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The Mother City

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Crazy to think that today was our final day in Cape Town. I think it’s safe to say we have both had an incredible time here. So much history and culture, great food and varying architecture, stories to be heard and people to tell them, cute animals and scary ones, and an overflow of sights and sounds. There is no way to see and do it all in such a short period of time, but we made a damn good attempt.

Since we didn’t have anywhere to be until 11:00, we decided to sleep in until 8:00. Knowing we had a busy day of walking ahead of us, we took full advantage of the amazing breakfast before heading out into the balmy 74 degree morning 😎 With time to spare, what better time passer than popping in and out of the shops. And by days end, we had done our part to help out the local economy.

We had some store recommendations from Michel (the hotel owner), and they did not disappoint. We also wanted to check out Greenmarket Square, the big flea market in central Cape Town. That thought lasted about 11.2 minutes when I was already sick of hearing “looking is free...touching is free...I give you good price.” I looked at Brenda and said “I’d rather go to the actual shops and pay more just to quit being bothered.” She said, “good, cause I’m thinking the same thing.” The final conversation that launched us toward the exits was a guy telling Brenda “my brother and I painted all these” when you could clearly see every stall has the exact same “paintings.” Ursula (the other owner) had warned us about knowing what was authentically handmade and what was probably mass produced in China 🤦🏽‍♀️ Bye bye Greenmarket Square. The only thing I want from you are photos of the madness, which we’ll snap later on during one of our tours.


The Cape Town Free Walking tours were ones Brenda had found a few months back. The company does three different tours comprising various areas of the city. We knew for sure we wanted to do the one around our neighborhood, but were still undecided about what other one to do: the historic city or the apartheid to freedom tour. Having already gotten quite a bit of the general history from Ian, we decided to go with the apartheid tour.

Off we went with Gervais and a small group of other tourists to hear what went down during that period from 1948 to April of 1994. In the most basic of terms, it was all about separation and the minority white population systematically segregating and repressing the black and colored populations. There were 5 specific racial categories into which you could be classified. From the age of 16 on, you had to carry around documents (a dompas) listing your classification and various other work related info, or risk being thrown into jail. One of the things they actually did to help classify people was the pencil test: sticking a pencil into someone’s hair to determine how course or fine it was. If your hair was fine enough to not hold the pencil, you may be considered white or coloured, but if the pencil stuck, you were black. Gervais said the tricky part was with people like his sister, who has very light skin but would fail the pencil test every time with her thick, curly hair. Another thing I found interesting was this was purely a race thing and never crossed over into religion. He said the government did not want to offend God (well wasn’t that nice of them 🤦🏽‍♀️).


We went by St. George’s, or the “People’s” Cathedral and heard about Desmond Tutu. He’s the Nobel Peace Prize winning former Archbishop of Cape Town famous for his anti-apartheid work. There was also talk of Nelson Mandela and the 27 years he spent in prison for his anti-apartheid involvement. We passed through District 6 to see today the area where some 60,000 inhabitants were forcibly removed from during the 1970s. In order to ensure they would not try to return, they bulldozed all of their houses. But on a lighter note, we also heard about an amazing little bakery there that makes the best chocolate cakes.


It was quite the interesting and eye opening tour. It’s kinda strange to think that so many people in so many places around the world have gone through such similar experiences. And yet somehow we humans still keep finding ways to muck it up over and over again.

Tour over, it was definitely time to find that cake! So off to Charley’s Bakery to visit the Cake Angels we went. Super chocolate fudgey brownie for Brenda and double chocolate cheesecake for me. If you’re gonna have cake for lunch, you might as well make it worth while 😝😋


More shopping followed, along with a quick stop by the hotel to unload before we were back at the free walking tours. This time around was the Bo-Kaap, the vibrant, little neighborhood of our hotel. Turns out the place is more than just rows of colorful houses, but also the center of Islamic culture in Cape Town.

At one time the Bo-Kaap was 100% Muslim, and inhabited by the slaves that the Dutch had imported from Malaysia. Because they were slaves, they were not allowed to wear clothing of color. So in order to express themselves, they would paint the outsides of their houses. This tradition continues today with some residents painting a particular color to mark a significant event. Like the one house was painted blue in honor of the daughters wedding. Containing 11 mosques in this small neighborhood, it’s also known for its spices and aromatic Cape Malay cuisine.


Our guide for this tour was Matthew, and he also chose to impart some interesting trivia. For instance, roughly 20% of drivers in Cape Town don’t actually have a license. Hmmm....that explains quite a bit. To go along with that fact, there was one year in South Africa where the festive season yielded 1755 deaths in roughly 31 days. So I guess we should consider ourselves lucky for having survived Cape Town traffic. There were quite a few times when we felt like it was a bad game of Frogger trying to figure out just how to get across the busy streets.


Tours done for the day, we enquired to Michel any recommendations he may have for a Cape Malay dinner spot. He called a restaurant, got us a reservation and told us how to Uber there and taxi it back (as it was quite a hike uphill and not exactly the best of places to be walking around at night). So off we went to Bo-Kaap Kombuis for what turned out to be quite the spectacular dinner. First off, we got the best table in the place...the window overlooking Table Mountain. Second, it was buffet night, so we got to try all sorts of different dishes, many of which we had no idea what they were exactly. Third, everyone started with the same plate of 4 appetizers with an apricot chutney. Yeah, these little deep fried pockets of deliciousness may have been my favorite part of the meal. Forth, chocolate cake and ice cream for dessert. And last but not least was getting to watch Cape Town light up as night fell. I don’t think we could’ve choreographed a better ending to our stay if we had tried 😍


So there ya have it, our day through what is commonly referred to as The Mother City (damn how I wish I had stopped for that photo op in the airport night one). Mother, as in the first city of South Africa. Also in reference to it being a metropolis back in the 1930s (“metros”=Mother “polis”=City). Or maybe it’s the tongue in cheek idea that it takes 9-months to get anything done around here. Any way you look at it, I say thanks for being such a wonderful hostess.

Posted by JackiesJourneys 15:44 Archived in South Africa Tagged cape_town apartheid bo_kaap

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I enjoy your writing, the ways you use some words is quite playful and this oomes across.

by katieshevlin62

Thank you very much @katieshevlin62/ I appreciate your comments and I’m glad you’ve enjoyed reading this. I love writing them (and all the travel involved too of course 😉).

by JackiesJourneys

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