Cream’s second last stop in South Africa is a laidback two-night stay in the glorious multicultural hub of Cape Town. Story by Antonino Tati
When I first visited South Africa two years ago, I stayed only a couple of nights in Johannesburg and spent about a week on a boutique game reserve close to the border of Botswana. When recounting my trip to friends back home, almost every one of them exclaimed, “What? No trip to Cape Town?” It seemed that my neglecting to put this bustling city on my itinerary was a major mistake. Indeed, even South Africans will tell you, “You go to Jo’burg to do business; you come to Cape Town to play”.
After Jo’burg, Cape Town is the second most populated city in South Africa. It is also the nation’s provincial and legislative capital, and the largest in land area. The city boasts a spectacular harbour and is surrounded by monumental landmarks such as Table Mountain, the 12 ‘Apostles’ and Lion’s Head, each reminding you that although this city is booming in business and bustling in nightlife, a rawer Africa is never far off.
Located on the shore of Table Bay, Cape Town was originally developed by the Dutch East India Company as a supply station for ships that sailed to Eastern Africa, India, and the Far East. By the mid-seventeeth century, the town began to take shape as the economic and cultural hub of South Africa, just as Johannesburg and its nearby regions were being messed up by the gold rush. Today, with a population of more than 3.5 million, Cape Town is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. And you can spot a cross-pollination of cultures at play in everything from its architecture (the colorful houses that dot the city’s Cape Malay quarter) to its cuisine (traditional and modern fusion at is most adventurous).
Languages spoken are Afrikaans (by about 40% of the people), Xhosa (the original south east African language, 29%), English (28%), and a handful of other African dialects. Astonishingly, 11% of the locals hold no religion, and you can actually sense a devil-may-care attitude when chatting with the average Cape Town socialite. On the social calendar, there’s always plenty to do and the locals pride themselves on keeping abreast with the times, with new buzzwords daily filling front pages and dot.com sites, and the latest gadgets and gizmos being pulled out of Louis Vuitton clutches and Ecko backpacks.
We checked into a hotel that typified all that is chic and postmodernist about Cape Town: the quirkily named Grand Daddy Hotel. How is this for innovation in accommodation? The place has a makeshift trailer park on its roof, with Airstream trailers that have been hauled in from the USA, in which guests can snuggle up in overnight. Each trailer has its own theme and has been designed by prominent local artists. There’s a ‘Ballad Of John & Yoko’ trailer, a ‘Love Of Lace’ trailer, and an ‘Astro Funk’ trailer – just to name a few. The rooftop is also able to be enjoyed by guests wanting a pre-dinner drink or nightcap and on occasion movie nights are hosted up here.
If a more traditional stay is desired, guests can choose from a variety of rooms, ranging from a luxury room to the (ultimate) Sugar Daddy Suite complete with Juliette balconies overlooking Long Street, a spacious open-plan lounge, French linen, music system, and travertine marble bathrooms. And just so you’re not short of amenities, you also get bathrobes, slippers, Wi-Fi, satellite TV, security safe, mini-bar, and remote-controlled air-conditioning. It’s enough to make you want to stay in, really.
Instead, though, we stepped out, to dine at the highly touted Bombay Brasserie in the prestigious Taj Hotel. Housed in the old Reserve Bank building, where black and white minstrels once played violins to locals making cash transactions, the hotel, and this restaurant in particular, are gorgeously maintained. Modelled on its namesake in London, the Bombay Brasserie proffers the finest in Indian specialty dining with each dish providing a symphony of flavours, and laid out so beautifully on your plate that they’re works of art in themselves.
At night, Cape Town glistens with light, and it’s nice to take a drive down to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront where a rainbow of lights reflect in the waters and magnificent Table Mountain stands as a bodyguard-like backdrop.
By day, Cape Town is just as beautiful, and you’ve got be sure to book in a full day trip to the Cape Peninsula. You’ll get to see African Penguins huddling on Boulders Beach, ostriches posing at Cape Point, and – if your shuttle driver is kind enough to take you all the way south – get to touch the tipper-most point of South African terra (you’ll feel like Superman with the base of the earth in the palm of your hands).
It’s easy to see why my friends said Cape Town is an imperative part of any South African itinerary. The city is an amazing mish-mash of glorious colour and a proud multi-culture; it’s people are intelligent and ironic in healthy enough doses; natural landmarks sit comfortably beside man-made structures; and it’s very much all the better elements of South Africa located in one pretty city.
The Grand Daddy Hotel
38 Long Street, Cape Town
Enquiries: +27 (0) 21 424 7247
The Bombay Brasserie, Taj Hotel
Wale Street, Cape Town
Enquiries: +27 (0) 21 426 4759