Sunday, March 22, 2009

Cape Town Cameos #1

I just got back from 3 days R&R in Capetown. Believe it or not, this was my first trip alone with a friend (Apart from day trips of course!) Max and I are so in tune when travelling, so I was not sure what to expect from 3 days with a friend whose holidays usually take quite a different form to ours. Max and I have travelled in the past with friends who whip through, notching up experiences like some sort of scoreboard, "ok seen that, move on." It is very frustrating. Luckily Julie and I have similar tastes and interests, and she turns out to be a traveller who also takes time to look around and soak up the vibe and the visual impressions (and is very patient while I go mad taking photos every five minutes!) We are also familiar with quite different parts of Capetown and so we were able to take it in turns to introduce each other to some of our favourite spots, and explore new ones too.

The only appointments we had were a booking at the exceptional Moyo Restaurant, the first night, and Tickets for dinner and theatre on the second. The rest of the time was a fluid "go with the flow" time of exploring new areas, shopping a little, going to lots of galleries, and sitting on sidewalk cafes letting the magic of Capetown flow over us, while street musicians entertained us.

The B&B we stayed in was in De Waterkant on the slopes of Signal Hill, in what has become a very trendy district of restored Cape Malay houses. It is central to the seaboard, waterfront and City centre. The place we stayed in was on the highest street, and like its neighbours, was a 3 story narrow building scrambling up the hillside.
It has a roof deck with 360 degree views of the City, Table Mountain and waterfront.

On the first day we arrived quite early in the morning and went straight to the B&B to settle in and have a quick breakfast at a sidewalk cafe. (I am far from being a fussy eater, but really, the lead-like roll offered on the plane with a nondescript bit of cold meat glued to it with some sort of mayonnaise, and who-knows-how-long-in-the-fridge was guarenteed to cause drama with the digestion, so by the time we landed we were ravenous!)

Then we headed off for Franschhoek in the mountainous winelands to the North East of the city. We soaked up the scenic surroundings on the road into the village, farmlands making the most of the rich soil at the base of soaring mountains.

On the way we stopped at an antique shop with a difference. If you looked at this old warehouse exterior, with old enamel basins and farming gear, would you guess that inside you would find some amazing pieces of elaborately carved French Gothic furniture, and simply amazing crystal chandeliers? It was one of those magical places that holds a surprise around every corner, an ecclectic mix of rugged farmstyle and highly sophisticated, simple and ornate, bargain and priceless, so that a walk around it was a feast for the senses.

I had driven through Franschhoek before, with Max, but we must have been on a bypass route, because we didn't see a fraction of this delightful little village. It has one of the most picturesque main streets you will find anywhere, with historic cottages converted into wonderful galleries, boutiques and restaurants.

After a simply delicious meal at the French Connection, where subtle blends of flavour left one in a comatose state of bliss, we set off to explore the street.

Reluctantly leaving Franschhoek behind us as the sun began to set and the shops closed, we headed across the mountains to Stellenbosch, and the Spier Wine Estate, home of the legendary Moyo Restaurant. This is not a place you go just to eat. It is designed, from the moment you enter, to engage all your senses in an experience of what makes Africa the unique continent it is.

You enter a vast marquee through a shop of African arts and crafts and music cds.
This leads you back out into a wonderful garden, where you are greeted, and have traditional painting done on your face, before you are shown to your table.
This could either be in a series of little Moroccan style tents are dotted in clusters around the garden, or back in the main tent, which also houses the enormous buffet.
This is composed of combined flavours and favourites from the length of Africa, from Morocco in the North, via Kenya, to South Africa.

The genius of Moyo is that it is completely geared to tourists, introducing them to the African Experience, yet it is authentic enough that locals, who would normally avoid places full of tourist tat like the plague, love it too.

African rugs are thrown over the back of each chair, so that as you enjoy your meal in the little open tents, you can bundle up against the night time cold mountain air. There is a passing parade of African musicians, at one point a Xhosa man and his wives arrive to sing accappella and they are followed a while later by drummers and dancers in a nearby clearing. in the tent a jazz guitarist strolls around, and water tumbles from a nearby treehouse fountain, which houses another table on top of the deck, for those who don't mind running the gauntlet of the stairs to fetch more food from the buffet.

Our waiter, innocent, made sure we were well looked after, and a long relaxed evening unfolded.
On the way back to town, we saw that the side of the Mountain was ablaze, in the vicinity of Rhodes Memorial. ................ but that is another story for another day.


Firefly said...

I will start at the top.

I really believe that there are parts of Central and Richmond Hill that has the potential to become PE's De Waterkant. Historic accommodation mixed with great restaurants and coffeeshops, art shops and studios and a lively vibe.

I love your evening and night photos of the city.

Franschoek is awesome. Again I believe there are areas around PE that could develop into our own Franschoek. The one I have in mind in particular is the Gamtoos Valley.

I have been to Spier a couple of times when I was guiding, but I never got to eat at Moyo. I am probably one of the only people who think that it is situated in the wrong place. To me it is just too out of place at Spier. I liked the open space grass area where Moyo s now. It kind of detracts from the historic winefarm atmosphere. But that's just me.

Sheila said...

Suze, this is awesome..!
I want to hop on the first plane and visit..!
I am awed by the variety of architecture, I love interesting buildings, and the character of the streets and towns is great. The Moyo sounds like a must, and having been to Morocco, it whet my appetite to see the rest of that amazing continent.
I feel like I have been on a mini vaction..thanks for sharing the experience.
By the way, love the face painting..