From the Huguenot Memorial to De Villiers Street you will find a vibrant stretch of artistic paradise with over twenty galleries and art studios and a walking route that ensures you take everything in. Along the way we urge you to pop into the Huguenot Memorial Museum, with its pristine shaded lawns (superb for a bring-along picnic) and its quaint back story.
From 1957 – 1967 this building was moved, brick by numbered brick, from the Cape Town City Bowl out to its current location. Painstakingly and lovingly rebuilt, honouring the legendary French architect Louis Michel Thibault.
The museum houses many original items from the first settlers, including bibles, diaries, tea sets and furniture, allowing you to catch a unique glimpse into the hardships, perils and successes these early pioneers faced. The experience is very personal, almost private and takes the mind back to simpler yet more difficult times.
Previously we did a post describing the Table Mountain Cable Car experience and seeing as there was some interest to delve a little deeper into the story behind our iconic landmark, we decided to put together a small collection of facts and stories about Table Mountain, and its place in our hearts.
This is a pretty and singular town; it lies at the foot of an enormous wall (the Table Mountain), which reaches into the clouds, and makes a most imposing barrier. Cape Town is a great inn, on the great highway to the east. - Charles Darwin in a letter to his sister, Catherine, 1836
Table Mountain has been named one of the new 7 Wonders of the World and gets its name from its flat looking top (sheared off ages past by glaciers) and the beautiful crown of clouds that seem to hurtle down the side of the mountain, ever disappearing into the dew point, the “Tablecloth”. It commands panoramic views over most of the peninsula, out to Robben Island, across Table and False Bay and is criss-crossed by hiking trails for all abilities.
Legend has it that the tablecloth is actually the smoke from the duel between the retired pirate Van Hunks and the devil himself, doomed to be repeated every year (the devils punishment for Van Hunks, who bested him). Truth be told, this is most likely a literary contrivance that owes more to Kipling and Rossetti than to genuine oral tradition, but this is part of the reason why Duiwepiek (Peak of Doves) eventually changed to Duiwelspiek (Devils Peak).
Another story associated with Table Mountain is that of the African Sun god Tixo who, along with the Earth goddess Djobela, conceived a son, Qamata who created the world. Whilst Qamata was trying to forge dry land, The Great Sea Dragon become enraged and tried to stop him. Enlisting the aid of his mother, they brought into existence 4 giants to fight the Dragon, one for each corner of the globe. As each giant fought and fell, they had one final request, to be made into mountains and remain as guardians of the earth. The largest of these was Umlindi Wemingizimu, who became the watcher of the South, Table Mountain, ever guarding against the wrath of the great Sea Dragon.
Fun Fact: Table Mountain is the only terrestrial feature to give its name to a constellation: Mensa, meaning The Table. The constellation is seen in the Southern Hemisphere, below Orion, around midnight in mid-July. It was named by the French astronomer Nicolas de Lacaille during his stay at the Cape in the mid-18th century (source).
Cape Town is known as “the city with the mountain” for a reason, and that reason is our spectacular range that forms the backdrop of every piece of tourist literature, Table Mountain. Around 300 million years ago the mountain top was at sea level, and ice sheets progressing across the peninsula during an ice age “sheared off” the top, giving it its unique profile. The trip up on the 65-person, 360 degree rotating cable car is as brief as it is spectacular, in no time (+/- 10 minutes) you will have ascended to a 1000 metres above sea level, with views that encompass the entire southern peninsula, all the way out to Robben Island and far beyond.
For the adventurous (and fit) there is the hiking ascent, with the firm knowledge that at the end of your summiting endeavours, you will be able to enjoy a fine glass of bubbly, the best view in the world, and a sedate cable car ride back down. On the “tabletop” you will find a restaurant and Deli that serves fine fare and delicious beverages as well as a network of paths (a lot of which are wheelchair friendly) and information boards that inform guests about the indigenous flora and fauna. Take heed when the cloud comes in, and especially when the summit station starts sounding it’s klaxon to indicate poor visibility, that means it time to head back.
Seeing as there is a “no bookings” policy, before heading through to the base station please call the information and weather line to see if the cable car is operational (+27 (0)21 424 8181) or you can try the office line (+27 (0)21 424 0015). On a regular day of operation, a cable car will depart from the summit and base station simultaneously every 10-15 minutes, and as a rough guide (remember to call the info line for specifics on the day) the first and last cars up are 08h00 to 08h30 and 17h30 to 21h00 respectively, and the last car down can range from 18h30 - 22h00.
Iziko is a isiXhosa term that signifies “hearth”, a place for gathering and exchanging ideas, stories and oral history. It is also the term for a collection of 12 national museum sites in Cape Town that do sterling work in the spheres of history, social history and the arts. Several of these can be accessed through a half day walk which includes the Company Gardens (originally laid in the 1650’s).
The South African National Gallery and the Michaelis Collection showcase historic art as well as curated collections and the latest offerings by the very talented students of the Michaelis School of Fine Art. A stone’s throw away you will find the South African Museum of local natural history and the Iziko Planetarium that will help you make sense of the night skies in the Southern Hemisphere.
A stroll through the Garden’s (and the inevitable squirrel and pigeon feeding that accompanies this) will take you to the Slave Lodge and St. George’s Cathedral (the former seat of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, our first black archbishop and legendary activist and peace broker). Parallel to the Gardens you will find Kloof Street which becomes Long Street, both of which contain deli’s, restaurants, clothing stores and the melting pot of curios, The Pan African Market, where you can pick up anything from Mali to Morocco, Kenya to Cape Town.