How To Celebrate A Birthday In Cape Town


“Some guy said to me: Don’t you think you’re too old to sing rock n’ roll?
I said: You’d better check with Mick Jagger.” 
― Cher

As time passes on, it is my hope that I, like Cher, like Mick, will never be too old to sing rock ‘n roll. (Not that I ever could, but I hope that age will never halt my trying). I wish to never be too old to move like Jagger. Or to dress like Cher. To never be too strict to eat macaroons for lunch or too busy to waste a Monday at the Spa. To never be too serious to celebrate a birthday. And to never need an excuse, like a birthday, to dine out with people I love.



You don’t need a reason like turning another year older to visit Ellerman House in Bantry Bay, Cape Town, that delightful corner of the Mother City, tucked between mountain and sea. But it does make it all the more special. To mark my own birthday, that is precisely where I headed – albeit sans rock star wig and dance moves. As for my wish list… macaroons there were aplenty; forgetting the outside world from the inside of the Spa, indeedy. And fine dining with even finer people, big time. I wish you the same as your tree of life stretches ever skyward…


Take a look at some images from our celebration, starting with the Spa…



The Spa



But first, macaroons…









The View




The Studio at Ellerman House

The new studio at Ellerman House, photographed below, features artwork, clothes, jewelry and other accessories all sourced from a selection of top local South African designers and artists. Be sure to take a stroll down to The Studio on your own visit.





Thank you, Ellerman House.

Discover more about this Cape Town icon here.

For the Love of the Terrace


The minute the sun begins to dip, Capetonians go in search of the terrace. The same has been said about Paris, but the preferred time in the City of Lights is when the sun starts to show its face. The terrace is part of the art de vivre in Paris as much as it is in Cape Town, but here, in the Mother City of South Africa, locals prefer it when the late afternoon sky starts to usher in new pinks and purples and a cooler evening takes over. Before then, when the sun is highest, most of us are on the beach or resting indoors, after a morning of hiking and market shopping and breakfasting on similar terraces. As the sunset approaches, terraces all over the city fill up, whatever day of the week. Camps Bay, Clifton, Sea Point, Bree Street, Kloof Street… But our favourite terrace in the city, for the privacy it affords, is Bantry Bay’s Ellerman House.

Ellerman House

Ellerman House

The terraces here see all – whether they belong to the private suites and villas or the patio beside the swimming pool. They catch the crumbs of the morning’s croissants and the froth of the eagerly sipped cappuccino. They feel the caress of bare feet, cool from an afternoon dip, and the stride of heels as the dinner hour arrives. They see what we don’t and that’s why we seek them out – for the intimate moments we can experience on them, moments they won’t share with others. The terrace is an ode à la vie, an ode to life, a place to enjoy a few of our favourite things about Ellerman House… the setting and view, the garden, the food, the wine and the relaxation of it all.

Ellerman House

This month, Ellerman House is celebrating the reasons you’ll #neverleave their grand mansion in Bantry Bay and we thought we’d offer our five reasons too… in our own ode à la vie.

1. Rest a while…

“Spending a day at Ellerman House is an experience on it’s own. The Spa is one of the favourite spaces where guests relax and unwind after a long flight or a tour in Cape Town. Guests are invited to stroll through the indigenous garden and breath in the fresh ocean air. Dine on some of the finest cuisine on either one of our three terraces all overlooking the magnificent Atlantic Ocean.”



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Discover more about the spa experience at Ellerman House in our blog, The House of Health.

2. Art de vivre

“Ellerman House has one of the most important art collections in South Africa dating back to the mid 1800s. Guests can take a guided tour through the collection in the victorian mansion and the Contemporary Art Gallery. Guests can also join us for the Art in the Winelands Experience or the Art in the City Experience where they will be taken on a tour through either the winelands or Cape Town to experience the local art.”




3. The Setting

Lavender fields


4. Wine

“Let Ellerman House take you on a journey through South Africa’s wine in the state-of-the-art Wine Gallery where guests can enjoy Daily Wine Tastings, The Dom Pérignon Experience and brandy tastings. Guests who would like to learn more are invited to the Signature Constantia Experience or Signature Stellenbosch Experience where they are taken on a tour of three famous Cape Winelands Farms.”




In the cellar

Wine Tasting

5. Food

“You need to reflect the feel of a place, my recipes are not transferable, I always ask myself whether I can create ingredients better in-house first, rather than buy it in. Usually we do better ourselves.”




How Film Can Change The World

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“Using film to promote human rights and social change,” the brochure for the Tri Continental Film Festival 2015 reads. TCFF. Watch. Speak. Act. TCFF. Bringing films to the people.

I was one of those people at the Tri Continental Film Festival in Cape Town this weekend, watching the magic from the front row. Citizen Four to be precise, but the magic of film in its ability to effect change on a larger scale. As a writer and photographer, I’m less comfortable with the moving image as a medium for storytelling. But the cinematic forces at work in South Africa’s Mother City this month have made me curious… is film perhaps the best way to tell a story?

Does film better and more fully portray a subject, the feeling, the essence? By uniting words, imagery and sound (for what would Titanic be without Celine Dion? The Lion King without Elton John?), film mimics the human experience more closely and manages to inspire larger, more varied audiences than word or photograph alone.

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You don’t need to go to film school to get behind the camera. You just need a camera. Or a smartphone. And YouTube. Watch documentaries. Watch tutorials. Watch the world. Film your grandmother. Film the local fishermen. The tides. The streets at night.

In the age of citizen journalism and social media, anyone, regardless of age and background, has the chance to not only make a name for themselves, but to inspire, to educate and to share the stories of our time, like an army of itinerant anthropologists unleashed upon the world. No truth need not be shared (hello, Edward Snowden), no magic need be missed.

Watch. Speak. Act. Tell your story.


Along with the Tri Continental Film Festival, Cape Town hosted the shnit International Shortfilmfestival from 7 – 11 October 2015. In its thirteenth year globally, the festival featured the best short films from every corner of the world – more than 250 films – in 8 cities, namely Cape Town along with Bern, Buenos Aires, Bangkok, Cairo, Hong Kong, Moscow and San Jose.

For five days, we sat glued to the screen of The Labia Theatre on Orange Street, watching shorts of all kinds by day, and headed to The Company Gardens for South African double-bill screenings under the stars in the evening. Consider this one of those insider secrets of the locals… the cinematic experience continues on at The Labia all year round. A landmark in the city, the theatre has been around for more than 65 years.

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What was most significant for us was seeing Africa represented on the global stage and watching Africa’s filmmakers tell the stories of the continent, shedding light on the palpable diversity of those stories (echoing We Are Africa’s motto, We Are Not One Story). 

Discover more about Africa’s art and culture experience here and about the global shnit festival at

Watch the Opening Night, held at the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town:

shnit OPENING – Cape Town 2015 from Be Phat Motel on Vimeo.