My funky little blue Citroen was speeding along the N1 from Stellenbosch towards Cape Town and the closer I got the more nervous I became… Where was the mountain?! Passing Century City I could barely see the outline of Devil’s Peak. A smoggy veil was preventing me from appreciating the beauty of one of my favourite mountains as I approached the city centre. I was excited at the thought of staying over in an area I haven’t visited for years. I enjoyed a warm welcome on arrival at Parliament Hotel and immediately the fun and banter with charming GM, Antonio Carpanese, started. I love it when people understand one another’s sense of humour instantly. My travelling companions also joined in and the laughs lasted all the way through the evening and to check-out, after breakfast, the next morning. A wonderful, warm-hearted team of real people! I enjoyed an extremely spacious room with a view of the mountain and was comfortable and very well looked after.
The one night stay was just not enough though… It really was a stroll down memory lane for me. I used to visit Cape Town city centre on a regular basis while my grandmother lived in Tamboerskloof. We would get on our bikes, cycle down to Stellenbosch station, jump on a train and go out to Cape Town for the day. Having lunch with gran in Stuttafords or Garlicks was the highlight. We’d wander around the Golden Acre’s shops and when we had to meet at a certain time, it would be under the tall clock! I don’t know if it is still there? I’ll have to go check it out.
On my city wanderings, I’d go browse the stalls on Green Market Square, walk through the Company Gardens to feed the squirrels, and pop into the cool, peaceful silence of St George’s Cathedral looking up at the beautiful stained glass windows. I always found such peace and calm in that space – in stark contrast to the business of the city right outside the church walls.
Another favourite place I used to visit – also walking distance from where Parliament Hotel is situated – was the Grand Parade and the Castle of Good Hope. My mom always told us stories about Lady Anne Barnard’s adventures and I pictured her walking through the castle grounds with long flowing dresses, fighting against the strong Cape Doctor which would, of course, also have caused havoc in those days! Lady Anne was a Scottish travel writer, artist and socialite who lived in Cape Town for five years from 1797 to 1802. Was she South Africa’s very first adventurous travel blogger ‘influencer’, you think?
The Castle also fascinated me because of the dark dungeon where Adam Tas was imprisoned. You can still go there today. Scary place, but a fascinating history! Well worth a visit.
Another wonderful memory is meeting up with my dad in Cape Sun’s Palm Court for coffee and cheese cake, listening to Mike Perry on the piano. I still have his cd and he’s still playing there after all these years. How cool is that! It is wonderful to remember the people and places associated with some of Cape Town’s bygone years, even though today there is incredible urban renewal and exciting new growth in so many areas.
Being wild about mountains and hiking, we also often ended up doing Platteklip Gorge to the top and taking the cable car down just for fun, or walk from Kirstenbosch up via Skeleton Gorge and down Nursery Ravine. So many routes and stunning scenery, not enough time! I miss that mountain and all our hikes over the years. I got lost in all these memories while walking the streets outside Parliament Hotel, looking up at the mountain, seeing the Woodstock Cave and the Cable Car.
We had some time before we went out to Richard’s Supper Stage and Bistro to see the production of Kaapse Stories (Cape Stories). I strolled around and popped into the Three Cousins, an authentic Italian Trattoria right next door to Parliament Hotel in Barrack Street. I met the most gorgeous Italians you’ve ever set your eyes on! If we weren’t in a rush to get to Kaapse Stories, we would have ended up kuiering (visiting) there all night with the Cousins! Yet another spot I’d have to go visit on my return to the Mother City.
On arrival at Richard’s Supper Stage and Bistro in Sea Point, we received a warm and enthusiastic welcome by our host, Elaine Corbett. We completely overindulged on the huge buffet meal and were treated to a vibrant, authentic Cape Town song-and-dance production, all set in an elegantly decorated and spacious dinner theatre venue. We were served by a team of charming waiters. I had no idea what to expect, but because of the production name, Kaapse Stories, I expected more of a Cape Malay history lesson and less singing and dancing. But the history and stories where cleverly interwoven into well-chosen local classic tunes with the cast members engaging the audience, encouraging all to sing and dance along. Eventually just about everyone ended up on their feet, jiving along to the local rhythms!
I returned to Parliament Hotel feeling refreshed and inspired, but sad that it was only a one-night stay. Almost a one-night stand… a brief fling with a very exciting and sexy city that I need to and want to get to know A LOT better. We’ve lost touch and should reconnect. As my little Citroen headed back out towards the Winelands the next morning, I made a heart-commitment to return soon… To walk the streets, to enjoy the sights, the smells, the sounds… and the beautiful heart of this city that’s recaptured my attention and reignited my affection.
By Marlize Stander