Melissa's Travels

Celebrating Cape Town

My first visit to Cape Town was in 1995, only a year after the end of Apartheid. There was incredible optimism in the air, and on my most recent trip, despite ongoing challenges facing the city, I found Cape Town in a fabulous groove. There is a balance of distinctly South African warmth and global sophistication—in its seriously memorable restaurants, new cool boutique hotels and burgeoning design scene. Wedged between the drama of Table Mountain and the splendor of the waterfront, the city sits in a stunning spot and is enhanced by the dramatic cape, coastline and winelands that lie within an hour’s drive. It is often compared to Sydney, San Francisco and Rio, not just because they all have memorable waterfront settings, but also because of how the great outdoors is integrated into the lives of the residents. As the surrounding natural beauty beckons, Capetonians hike, surf and linger outside every chance they get. Menus flaunt the bounty of the sea and of the winelands. Not surprisingly, the good-naturedness that seems to come from living in such a paradise infects people, and it seems more and more South Africans who have lived abroad are returning to Cape Town or working towards getting back.

“I want to come home to South Africa, and there is no better place to live than Cape Town,” one Joburg native now living in Toronto told me. Some folks from Joburg complain that Cape Town has lost its South Africaness, because it has become so cosmopolitan, but I found that it was there—if you dig just a little. There’s a pride in how far the country has come in two decades as well as a gentleness and serenity in attitude. Perhaps, it’s the “Madiba effect,” or Mandela's legacy, but it seems that people here look for the good in each day and in each person. The actress Alfre Woodard recently spoke of how South Africa had been described to her before she visited as “God just took the wrapper off this place, you have to go.” She went on to describe Mandela’s power. “He demonstrated what we are all capable of in every moment. He was a great human being, because he showed us how great we all are.” His loss is still felt, and statues and photos of him remain everywhere, reminders of what we all have to live up to. No wonder the pride and warmth of Cape Town is infectious.

Published onMay 23, 2014

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