A visit to Cape Town is both an urban experience and an immersion in nature. It’s a unique urban national park – majestic, rugged mountains dominate an urban landscape. Beyond enclaves of moonlit beaches are ancient forests and the unique ‘fynbos’, one of the world’s six floral kingdoms. Well-marked hiking trails are everywhere, offering breathtaking walks as well as more rugged enterprises such as kloofing, which involves the ascent of ancient ravines carved out of a mountain-side by torrential rivers. Vineyards and fruit farms occupy 300 year-old farms on the lower slopes of the mountains.
Cape Town is a Natural Wonder
Few people know just how vast Table Mountain National Park is. In, around and above the city of Cape Town, the reserve encompasses 28 898 hectares (71 378 acres). It runs the length of the mountain range starting at Signal Hill which overlooks downtown Cape Town all the way to Cape Point. That’s 52 kilometers! It incorporates the coastal towns of Fish Hoek, Simon’s Town and Hout Bay. Boulders Beach Penguin Colony, Silver Mine Nature Reserve with its splendid hiking trails, and Cape Point itself are part of the National Park.
Whether it be wildlife on land or sea, mountains, beaches, historical landmarks, world-class art, design and cultural events, this iconic city has an endless amount to offer its visitors. But you can slip away from the tourist thing to find hidden havens and activities which also abound in the city.
Horse Trails, Orchards, Roses and those Views!
One of my very favorite spots in Cape Town is Chart Farm. A farm with stables, this rural setting in a city offers quiet, peace and unique activities. Purchased by the present owners in 1934, the farm is 12 hectares of trails and arable land. My daughter learned to ride here, at the farm’s Constantia View Stables. The Stables offer rides along the many trails on the farms as well as outrides through the Constantia Vineyards, after which you can have a picnic arranged back at the farm. Take a ramble through their orchards and vineyards.
Chart Farm’s primary claim to fame is that it is the only place in the Peninsula where you can pick your own roses. A extensive rose garden is the crown jewel of the arable land that is also used to cultivate grapes, chestnuts, figs, limes and lemons.
“The View’ at Chart Farm serves delectable pastries, tea and scones as well as breakfasts and light lunches. Talk about a view. You can take in huge panoramas of the mountains, old Cape Dutch gabled farm houses amidst acres of vineyards, groves, and valleys that stretch all the way to the sea.
The Farm Stall sells home-baked jams, preserves, baked goods and of course – roses.
Find out more about Chart Farm, The Farm Stall, The View Coffee Shop, Constantia Stables: wwwchartfarm.co.za
Viva la balance
Yoga is hugely popular in Cape Town and you can find any kind of yoga, any kind of setting. If you want, mobile yoga services bring classes to your group’s chosen setting – be it a beach or botanical garden.
It was when I was unemployed for months on end after my arrival in the Mother City that I decided to embrace yoga. I looked for classes in my neck of the woods. Luckily, in Cape Town, a yoga class is never far away. I could walk to about 7 yoga studios from my home. Mostly, they are in the instructor’s home.
Yoga with Meg
I met Meg at a party at a neighbor’s. She had recently opened up a studio at her home, but she had quite a following.
Here are the notes from my journal describing my first visit to Meg’s studio:
“Yesterday, Looshi and I went to Yoga With Meg!!! We had tried to do this a couple of evenings back but there were various complications – studio not quite prepared, Meg not quite expecting us, etc. Relaxation took the form of imbibing one or two vodka + bitter lemon on Meg’s patio. Extremely agreeable it was. Lest this became a habit, we gave ourselves a stern talking-to, arrived promptly at Meg’s 8 a.m. class a few days later, and prepared ourselves for some severe yoga postures.
Meg, it turned out, is the best teacher I have had apart from the yogi who introduced me to this wonderful practice 10 years previously in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
We had a hour of what felt like a moving meditation – these were fantastically simple but very energizing postures which we were guided through. Meg had a knack of reading the energy of the class and taking us through postures and setting up a flow which matches this and leaves us feeling centered, relaxed but ALIVE AND REARING TO GO. It was bliss and the start of regular attendance which set me up for whatever the day had in mind for me.
Check out Meg’s studio in Harfield Village, Cape Town. Meg has also created an all-things-yoga website. You can get information about yoga classes, events and workshops throughout the city. For more information go to: https://www.facebook.com/yogaweb.co.za/
A Slice of Cake and Literary Heaven
A VISIT TO THE BOOK LOUNGE
When I discovered the The Book Lounge, I found a little piece of literary heaven at the tip of Africa. I had accompanied my friend Louise to the Department of Labor in downtown Cape Town. She was signing onto unemployment benefits. Bureaucratic inefficiency and inertia in South Africa had grown dramatically and citizens not longer expected anything to actually work. Surprisingly, this was a positive experience. Yes, there were lines, but we were all given seats and we moved quickly. Someone was tasked with checking that all comers had their paperwork in order, and the gentleman did this is a calm and kind manner. At the next and final stage, the official noticed a mistake on the paperwork, and instead of saying “No good, get it corrected and come back” like you would expect any normal civil servant to do, he called Louise’s employers and told them to fax the correct paperwork within 5 minutes. All this was done and Louise was so moved by this unerring display of human decency, broke down in tears as she thanked the official, whose name was Yanga.
In a euphoric state and time to spare, L and I decided to investigate the legendary Book Lounge in Roeland Street, a few blocks from the unemployment offices. Next door to the bookshop was a quaint patisserie. We picked up 2 slices of divine red velvet cake with some decadent frosting before heading for coffee in a lounge surrounded by shelves and shelves of books, browsing for hours. That’s the thing about bookstores run by literary lovers
What sets The Book Lounge apart from the chain bookstores is their support of local authors, emerging African writers and South African publishers. They host the majority of book launches that happen in Cape Town. The venue hosts book signings, readings, launches, lectures at least three times a week and Saturday mornings is for young children to come and listen to stories and share their latest book finds.
The Book Lounge and the Fugard Theatre co-host the annual Open Book Festival. It’s a 5-day long literary festival focused on African literature featuring over 150 literary events which includes about 100 authors mostly from the African continent. The hub of the festival events is The Book Lounge and The Fugard Theater.
For book lovers and those interested in Africa’s dynamic literary scene, The Book Lounge is a must.
71 Roeland Street
Cape Town 8001
021 462 2425
Open Weekdays 9am-7:30pm; Sat 9am-6pm; Sun 10am-4pm Website:http://www.booklounge.co.za