My Top 5 unexpected Cape Town experiences
by Amiena Hanief-Branton
My top 5 unexpected Cape Town experiences may surprise some of you. Especially when you consider that I have lived here for most of my life. Even so, Cape Town, wondrous thing that she is, is a lady, a Pandora’s box – cheeky and playful and filled to the brim with mystery, mischief and surprises.
- Swimming at Boulders Beach during the Winter months.
I recently had some English friends staying over. Keen to show them just how beautiful and varied my city was we headed for Boulders Beach to view the penguin colony and giggle at their antics. The wind in the parking lot very nearly lifted us off our feet but by the time we set foot on white sands of the deserted balmy beach, it had become a distant memory. A tentative feel of the waters was met with wild shrieks of delight and in less than two minutes we had all shed our winter gear and were gleefully splashing about in the warm clear waters of the little coves, diving like porpoises and doing our best to entice the darting penguins to join in the fun.
- Visiting the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock.
It is Saturday morning and we're heading for the Old Biscuit Mill's Neighbourgoods Market, an organic farmers and fine food market serving up the best locally sourced and seasonal food around. We get there and the place is thronging with folks from all walks of life, chilling on hay bales or astride communal tables munching away on good food and catching up on good company. We dive right in and, to the accompaniment of smooth jazz and lilting swing music, eat our way from one stall to the other savouring snoek pate at one, belgian waffles at another, sip pink champagne, take in dribbles of wild flower honey, feast on curry and swallow oysters .. and all this before noon.
- Buying freshly caught just-out-of-the-net fish in Kalk Bay.
So you’re sitting in Kalkies restaurant lost in the delights of your snoek and chips plate when suddenly word gets out that the fishing boats are returning. Within ten minutes Kalkies is empty and we're all hopping up and down with excitement on the harbour's edge. The sea gulls are in on it too, swooping and screeching above our heads. The boats come chugging in and our excitement reaches fever pitch as ragged fishermen begin tossing their catch at our feet. A hundred, a thousand, a million silvery fish, their long bodies arching through the air, fill the horizon with their cold beauty before gracefully coming to rest on a rapidly growing fish mountain. What a sight. The fishermen begin auctioning off their catch which we, the local fish shops and restaurants rapidly snap up. For an added fee you can have your fish gutted and cleaned by the harbour stall owners. Rush home and into the pan it goes - a pinch of salt, a dash of pepper, a good squeeze of lemon and you're dining like a king!
- Taking a Township Tour to Khayelitsha, the biggest township in Cape Town.
Expect the unexpected. We get there thinking everyone we meet will probably be angry or despondent but instead we're showered with smiles as huge as Africa and as warm as the sun itself. Our guide takes us for a stroll through the shacks, pointing out exciting community projects, vegetable gardens, schools and crèches and introduces us to passer-bys, some of whom invite us into their shacks and its amazing to see how beautifully furnished some of the shacks are. A pop into the community radio station turns us into instant celebrities and we even go on air and get to do a shout out. Khayelitsha's craft market helps alleviate poverty and everything sold is made by the stall owners who make time to chat with us and soon we're sharing funny haggling experiences. At this point we're about to pass out with hunger so we make for Kefu's Jazz Pub and Grill and devour a succulent braai and brilliant marimba session.
- Visiting the new Cape Town Central Library.The last time I entered the library it was still housed at the City Hall. Dark and musty smelling it seemed seeped in the past. Coupled with a dodgy elevator with a reputation for getting stuck and an amazingly narrow staircase that wouldn’t allow more than one library goer to pass at a time, I often struggled to enter its hallowed halls. The new library which is housed in the old Drill Hall, next to the City Hall is by comparison light and large and a world removed from its predecessor. These bright hallowed halls with its flyovers and eclectic mix of artworks draws me like a bee to a flower and I'm not the only one as the library has an average head count of 70000 visitors a month. Beautiful, functional and state of the art, it has something for everyone – plenty of books, dvds and cds to rent out and study areas for students, a big children‘s section offering activities and workshops as well as wifi hotspots and conference rooms.