Saturday, March 28, 2009
On our way up to the cable car I notice that Table Mountain is covered in a fluffy white table cloth today. That’s how Capetonians refer to the mist that rolls over the mountain after coming in from the sea.
It’s still early so anything can happen. The mist can lift once the sun breaks through or it can start raining in an hour. We grab a takeaway coffee at vida e caffé then decide to take our chances anyway. Hm, indeed the camera laden crowd are making it up the mountain this morning.
As the cable car revolves we get to see the fynbos up close but the mist still hides most of the city below. I keep hoping that we will eventually be able to get a clear view.
Yet what happens is even more interesting than the perfect picture of the Cape Peninsula. The mist plays with us as we walk along the pathways on top of the mountain. Now you see Camps Bay. Now you don’t. Ooh there’s the Clifton beaches. Oops now they’re gone.
The sun works hard to cut through the mist and when the City Bowl area eventually becomes visible I notice a dark cloud hanging over the bay. Perhaps it will rain later anyway. We wait a little and… there is Lion’s Head, the FIFA 2010 Soccer Stadium and, just for a few minutes, Robben island and the container ships sitting outside of the harbour.
Ah, I love Cape Town. It always makes me happy. Content with having shown my guests from Saudi Arabia and Ireland that being on top of Table Mountain is one of life’s most unforgettable experiences, we settle for breakfast at Primi Piatti in the V&A Waterfront.
By the time my Frittata Genovese is washed away with another cappuccino it is raining outside. Well then, anybody up for playing with the sharks in the aquarium?
Monday, March 23, 2009
My cousin and her husband have recently bought themselves a boat that is big enough to take a few guests on board. I am sure that they must have suddenly become very popular and that new friends now pop out of the water like seals.
Ha, well I’m lucky enough to be family and on the day that we choose to go out there is no wind in Cape Town. If you know the South Easter in summer, you’ll know what a big difference a quiet day makes. I’m especially happy about this because I easily get sea sick - but of course I also don’t like to miss out.
As soon as we get out onto the water I get my first glimpse of the World Cup Soccer stadium for 2010. This landmark should feel proud of its location. It sits well with a backdrop of Table Mountain and the signature hills that surround it.
In close proximity of where Beckham will bend it next year, a sun fish is soaking up the morning heat, penguins are frolicking in the sea water and seals are sunning themselves. We enjoy the sights over a chicken and onion marmalade sandwich, fresh fruit juice and muffins.
From here Clifton 4th beach looks a lot more down to earth than the trendy spot that it has become. Michelle mentions that Cape Town is one of the most sparsely populated cities in the world and looking in from the outside I don’t see as many houses as there seems to be.
Hopefully the soccer lovers will take the time to discover the unique fauna and flora of the area in between all their crazy antics next year. And make sure that the fresh fish they buy from the markets or award-winning restaurants are not on the endangered list.
One thing is for sure, those who visit Cape Town will not find it easy to leave. Maybe Victoria will finally open a store in this city or at least have a fashion show on a boat within view of the stadium.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
It’s been a while since I had the pleasure of driving along the R44. Forgive me for not being objective about the scenery but not only did the view from here make up for a lot of disappointments during my early twenties but this road also connects the two people who gave me life.
This time I am all excited to show off the heart of the Stellenbosch Winelands to my Arabian love. I decide to take a drive up the Helshoogte Pass to show him the view from Delaire and then stop for scones and jam at the berry farm… but soon we are struggling to see through the smoke. ‘Hell’shoogte indeed. This fire must have been recent as the fynbos is still smouldering.
Since we had just arrived when taking this drive I was oblivious to the veld fires that had caused so much destruction this summer. The local newspapers report evidence that people had deliberately caused some of the veld fires this year so that more firemen will be hired and have a source of income.
Veld fires are generally good for the Cape Floral Kingdom which is the smallest and richest floral kingdom in the world and unique to the Western Cape. However, too many out-of-control fires can cause the loss of age old forests, rare animal species, vines, homes; and in the worst case even lives. This year it seems that the fires were disastrous in all of these aspects.
I feel sorry that this is my guest’s first experience of the Cape. Then again, perhaps it is also a good visible example of how things can go wrong in paradise. As much as this place can take your breath away it can also suffocate you with all its complications. Racial tension, unemployment and crime hangs like a cloud of smoke over my home country.
Back in Stellenbosch we stop at Oom Samie se Winkel (Uncle Samie’s Shop) to browse through the antiques and souvenirs. It’s a good place to get a feel for the history and culture of the area without having to spend hours in museums, bakeries and craft shops.
Next door a Melissa’s breakfast of salmon trout omelettes and toast with homemade jam soothes the disappointment of our first outing and indeed turns a bad start into a great one: “It’s the best breakfast I ever had,” says Mohammed as we continue on our drive.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
If you’re anything like me you need to be surrounded by beautiful things in order to survive. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that my hometown of Cape Town is one of the most visually stunning cities in the world.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist then to figure out that Dubai did not sit well with me when I moved here one and a half years ago. I was but too happy to get out on my many work trips. Recently I changed jobs though and had the chance to move into my own place. The best part was that I got to decorate it from scratch and create my own beautiful space in this aesthetically disappointing city.
Of course it is not easy to maintain what is beautiful about Dubai because there is just so much sand everywhere. What is being done is admirable though: plants are rinsed regularly (yes, really) and dirty cars are not tolerated. No matter how much it takes to remain dust free, cleanliness is kept in its rightful place next to godliness.
Unfortunately, when sand gets blown around a bit it blots out all these efforts in a similar way that smog makes it hard to get a sharp photograph in Beijing. Yesterday’s sand storm (see picture) made me feel really smug inside my new home, in the same way that Londoners were recently taking pleasure in central heating and cosy couches during the snowfall.
It was fun giving the interior designer in me her five minutes of fame. Especially since I found some real bargains at this year’s Dubai Shopping Festival, Ikea and the furniture shops in Sharjah, an Emirate adjacent to Dubai. Once the big things were sorted out, my Mohammed put up the lamps I bought in Vietnam, the painting from Guangzhou and a shelf on which to display my souvenirs from Moscow, Kyoto and Colombo.
To be completely honest, the dust still suffocates me when I walk out the door. Yet coming home to a place that inspires and invigorates me makes up for the sand pit outside. Similarly I will never stop missing my view of Table Mountain but being able to afford a fancy TV is also an experience that I am relishing right now.