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Posts Tagged ‘Relais & Chateaux’

Following Trout Point Lodge’s participation in the International Congress of the Relais & Chateaux Association, Cape Town, South Africa, proprietors Vaughn Perret and Charles Leary joined the owner of Hotel St. Germain for a 10-day exploration of South African hotels & lodges.

Though Nova Scotia and South Africa have remarkably distinct climates and ecosystems, the importance of nature tourism–what the National Geographic Society might call Geotourism–is vitally important in both places. Visits to Gorah Elephant Camp, Tsala Treetop Lodge, Le Quartier Francais, and Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve rounded out a trip that started with stays at the Mount Nelson Hotel and One & Only Cape Town.

Overall, this diverse collection of  hotels expressed the best that South Africa has to offer: a sophisticated combination of refined elegance and meaningful contact with local nature & culture. Lions, zebras, buffalo, and elephants at Gorah became central to a larger understanding of humankind’s attempts to live with and within this larger–often not so kind–natural world over the past 2 centuries. Guides at Gorah and Bushmans Kloof proved indispensable to an enriching stay. Both Garret at Gorah and Zenovia at Bushmans served not only as interpreters of the local flora and fauna on twice-daily “game drives,” they also acted like the ultimate in concierges, offering friendly and highly personalized service throughout the day.

The exoticism of the South African “safari” experience clearly outweighed comparatively minor inconveniences that many guests in North American or Continental hotels might find objectionable if found in their local Hilton or Marriott. But, like Trout Point, these are small hotels, often not exceeding 20 guests at a time. Each provides for unique travel experiences. Predictably, the largest and most recent hotel–Cape Town’s One & Only–was also the least distinctive and enriching.

While Nova Scotia lacks “the Big 5,” and our moose and black bear hide rather than displaying themselves,  the South African lodges provided excellent examples of how to make the most out of the natural surroundings for guests. Gorah, in particular, but also Tsala and Bushmans, also demonstrated the value of providing authentic “lodge” and “safari” experiences, including references to local heritage and all the elements that feed the romantic imagination. Vacations in places like South Africa–and Nova Scotia–should transport you to another world, a place without cares, a true enriching diversion.

More to come . . .

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Relais & Chateaux, an association of the world’s finest boutique hotels and gourmet restaurants, has chosen Trout Point Lodge of Nova Scotia to participate in a best practices forum at its annual world congress in Cape Town, South Africa next month. Trout Point joined the prestigious group in 2009 after a rigorous application process.

Jacques-Olivier Chauvin, Chief Executive Officer, contacted the Lodge with the news about 2 weeks ago. The forum will allow participants to have an exchange of experiences, discovering what’s happening at other member properties. The focus for the 1st annual event is key trends in the field of guest relations. Paris-based Relais & Chateaux has about 475 members in over 56 countries.

“We were very pleasantly surprised and honoured by the selection,” said co-owner Vaughn Perret. Trout Point will be among about 20 hotels or restaurants from all the members selected to give a presentation at the forum. “To be chosen during our first year of membership from amongst this elite group as an example of best practices was one of the highest accolades we could receive.”

Trout Point Lodge, which opened its doors in 2000, was chosen among 10 worldwide finalists in the National Geographic Society 2009 Geotourism Challenge, “The Power of Place.” It has a total of 13 units immediately adjacent to the Tobeatic Wilderness Area in southwestern Nova Scotia.

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Bonnie Stern–the award winning author of twelve best-selling cookbooks–visited Trout Point last week for a 2-day sojourn. She writes weekly in the National Post and monthly in Readers Digest. As well as offering cooking classes, she has a unique book club where authors actually attend and dinner is included. She is the recipient of the 2007 Premier’s Award.

In the August edition of her food newsletter, Ms. Stern observed:
“This must be the best kept secret in Canada – a Relais & Chateaux in the deep wilderness of Nova Scotia next to the Tusket River near the Tobeatic Wilderness Area. The food is an interesting mix of Cajun and local Nova Scotian cooked by owners Vaughn Perret and Charles Leary, academics turned organic farmers in New Orleans who followed the Acadian trail back to Nova Scotia in 1999 to open this beautiful eco-friendly lodge. Along with rustic but luxurious accommodations, delicious seafood dinners, hiking, fishing and cooking classes are also offered.”

Thank you, Bonnie!

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