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Old October 15th, 2008, 12:46 PM
AR AR is offline
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Default The South Africa Chronicles, Part 3

Here's the third installment. Parts 1 and 2 are down the list somewhere, and there are two personal photo galleries with lots more pictures: "ARs Cape Town South Africa 2008" and "ARs Africa Game Park 2008"

Monday, September 22

Tyrena went to work on a beautiful Monday morning, and we headed back to the waterfront to decide how to spend the day. Table Mountain was completely clear, and we’d been told that when there’s a clear day on the mountain, waste no time visiting the top. That’s because on many otherwise pleasant days, clear weather clouds hang over the top of the mountain and obstruct the view. The locals call these clouds "the tablecloth."

We hopped aboard the double-deck sightseeing bus for the complete city tour. At the Table Mountain cable car station we bought our tickets for the three-minute ride to the top of the table, and obviously the best views of the area–especially today.

The cable cars are like the ones in Palm Springs: they revolve during the trip so you get multiple vantage points as you ride. I say, have you any Grey Poupon?

The station at the top is at about 3,000 feet, so as we walked the pretty footpaths I tooks tons of pictures. It was easy to spot the many landmarks we’d already seen and visited, including our digs at the waterfront. We could also see the half-completed soccer stadium being built for the 2010 World Cup, a somewhat sore subject among the locals.

The island in the harbor is Robben Island, home of the infamous prison where Nelson Mandela was held for all those years.

We stayed up there for a couple hours, had a sandwich on the terrace of the cafeteria, and really enjoyed being up there. Then it was back down and aboard the bus again, going by the lovely Cape Town beaches before returning to Victoria Harbor.

Tuesday, September 23

From the prettiest day to the ugliest. Cold, rainy and windy in the morning. A good day to relax and appreciate the benefits of a longer visit: there’s no need to push the agenda on a bad day–still plenty of time to see and do. When things cleared a bit in early afternoon, Terry made up a short shopping list and I ran across the waterfront to the supermarket to grab the makings for dinner.

Wednesday, September 24

Today is a national holiday, and Tyrena told us that in addition to today, she’d be taking vacation through next Tuesday so we can visit more places and see more people and things. What a generous thing to do.

Weather is still not terrific, but Tyrena called her friend Mike who owns yet another of the premiere wineries in Stellenbosch. He wasn’t available to host us personally, but he offered his assistant to preside over yet another wine tasting. Even with marginal weather, this tasting at the Warwick wine estate was delightful and warming, and we can certainly say that this country’s reputation for excellent wine is well deserved.

A late lunch of comfort food followed, then on to the picturesque town of Franschhoek as the weather started to clear. A stop at the renowned chocolate factory was a must, at least for Terry and Tyrena.

Another fun and informal fish house for dinner, the Ocean Basket, near the apartment. Tyrena mentioned that the next evening the US Ambassador to South Africa would be throwing a reception to welcome the new Consul General, and that we were invited. In addition, she had arranged to take us to lunch at her club, The Cape Town Club. I was glad I’d thrown a tie into the suitcase.

Thursday, September 25

The Cape Town Club is still firmly entrenched in the heyday of the Commonwealth, an 1850 vintage building behind the Mount Nelson Hotel, with all the Victorian trappings still very much in evidence. It could well be the model for Mycroft Holmes’s beloved Diogenes Club, or just about any other British men’s club you’ve ever seen in person or on screen. I say "men’s club" in a historical sense only, since the admission of Tyrena, a black woman, obviously represents progress on that front.

We had drinks in the members’ bar upstairs, then lunch in the dining room. I felt that the atmosphere dictated my menu choice: lamb curry, and it was excellent.

Later, Tyrena drove us to the Ambassador’s residence near the famed Kirstenbosch gardens just outside town. There we met Ambassador Eric Bost, the new Consul General, Alberta Mayberry, and what I reckon was a fair part of Cape Town’s diplomatic community, along with a number of movers and shakers from business, religion and the arts. The Ambassador’s family happened to also be visiting from the states, so we got to compare our tourist notes. Anne was there, as were John and Yoli. Everyone was talking politics, since the new (and surprise) president of South Africa had just been sworn in. But the political talk wasn’t limited to South Africa. There is intense and informed interest in our election as well.

We were also introduced to "Auntie Pat," a sharp, bright-eyed elderly black lady with an assured demeanor and inquisitive nature. How long would we be in town? How long had we known Tyrena? What sights had we seen? Tyrena had mentioned Auntie Pat before, but she’d mentioned lots of people, and frankly it was becoming hard to keep everything and everyone straight. In any event, our conversation with Auntie Pat was cordial and fun. Apparently, it was not to be our last.

Friday, September 26

Tyrena suggested that Saturday’s program should include a visit to the gardens at Kirstenbosch, but she said we’d have to wait until about 11 or so to set out. "The Ambassador told me last night at the party that he’s bringing the family to the Funky Monkey to shop tomorrow," she said. "So I told them to stop by for breakfast. They’ll be here at 9:00." She also told us that Auntie Pat had approved of us, and that we would be going to her home for dinner on our last night in town, next Thursday. "The new Consul General is coming too," said Tyrena. "And probably some others. Who knows, maybe Tutu or Mandela will show up." Note to self: do some research on Auntie Pat. And maybe pick up another tie.

Meanwhile, part of the Friday agenda involved Tyrena and Terry planning the breakfast menu. It also turned out to be that inevitable day when the ladies would shop. I did my usual long walk, then watched the world’s economy unravel on TV.

Ever since we arrived, Tyrena had been raving about one of her favorite restaurants, Salt, in the Ambassador Hotel on the beach. She’d managed to get reservations ("you can’t touch the place in season," she told us), and we set off for yet another great dinner. This is getting ridiculous. Tyrena has compiled a 26 page list of restaurant recommendations which she shares with anyone who asks–and a lot of people do. We will not starve.

Saturday, September 27

Ambassador Eric Bost and his family arrived at 9 in the morning, and we all sat down to a great breakfast that had been put together the night before by Tyrena and Terry. The centerpiece was a breakfast casserole that Terry sometimes makes at home. Her photographic memory for recipes didn’t fail her, and combined with a fresh fruit bowl, some great South African croissants, juice and coffee, nobody left the table hungry. Along with good food was good conversation with the Ambassador and his very friendly family visiting from the States. Afterward, we all went out on the balconies to enjoy the lovely weather and the great views of Cape Town.

Afterward, Terry, Tyrena and I headed for Cape Town’s prized public gardens at Kirstenbosch. A long walk through the beautiful spring displays and a fine lunch at the restaurant there made for a refreshing afternoon.

Keep watching for the next and final installment, when Auntie Pat's true identity is revealed!
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Old October 16th, 2008, 02:17 AM
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You've got me on tenterhooks, AR! Can't wait for the rest of the story!
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