Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Life of Shaun #546] The Mother City

The final destination on our honeymoon was Cape Town - and what an absolute joy it was.  We were there for a full week, and I could have easily stayed longer.  I can't remember the last city I went to where that was the case; normally a long weekend is enough just about anywhere.  Cape Town is not a cerebral city - it lacks the historic depth and economic heft of Johannesburg - but it drips with beauty, charm, ease, and, for whites and tourists at least, levensvreugde.

Like Rio de JaneiroSan Francisco and Sydney, Cape Town's natural setting seems almost too perfect to be happenstance.  The city sits in a bowl, nestled between the Atlantic Ocean, jaunty peaks and the lofty expanse of Table Mountain.  To the South lies the majestic Cape Peninsula, to the East lies wine country, and the climate is temperate.

If it sounds like I am gushing, it's because I am.  Cape Town has its problems: it's got plenty of poverty, sprawl, inadequate infrastructure and crime that's high by European standards.  But it's less segregated than Johannesburg, safer than many American cities, and is reasonably well run by the opposition Democratic Alliance, free from the cronyism and corruption and plagues what's become of Nelson Mandela's ANC.

We stayed at a fabulous gay guest house, which serves breakfast until a very respectable hour.  We had perfect weather the first day, so took up the opportunity to go up Table Mountain and do a city tour, getting all the rigorous touristing out of the way on day one.  Then each day we slept in late, lingered at the breakfast table talking to other gushing tourists from around the world, and then headed out on another exploration: the waterfront, Robben Island, Camp's Bay, the Cape of Good Hope, Bo-Kaap, Stellenbosch - usually capped off with a drink in Cape Town's diminutive, but enjoyable, gay scene.  Not the stuff of haughty drama, but one fantastic day followed by another.  Amazing.

I knew I would like Cape Town.  I've never heard a bad word said of it.  But I didn't realise how I would love it.  There's something understated about it, despite its natural beauty; it's a bit player on the global stage, and even plays second fiddle on its home turf to brash Johannesburg.  It seems eager to please, but not like it's trying to show off; it knows it's in a sketchy neighbourhood, but it also knows what it's got.  It's simply lovely.  I can't wait to go back.

Sala kakuhle,

Table Mountain from our room.

Sushil the Redeemer.

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Sushil had been bugging me about taking a helicopter ride for months. In Cape Town, I finally relented.

Camps Bay, which felt like it should be painfully over-touristy, but was really great.  We went a couple of times, including for a brilliant extended parting lunch at Mezepoli.

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The CBD, with Table Mountain behind.  Much of the modern downtown was water until it was filled in during the 1940s.

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Urban edge in Woodstock, perfect for galleries and hipsters.

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District Six, just Southeast of downtown, was a residential neighbourhood within the main bowl of central Cape Town.  Its 60k+ residents were removed in the 1970s by the Apartheid government and the neighbourhood razed to make room for new whites-only developments.  Some of the area was redeveloped, but most of it still lies barren due to a combination of protests, legal manœuvres, and the economic reality of international sanctions.  The area is now in a turf war between those who want to leave it as is to serve as a memorial, those whose historic rights of relocation have been recognised, and developers salivating over a large tract of prime real estate in a city on the up.

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Cape Town and Table Mountain, seen from the boat heading out to Robben Island
the prison where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of his 27 years behind bars.

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The quarry where Mandella and other prisoners were made break rocks, and stack and restack them.

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​cell ​

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Downtown Stellenbosch, the charming heart of South Africa's wine country.

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They take their trees very seriously in Stellenbosch.

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City Hall, with a Mandela sculpture that's immediately apparent in the camera lens, but hard to discern with the naked eye.

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We decided to take the Bites & Sites tour, which combined a bit of history while walking around downtown sampling artisanal bread, locally-grown organic vegetables and, of course, wine, before heading out to the vineyards.  It was a great choice - a good balance between town and country, and gave a lot more colour to this localvore foodie haven than a full day of cellar tours could have.

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No, this...this...this is the one we want!  @Simonsig

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Hout Bay, a suburb of Cape Town on the Cape Peninsula.

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Boulders Beach on the Cape is home to a large penguin colony.

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And wine!
​  Don't forget about the wine!​

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We made it!

And celebrated with a bottle at lunch.  Cheers!

It's a personal choice
Shaun H. Coley ~ Shadwell ~ Tower Hamlets ~ London E1 ~ UK ~ shaunism.blogspot.co.uk

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