The first 8 months

Many old neighbours and others from the Robertson Wine Valley contact us how life is in Stanford; 75 minutes drive from Robertson. After 8 months Stanford it’s too early to make any conclusions but until sofar we think that our move is the best decision we made in years. In Robertson ‘outsiders’ (even South Africans from elsewhere) were tolerated but never accepted and we regret this very much.

We lived in the Klaas Voogds hamlet 10 km East of town; a cosmopolitan community and one of the most beautiful areas with stunning views and lots of activities for people who love quality of life. The Klaas Voogds area however is very much ‘neglected’ by (local) tourism authorities and the tourism industry. A survey once done amongst tour guides in Cape Town showed that most of them did not know about Klaas Voogds (some even never heard of Robertson) while they pass it on their way to and from the Garden Route. Asking the local tourism bureau for activities/accommodation resulted most of the time in recommendations for those owned by local South Africans. Specific enquiries for activities etc. in Klaas Voogds were (are?) many times responded in diversions/recommendations for others owned by …. (just guess). One local neighbour, just after we moved into our farm in Robertson, telling us that is was not allowed to provide staff with coffee/tea and cool drinks (what we did and always have been doing) and “treat your workers like children. You can train them to pee and poo in the bushes …. etc., etc…” Anyway, we left this all behind us.

How is Life in Stanford?

If you drive into Stanford it looks like a dull village but once taken the side roads a complete different village unfolds itself. Not all tar roads (that’s great!) and along these side roads one encounters a different world. Well, we feel ourselves much at home in a multicultural community with more equality between people of different walks of life. The emphasis on tourism is not merely focussed on ‘free wine tasting’ as in Robertson but targets people who conciously choose for pure quality and personal hospitality. The villagers choose not for mass tourism as in nearby Hermanus or Gansbaai but want to let you experience village life in full. There are a few wine cellars (most of the Stanford wines are only available in Stanford or in upmarket overseas restaurants/outlets) and the village even has its own brewery (Birkenhead). But for the rest (see link above) it’s all kinds of everything.

There are (well …. humhum …. our background) also some disadvantages. It seems that not everybody knows his/her neighbours and one of the first things we did was getting acquainted with out neighbours (‘better a good neighbour than a far away friend’ is a Dutch expression and being Double Dutch….). And still many Stanfordians we only know via Facebook …… but in due time we’ll meet them in person. A true story in this context: A local producer sells her product to a shop in Hermanus. “Oh…. such a nice guy”, she writes on her FB-page, seemingly not knowing that this guy lives only 2 houses from her… But villagers do meet each other; on the local green market every Saturday morning, or the monthly market last Friday of the month and, of course, during the diverse activities such as canoe racing, the Bird Fair, etc. Not to forget in the diverse coffee shops and restaurants.

The village has its own dear full colour monthly magazine (Stanford River Talk) which connects the divers worlds within Stanford. Five years ago Stanford celebrated its 150 yrs anniversary and during that occasion Annalize Mouton wrote a magnificent book about history and present with plenty of photographs and portraits of villagers. A must read for all. It also tells the story about the evictions during the apartheids era and that is where we were for the first time really touched by the human misery caused by political/religious fanatics. Sometimes one has to bring an ‘abstract’  idea back to human proportions. And Annalize succeeded in that.

In this context we have to mention the activities villagers undertake to enlighten the life of ‘under priviliged’ communities; as far as we experienced this happens on a proportional large scale. The Rotary Club and the private organisation Food for Thought are extremely engaged in this. Not only with ‘soup kitchens’ and education but also with information and tools (solar powered lights and fuel efficient stoves).

Every now and than in the future we will share our experiences.

Yvonne and Herman

(Stanford, April 6, 2012)

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