• Kim Rabe

Cape Town art and wine walk

Cape Town is one of the most beautiful and exciting cities in the world set at the foot of the aptly named Table Mountain. A walk through the city will open your eyes to the eclectic cultural make up and varied history of the Cape and give the visitor an insider’s view of daily life. As the oldest city in South Africa you will find many historical treasures juxtaposed between art galleries, markets and designer boutiques, hipster bars and many of the top eateries.

Here is a walking tour calling at many of my favorite places in the city…

Morning tea at the Belmont Mount Nelson

The very grand Mount Nelson Hotel, is a Cape Town icon and worth a visit if only to be transported to a bygone era. Opened in 1899, “Nellie” as she has been affectionately named was and still is today a haven for the rich and famous. Former guests include Winston Churchill, Rudyard Kipling, Oprah Winfrey and Tiger Woods, to drop but a few names.

The historic hotel is well known for its decadent afternoon teas which can be enjoyed in the colonial style lounge, conservatory or beautiful gardens. I like to start my day off with a smaller version of the afternoon tea, called the morning tea, which offers a delicious selection of finger sandwiches, pastries and cakes paired with a choice of six teas or a glass of bubbly if you prefer.

Head out the Main gates towards the Company’s Garden. The gardens were established by the Dutch East India Company in 1652, to grow fresh produce with which to supply their fleet of ships heading East .Today these gardens are purely ornamental but ever popular with locals and tourists who stroll leisurely through them, stopping to feed the large squirrel population. Walking through the gardens you will pass many historical landmarks, including the Houses of Parliament, the National Art gallery, the Slave Lodge and the SA Museum.

San Art exhibition at the SA Museum

One of my favorite exhibitions is that of the San people of Southern Africa at the SA Museum. The San are the true inheritors of South Africa, having lived here long before any of the other African tribes migrated south or before the first European explorers touched African soil.

The San are not only relevant to Southern Africa, these extraordinary people hold the oldest gene type of any modern human dating back over 80 000 years. All other people on this planet have been linked to this original gene type and are therefore descendants of the San.

The San have an incredible oral tradition of passing down stories and were prolific artists, leaving nearly 20 000 known rock art sites across the country. Sadly their traditional way of life has slowly been eroded over time and exhibitions like this one are important in learning more about these people and preserving what we know about their culture.

From the gallery walk straight, you will pass the Delville Wood war memorial, the VOC herb garden, the statue of Cecil John Rhodes and the oldest cultivated pear tree said to have been planted by the Dutch settlers. Turn right and head towards the Houses of Parliament and continue down Government Avenue to the exit of the gardens and cross Wale Street.

A glass of bubbly at The Taj hotel's Twankey Bar

The Twankey Bar is located at the corner of Wale and Adderley Streets, this forms part of the site of the original hospital established by the Dutch East India Company. A commemorative plaque dates the hospital from 1697-1782. The hospital was demolished and some years later the property was used to build the Temple Chambers for the Board of Executors (1896) and the Reserve Bank (1932). When these buildings were later converted into the Taj Hotel, every effort was made to maintain its heritage and today both the exterior facades and many of the interior pieces have been beautifully restored.

Above the door to the Twankey Bar is a sculpture of a shepherdess, commissioned in 1894 by the Board of Executor’s architect. The sculpture was not received well by the townsfolk of the time who felt the subject matter was both ridiculous and a waste of money. The shepherdess was thus nicknamed “Widow Twankey “after the pantomime dame.

The Twankey Bar is well known for serving delicious bubbles, wines and craft beers even coffee from the cities top roasteries . They have great mid-week specials on drinks and snacks.

From the Twankey Bar head further up Wale Street and turn right at St George’s Mall.

St George’s Mall

St George’s Mall is a buzz of activity; coffee shops and deli’s line the bottom floors of the buildings and hawkers selling paintings, clothing and curios take up the middle road. On Thursdays this stretch is taken over by the Earth Fair Market, selling all manner of healthy goodies and delicious treats.

There is also a really interesting artifact on display; a piece of the Berlin wall that was given to Nelson Mandela after he visited Germany in the 1996. This piece of history is under the custodianship of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation and was put in a public space to share with all South Africans.

From St George’s mall turn left into Church Street

Church Street and her art galleries

There are several contemporary art galleries on both sides of Church Street especially between Long and Burg Street which is pedestrian only. This part of the street also becomes the Church Street antiques alley and on the first Thursday of every month these galleries stay open in the evening, many of them also serving refreshments.

Turn right at Long Street and right again at Longmarket Street, which will lead you to Greenmarket square.

Green Market Square

The cobble-stoned square was originally used as a vegetable market for farmers to sell produce to the town’s people and a place where workmen, porters, horses and carts could be hired. Nowadays it is a busy craft market selling African art, craft, jewellery and curios and is an interesting place to stop for a coffee and people watch.

What I like most about the square is the architecture of the buildings that surround it; many are art deco in style and were built after the art deco exhibition of Paris in 1925. Also of interest is the Central Methodist Mission, a gothic style Victorian church built from 1876-1879 and the Old Town House which today houses the Michealis art collection of Dutch and Flemish masterpieces.

Now head up Shortmarket Street towards Bree Street

Shortmarket Street

There are a few fun places to visit on this short stretch of road, for a refreshment try the House of machines, a trendy biker-come-hipster bar and offers a great selection of South African craft beers, cocktails, whiskeys and wines.

Across from House of Machines is the State Of The Art Gallery and as you continue to the corner with Bree Street you will find the luxury African store called Avoova. Beautiful handcrafted décor and jewellery pieces are created with an ostrich shell veneer, all handmade by a community in the Karoo.

Cross over Bree Street to the Heritage Square

Heritage Square

Heritage square is a small block of Dutch and Georgian style buildings, built in 1771. It was originally used as a commercial center for blacksmiths, bakers, gunsmiths, carriage builders and to store things like grain and tobacco.

What you will find there today is several top restaurants including the Chef's Warehouse and two urban wineries: Signal Hill and Dorrance Cellar, where I would recommend you pop in for a wine tasting. Also of note in the courtyard is the oldest fruit bearing vine in the southern hemisphere. The urban wineries have taken over custodianship of the vine and every year small quantities of Cape Riesling (crouchon blanc) are made and sold for charity.

We end the tour here.

This part of Bree Street has several very good bars and restaurants in the vicinity and is also busy and safe to visit at night.

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