One of the questions that visitors to Cotswold Gardens often ask Janine is ‘How did you get into this business?’
Janine loves giving the answer. Because Cotswold Gardens is her baby, one that was born out of love and one that led her to a whole new life.
Cotswold Gardens is in a magnificent leafy suburb of Johannesburg, Saxonwold. The house is large and elegant and was a perfect family home, exceptionally spacious with an extraordinary garden.
Perfect until the kids left home.
And then suddenly it was Janine and her partner rattling around in five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a garden the size of a park and an unused swimming pool.
They thought of all the options – the most sensible being to sell up and move to a smaller house.
But how could she do that! She loved her home and couldn’t bear to part with it.
And then her mother said – ‘A guesthouse. It is the best solution. Open up a guesthouse.’
Of course for her mom it was a very clever idea. She did not want her daughter to move too far.
And so the hard work and the building, the renovations, the dust, the workers, the endless cups of tea for the workers, began. Janine oversaw the building, learnt all about renovations and what was needed, discovered how much she loved the project, put on a hard hat herself, and then…
In October 2001, Cotswold Gardens was born. A stunning guesthouse in the perfect suburb with the perfect host.
Janine recalls her first guests who came from the US. She was so terrified that she changed the bed linen three times, changed her dress three times and baked 20 muffins too many. But everything was seamless and in fact her guests took her and her partner out for dinner.
Her second guest came from Nigeria, a beautiful young woman who had come to Johannesburg for chemo and needed stay near to Medical Oncology Centre of Rosebank. Clearly the chemo worked because sixteen years later, they are still good friends
The third guest was a journalist from Germany. He too became a good friend and still stays at Cotswold Gardens.
Janine talks about how incredibly naive she was in the beginning. She had only been open for a few months when she received a booking for a lady called ‘Jenny.’ She was told to ask no questions. Before ‘Jenny’ arrived the guesthouse was checked out and security was scrutinised. Cotswold Gardens passed the test. Jenny was brought in, shrouded in a scarf and never left the room. The bodyguards carried guns, the booking was paid for in cash and Janine was terrified the whole time. But Jenny came and went, Janine became brilliant at offering room service and the mystery remains.
Who was Jenny? Janine still doesn’t know.
Janine has also had sniffer dogs, police and big scary cars with huge men dressed in black checking out the place. This has not been dodgy though, this has been for bookings for Helen Zille from the DA, the Democratic Alliance. Janine says Helen is an extraordinary woman and the most wonderful, down-to-earth guest to have.
Helen Zille has stayed at Cotswold Gardens three times since.
Since opening Janine has renovated again, added more bedrooms and Cotswold Gardens has become one of the most well known and most wanted guesthouses in the area. It is often full months in advance, and there are many return visitors. The garden is a delight and the swimming pool is used often. Who could resist the bright blue water and fabulous sun loungers?
The 2010 World Cup soccer was a highlight, not just during the tournament but for six weeks prior to the tournament. The German journalist, Janine’s second client, booked out the house and as you can imagine, it was a bit wild!
They’ve all come back either with friends or family to show off South Africa, and have sent many of their friends.
Visitors to Cotswold Gardens are mostly word-of-mouth as good news travels fast. But Janine is also a solid member of Johannesburg Guesthouses, loyal and loves being part of an association that works well together.
‘It has been an amazing journey,’ Janine says. ‘One that I would do again in a heartbeat.’