Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Cape Town III

My third day in Cape Town, Brigid met me at my house in the morning and we walked to the art school campus and had coffee and muffins together at a cafe.  Then Brigid had to go to class and I was on my own. I didn't want to do anything ambitious and planned to familiarize myself with the geography and to buy gifts for Jon and the kids at home.

I wandered down Long St and spent the morning happily pottering around in antiques shops.  There are tons of antiques in Cape Town!  Nautical stuff and jewelry and an abundance of cut glass liquor decanters.  If I'd known, I'd have brought an empty suitcase and would now be enjoying a home bar like something in a BBC movie.  I bought an old copy (1930's) of Mrs. Beaton's because I love vintage cookbooks, and also a cookbook full of recipes from the Western Cape for Seamus.

One incident that morning:  Many of the shops require that you be buzzed in.  A group of women were very loud about asking to be buzzed into one of the antique shops.  Their accents and behavior were American and I entered the shop with them.  The shopkeeper said something like, "Before I make any assumptions, I'll ask you where you are from."  (Implying that he thought they were Americans, but didn't want to offend them by accusing them of being Americans when they weren't.)  The ladies were Canadian and they seemed quite pleased with themselves for not being Americans.

Can I just say that I'm tired of the stereotype of Americans as the boors of the world?  I know I accused myself in an earlier post of being a big, fat, stupid, electricity-hogging American, and when I tell you about my trip home, you'll see that I had reason to blush for my countrymen,  but the rudest tourist I've ever seen was British, having a big, screaming tantrum in a restaurant in Rome because he didn't want pasta, he wanted fish.  I was a few steps behind the group of Canadians all through the antique shops and I wouldn't say they were rude, but they were definitely obnoxious.  Now, it would be outrageous to suggest that all Canadians are obnoxious, just because these ladies were, so why is it acceptable to do the same to Americans?  (And it is often Americans who indulge in deriding their fellow Americans.)

Long St.

Anyway, after Long St., I walked down to Greenmarket Square, an open-air market.  I've had terrible luck with open air markets in the past.  In Lisbon, we once walked an interminable distance to a flea market that was supposedly a local secret, only to find vendors selling beat up old landlines and scratched CDs.  In Rome, Brigid and I got up early on a Sunday and walked to the much-touted porta portese flea market and found an endless street of stuff that could easily be found in any Wal-mart.

So I had low expectations for Greenmarket Square, but it turned out to be a lot of fun.  The sun was shining, the market was lively, and if the same carvings and objects could be found in any of the African markets in Cape Town, they were interesting and colorful. (One souvenir you see everywhere in Cape Town is the ostrich egg.  Almost every shop has a basket full.  They cost about $8.  I didn't buy one.)

Greenmarket Square

After a stop at my little house for a potty break, I took a walk through Bo-Kaap, the neighborhood I stayed in and then walked to De Waterkant, which is adjacent to Bo-Kaap.  In De Waterkant, I wandered through a number of upscale shops and more antique shops as well.  When I caught myself nearly buying a burlap clothespins bag labeled PEGS, I had to take a moment and get a grip.  This was at a store called Nap, which would be HUGELY popular in the US.  Then I found SPAR, a fancy grocery store.  (Like a small-scale Wegmans.)  I love exploring grocery stores in foreign countries! They had a busy deli, but I didn't see a seating area.  I'm guessing the people who were buying lunch there were carrying it back to their offices.  Eventually I ate a late lunch at the Cafe Manhattan on Waterkant St.

Corner of Wale & Rose St, about 1 block from my house

A street in Bo-Kaap, with Table Mountain in the distance

Brigid and I met for dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant.  We ordered a tapas combo and it comes on a giant pancake made from rice flour.  There is no cutlery, but you get a basket of rice pancake, which you use to scoop up your food.  (They come to your table and pour warm water over your hands before serving.)  We finished with Ethiopian coffee, which is served with popcorn.
Ethiopian coffee


  1. I've had those Ethiopian rice pancakes and for the life of me, I cannot remember the name. But they are fabulous. We briefly had a next door neighbor who was Ethiopian that shared some wonderful food with us.
    My favorite South African souvenir (from my mother's trip there many moons ago) are some batiked cards. I have them framed and they hang in my living room. Glad you found a good open air market.

  2. I am absolutely loving this adventure. My in-laws were in South Africa more than a decade ago and it still ranks as one of their favorite trips of all.

  3. Such a great trip you are having. I am not sure that popcorn and coffee go together well though.