High or dry, Cape Town is still the place to be

2018-06-03 00:00 - Clarissa Brown
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A lovely view of Cape Town (Photo: supplied)

It was surprising to find Cape Town looking green when I visited in mid-April. Some locals reminded me that the “tablecloth” of soft cloud that often covers Table Mountain contains moisture and provides some respite from the severe Western Cape drought. Just as the enterprising, determined city provided a wonderful respite from routine.

The welcoming chic comfort of the Southern Sun Waterfront hotel is a pleasure. My favourite experience there was the tasting menu for dinner at Yizani restaurant. This culinary adventure can be arranged for small groups. We were treated to six delectable courses, each accompanied by an auction wine from the Cape Winemakers’ Guild. Being a bit of a peasant in the appreciation of the nectar of the gods, I was happily distracted by Tsogo Sun regional sommelier Georgio Meletiou’s passion for and knowledge of his field – listening to him was an entertainment in itself. Having sated our appetites, we retired to our gorgeous rooms.

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Just next door, the hotel group’s flagship in the Western Cape, Southern Sun The Cullinan, has a suitably majestic feel, but offers an equally warm welcome. Here we dined deliciously in the Roman grandeur of the collonaded pool area, accompanied by delightful music from Mike Perry and his piano. What with this, an earlier massage within the décor of delicate filigree patterns at the in-house Mangwanani Boutique Spa and my luxurious suite, I slept dreamlessly.

Both hotels are close to the V&A Waterfront and have splendid views of the sea or mountains.

Water wise

Down in the basement of the nearby Westin hotel, mountain and sea water that used to have to be pumped out to sea is now being filtered to make it drinkable. This is a collaboration to supply the three hotels, taking a substantial strain off the city’s water supply system. At other hotels, boreholes have been installed. Tsogo Sun, which has more than 100 hotels and 13 casino and entertainment destinations in South Africa, Africa and the Seychelles, is determined to keep flourishing in the face of the drought.

SEE: #WaterScarcity: Best water-wise places to stay across SA

Living in Joburg means I haven’t had to deal with such stringent water restrictions as Capetonians have, but I found it wasn’t so difficult to adjust – you only have to change your point of view. Washing yourself becomes a brief, practical activity rather than an indulgent one, and the city offers plenty of alternatives for relaxation and enjoyment. Housekeeping presents its own challenges but the managers and chefs of these hotels have applied themselves to innovative water saving, including recipes that require less water, removing table linen, introducing good-quality paper serviettes and reducing linen changes in the rooms. And guests are happy to cooperate.

Make it to the Mocaa

When you go to Cape Town, visit the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Mocaa) – the architecture and art are captivating, encapsulating. All around are wondrous visuals that compel one not only to look, but to feel. Don’t let the suspension and resignation of executive director Mark Coetzee prevent you from appreciating the works of the many worthy artists in this special space.

WATCH: First look at unique new Zeits art museum in Cape Town

It starts, of course, with Zeitz architect Thomas Heatherwick’s soaring atrium and the tremendous flying dragon of South African artist Nicholas Hlobo. 

Just a few of the exhibits are Nigerian-based sculptor El Anatsui’s wall hanging, made of pieces of compressed whisky bottle tops linked together, the colours making a map-like pattern and evoking “the currency of drink”; Kenyan artist Cyrus Kabiru’s fascinating variations of eyewear, which are intricate metal constructions inspired by aspects of his world; and Nigerian artist Taiye Idahor’s beaded busts, the wearers wistfully absent. Sakhisizwe Gcina, assistant curator of special projects, has a great familiarity and empathy with the works, making him a brilliant guide.

What better way to end an afternoon of art than at 14 Stories Rooftop Bar at SunSquare, one of Tsogo Sun’s select-service hotels. Those cocktails, snacks and sunset views!

Whizzing about

A totally cool thing to do in the Mother City is to don a proffered leather jacket, helmet and goggles and go cruising in a vintage sidecar, taking in magnificent coastal sights while in the care of a trusty biker from Cape Sidecar Adventures. Some bikes take three passengers: a double sidecar and one pillion.

Sometimes that cloth of cloud lies over the city rather than the mountain. We looked down on it from our drive along Signal Hill early one morning. It was food for the soul. We were on our way to a Scootours activity. If you have a penchant for whizzing down a mountainside on a scooter, this is for you. Follow with a glorious setting and lunch at Simon’s Restaurant at Groot Constantia – the salmon was perfect.

SEE: #LoveSA: Escape winter with these 15 events across Western Cape

Tourism is an important part of Cape Town’s economy, providing around 300 000 jobs, and billions of rands annually, but using only 2.4% of its daily water consumption. Don’t stay away thinking you’ll be saving the city’s water – visit and use water sparingly. The splendour of the mountains and the Atlantic Ocean will beguile you.

Brown was a guest of Tsogo Sun.

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