On the Beach

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Cape Town is Closed

As a hardened British educated capitalist, it was with surprise, shock and disdain that I noticed how much of Cape Town was shut on New Year's Eve- in peak tourist season, in mid-summer: when there's money to be made, people!

That day we had hoped to go out for a special lunch with family from overseas. To this end, we called a bunch- a WHOLE BUNCH of places, only to be greeted by either an answer phone message or an either dismissive, arrogant or apologetic "Sorry, we're full".

You could argue that we were naive in thinking that we would get a table last minute on New Years' Eve and I cannot entirely refute the logic of your argument. However, having lived here for a few years, even I- highly-strung, London raised me- have become accustomed to booking at the last minute or not booking at all. This is a city where people don't really plan, they wait to see what they feel like doing and then do it.  None of this meeting with friends, whooping out your diary at the end and booking in another meeting in 6 weeks: that's not for Cape Town.

Even so, these last minute bookings or arrangements don't really fly here in peak tourist season. In December and January the population of Cape Town must triple and one can spend hours stuck behind those dreadful red tourist buses ambling along a road that is undoubtedly beautiful and worth taking slowly but nonetheless forms part of your school run. That short-cut over Kloof Nek suddenly turns into a car park and Camps Bay beach is as crowded as Brighton Beach on that sunny Tuesday in the English summer. The other day I tried to book supper in a winery (a day in advance even!) and they told me the best they could offer me was lunch 5 days later. My friend remarked that we should try again only once all those tourists leave us alone.

So, with all these tourists roaming around Cape Town freely throwing around their cash, especially as the Rand is so weak, WHY are all these places shut? Why do you call a restaurant  only to had a message that they're closed from December 16th to January 15th? How is it that you wander around De Waterkant on New Years Eve and fail to spend any money on either coffee or goods because 2/3 of places are shut?

The only explanation I can give is simply that: this is Cape Town. People don't move to Cape Town to make their fortune, to earn their first million: in South Africa that is reserved for Jo'burg. People move to Cape Town for the lifestyle: the climate, the sea, the mountains, the food, the wine the chilled out vibe. If that's what brought you here, then when summer kicks in, your instinct is not to roll up your sleeves and fleece the tourists, your instinct is to take advantage of the longer days, the summer, the kids holidays and get out and enjoy the amazing city and surrounds of Cape Town.

A lot of people in Cape Town- from gardeners and domestic workers to executives and lawyers- take off a whole month from mid-December to January to enjoy Christmas, recover from the year gone by and enjoy summer in Cape town. I am happy to join them and wait until those pesky tourists leave so I can reclaim my favourite haunts.

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