environment.zambezitimes.com 55.jpg
Zambezi Times Online

A Livelier, Edgier Sort Of Place

LONDON, Apr. 4 - It is a cliché but this does not prevent it from being true: Cape Town is not of Africa. Technically, from a cartographer's point of view, it is indubitably in Africa, almost at its most southerly tip.

But to those who know Cape Town, its soul has little of Africa about it. Psychologically, one feels almost palpably, it is of Europe. It's where I grew up, where I went to school and to university (on one of the most beautiful campuses in the world) and yet, even while I was there, while I imbibed all that beauty, I yearned and yearned to live somewhere much more African.

I wanted to have sangomas down the road, to hear the African clicks all about me, to dance to the beating drums, to shiver when the lions roared, and to feel something of the edge and danger I perceived Africa to be about.

Cape Town seemed to me irredeemably sedate. Its values profoundly suburban, it is beautiful, beautiful almost beyond imagining, but while its beauty may delight the eye, it fails to touch the soul. I don't think I'm alone. Many who admire Cape Town's beauty have this difficulty with it.

I have always felt a little out of sync with Cape Town. To the visitor, this scarcely matters. Its loveliness alone, the crystalline air and sunlight, the beaches, the ravishing winelands of the Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschoek valleys, the houses, the people, the restaurants, the rate of the rand to the pound and the dollar, all make it a beguiling place to spend a little time. It's living there that's tricky.

But Cape Town has changed. It's scarcely recognisable as the place I grew up in. A new, fizzing restaurant culture has developed. When I was growing up there, there were almost none and it was a big treat to go "up to town".

My mother would don her hat and gloves and we'd set off in the train to shop and have lunch in Stuttaford's, Cape Town's best department store. In the intervening years the city became a mere soulless business area. Today, it's all springing to life again.

There's the market in Greenmarket Square where inexpensive clothes and artefacts from all over Africa are on sale. It is one of the great ironies that today South Africa, once the pariah state, is a refuge for Africans from the Congo, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Mozambique who come to sell their labour and their wares.

The streets around Greenmarket Street, such as Long Street, Loop Street, Bree Street, are fun to slope around in and search for antiques (South Africa's early furniture made from yellowwood or stinkwood is some of the most beautiful I know. Prices are rising fast but it's still relatively good value, and the antique shops will always ship it home).

Wander up to Kloof Street, further north, running parallel to that grand old institution, the Mount Nelson Hotel where afternoon tea is a must and its buffet lunch around the pool at about £12 ($22) a head is one of the best bargains to be had. Kloof Street is a new go-go area, filled with edgy, avant-garde design shops and very trendy restaurants (Manolo and Rozenhof are two of my favourites).

Don't miss De Waterkant. Its ravishingly pretty small cottages and houses have been painted and done up and the little squares and streets are filled with good restaurants where you could sip your South African Sauvignon Blanc and watch the ships go by. You could also stay in a small hotel there, La Maison Bleu, for something like £17 a night. It's got some stunning interior design shops.

The Mount Nelson is still some people's all-time favourite hotel but all over Cape Town there are now other places to stay. Kensington Place, 38 Kensington Crescent, Higgovale is one of the new breed of small chic boutique hotels.

It's beautifully designed, is tucked up under the mountain, is close to the city, each and every room is different, and the service is a dream. The Twelve Apostles, round the corner overlooking the Atlantic Ocean (be warned, the sea is freezing) is the new kid on the block with its spa, while Ellerman House in Bantry Bay has just 11 rooms and is very, very luxurious.

As for the restaurants themselves, though not quite on a par for sophistication with Sydney or San Francisco, they're buzzing with interesting design (Manolo in Kloof Street is a tour de force), and there is clearly now a slightly raffish café society which was entirely absent in my day.

The food is terrific, too. Cape Salmon, Kingclip, crayfish and mussels are the best. Places such as Ginja down in the city, off Buitengracht Street, offers sophisticated fusion food (though as my husband said "they did take a very long time to serve under-cooked salmon").

South African wines are improving all the time and many are now world-class. Many of the restaurants are carved out of old Dutch houses, others, in Kalk Bay, for instance, way down the coast on the Indian Ocean side, are in an old train station or on a cliff where the sea-waves dash against the window. In the restaurants, black and white people mingle. The proportions aren't yet quite equal but they're getting there.

All over town, people who used to be kept apart are working together, eating together and getting to know each other. I remember that in my English class at university we had one black classmate (before they were banned entirely) and most of us longed to get to know him. We and he treated each other with exquisite politeness but we couldn't bridge the gap between his experience and ours.

As students we used to go into the townships - Langa was on my beat - to help teach English to grown men who had never had the chance to learn what we had all been taught so painstakingly. It used to make me numb with shame. Today that's history, a tale of times long ago. Cape Town is an infinitely livelier, edgier sort of place.

By Lucia van der Post
Source: www.cazloyd.com

Add your response to Readers’ Corner

A Livelier, Edgier Sort Of Place

Elephants Rampage Chiawa's Area

Rising EU Wheat Demand To Benefit Zambian Exporters

Poor Agro Investment Worries Farmers Union

Zambia To Facilitate Export Of Cassava To Congo

Prof. Mushanga Opens School

Southern Africa: Increasing Resilience To Shocks A Priority

U.N. Body Considers Ways To Get Tough On Illegal Ivory Trade

Farming Is Not Only For Retirees

Jewel Of Africa

Fish Industry Development Bill Coming

Norway, Netherlands Fund Zambia's Agro Sector

(159 articles)

Arts | News Front | Perspectives | People | Business | Metals | Dinar Files | Health | Sports | Environment | Tech Files

Readers' corner | Community | Temple Web | Announcement | Mailing List | Newsletter | Contact Form | Search From

©2004, Zambezi Times

zto news