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Table manners

Cape Town

View Sala Kahle on arianemeena's travel map.

I navigated the impressive bus system to Greenpoint, where I was staying at the wonderful B.I.G backpackers. Within 10 minutes I'd been invited by my German roommate Monic to First Thursday, a monthly event where shops and galleries stay open late and serve wine. Ideal. We braved the rain and ended up in a higgledy piggledy antiques shop with a whole room dedicated to vintage bridal gowns, which somehow I was persuaded to try on. Make the most of this picture, it's unlikely to be repeated...

We moved on to a bar where one of the girls, Daragh, sustained a disco injury which I suspected had fractured her wrist, so we ended our night in the emergency department. I just can't keep away.

On Friday a few of us joined a very informative free walking tour around the city centre, taking in the old parliament building, high court and City Hall, from where Nelson Mandela gave gave his first speech as a free man when he was released on 11th February 1990. The realities of segregation and subsequent apartheid are all around, including a bench where I would have been required to sit.

The Slave Lodge was where the Dutch East India Trading Company used to house their slaves and now serves as a museum. Behind is the square where slaves were auctioned, now marked by stone plinths inscribed with their names.

We walked to the lively Victoria and Alfred Waterfront (named for the queen and her son) and perused the shops before returning to B.I.G where the staff had cooked industrial quantities of bunny chow and chocolate cake.

On Saturday we took a cab out to the Old Biscuit Mill, where a local food market is held weekly. What with the drizzle, the accents and the vintage feel this could easily have been Spitalfields and is a firm favourite of the local hipsters. I met our Felbridge neighbours' delightful nephews, Blake and Evan, for lunch at the Waterfront and tried Springbok. In the afternoon the weather scuppered our plans so we watched crap films in the cosy living room (apparently a temperature of 16C is all it takes for Capetonians to deem a wood fire necessary) before margaritas and Mexican with Jill, an American who was heading to Bangkok.

Sunday was glorious and some of us ventured up the cable car to the top of Table Mountain, where the table cloth was only half obscuring the view. The little dassies scuttled around; bizarrely their nearest relative is the elephant.

In the afternoon Ella and Meg, two Australian girls, and I took the ferry to Robben Island, the infamous prison island where some of the most notorious political prisoners of the struggle against apartheid were held, including Nelson Mandela for 18 of his 27 years of captivity. The tour was excellent and the museum has decided only ex-political prisoners can show visitors around the maximum security compound. Our guide was just out of high school when he was sent there in the early 80s and would often borrow the kitchen workers uniforms to sneak his way in to see Mandela and other ANC leaders.

On Monday I took the local metrorail south to picturesque Kalk Bay where Rosemary, who I was in the Brighton Festival Chorus with, now lives. As always it was wonderful to see a familiar face and we had a lovely day walking in the sunshine and eating calamari and chips on the harbour wall as seals looked on.

In the evening a group from the hostel went for dinner as it was the last night for three of us. Cape Town has instantly become one of my favourite cities, no doubt helped by the lovely guests and staff at B.I.G, which I would recommend to anyone.

I could have stayed forever but it was time to move on. Most of you know by now that if there's a train, I'll take it and for the next leg I'd gone upmarket- the 26 hour Premier Classe Cape Town to Johannesburg service.

Posted by arianemeena 08:15 Archived in South Africa

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