Wednesday, June 27

Cape Town Canters

Sitting on my couch in the luxurious Table Bay Hotel looking at the sailboats and sloops cruising on the azure waters of the South Atlantic Ocean, my mind drifts to the bay leading on to Robben Island Prison, where Nelson Mandela spent 27 years of his life. Being at the crossroad with history and natural wonders laying their own paths to pursue, I choose the former and take a time machine ride to the history of Cape Town, especially the Waterfront.

From a small refreshment jetty built in the 17th century to facilitate the Dutch East India Company’s quest for exotic goods to the construction of the breakwater for Cape Town’s first harbour, to the present day eclectic and vibrant atmosphere created by international cuisine, entertainment and shopping venues; the Waterfront has seen it all. So being a guest right at a stone’s throw from the Waterfront, in a property that was opened by Mr Mandela himself has all reasons to make me feel privileged.

The Table Bay Hotel at the Waterfront
Earlier in the day, I had my first touchdown in Africa at the relaxed O.R Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Coming from the sultry tropics of the Northern Hemisphere, the nippy air in the morning took me by a surprise but before I could make any judgements on the speedy financial capital of South Africa, I was on my way to the Mother City in no time.
After a comfortable 20-minute drive from the airport to the hotel, a special welcome greeted me on my way into the lobby through a glass walkway, which pierces the stone breakwater wall that was inaugurated by Queen Victoria’s son Prince Alfred in 1869. This was followed by an African High Tea session in the lofty lounge overlooking the gorgeous Table Mountain and the harbour. The session had an interesting pairing of the South African Rooibos tea and delectable desserts to match the flavours. It was a delight to indulge my senses into the aromas of the different teas that were complimented by the tarts, the panna cottas and the brownies.” I love experimenting with new flavours and try to be creative while making novel pastries; I preferred loose leaf teas to create a differentiating factor in the high tea experience of our guests” said Anita Van Tonder, the pastry chef at the hotel who paired up with Mingwei Tsai, a tea connoisseur and local merchant of loose leaf teas. Within the hour of sinful binging on the sweets, Mingwei shared a lot of insights into the history of tea cultivation and culture in South Africa and at the end he had unknowingly gifted me my first souvenir from the trip, his unique business card, a tea bag!

“Pretty, sporty, fun-loving, modern and laid-back, that is how Cape Town’s dating profile would look had she been a lady” says Hanny, my pilot and guide on a late afternoon drive, in and around the city. As we cruise towards the base station of Table Mountain Cable Way, I gape at the picturesque panoramas at every turn and wonder if I have ever seen such a breathtakingly beautiful city, even in photographs. Cape Town, undoubtedly is one of the world’s most stunning cities, in terms of natural beauty. Starting from the iconic chunk of rock right at the centre with its tablecloth like cloud cover to the scenic bays and soft sand beaches, she has all the good looks to make you fall in love with her, at the first sight.

In the next hour, we drive through the Bo-Kaap, a multicultural locality in central Cape Town, tucked safely into the fold of Signal Hill, also known as the Cape Malay Quarter. It boasts of cobble-stoned streets and colourful houses from the nineteenth century, brimming with Islamic architecture; a real feast for my camera. While I am busy clicking, Hanny tells me about a surprise she has in store for me. Next moment we are off to her favourite pub in Kloof Street and boy-o-boy, what do I see? People are busy watching the Indian Premier League (IPL) and it’s the team from my city, the Knight Riders that is playing tonight with a host of supporters rooting for them all the way from South Africa. Transcending the geographical and political boundaries, Cricket is the winner today, all hands down.

At the Cape Malay Quarter
 After an uneventful drive back to the hotel, I get ready for an elegant dining experience at the Conservatory overlooking the tall ships parked for the night at the harbour. With Kalahari Springbok on my plate and a Cape Wine complementing it, I am all set to end my first day in Africa on a high note. As I walk back to my room, the thought about checking the next day’s sunrise timings crosses my mind. I got to sneak a few shots here and there well before the warm African sun beats down on me.


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