How do you know you’re in Cape Town Central?
You’re surrounded by awesome views of Table Mountain and the Ocean. Easy access to world-class vineyards. The streets are pristinely clean and every street corner has at least two security guards upholding Cape Town’s Central City Improvement District (CCID) vision: “To be safe, clean caring and open for business!” That’s right folks, Cape Town is a safe and walkable city.
We were lucky to be able to stay at a friend’s fantastic loft apartment with a view of the harbour, in the heart of the city.
As we set out on our walk to discover Cape Town, we discovered a number of Greenpeace signs. Turns out the Rainbow Warrior was in port and we got to tour the new vessel.
To address the electricity crisis in South Africa, the government plans to partner with Russia, France or China to supply additional nuclear reactors…. Greenpeace is currently travelling to the port cities in S.A. advocating for a national debate on nuclear energy and encouraging alternative sources of energy generation (solar and wind power). We were shocked at the almost total absence of solar panels in Joburg and wind turbines in Cape Town. Missed opportunities indeed!.
The old story of gentrification…
On our first day, we cabbed to Woodstock, the new hipster heaven. The headline of a recent Times article is “No place for poor folks as Woodstock goes trendy”. When District 6 was declared a whites-only neighbourhood, people who refused to be relocated to townships migrated about a kilometre down the road to Woodstock. Now these long-time residents are being economically evicted as property values go up and up and up.
Fully participating in the trend, we went to the Old Biscuit Mill, transformed into yet another foodie market. Also poked around art/craft galleries before heading to the Waterfront.
Nelson and Desmond on the waterfront:
Our plan was to take the ferry to Robben Island, but no such luck as tickets are booked way ahead. So, we visited the museum attached to the ticket office. Interesting history of the island, first as a leper colony, then a British jail before becoming the home of Mandela and many other freedom fighters.
One exhibit was about the notion of the rabbit or hare as a subversive symbol. Various artists exhibited related pieces and we subsequently learned that the artist who sculpted the 30 meter high statue of Nelson Mandela in front of the Pretoria government buildings snuck a small rabbit into his ear. This caused much uproar and is still being debated.
Outside the museum was a wonderful photo exhibit entitled “21 Icons”, the work of one photographer. You would recognize many, like Nadine Gordimer, but our favourite was Desmond:
Hop-on, Hop-off the Red Bus and the local to Simon’s Town
Spent two days on the bus, one in town, one up/down the peninsula. Also took the commuter train going south through small fishing villages. The great thing about the bus and train was the ability to stop and go as we pleased, without arguing about where to turn next. Taking in the sights and beauty of the vast and varied landscapes.
Here are some places we loved:
And back in the CBD:
And on the edge of the city, there are Townships:
Although Cape Town would be the ideal place to retire…there’s just something about Jozi…It’s really hard to put into words and to figure out Johannesburg. There’s a vibe to Jozi…she has been a broken city for so long but things are beginning to turn around for her. The city is still gritty and dirty and crime-ridden, but when you walk her streets and get up close to her, you come face-to-face with her people. They are friendly and warm and resilient. They are innovators and entrepreneurs. These are dynamic individuals who are changing the face of the city. They are the change-makers…people like Josie Adler who saw a way to take back her neighbourhood by engaging the entire community and convincing the city to invest in the infrastructure. There is Jonathan Liebmann, a 30 year old developer who is turning old industrial buildings abutting the CBD into a centre of creativity and commerce in the Maboneng Precinct. Gerald Garner, a writer, photographer, tour guide and entrepreneur responsible for reimagining an old warehouse into an artisan food market and music venue, called The Sheds@1 Fox. He also has documented Joburg’s inner-city regeneration over the past 10 years in his book, Johannesburg: Ten Ahead. On the cultural front there are all those wonderful graffiti artists who animate the streets and who give us beauty while helping us question and remember there is still work to do. Check this out:
Steve Mokwena, a film maker, opened the Afrikan Freedom Station just 2 years ago. It’s an intimate multimedia gallery and music venue in Westdene, just next door to where the original Sophiatown was razed in the 1950’s. This hole-in -the-wall venue hosts some of the best musicians in South Africa and he ensures the venue is accessible to all by charging a mere R80 ($9.00!). These individuals represent the future of Jozi and that’s what makes her special…
And let’s not forget our social housing colleagues here, people from JHC, JOSHCO, and Madulammoho who work to ensure that some of this City is a good place for low and modest income families and individuals to work, live, learn and play. And kudos to the NASHO staff and allies; the ones I met like Malcolm, John, Vanessa, and Alison, as well as many others. And to Barry Pinsky and all the Rooftops staff, interns and technical advisors who have come from Canada for many years to participate in this important work.
I’ve had a wonderful journey here in South Africa on so many levels. I’ve learned much, have more to learn…As I leave today, my heart and my head are full of full of fond memories of this beautiful and complex country…
Love, Debbie xoxo