmont 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two months later and after some rain the landscape was transformed. Lots of nutritious looking grass, trees in summer leaf, pools of water everywhere and wonderful washed crisp vegetation.

SPECIAL SIGHTINGS IN THE PILANESBERG

October 2016 Source: Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse

October 2016 Source: Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse

Source: A.Delmont

Source: A.Delmont

So it’s no exaggeration when we say that you can come to Joburg and see the Big Five! On my December trip when I stayed at Bakubung – a wonderful established camp with great facilities – in 2 days we saw 2 lots of lion, many rhino, 2 lots of leopard, a cheetah with 3 sub-adults, a very large herd of eland (20 plus), elephant, as well as lots of general game. Now I admit this was a very special 2 days of sightings but .. the amazing thing about animals in the wild is that (a bit like LIFE!), you NEVER know what is around the corner.

TOURS TO THE PILANESBERG

 

October 2016 Source: Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse

October 2016 Source: Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse

Baby Paradise Flycatcher being fed by its mother. Source:A. Delmont

Baby Paradise Flycatcher being fed by its mother. Source:A. Delmont

If you can’t get to Kruger National Park (which needs a good 3 days, ideally more), then Pilanesberg National Park is a great option. While of course you can self-drive, there are many tour operators who run day tours into the Park. It’s a question of finding the right ones as well as operators who will take smaller groups and individuals, plus often at short notice.  I have had guests who have used www.pilanesbergsafaris.com as well as www.ekalatours.com and they have all been very impressed with both their day trips as well as their overnight arrangements where applicable.  But they are not inexpensive!  But hey – with the exchange rate and having the chance to be in the bush – make the most if you can.

 

 

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Posted in Joburg and surrounds: things to do and see, Outdoors and wild-life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

International opera and theatre screened at Cinema Nouveau, Rosebank

HD Screenings at Cinema Nouveau, Ster-Kinekor, Rosebank Mall

programme-operasJozi’ites are privileged indeed to have access to the HD opera series brought live from the New York Met and the live HD National Theatre productions from London.  These much anticipated movies are screened at Sterkinekor’s Cinema Nouveau  in the Rosebank Mall, a mere 3 km from Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse. Unfortunately since Ster Kinekor revamped its website it has not included the advance programmes – a serious omission indeed. So here is Liz at Lancaster’s programme summary for those who look out for these long-awaited productions.

 

 

 

National Theatre (London) productions 

no-mans-land-from-21-januaryamadeus-wbThere are 4 amazing upcoming screenings coming from the National Theatre productions starting on 21st January with the wonderful revival of Harold Pinter’s comic classic No Man’s Land with Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart.  Peter Shafer’s iconic play Amadeus premiered at the National  Theatre in 1979 winning multiple Olivier and Tony awards. It was later adapted into an Academy Award-winning film.   In this new version which opens at Cinema Nouveau on 4th March, Salieri is played by Lucian Msamati (best known for his role as Salladhor Saan in Game of Thrones.) There is live orchestral accompaniment by Southbank Sinfonia.

hedda-from-1-apriljoan-of-arcBilled as an ‘electrifying masterpiece’ Gemma Arterton plays the title role in Josie Rourke’s production of Bernard Shaw’s classic play Saint Joan. It opens at Cinema Nouveau Rosebank on 18th March. And finally opening on 1st April is Ian van Hove’s modern production of Ibsen’s classic Hedda Gabler. Ruth Wilson (of Luther and The Affair fame) plays the title role and Rafe Spall (Black Mirror and The Big Short) plays Brack.

 

 

Live HD screenings of the NY Met 2016-2017 opera season 

Susanna Phillips as Clémence in L'Amour de Loin. Source: Kristian Schuller

Susanna Phillips as Clémence in L’Amour de Loin. Source: Kristian Schuller

Placido Domingo adds to his repertoire. Source: Marty Sohl

Placido Domingo adds to his repertoire. Source: Marty Sohl

Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho’s 2000 L’Amour de Loin premiered at the NY Met and comes to Cinema Nouveau Rosebank on 7th January. This meditation on idealized love set in the medieval era, stars Susanna Phillips as Clémence, Eric Owens as Jaufré, and Tamara Mumford as the Pilgrim who carries messages of love between them.

Opening on 4th Feb is Nabucco with Plácido Domingo (this adds a new role to his repertory)  Liudmyla Monastyrska sings Nabucco’s daughter Abigaille, with Jamie Barton as Fenena, Russell Thomas as Ismaele, and Dmitry Belosselskiy  as the prophet  Zaccaria.  This is the first time Nabucco has been released in HD.

Diana Damrau as Juliette in Gounod's opera

Diana Damrau as Juliette in Gounod’s opera

A week later on 11th February, Roméo et Juliette begins its brief run. Vittorio Grigolo and Diana Damrau reunite for this new production by Bartlett Sher of Gounod’s opera based on the Shakespeare play. Elliot Madore sings Mercutio and Mikhail Petrenko sings Frère Laurent. Sher’s staging is a La Scala production, initially presented by the Salzburg Festival, where it premiered in 2008.

Kristine Opolais as the water nymph in Dvořák’s Rusalka

Kristine Opolais as the water nymph in Dvořák’s Rusalka

Dvořák’s  Rusalka (opening 25th March), conducted by Sir Mark Elder and directed by Mary Zimmerman, will star Kristine Opolais in the title role of a water nymph who falls in love with a human prince, sung by Brandon Jovanovich.  Other singers are Katarina Dalayman as her rival, the Foreign Princess; Eric Owens as the Water Sprite, Rusalka’s father; and Jamie Barton as the duplicitous witch Ježibaba.

 

How luscious does this production of La Traviata look?

How luscious does this production of La Traviata look?

Willy Decker’s staging of  Verdi’s La Traviata  opens on 8 AprilSonya Yoncheva plays the doomed courtesan Violetta Valéry opposite American tenor Michael Fabiano as her lover, Alfredo. Thomas Hampson sings one of his most acclaimed Met roles as Giorgio Germont, Alfredo’s disapproving father, in a revival of conducted by San Francisco Opera Music Director Nicola Luisotti.

Another first for HD is Mozart’s Idomeneo set in the aftermath of the Trojan War. Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s classic production stars Matthew Polenzani in the title role. The cast also includes our own Johannesburg-born Elza van den Heever as Elettra, Nadine Sierra as Ilia, Alice Coote as Idamante and Alan Opie as Arbace. This starts on 29th April.

Netrebko as Tatiana in Tchaikovsky’s 'Eugene Onegin'

Netrebko as Tatiana in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.  Source: Ken Howard

Netrebko again plays the role of the heroine Tatiana in Deborah Warner’s staging  of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, this time with fellow Russian superstar Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Onegin.   Alexey Dolgov sings the role of Onegin’s friend-turned-rival, Lenski, with Elena Maximova as Tatiana’s sister Olga and Štefan Kocán as Prince Gremin. Starts 20 May.

 

 

Two extraordinary leads: Renée Fleming and Elīna Garanča in Der Rosenkavalier from 10 Jun

Two extraordinary leads: Renée Fleming and Elīna Garanča in Der Rosenkavalier from 10 Jun. Source: Metopera.org

The Met’s first new production since 1969 of Strauss’s  Der Rosenkavalier  is conducted by Sebastian Weigle and directed by Robert Carsen. The amazing Renée Fleming sings one of her signature roles as the Marschallin, opposite Elīna Garanča as Octavian, the impulsive young title character. The cast also includes Günther Groissböck as Baron Ochs, Erin Morley as Sophie, Marcus Brück in his Met debut as Faninal and Matthew Polenzani as the Italian Singer.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather
Posted in Theatre, entertainment & events | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment