Stirring Up Cape Town’s City Bowl
For the discerning traveller to the Cape who would like to explore Cape Town’s City Bowl, here are a few suggestions. Remember, Cape Town bears two distinct faces, a mask worn by day and a mask worn by night. Whichever one you choose, this article will provide you with a few hints on how, when and where to explore the city bowl, whether by day or by night.
The City Bowl by Day:
Pan African Market
Now that the subject of masks has been broached, the discerning traveller to the Cape may want to experience the full range of African facades. If this is the case, you need go no further than the Pan African Market. Located in a national monument on historic Long Street, one could easily walk to this destination and most rented taxis know exactly where Long Street is situated. Drop by the market on any day of the week and they should be open, although there are certain occasions when they may be closed due to certain religious observances.
Well worth a visit, it literally looks as though the contents of this shop sprang straight out of the pages of “King Solomons Mines”. Although the motifs behind the masks and other goodies have often been lost in time, just looking at them should provide you with enough of an explanation!
Green Market Square
A large cobbled area known as Greenmarket Square can be found in the centre of the city bowl. It is a busy place, a place to barter and haggle, providing a pleasant, corner café atmosphere good for just sitting peacefully and watching the goings on.
There is perhaps no other place where paths cross as they do at this hub of city life. A traveller to the Cape is able to gain an insight into the African culture with only an hour’s observation, as Greenmarket Square provides a varied cultural sampling of the cities folk.
The Cape Town Gardens
This historic parkland in the heart of Cape Town is simply about birds, tea, roses, Koi Fish and history, hopefully mixed with a bit of sunshine.
The best place to start your leisurely walkabout would be just outside the Slave Lodge on the Corner of Adderley and Wale Streets. To avoid disappointing the areas inhabitants, bring peanuts. Oh, and lookout for the Albino Squirrel.
The architecturally and socially unique Bokaap, otherwise known as the Malay Quarter, rests on the slopes of Signal Hill. This quiet niche on the fringe of the City Bowl is a newly proclaimed national monument. With its quaint, cobbled streets and renovated slave quarters it, till this day, houses the original descendants for whom the quarters were built. If you have never heard of a “Roti” ask for one at a Bokaap café, they are delicious.
The City Bowl by Night:
The sunset in Cape town is quite remarkable. With the waning of the daylight hours, the soft hues cast themselves across the clouds welcoming the coming of the night. Cape Town transforms, donning another mask as the city’s landscape begins to twinkle.
The Cable Car Road
A drive along the Cable Car Road is a little daring for some, particularly at this hour, but it is well worth it! It is possible to see from this vantage point why Cape Town’s CBD is known as the City Bowl. As your gaze moves from left to right, Lion’s Head contrasts sharply with the backdrop of a golden sunset, as you pan further to the right; the torso of this giant beast becomes apparent. From the Cable Car Road, you can literally see the complete outline of a resting lion guarding his concrete jungle; a good time to take a snap!
The nightlife in Cape Town comes in many shapes and sizes, here are a few possibilities:
There is warmth and feeling to Mama Africa. This authentic African restaurant, dressed in traditional African décor and serving the continents cultural cuisine, is always a lively place. You can often catch Marimba music and live African bands and the bar is not your average elbow parking lot either; it has been customised in rather a reptilian fashion. But you need to see that for yourself!
Situated at the beginning of the afore-mentioned garden walk, at the same intersection of Adderley and Wale Streets, lies the Crypt. Under St George’s Cathedral, the Crypt, which was built in 1898, is now the haunt of Jazz enthusiasts and the playground of dining room damsels from the Cape Town city bowl.
After being closed for years, the Crypt’s curved arches, leaded window panes and plaques commemorating the dearly departed have been revealed for your eyes to behold. Actually used for choir practice and as a clergy vestry, the Crypt provides big breakfasts, cosy couches and a surprisingly warm atmosphere. Do make a calling!
If you decide to pay Cape Town a visit, remember Cape Town bears two distinct faces; a mask worn by day and a mask worn by night. Whichever one you choose, it is all up to you.