Driving the Garden Route The drive from Hermanus to KwaZulu-Natal was an adventure! I underestimated it, got lost during side excursions, and was challenged every day. The N2 is the “safe” route, but for most of the journey, there’s no median separating opposing traffic. You face the onslaught of erratic oncoming traffic, including drivers passing…Read More
I’m moving on October 1st. Although Tamboerskloof is a wonderful neighborhood I found a more comfortable place to spend the last month in Cape Town – a large flat in St. Martini Gardens on Queen Victoria Street. It’s a security block in the Gardens neighborhood and heart of Cape Town. Since it’s off-season the rate is the same as the tiny studio I’m occupying now!
St. Martini Gardens is next door to the French School and French and Italian Consulates, opposite the Company’s Gardens, and close to Long Street, Mandela Rhodes Place, and Greenmarket Square. The Company’s Garden (named for the Dutch East India Trading Company) was originally established in 1652 by Cape Town’s founding father, Jan van Riebeeck. Van Riebeeck had orders to secure fresh vegetables in the provisioning of the colonists. Today The Company’s Gardens is much more than a large vegetable patch, it’s a lush public park and refreshing botanical garden.
The South African National Museum, Iziko Planetarium, National Art Gallery, Jewish Museum, De Tuynhuys (the President’s Cape Town residence), and Houses of Parliament where South Africa’s politicians meet during the summer are all housed on Company Gardens grounds.
The South Africa Art Gallery began with a bequest of 45 paintings in 1871. Its collections of South African, African, British, Dutch, French, and Flemish art are impressive. Temporary exhibitions are constantly changed to keep things interesting and the Gallery Shop sells the best of traditional and contemporary South African crafts. Billed as ‘the ultimate armchair travel’ the Iziko Planetarium is ‘a trip through the vast wonders of outer space projected on a domed auditorium to recreate the night sky’.
The Company’s Garden has a café / tea room shaded by large exotic trees. During summer and on weekends visitors enjoy open-air concerts there including live jazz and African music. The tea room serves homemade pastries. I can vouch for the yummy scones served with cream!
St. Georges Cathedral and the South African National Library are near the bottom end of the gardens close to Mandela Rhodes Place. The gorgeous Centre for the Book is also on Queen Victoria Street. It’s a unit of the National Library of South Africa and promotes easy access to books and a culture of reading, writing, and publishing in all local languages.
The Garden lawns include fountains, well-stocked fish ponds, a Japanese rose garden, an aviary, a sun-dial, and the country’s oldest cultivated pear tree. There are many friendly, curious resident squirrels, like the ones in my yard back in Oregon. Large bronze statues scattered along the walking paths pay homage to South Africa’s history. I’m sure it will be a very comfortable and interesting place to spend my last month in beautiful Cape Town.