Driven by de­sign

At­trac­tions be­yond the Ta­ble Moun­tain beat

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - CHRIS PRITCHARD

WHITEWASHEDW GABLES: Off the menu this visit are Ta­ble Moun­tain’s fa­mous ca­ble car, Robben Is­land (where Nel­son Man­dela was im­pris­oned), vine­yard coun­try near Stel­len­bosch, Paarl and Fran­schhoek, and fenced for­mer farm­land where wild an­i­mals roam af­ter re­lo­ca­tion from tra­di­tional habi­tats. In­stead, a 15-minute drive from Cape Town brings me to Con­stan­tia, the old­est and small­est of 17 South African wine dis­tricts. Its land­scape is stud­ded with splendid Cape Dutch de­sign. Vines were first planted here in 1685 and still-flour­ish­ing Con­stan­tia’s eight pro­duc­ers have cel­lar doors. The area boasts up­scale B&Bs, ho­tels and restau­rants, in­clud­ing Jonker­shuis, ad­join­ing the his­toric Groot Con­stan­tia win­ery, where pan-Euro cui­sine is in­flu­enced by spicy Cape Malay flavours. More: con­stan­ti­aw­iner­oute.com; jonker­shuis­con­stan­tia.co.za.

BRIGHT AND BEAU­TI­FUL: Ar­guably the city’s most colour­ful precinct, Bo Kaap was named the Malay Quar­ter in the apartheid era. Cob­bled streets are lined by gaudily painted houses with gor­geous Ta­ble Moun­tain views. Though called Malays, its early in­hab­i­tants were slaves shipped from Java, In­done­sia, an­other Dutch colony. Of­fi­cial­dom de­creed this Mus­lim sub­group as part of South Africa’s Cape Coloured (mixed-race) mi­nor­ity. Th­ese days, “Malays” still dom­i­nate Bo Kaap but white new­com­ers have pushed up prices. Res­i­dents in­clude ar­chi­tects, graphic de­sign­ers, artists, writ­ers and mu­si­cians. Across the city is District Six. The name has stuck since apartheid rulers forcibly moved out mostly Cape Coloured res­i­dents. Some have trick­led back to this now-trendy precinct where a for­merly derelict build­ing has be­come one of Cape Town’s main the­atres, the Fu­gard (named af­ter play­wright Athol Fu­gard) and the Fu­gard Theatre Bio­scope (an art house cin­ema). From nearby Sig­nal Hill the dull thud of an old can­non marks noon each day. More: capetown.travel.

PEN­GUIN PA­RADE: Boul­ders is named aptly for its gi­gan­tic gran­ite rocks that shield ex­panses of pow­dery white sand. It’s just out­side naval Si­mon’s Town on the way to Cape Point, Africa’s south­east tip. The Si­mon’s Town sub­ur­ban train me­an­ders along the ocean’s edge and in wild weather waves break across the rail­way line. Boul­ders is fa­mous for daily pa­rades of pen­guins wad­dling across a street to their bur­rows. This 3000-strong car­toon-cute com­mu­nity com­prises a small va­ri­ety called African pen­guins, dif­fer­ent from those along Aus­tralia’s coast. More: capetown.travel.

ALMOSTA GER­MANY: Tidy Ge­naden­dal (“val­ley of grace”), South Africa’s first mis­sion set­tle­ment, is a speck of time-warp Ger­many plopped in the veldt. It was es­tab­lished in 1737 by Mo­ra­vian mis­sion­ar­ies whose for­mer homes are now within Czech Re­pub­lic bor­ders. The ar­chi­tec­ture is clas­sic Ger­man, the cen­tral square shaded by an im­pos­ing church famed for its choral singing. Across the square are a mu­seum and South Africa’s old­est op­er­at­ing print­ing press. The 6000-strong over­whelm­ingly Cape Coloured pop­u­la­tion was largely ig­nored as a puz­zling oddity by the apartheid regime; the present gov­ern­ment seems to take a sim­i­lar view. My visit fol­lows a two-hour drive from Cape Town with knowl­edge­able guide Brian Van­da­yar, who runs Jor­van Tours. Longer trips in­clude overnights in the nearby vil­lages of art colony McGre­gor, where for­mer farm work­ers’ white­washed cot­tages have been re­born as up­scale B&Bs; Lord’s Guest Lodge, just out of town, fea­tures de­light­ful ru­ral ac­com­mo­da­tion, while Grey­ton is a hide­away for trans­planted Cape Town creatives. More: jor­van­tours.co.za; touris­mm­c­gre­gor.co.za; lords­guest­lodge.co.za; grey­ton­tourism.com.

GREEN SCENE: Along De Waal Drive, a free­way from down­town to leafy eastern sub­ur­bia, I pass the Bri­tish-built Rhodes Memo­rial (a colo­nial hero or greedy vil­lain, de­pend­ing on your view­point), Groote Schuur Hos­pi­tal where the world’s first heart trans­plants were per­formed by Dr Chris­ti­aan Barnard in 1967, and the sprawl­ing Univer­sity of Cape Town. My des­ti­na­tion, 20 min­utes from down­town, is the 528ha Kirsten­bosch Na­tional Botan­i­cal Gar­den, where dis­plays of lo­cal and for­eign flora line paths to an aerial walk­way above the tree­tops. The gar­den presses against Ta­ble Moun­tain’s rear. Fit visi­tors head up hik­ing and climb­ing routes from Kirsten­bosch to the moun­tain’s sum­mit from where ca­ble cars pro­vide ef­fort­less de­scents. More: sanbi.org.

CITY STARS: Just be­yond the busi­ness district, Cas­tle of Good Hope is a five-pointed fort ddeemed South Africa’s old­est ex­ist­ing colo­nial build­ing. It high­lights Ta­ble Moun­tain views and of­ten hosts art ex­hi­bi­tions and of­fers guided tours. Nearby, I wan­der through a City Hall built of lime­stone im­ported from Bath, Eng­land. From one if its bal­conies, Nel­son Man­dela ad­dressed a cel­e­brat­ing crowd hours af­ter his re­lease in 1990 af­ter 27 years of im­pris­on­ment. The hall is also the main con­cert venue of the Cape Town Phil­har­monic Orches­tra. More: sa-venues.com; cpo.org.za; castle­of­good­hope.co.za,

BEACH­SIDE BEAT: Camps Bay, with its Ta­ble Moun­tain back­drop, is con­sid­ered one of Cape T Town’s best. Not as youth­fully hip as nearby Clifton, where canoodling cou­ples seek pri­vacy be­hind big boul­ders, it at­tracts a ma­ture, mostly mon­eyed crowd and is home to sev­eral of Cape Town’s top restau­rants. Camps Bay is renowned for beach­wear shop­ping and has a good night-life scene, in­clud­ing town­ship jazz at Dizzy’s bar and restau­rant. More: camps­bay­info.com, dizzys.co.za.

DE­SIGN CEN­TRAL: Cape Town beat 56 other con­tenders to be­come World De­sign Cap­i­tal for 2 2014. Aside from a vi­brant fash­ion scene and re­pur­pos­ing of old build­ings, prac­ti­cal in­no­va­tions in­clude im­prov­ing ser­vice de­liv­ery to dirt-poor shanty-dwellers. One pro­gram aims to make shacks less of a fire risk by im­prov­ing blaze-fight­ing ca­pa­bil­ity. The idea is to en­cour­age “re­block­ing”, in­volv­ing the cre­ation of neat rows of shacks on pre­scribed rec­tan­gles along­side road grids, rather than con­tin­u­ing the chaos of un­po­liced bunched- to­gether growth, mean­ing peo­ple die or be­come home­less be­cause fire trucks and am­bu­lances can’t reach them. Crit­ics call the pro­gram well-in­ten­tioned but slow. More: wd­c­capetown2014.com.

WINE AND DINE: Cape Town’s most mem­o­rable din­ing en­com­passes Moyo, just out­side Kirstenb bosch’s en­trance, which spe­cialises in cui­sine from across Africa and of­fers a wide choice of South African wines. Some­times there’s live mu­sic and its shop sells tex­tiles and hand­i­crafts. A quiet, classy al­ter­na­tive is the Round­house, in a 300-year-old struc­ture built to re­pel seaborne in­vaders (who didn’t ar­rive). Over­look­ing Camps Bay, the Round­house menu is clas­si­cally Euro­pean. Lo­cal fish is pop­u­lar as is slow-cooked lamb from the Ka­roo re­gion. The lazi­est op­tion in­volves head­ing to the Vic­to­ria and Al­fred Wa­ter­front, a com­bined work­ing port and tourist precinct where the busiest restau­rants in­clude Bal­ducci (steak­house), Balt­hazar, (wine bar), and The Greek Fish­er­man for seafood. V&A pub lunches are pop­u­lar, as is a food court. More: moyo.co.za; th­er­ound­house­r­estau­rant.com; wa­ter­front.co.za. BOLD MEETS OLD: Bel­mond Mount Nel­son is Cape Town’s most fa­mous ho­tel and its most ex­pen­sive. This grand pile opened in 1899, the first with hot wa­ter, and reigns supreme over a city awash with ac­com­mo­da­tion, many on or near the Vic­to­ria and Al­fred Wa­ter­front. Among the new­est is The Silo (pic­tured) in the up­per lev­els of a re­pur­posed grain store. It’s a mem­ber of the Royal Port­fo­lio, a small chain of op­u­lent lodg­ings. The Silo’s rooftop bar is Cape Town’s hottest spot for pre­dusk drinks and its lower floors are set to open as the Zeitz Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art Africa, host­ing the con­ti­nent’s largest art collection. South Africa’s big­gest chain, Protea Ho­tels (now Mar­riott-owned) has 10 Cape Town prop­er­ties, in­clud­ing the op­u­lent African Pride 15 on Orange and Protea Ho­tel Fire and Ice. More: bel­mond.com; theroy­al­port­fo­lio.com; protea.mar­riott.com.

Chris Pritchard was a guest of South African Air­ways, South African Tourism and Protea Ho­tels.

• southafrica.net • fly­saa.com

Cape Town’s Camps Bay, top; vine­yard in Con­stan­tia; above; Keys Cer­e­mony at the Cas­tle of Good Hope, above right; pen­guins at Boul­ders, below

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