Certainly one of the joys of running a guesthouse, is that you never know quite who will walk through the door…

One of my favorite stories is of when I had Robert Redford and Winnie Mandela staying over – well, maybe not quite: I received a call from a gentleman in San Francisco with a voice a smooth as Robert Redford’s (I love Robert Redford…) He told me that he had just e-mailed me a request for accommodation, but that he was phoning to make sure that I would not have a problem with his partner being black. That’s where Winnie comes in.



Let me explain. When I was a young schoolgirl in Cape Town, I had a hostel roommate who stayed on Robben Island. Once she invited me to visit her for the weekend. That meant a trip down to the harbor and then by boat to the Island, the boat was called the Issey if I recall correctly. Just before we took off, the most beautiful, well dressed, regal woman that I had ever seen, gracefully walked past us to sit quietly downstairs. I silently mouthed to my friend: “who is that?” and she whispered back: “Winnie Mandela”.

Now when Robert told me that his partner was black, immediately a picture of a young Winnie sprang to mind. I assured him that it would be no problem and that I would reply to his e-mail immediately. When I sat down at my computer I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion at the thought that this man even deemed it necessary to phone to make sure that the love of his life, who he was treating to a trip to Africa, would not be subjected to racism. So I wrote them a  letter telling them that they should come to South Africa with an open mind and not prematurely succumb to fear of discrimination, and that I was convinced that they were going to be bowled over by the hospitality of South Africans. I also added that they must remember that if people stared it could also just be because they made a handsome couple.

On the day of their arrival it was with great anticipation that I opened the door – to find an elderly gay couple, no resemblance to Winnie or Robert at all, but with huge smiles and a huge bunch of flowers to thank me for my lovely letter. We had a wonderful time together and I’m happy to report that they thoroughly enjoyed their South African experience.subscribe to posts