Paternoster: A West Coast Paradise

IMG_6139 (754x1024)Rumor has it that on being shipwrecked, Portuguese sailors attempting to navigate the Southern-most tip of Africa would in desperation cry out a Latin “Our Father”, a chilling plea that has given its name to the picturesque fishing village of Paternoster. It is more likely however, that the village is named after Paternoster Row, the London street destroyed by bombing in the Blitz.

Slightly less than two hours outside of Cape Town, on a strip of fishing villages on the sunny West Coast, the whitewashed settlement of Paternoster curves around a small crescent of pale sand.

Although having become popular as a weekend retreat, building regulations have ensured that the aesthetics of the original village remain, albeit more glamorously than in years gone by. Cottages are uniform in their white paint and blue shutters and fishermen and townspeople live in brightly lit houses meandering between weekend homes. This saves the town from the challenge faced by other, less premium popular holiday-home villages of the region – the absolute mishmash of architectural styles and colors, as faux Tuscan villa sits cheek by jowl with mock Tudor mansion.

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Being less precipitous than rainy Cape Town in winter, the West Coast is a welcome haven for those seeking to escape the howling North Wester and persistent drizzle, and while it can get cold, the region is drier than in the city. In the summer however, the South Easter delivering good weather to the Cape blows relentlessly, buffering beachgoers and boats and sweeping sand into every available crevice.

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Nostalgie Restaurant, OUDTSHOORN

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all the promise of a sunny Saturday breakfast

Susan (if I tell you that I call her Susie she’ll kill me) and I sat down at a table and looked at each other with smiles of relief. We were both thinking the same thing – thank goodness we were sitting in a beautiful sunny garden about to eat breakfast, instead of running the Cango Marathon, as my superman-dad and colleague were then doing.

We leisurely ordered cappuccinos and perused the comprehensive options, bewildered as to what to order from the vast array of ostrich dishes, wraps, sandwiches, traditional breakfast meals and Afrikaans specialities.

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flowers and lanterns and food, oh my!

Oudtshoorn, a small town in the Klein Karoo desert with a remarkable Boer War history, feels much farther away from Cape Town than its paltry five-hour drive. Famous for its ostriches and their by-products (big eggs used as decorations and strong enough to withstand a human’s weight, delicious meat and flawless leather), the town is also home to the Cango Caves where one can marvel at gravity-defying stalactites and stalagmites in vast underground caverns.

While there are plenty of places to eat on the main stretch of the town, Nostalgie stood out for its colourful garden decor, white lanterns (and proximity to our hastily found parking spot). The service was friendly and while the food took some time it was freshly prepared from local ingredients, generously portioned and – to our tired city wallets – astonishingly reasonable.

Then, having eaten brunch, perused the store’s vintage clothing and bought some of the farmstall goods, we took the triumphant runners back for lunch! We’ve both decided to go back soon.

a traditional stoep - lost in time

a traditional stoep – lost in time

John Kani’s MISSING: A Review

Thankfully not a Neeson-type thriller (we became nervous each time someone stepped out for a ‘walk’), the title of Kani’s Missing…refers to being missing in action in South Africa’s new democracy – an examination of exiled struggle heroes who fail to be called back by the new dispensation.

Danford, Kani, Ngaba and Ntshoko - cast of 'Missing...'

Danford, Kani, Ngaba and Ntshoko – cast of ‘Missing…’

Having been kindly invited by the Baxter Theatre as high school English educators, my friend and I, with our husbands, escaped the end-of-term marking frenzy and ventured out, despite having almost succumbed to the thrill of an early night in. We’re glad we did. The theatre was emptier than expected, even for a Wednesday night, with less than half of its seats occupied; the crowd diverse and appreciative.

Kani’s first since Nothing But the Truth (2002), Missing… by the veteran actor and playwright has moved from previous themes of struggle to question the fates of exiled ANC members who find themselves still in exile after living through it believing that they would one day fulfil a vital role in South Africa’s democracy. Having once asked Mbeki, a personal friend, whether it was possible that struggle heroes in exile had been ‘missed’, Mbeki had replied that it was indeed possible.

Protagonist of the play, Kani’s character Robert Vuyo Khalipa, lives a comfortable life in Sweden at the end of the 20th century with his rich and loving Swedish business icon of a wife, Anna Ohlson (Susan Danford), and Swedish-African daughter Ayanda (played by Buhle Ngaba). He seems to have everything – except to have realised his post-apartheid ideals of ‘home’ – a central thread through the play. Every day since Mandela’s release Khalipa has waited for the call that would take him home – back to a cabinet position where he would be recognised for years of sacrifice and have a part in building the rainbow nation. When Mbeki becomes president, his sense of hope is renewed and the agony of his waiting intensified. The absence of the phone’s shrill tone becomes an unwelcome presence, with the family little realising that a call, if it came, would threaten their happiness further.

Although predominately a tautly written script it perhaps needs further editing. At times it tends to preach, or to state too explicitly the emotions of the characters which tends to rob them of spontaneous feeling. Also, although Kani seems to become Khalipa entirely and Danford’s Swedish accent is, to the South African ear, utterly convincing, one can’t help but feel that the roles of Peter Tshabalala and Ayanda Khalipa are at times over-acted – as if Apollo Ntshoko and Buhle Ngaba are trying too hard to enunciate their words and gestures to an audience hard of hearing. However, as the play premières its first few weeks in the Cape, one must bear in mind that Kani has recently suffered from a debilitating back injury, cutting down on crucial rehearsal time and forcing the postponement of the play’s opening. 

Gut-achingly funny and at times awkwardly tense, the play uses broad South African themes of intercultural romance and offspring, expectations of the role of wife, friendship, betrayal and post-apartheid corruption and disillusionment to achieve a range of emotions in the audience.

Missing… runs in Cape Town until the 29th March. Book at Computicket.

Passepartout Travel Featured on Top10ThingsTo.com

The awesome site www.top10thingsto.com features ‘Top 10’ lists of things to do, eat and see from all over the world.

While Nairobi might have been in the press for all the wrong reasons lately, it is a vibrant place for work and play and has traditionally been one of the safer African capitals. Here are my top 10:

http://www.top10thingsto.com/top-10-things-to-do-in-nairobi/

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My Date with Alexander McCall Smith: Gorgeous Globetrotters

Scones with Sandy

Scones with Sandy

Unlike the esteemed Paul Theroux and his cynical views, Alexander McCall Smith is telling me that South Africa, despite its problems, really is all that. I manage to extricate the darling gentleman from adoring fans and we sit down, with tea and scones of course, under the balmy winter skies of Franschhoek. 

The man behind series such as The No.1 Ladies’ Detective AgencyThe Sunday Philosophical ClubPortuguese Irregular Verbs and Scotland Street and a growing collection of stand-alone novels talks to me strong females, the prevention of rabies and where he’d like to travel to next. Talk about a Gorgeous Globetrotter!

Sitting for Aerodrome

Sitting for Aerodrome

Travel Tomes: Killing Sahara (Black Star Nairobi) – Mukoma wa Ngugi


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Having recently visited Nairobi, I was excited to delve into this crime thriller (sequel to Nairobi Heat, 2009) and to interview its author, Mukoma wa Ngugi, whose celebrated father, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, I met last year.

Nairobi is a place where the very rich live off the backs of the very poor, where cops are robbers, robbers cops and tribal tension is never far from the hard-drinking, partying, music-pumping surface. Its climate is hot and humid, its natural beauty and degradation equally astounding and the exploitation of colonialism continues under new imperialists. In short, the perfect setting for a crime thriller.

Ngugi’s central character is an African American who has come to Kenya in search of adventure, belonging and a selfish sort of altruism, and instead finds a family – Muddy is a beautiful survivor of the Rwandan genocide and O a ruthlessly loyal best friend.

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Travel Writing at the Open Book Festival 2013 with Don Pinnock, Justin Fox, Sihle Khumalo and Martinique Sitwell

From left - Khumalo, Stilwell, Fox and Pinnock

From left – Khumalo, Stilwell, Fox and Pinnock in the Fugard Studio

It’s Open Book Festival time at the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town. Yesterday I managed to tear myself from the scintillating people watching of literary, wannabe-literary and hipster types in the ruggedly plastered book and bar-lined lobby to attend the Travel Writing panel discussion chaired by Don Pinnock.

Once editor of Getaway and travel writer extraordinaire, Don gently probed the panelists, all of whom he knows well, with humour and insight.

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