Thursday, November 29, 2007

Trip Diary - Day 1 in Cape Town

Nothing about this journal is 'literary' -- you're getting off-the-cuff notes, with no eloquent language. For now, the pictures will have to wait; I hope to find time to get some formatted to accompany the text tonight while my husband has a dinner meeting (unless I find someone myself!)

As writers, we're told that "only trouble is interesting" so if there seems to be emphasis on some of the glitches, that's just fodder for future stories. I wouldn't have missed the trip for the world.

This morning, we had our first real glimpse of the environs. Breakfast is included in the room, and the buffet was a magnificent spread catering to all nationalities. Meats, fish, breads, fruits, eggs, sausage, etc., etc., etc. The hotel overlooks the ocean and had I not known where we were, I would have accepted southern California without question. Or the Mediterranean.

The hotel was one of the Protea chains, and they have a delightful sense of humor. Coasters under glasses have clever sayings rather than blatant ads: “Diplomacy is the art of saying, “Nice doggie” until you can find a rock,” for example. And there’s an emergency candle and matches in the drawer. The matchbox says, “Pyromaniac’s Help Line” and gives a phone number. We didn’t try to call it. No clock in the room, though. Seems the norm here.

On the bus, we met our guide, Allenby. He certainly didn’t match the mental image his name conjured, which brings to mind naming characters. Just a name can evoke an image. I'll let you think about what an "Allenby" looks like and post a picture of him next time.

His South African accent and cadence of his speech seemed to conflict with his pedantic lecturing style. I can already tell I’ll be glad if I never hear, “folks” again, as he prefaces every third sentence with it. And I don’t think anyone on the bus really needed two 10 minute lectures on how he was going to rotate the seating and why. However, he certainly knows South Africa and turned out to be an expert at logistics, which in the long run, is probably more important.

We began the day with a cable car ride to the top of Table Mountain while the cable cars were running. If the winds get too high they don’t run the cars. The cars were round, and the floor rotated, giving everyone a 360 degree view as we ascended to the mountain top. From there, the view was intermittent as the clouds enveloped the area. Unfortunately, we were only given about an hour total, so when you take off the time riding up and down, there was only about half an hour to walk the trails and see the views when the clouds parted or the mist lifted.

Once down from the mountain, we went through the city and listened to endless bits of history and a lot of pointing out of buildings. How much is the truth remains to be seen. When he said the Southern right whales spawn in the area, I began to wonder. However, he did show us the Maylay quarter with its colorful buildings, school children in uniform and ethnic shops. We were told that “colored” is not an ethnic slur here, and it is used to differentiate them from the ‘blacks’ who must belong to one of the African tribes. They certainly can’t be called “African Americans.”

We were dropped off at the Waterfront District and told our options in getting back to the hotel. Following Allenby’s oft-repeated advice, we got some more Rand. From there, we walked to the Two Seas Aquarium which was very well done. Sharks, penguins, assorted reef fish, huge crabs & lobsters, a huge tank with kelp swaying to music. Also, lots of conservation messages. From there, we checked out the possibility of a sailboat cruise for Saturday, although we couldn’t decide between that or a wine country tour. Next, Mitchell’s, a waterfront Scottish Ale House for some South African dark beer. Excellent.

The Dutch heritage of the city is apparent in the names and architecture. Afrikaans, the language here, sounds very Dutch-German. The English is definitely British. Signage is in both languages.

We found the bus stop along with several other tour companions, got on the right bus, got off at the right stop (not too hard—end of the line), and found our way up the hill to the hotel where we had time to change for our group “welcome” dinner, which wasn’t much more than a specified seating area in the dining room. The traditional South African (or was it Cape Town?) chocolate dessert was to die for, though.

No comments: