Cape Town

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Why it’s important to Save the Drome

Rumours have abounded for some time now that the city of Cape Town was considering demolishing the Bellville Velodrome but a document published recently has now confirmed their intent.

In the “Draft Broader Tygervalley Urban Design Framework” the city provide details of what the plans are for the area, which indicate that the Tygervalley Precinct will be upgraded to a “secondary CBD”, including high-rise office space, shopping centres, public transport initiatives etc. A multi-storey shopping centre called “Galleria” is to built on the site of the current Velodrome – though there is no direct mention of what exactly will happen to the Velodrome.

Upon hearing the news, and after chatting with Jeanne Nell, (South Africa’s National 1km Time Trial & Keirin Track Cycling champion) Cape Town cycling enthusiast Ridaa Ismail felt strongly that the plans should not go ahead and started the Save the Drome campaign to try and give the facility and those who use it a voice.

X: What makes the Drome so valuable to the Cape Town cycling community?

R: The Velodrome is not only valuable to the Cape Town cycling community but the entire South African track cycling community. Bellville Velodrome is the only Olympic standard velodrome on the African continent and is the training base for all our Olympic and Paralympic track cyclists.

There are plans for a velodrome to be established in Potchefstroom but that will take a while to be constructed. If the Bellville Velodrome is demolished it would mean that there is no training base for our Olympic and Paralympic track cyclists training for the 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2016 Rio Olympics. These sportsmen and women have sacrificed their lives to fulfil the dream of winning Gold, and if the Velodrome is demolished, their dream of representing South Africa on the biggest stage will be gone. Continue reading

Flying through the air with the greatest ease

You’d have to be a little mad to allow yourself to be strapped into a harness, hoisted 30 metres into the air, then pulling a release cord that sends you plummeting into a free fall at up to 90km an hour, right?

Either that, or you can just be conned into it without knowing the details. Shame, that’s what I did to my best friend Christy the last time we went to Ratanga Junction.

The theme park will open on Friday (September 28) for the school holidays and is without a doubt, one of the funnest (yes, it is a real word) day out you can have with your clothes on. The ride to which I am referring above is the Sling Shot. Ratanga is probably most famous for its Cobra rollercoaster – now branded with a sponsored name but it will always be the Cobra to me – but the Sling Shot delivers a massive dose of adrenaline. Continue reading

10 things to do this Heritage Weekend

Whether you’re staying at home this Heritage Day long weekend or you’re heading out to explore South Africa, we’ve got some ideas of places you can visit and events you can enjoy to celebrate!

In KZN…

1. White Mountain Festival

Acoustic music in the mountains… what more could you ask for? Brought to you by the same experienced crew that produce Splashy Fen every year, White Mountain is its’ smaller, mellow cousin. Discover new local artists or support your favourites, all while indulging in the magical mountain vista. Take the family for an unforgettable experience.

2. Witness Hilton Arts Festival

Broadly considered to be KZN’s premier arts and culture festival the annual Witness Hilton Arts Festivaland produces a sterling programme of drama, comedy, music, cabaret, arts and crafts, children’s theatre, Mindscapes discussions, workshops, films and exhibitions appealing to all who visit the festival each year. This year will mark the 20th anniversary of the festival.

3. Fun in the Sun

For the fourth year running over 3000 KZN electronic music lovers will once again gather on the banks of the Hazelmere Dam for a massive outdoor festival involving two days of house, dance and electronic music, Swimming, Tanning, Partying and fun times.

Gauteng

4. The Cradle Festival

Head to where it all began to celebrate in the ultimate Heritage Day place. Expect musical performances from the likes of Louise Carver, and Idol’s winner, Elvis Blue as well as the Cradle Festival Wine Weekend, which includes cheese and wine tastings, as well as loads of fun activities and competitions for the whole family to enjoy. The daily kids programme offers parents peace-of-mind and a day-off to spoil themselves and relax while being able to enjoy the live entertainment, cheeses and wines. A Craft Expo allows exhibitors from the Cradle and surrounding areas to showcase their business and service offerings. Continue reading

Drink Pisco with a dash of Lima

In December 2012 a unique new restaurant opened in Cape Town. Keenwa celebrates all things Peruvian with a menu that highlights some of the country’s most famous dishes like Salchipapas, Empanadas, tequeños and Ceviche, prepared with love by Chef Fabricio Durand from Lima.

Owner German de la Melena was also born in Lima and travelled the world as a model before deciding to settle in Cape Town.

Now German has gone one step further by opening the country’s first and only Pisco Bar above the restaurant. Pisco is the national liquor of Peru, made from grapes and is particularly popular when combined into a sour cocktail.

We chatted to German about bringing a taste of Peru to Cape Town.

X: Can you explain the concept behind a “Pisco Bar”?
G: Pisco is a Peruvian liquor and it is very well known to every tourist that goes to Peru and it is at every party in Peru as well as in every bar and restaurant there. When I opened the restaurant (Keenwa) the venue was perfect for a bar as well so I thought, why not make it as unique as the restaurant and serve Pisco? P.I.S.C.O. Bar comes from a trip we did with 20 friends to Peru to do the Amazon Jungle and the Inca Trail. The guides started calling us the Pisco group because that was what we always drank and we had a joke about the D.I.S.C.O. song from the late 70′s or early 80′s.

X: What makes P.I.S.C.O. Bar unique?
G: The fact that we are the only ones in the whole country that serve Pisco and not only the popular Pisco sour but also a couple more cocktails made with Pisco. Our tapas Peruvian style and also the decoration and venue are very different.

X: Can you tell us a bit about some of the beverages you have on offer?
G: We import the Pisco from Peru and we serve Pisco sour – lime juice, sugar, Pisco and a little bit of egg white. We also make these with passion fruit, chilli, raspberry and chichi – the last is a drink from Peru made of purple corn. A different cocktail that we also make is Chilcano, the trendiest drink in Peru nowadays, with Ginger ale and Pisco and a dash of lime juice. I just go with whatever is trendy at the bars in Lima and Peru in general.

X: How has the local community reacted to the bar?
G: The bar is still new and not well known yet but the people that come around love it! They love the decor, they love the vibe and especially everybody loves the Pisco sours! Continue reading

Falling in love with the laundry

Guaranteed you’ve probably never actually WANTED to do laundry, and certainly you’ve never raced down to the laundromat with great excitement! But Clayton Howard & Mico Botha have decided to change all that. They’ve made laundry fun.

In April this year the dynamic and creative pair opened the doors of I LOVE MY LAUNDRY in Cape Town, giving life to South Africa’s one and only destination laundry! I LOVE MY LAUNDRY is not just a laundry you see. It’s also a quirky coffee and Dim Sum Bar and entertainment venue.

We chatted to Mico about this unique business.

Xtra: What kind of menu can customers expect at I love my laundry?
Mico: We are a Coffee Bar & Dim Sum Bar specializing in Korean Dim Sum and we offer vegetarian and meat flavours on our ever-changing Dim Sum menu. I LOVE MY LAUNDRY also caters for private functions and events around our 14-seater dining table and on Thursday evenings we host our popular fondue evenings. It’s an off-the-wall and unique venue offering a personal touch and client specific service.

X: What factors do/did you consider regarding your business location?
M: Definitely visibility for the brand.

X: Would you say you have a defined target market?
M: We attract like-minded creatives, people who understand great value and appreciate style.

X: As far as the laundry side goes, what kind of services do you offer?
M: We wash dry and fold your laundry at only R10 per kg. Ironing, alterations and dry-cleaning services is also available but what really defines our service is the fact that we only use organic top quality chemicals on all your fabrics and we package and fold your process parcels in our eye -catching orange wrapping paper. A “gift” to all our loyal clients and a mark of our caring attention to detail when it comes to your laundry needs. Continue reading

Dive into an underwater wonderland

The Two Oceans Aquarium is, I believe, one of the shining jewels in Cape Town’s tourism crown.
But being Monday and all, allow me a small confession: I live in Cape Town. I love Cape Town. But man, oh man, I hate the holiday crowds. This especially includes children.

Yes, I know – they’ll be unleashed on the world once again next week and you’ll be looking for somewhere to take them; the aquarium is perfect for that. It’s pretty and it’s educational. Fun and awe inspiring even. But if you are like me and prefer to take your edification without being surrounded by hoards of screaming waist-high, ice scream-smeared creatures, then do yourself a favour and sneak off for a few self-indulgent and calming hours.

Entrance to the aquarium is not cheap, but if you plan to go regularly, get yourself a Soul Mates annual pass which offers unlimited access for a fraction of the price. They’re sneaky; you’re going to have to delve into their website a bit to find it, but it’s there and represents huge savings. Even buying your normal day ticket online is less expensive, so do your research.

Inside the aquarium a world of underwater wonder awaits you. The “Nemo” tank near the entrance, with its clear cavity into which you can immerse yourself in a cloud of swirling clown fish is a huge attraction for young and old. I suspect there are plenty of adults who wish they could fit in there.

Again, doing this with little ones or doing it as a grown up are two different things. As the latter, you can take your time and appreciate the magical beauty of marine life you’d never otherwise experience. Not all of us are cut out to be scuba divers. Continue reading

Top 5 Cape Town Bakeries

As with most things food-related, Capetonians are mad about their bakeries and, as usual, they are spoiled for choice with a selection so great that it’s almost criminal to start picking favourites… However, we’re going to do just that!

1. Jason

His croissants found fame at the former Jardine Bakery, but since Captain Bread opened his Bree Street hole-in-the-wall bakery, the work lunch crowd are just as interested in his delectable sarmies, bread, pies and quiches at Jason. Rumour has it the New York cheesecake is also mind-blowing.

2. Knead

What started out as a humble artisan bread shop has turned into a bustling franchise frequented by Cape Town’s surfers and salesmen looking for a killer cup of coffee and a decadent baked delight or even a wood-fired pizza for the lunch crowd.

 

3. Olympia

Charming and quirky, Olympia has won the hearts of the Kalk Bay locals with its’ wholesome baked goods and meals, divine speciality breads and good coffee. Famous for their ciabatta, people have been known to make the drive across town to get their fix.

 

4. Dinkel

Bread is the firm focus of this tra­di­tional German bakery with specialities including 100% rye, dinkel­brot, plum­cake and apple cake. Sit down and indulge in some Dormans cof­fee and milch­bro­etchen and don’t forget to leave with some pretzels.

 

5. The Foodbarn

Not strictly a bakery, but certainly skilled in the art of producing magnificent fresh pastries, pies, cakes, muffins and biscuits, which are baked daily at dawn. This explains why Foodbarn is such a popular choice for breakfasts. But really, the country-chic relaxed atmosphere and amazing food is a hit with locals and visitors at any time of day!

Thrill-seekers get a rush with Extreme Scene

When Gavin Pfister’s professional rugby career came to an end after playing at Currie Cup level in South Africa and at premiership and Celtic league level in the UK, there was never any doubt he would return to Cape Town.

As a lifelong adrenaline junkie, it was a logical progression to follow his passion and start an adventure tours company.

In 2009, he opened Extreme Scene Tours and together with his right-hand lady Lauren, they have become a top choice for local & international thrill-seekers in the Western Cape.

Xtra: What makes Extreme Scene unique?
Gavin: We are unique because we are a small team. We are both local, with a passion for the place that we live in and the desire to show guests this by means of extreme activities. We are also both very hands on with all of our clients bookings (from start to finish).

X: Of your achievements as a business, what are you most proud of?
G: I am very proud of the fact that we have become a top agent in a relatively short space of time and in a very competitive market.

X: What kind of person does it take to work in your field?
G: A person that is passionate about the area that they are working in, the outdoors and most of all people! You have to be able to communicate effectively with people across the globe.

X: Would you say your business has a definite target market?
G: Yes and no. You will always find in this industry, that your age group is relatively young. As extreme sports and activities are becoming more visible, we are looking at clients across the board. Continue reading

Pretty as a picture at Petticoat Parlour

You would think that every woman adores a day at the beauty parlour or spa, but surprisingly, that’s not true.
Astonishingly, there are those among us who go their entire lives without a mani or a pedi – and unfortunately that shows quite hideously sometimes. I can’t tell you how many times I have stood behind someone in a queue who is wearing sandals, displaying nasty dry, cracked heels. There is no excuse, ladies! Your feet work hard for you, it’s only right that you look after them.

Perhaps you’ve been for a treatment and it hasn’t been the best experience of your life, and that can be a bit off-putting. Yes, it has happened to me too…the environment is not comfortable, the therapist is over familiar or disregards your request for more (or less) pressure while massaging your shoulders, or you have hygiene concerns. There isn’t anything much worse than walking out of what should have been a wonderful, relaxing – and let’s face it, not inexpensive – few hours not feeling, well, wonderful and relaxed.

I have been to many spas and had many different treatments over the years – I consider regular visits to be a necessity rather than a luxury – and luckily most have been good, with a few dodgy ones in between. It’s take a while, but I have finally found my favourite to which I will now remain ever loyal.

Petticoat Parlour is not only utterly gorgeous to look at but every time I have been there I have felt completely pampered in every respect. It’s owned by Wendy Chait, model, mother, businesswoman and a walking advertisement for the benefits of proper beauty regimen – the woman is breathtakingly stunning. Continue reading

Percy Tours adds passion to the package

Passion and enthusiasm are all part of the package when you book a trip with Percy Tours.
Named after owner and operator Percy Heywood, a seasoned traveller himself, the business opened in 2004 to give tourists a personalised and unique South African experience.

Originally from England, Percy went backpacking non-stop for 16 months, exploring 16 different countries during 1999, 2000 and 2001, ending in South Africa for 5 months. His SA trip took him from Durban to Cape Town, up to Pretoria and North into Africa. Along the way, Percy fell in love with the Western Cape. He returned to London to sell all his worldly belongings and settle in the seaside town of Hermanus.
“With over 8 months of travelling around this incredible region as a tourist, I could clearly see a vast amount of potential in starting a tour operator to show tourists the massive amount of excellence that the Western Cape (and South Africa) have to offer,” he says.

But it wasn’t that simple. Percy first had to complete his tour guide qualifications, which took two years, wine exams with the Cape Wine Academy, first aid training and more!
Nowadays Percy and his wife Ronel take tourists on a range of tours and travel experiences, the most popular of which include the Wine Tours, Cape Town city centre, Cape Point, Whales and Shark boat trips, Safaris and great restaurants, according to Percy.
“The Western Cape has so much to offer the tourist that not a single minute will ever be boring and every person’s interests are catered for – from babies to 98 year old grannies! – They will all be astonished by the massive amount of things to see, do and explore, which makes my life equally as interesting, as I get to do and see thousands of amazing places and activities too – it really is a dream job!”

It’s a good thing that Percy is as energetic as he is though, because he says it’s a crucial attribute to have, as well as positivity, people skills and major organisational talents. Percy feels he has what it takes to deliver the kind of experience every traveller would dream of though.
“Firstly, I have worked all my life (35 years) in sales and marketing, which has always brought me in contact with people. I truly am a people-person. After working in London for 25 years I think I am able to (hopefully) understand how and what foreign visitors will love to see in SA.” Continue reading

Two Oceans unveils a fresh new look and menu

Besides that mountain, Cape Point is one of Cape Town’s – if not South Africa’s – most famous landmarks, and the 7 750 hectare nature reserve forms part of the Table Mountain National Park, a declared Natural World Heritage Site.

There are a few enduring myths about Cape Point, such as it being the southern-most tip of Africa (it’s not) and it’s the place where the two oceans, Indian and Atlantic, meet (they don’t). Okay, yes, they do flank the point but visitors who expect to see a clear line where the warm currents blend into the cold will be disappointed. You’ll also be told there is an abundance of buck, baboons, birds, zebra and fynbos. This is all true, but you will have to spend some quality time there to see all of it. Except the baboons. They are fairly high profile.

Cape Point and the reserve are spectacularly scenic and as a lifelong Capetonian I definitely recommend visitors try to fit it into their itineraries, whether for the beauty, hikes and trails, or the maritime history which has seen many a ship fall foul of the infamous “Cape Of Storms”, so named by Bartolomeu Dias in 1488.

While there, lunch at the newly revamped Two Oceans Restaurant on the False Bay cliffside will provide a meal with one of the most breathtaking views money can buy.
It’s the first time the restaurant has had a facelift in years, and while it is pretty much guaranteed a captive market (the only other food available is from the snack shop next door, or you can take your own picnic), it can now proudly say it is part of the attraction of a big day out in Cape Town.

And a day out it is – no matter which direction you approach it from, going to Cape Point is going to take a long time, especially in peak season when the queue of cars creeps slowly through the entrance point, and you have to be bussed from a remote parking area to the restaurant and funicular.

Heading the kitchen at Two Oceans is executive chef Phil Alcock, who has worked with culinary luminaries such as Marco Pierre White and Raymond Blanc, as well as at The Cellars-Hohenort and The Showroom Restaurant with Bruce Robertson here in Cape Town. After a stint at the Palazzo in Johannesburg, Phil returned to Cape Town earlier this year to breathe new life into the Two Oceans menu, bringing it up to the international standards expected by tourists from all over the globe. Continue reading

Top 5 Cape Town Music Venues

When it comes to live music in Cape Town there are a handful of excellent venues that have emerged over the years to become renowned for showcasing local, national and international talent, in genres ranging from rock to acoustic, electronic and even jazz. Some of them have long since established their reputations for top quality shows, while others have arrived with a bang on the local entertainment scene.

1. The Assembly

There is no other venue like this in South Africa. Not content to simply supply the city with top quality local and international bands, solo performers and electronic artists, The Assembly goes a step further. It’s not just a venue. Their website is crammed with awesome content that elevates its’ status to an institution that takes the time to really promote the artists who perform on their stage and continue to entertain their patrons outside of the venue.

2. Zula Sound Bar

Over the years Zula has hosted some of the country’s top artists. After a major relocation to larger premises at the end of 2011, Zulabar, as it is fondly known, has stepped up its’ game with bigger shows, better promotion and more support for artists. Add to this the fact that it’s located in Cape Town’s buzzing Long Street district and the fact that you can also enjoy a tasty (and/or healthy) breakfast the morning after and you have a winning recipe!

3. Mercury Live

Mercury is a bit of an institution in Cape Town. Many of the country’s greatest music legends played their first shaky chords in this grungy spot. If the walls could talk they’d tell you tales of Jack Daniels benders in the backstage and Black Label hangovers on the dancefloor. Mercury is still a breeding ground for up and coming talent and a good place to knock back whiskeys and listen to dirty blues.

4. The Waiting Room

Cosy and unpretentious with retro decor and lighting, the Waiting Room is situated above the well-known Royale Eatery – famous for its’ gourmet burgers and such. Originally intended simply as a holding area for the restaurant’s overflow, this laid-back meeting space has become a venue in its’ own right. Enjoy a diverse array of sounds from local DJ’s every weekend or sample some (mostly) acoustic sounds from South African bands and artists every Tuesday.

5. The Brass Bell

Not quite inside the city centre, but a legendary spot in its’ own right, the Brass Bell has a bit of everything, from delicious food, served from one of 5 different areas, to magnificent ocean views. After 30 years this venue continues to expand and develop, but regular live music has been part of its’ repertoire as far back as the 80s when greats like Johnny Clegg and Wendy Oldfield graced the stage.

The old barn that became beautiful

Magdel Brink loves nothing more than to creating unforgettable dream weddings for her clients at Groenrivier Function Center in the picturesque Riebeek Valley.

Today the popular venue encompasses three gorgeous venues, suitable for weddings or corporate functions and the main function centre boasts a 250m stoep with panoramic views of the Cape’s fruit-growing region.

But it wasn’t always the sophisticated space it is today. “In 1979 we built a barn to store our farm implements and vehicles,” remembered Magdel.

“Little did we know that the same rustic building would serve as my very own wedding venue in 1987. In 1999 we celebrated my father in law’s 70th birthday party in similar style, once again facing the tedious task of moving farm implements and vehicles out of the barn on the Friday and back in on the Monday. Following the success of both functions, my husband suggested that we transform “The Barn” into a function centre. With the help of my close friend Malita Joubert who successfully heads up the catering side of my business, we hosted our first wedding in the new Groenrivier Function Centre in December 1999.” Continue reading

Daily Collection

Mantis Experiences – Africa at its’ best

Mantis is a family run, private collection of award winning, privately owned, five star properties located around the World.

They include Boutique Hotels, Game Reserves, Eco Lodges, Ski Lodges and Chalets and Yachts. Each unique property aims to celebrate the culture, gastronomy, architecture and nature of the locations in which they are found to offer guests a truly authentic experience.
Each venue also tries to be sensitive to its surroundings in respect of the building, environment and local community.

In South Africa, Mantis properties range from the sophisticated and trendy No5 Boutique Art Hotel in PE to the charming and quaint Lake Pleasant Living in Knysna. Further afield in Gauteng, you’ll find the Mantis-owned iconic Monarch Hotel, while the Oceana Beach & Wildlife Reserve offers a more rustic, natural experience.