Cheryl and I on Yasawa Island, Fiji
(Photo : Supplied)
“Travel these days takes more than money.
It takes the most precious commodity of the lot: time.”
Cheryl and I have been travelling a lot of late. The Wild Coast (there is only one), Cape Town, Jo’burg, Thanda Game Reserve, Phinda of the same, Melbourne and Yasawa Island in Fiji. Quite a mixture. It’s premature to talk about Fiji, because we’ve only just arrived, but it’s fair to say that it measures up to everything Captains Cook and Bligh had to say about it in the good old days (in Bligh’s case, before the Bounty crew made him walk the plank!).
Being racehorse breeders and hoteliers, you can’t avoid the comparisons between the way we do things and how others go about their businesses. Survival in the modern world depends upon how you distinguish your product from others, and I suspect that whatever Summerhill and Hartford are, it’s because they were built without money. When you have the funds, you simply pay and you get. When you don’t, you have to be creative, you have to be intuitive about what gets a pulse racing. It’s about authenticity, atmosphere and adventure, sounds, scents and scenery, tastes and taboos. Good hotels and good horses always reflect a sense of “place”, their environment, their histories, their traditions and importantly, their people. In the world of travel, a high level of discernment is creeping into every arena. Today, the customer’s interest in artisanal beer and food, for example, is echoed in an interest in artisanal hospitality. Hartford House is dedicated to sating people’s interest in the world’s distinctive places: you quickly lose any sense of being in a unique environment when staying in a typical high-end hotel in London, Paris or Shanghai, Cape Town, Sydney or Dubai.
Increasingly, travellers seek destinations that accommodate lifestyle and weather, bespoken to their surroundings and community. Hotels should reflect their past, and the architecture of their neighbourhood; discerning guests understand the difference between décor and design, and seldom mistake decoration for good design.
Travel these days takes more than money. It takes the most precious commodity of the lot: time. Most people can buy a car, a handbag or a smart pair of shoes, but travel calls for energy, curiosity, a degree of adventure, even bravery. Not long from now, the greatest indulgence will not be a Ferrari; it will be a fortnight in Zululand, or even a living being; let’s not forget, the greatest creature the good Lord ever created, is the racehorse. And you can come by yours with a week at Hartford. An Argentinean polo player on a recent visit to us, tells it like this: “I was waiting for that combination of bliss and despair which makes African journeys so memorable - a melodramatic pose, a “Hendricks” and tonic coursing through my veins, a three day scruff of beard, a whiff of revolution in the air!”.
Our places thrive because of their originality, they survive on account of their old fashioned values. The more technologically focused the world becomes, the less people want to check-in via iPad and have their pillow preferences stored in a computer. Instead, our guests like to arrive and be greeted by their surnames; they soon get to know themselves again by their first names. And if you’ll give us the time to unpack for you, you’ll find your clothes pressed and hanging in the closet. Simple, old-style service is the most pleasant luxury.
Hartford and Summerhill have become beacons of their trades. In a world in which it’s no longer so “cool” to be a waiter or a groom, we remember, every day, what an honour it is to serve.