I’ve been visiting Cape Town my whole life. I also went to university there and have spent extended periods of time living in the city.
But before this last trip, I’ve always stayed with family, or in my family’s house in Kenilworth, so for my latest visit, I decided to rent an Airbnb apartment in Gardens/Oranjezicht, to get a different feel for living in the city.
It was a very different experience for me, not using a car, and being within walking/MyCiTi bus distance of the city centre. It took a week to adjust from being in my usual suburban comfort zone (and the pretty intense, but needed, winter weather), but it didn’t take long to see why so many people can’t imagine living anywhere else.
Here are some of the things I did, and reasons why I’ll be back again, probably pretty soon:
CoWorking is Massive
I’m a freelance writer, so it’s always great to know that there are a number of different options when it comes to finding a place to work for the day (besides your desk at home, or a coffee shop where you constantly feel obliged to buy drinks you don’t need).
I spent some time at Work & Co in Bree Street, which was a more expensive option, but definitely worth it for the facilities and the personal attention (especially from the very helpful manager Kurt, who was always talking about people he could introduce me to). I also spent two days at Chips just off of Harrington Street in the East City, which I can definitely recommend for someone in a tech-related industry looking for a more permanent desk, with an epic view.
Health conscious food is massive
I’m not vegan, and I do eat gluten and some dairy, but as someone who is pretty fussy about the quality of what they eat and drink (it’s true), it was great to always have the option of meat-free, dairy-free and gluten-free items on pretty much every menu. I don’t think Joburg is too far behind with these kinds of options, but in and around the city centre in Cape Town it feels like you don’t even have to walk more than a block to find a ginger shot, kombucha or some kind of sugar-free date ball/treat. It’s pretty great.
Some of my favourite places to get my “health” fix were: Nourish’d just of Upper Kloof Street (next to Bacini’s) for maca lattés; Skinny Legs (for the best hot turmeric toddy I’ve ever had in a restaurant); Harvest Café and Deli in Bo-Kaap (for a delicious Sunshine Latté, and my latest crockery purchase) and Wild Sprout on Loop Street (for a super friendly manager, well-stocked date ball jars and a surprisingly delicious chaga mushroom hot chocolate).
There’s a variety of restaurants in close proximity
While staying in Gardens, I could get to a variety of different restaurants within a R20 Uber radius, which was very exciting for me (someone who normally gets very excited about the salmon fish cakes at Tashas). There are awesome restaurants in Gauteng, but just having so much ramen, locally-sourced botanically infused drinks, snoek/spekboom paté and bone broth in one general area was just the right kind of indulgent for me.
Getting around is easy
From Gardens, I literally walked everywhere, but got a huge kick out of taking a MyCiTi Bus down the length of Loop Street in just ten minutes. I’ve been known to take several R100+ Ubers in a week to get to and from places like Maboneng and Saxonwold in Joburg, so being able to get out and get home for around R50 was definitely appreciated from a financial perspective.
Although to be fair, I did make up for the expense drinking double shots of Monkey Shoulder at Hanks.
Cape winters are brutal
Being Pretoria born and bred, and having not experienced a “real” Cape winter for a while, I have to say, it was pretty hardcore.
I’m extremely happy that there is some relief from the ongoing drought, but negotiating wind, rain and cold is just not something I’m built for, and is definitely one of the main reasons I’m glad I’m sitting here by the window at the Social Kitchen in Hyde Park right now, looking out at a clear horizon. I’m sure it’s something you get used to, but for now, I have serious respect for anyone who can get up before 7am and brave a winter storm.
Cape Town is beautiful, but complex
Seeing the sheer massiveness of Table Mountain in front of me every time I walked out of my gate just never got old (I mean, that’s millennia of geological activity that I can’t even begin to get my head around). Even though the rain and cold made me less keen to explore that I usually would be, Cape Town is definitely still (without a doubt) a magnificent place. Especially when you’re standing on top of Table Mountain looking out onto the ocean on a day without any wind.
But it’s also a city, with people. People who are high and scream “fuck you!” really loudly into your face when you tell them, honestly, that you don’t have any cash on you to give them to go to the night shelter for a shower. People who sleep under cardboard boxes under doorways. People who come up to you asking you to buy them nappies because they live with their child on the street (while you’re on your way to do your bi-weekly Woolies shop, probably to buy some more date balls and kombucha).
It’s a reality that I’ve experienced in so many cities, but one that I’m still not sure how to make sense of, or handle any kind of constructive way apart from feeling very guilty and upset (and buying and dishing out quite a few garage pies).
If anyone has any thoughts about this, I’d love to hear them.