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Phespirit goes to South Africa
Cape Town     July/August 2001

Placing economy ahead of personal comfort, Phespirit took back-to-back overnight flights from London to Istanbul, Turkey (three and a half hours), Istanbul to Johannesburg (nine and a half hours), Johannesburg to Cape Town (one hour fifty minutes); his body was one giant bloodclot upon arrival.

Once checked into his hotel, unpacked and settled, Phespirit timidly emerged once more into the city. He had been told that Cape Town should be feared as the "crime capital of the world" and loved as the "most beautiful city in the world". Not quite the latter [Phespirit's nomination] but, having avoided being coshed or robbed or even a witness to such things, Phespirit will not damn it either. The place, in fact, is wonderful. Here are some highlights:

  1. The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. Yes, Alfred not Albert (look it up). This is the old harbour made over and chilled out in the name of leisure. It is a home to numerous craft shops, to the splendid Two Oceans Aquarium ("become a solemate today"), to assorted local cabaret turns, and a few good places to eat. Phespirit dined regularly at the praiseworthy Sea Palace Chinese restaurant. Be on guard when eating alfresco, however - Phespirit was highly harassed by hoards of hungry Hartlaub's Gulls while feasting on yellowtail and chips outside the Fisherman's Choice.

  2. Wine. Phespirit, who has long been partial to a glass or two of South African wine, was keen to visit a few Cape Wineland estates and taste the local produce (and why not?). Several pourings were sniffed and downed at Zevenwacht in the Stellenbosch region, Fairview in the Paarl region, and Vergelegen in the Helderberg region. Fairview was probably the most fun, being less formal and having a good Chardonnay 2000, plus some passable Pinotage.

  3. Wildlife. This was not a safari holiday by any stretch of the imagination but it was sufficiently far removed from England to make all the wildlife appear exotic and interesting. The Big Five: a pair of blue cranes at Fisher Haven, east of Kleinmond; cape weavers knitting their nests by the lake at Zevenwacht; black oystercatchers on Robben Island; African penguins at Foxy Beach; and of course, the chacma baboons running riot at Cape Point.

Enjoyment of these things was made all the more possible by particular good fortune with the weather. By all accounts the arrival of Phespirit in Cape Town marked the cessation of three weeks of rainfall, to be replaced by scorching African sun - a nice touch.

Cape Town is a handsome city in an agreeable land. Phespirit's hinterland is not there, and the people who call it home still seem to be edgily coming to terms with their pasts and potential futures, but this is a city that the whole world should keep an eye on. Things will happen in Cape Town.

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