It just so happens that for many reasons, I have been feeling terribly homesick lately. Homesick? What for? I am back from Brittany and I am quite happy to travel back and forth between Paris and Brussels. So what’s going on?
One year ago almost to the day, Swee’Pea and I flew to South Africa. We landed in Cape Town on the 19th of October around 10 a.m. in the morning. After a twelve hours flight, direct from Paris.
We had booked two rooms at the Belmont Mount Nelson Hotel. “A very secure place,” Swee’Pea had said since our initial plans were to split upon arrival. I’d stay at the hotel for a few days while he’d go back to his apartment. The reason was evident. He had lent it to several friends while he was in France and he had not been there since the end of May so he had no idea whether or not it’d be fit for me. All right, I tend to be finicky!
And then we changed plans. Both of us would be staying at the hotel for as long as it would take to get the apartment ready. And we decided to spend at least a couple of days there just enjoying Cape Town without worrying about clean sheets, food and stuff like that.
Actually I have no idea how long it took us to get back to the apartment and settle there. Probably from 4 to 5 days. We went to the apartment almost right away though because we needed to get the car. The Discovery was very sweet and started up first time. After so many months in its garage, this was a real miracle. Old car but nice nature.
But let’s go back to our check-in in the hotel. We had been upgraded. So nice. They walked us to my suite - ladies first and wow, this is what I saw from my bedroom balcony!
I don’t know what I had expected. I had read books and watched documentaries. But there it was. Powerful. Monumental. Majestic. Hieratic. Of course this was where the God Tsui used to live before the Portuguese arrived.
Speaking about tired, my first foray into Cape Town started like this… before we had lunch.
“Let’s go take a walk around,” I said.
“Really, mom? Aren’t you feeling tired?” was the answer which became a leitmotiv throughout all our stay. I never felt tired in Cape Town and South Africa. I guess that I probably made my son’s life some kind of misery! I was always willing to move around… One day of rest and I’d feel like I’d be missing the most important thing ever…
Even though he proved to be a very good guide after all.
Mount Nelson Hotel is right where a hotel should be — in the heart of the historical center. And right by the wonderful Company’s Garden.
And this was where I wanted to start exploring Cape Town.
One word about the Company’s Garden. It was created by Jan van Riebeek in 1652 because the Dutch settlers needed fresh produce for the ships. A vegetable garden which was slowly converted into a renowned botanical garden in the 18th century, thus enabling the Dutch settlers to export bulbs, etc. to Europe.
And it is right by the hotel. How could I miss such an opportunity? Off we went. It was not a long walk after all. Swee’Pea kept providing me with names and names of buildings. I was trying hard to be all ears and yet I was only half listening because of the sounds and the scents and the people and the flora and the animal life.
It was so different and surprising that I did not take many pictures then. I kind of tried to immerse myself in the Garden. Imagine a park filled with city workers and high school students lunching and resting there and hundreds of pigeons and squirrels fighting over crumbs.
Huge lawns and shady paths, blooming exotic flowers, gigantic trees. Sculptures and historical buildings. Fountains and Egyptian geese. Such a vibrant and yet so peaceful place.
I was flabbergasted and enthralled. I felt so perfectly safe there. And we were. I went back there several times, sometimes on my own and never ever felt any hostility nor aggressiveness there. Even with my expensive professional camera dangling on my chest. (Johannesburg will be another altogether different experience but this is another story.)
I always felt at ease in Cape Town. I knew there were obvious things not to be done. Which more or less applies to Paris, Brussels and New York, etc.
On our way back to the hotel, Swee’Pea set up rules when he realized that I’d be kind of getting out of control because of my euphoric state of mind…
Always be on the look out. Good! (Paris, Brussels, New York, what’s the difference?) Accept never to take a walk alone after sundown! (I wouldn’t even do that in Brussels anyway.) No staring at people (which is something I may do a lot but only with a picture in mind). Ok, so no to staring at people. (I learnt to look at people on the sly… Not too hard since I already do that in Paris, while riding in the subway.)
And I was told especially not to stare at Blacks. Why should I be staring at Blacks? Oh my God, I had forgotten that in South Africa, people are legally defined by their origins… and you talk about people as belonging to a group: Blacks, Whites, Coloureds and Asians (Indians). Quite hard to stomach for someone like me who tend to be color blind, but this is again another story. So I promised. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Except that whenever I would feel like staring at an outstanding human, it still would be hard for me to make a difference.
Nice late lunch in my room.
And night fell quite early.
Tomorrow was to be another day. But I already knew that parting from the Cape Town area would be very painful.
*Good Luck, and Good Night*