My Cape Escape!

Sharon Feinstein and her mum take in the delights of Cape Town with it’s top hotels, restaurants and, of course, breathtaking views – but also make time to pay their respects at Africa’s first Holocaust centre

Cape Town glistens in that white sunshine that only exists under a big African sky. Wherever you turn there’s a sense of drama, the city spread out between the spectacular mountain range and two contrasting oceans, on one side the icy Atlantic and the warm Indian on the other.
Driving up to the historic Mount Nelson Hotel is undeniably grand. Through the tall white gateway along the avenue of towering palms, and into the bosom of luxury.
The pink, quintessentially colonial building stands in the shadow of the mighty mountain with spectacular views from some of the prime rooms.
It’s well situated in the heart of the city, and yet there’s a pervading sense of calm and space as you wander through the luscious gardens, along the all-white walkway of hibiscus, roses and salvia to the child friendly pool, or across the manicured lawns to a charming cottagey hideaway pool for adults only.
I took my mother on her annual holiday to the ‘fairest’ Cape where she languished like a queen in her state-of-the-art-suite, the scent of the frangipani wafting through her room, front views across the Kitchener fountain, stately old oaks and eucalyptus trees.
This is no ordinary hotel. Preceding my Queenly mum was a long line of Royals who visited the Mount Nelson, from the Prince of Wales in 1925 to Prince Charles and Camilla last year.
The post-colonial feel lends a languor to the English drawing room atmosphere, fans whirring from opulent ceilings, antimacassars draped over roomy sofas, and an abundance of exotic flower arrangements.
But as Flaubert put it, God is in the details, and managing director Sandros Fabris, the new shining light from Europe, is upping the game in the rooms with elegant design touches and cleverly concealed gadgets.
We loved the poolside breakfasts, a long leisurely affair which drifts seamlessly into lunch, and then the hotel highlight, the legendary afternoon tea, which makes one wish one wasn’t quite so greedy.
This is old style, elegant grandeur, the lady on the piano, tables outside under the shade of the bougainvillea, clinking of tea cups with a choice of 30-odd teas, and a dark chocolate cake to send you to heaven.

A walk from the Mount Nelson takes you through the city’s cool Government Gardens to cobblestoned Greenmarket Square, a vibrant street market, and on to colourful Long Street, where the wrought-iron balconies, ethnic music and jazz bars create a New Orleans atmosphere.

It’s also where I discovered Roberto’s, a charming new restaurant with airy white clapboard decor, and exciting, original dishes from the innovative Roberto.
Europeans have discovered that Cape Town and it’s surrounding wine lands are far more beautiful than the South of France at half the price, and the city has become increasingly sophisticated.

Big stars regularly fly in and Hollywood movies are being shot.
Slick little bars and buzzing gastronomic restaurants have popped up everywhere, so I dragged my poor mother to eat for Africa, in the name of my article of course, until she pleaded for a night
Salt Restaurant in Bantry Bay has breathtaking views, the floor to ceiling windows tinted with rose as the sun slips beneath the sea, and wind whipped waves crash on the rocks below.
Thanks to the quality of local ingredients, the food is astoundingly
good, wonderfully fresh fish and chilled South African wines served by willing waiters.
I was also taken with the more casual Codfather, a favourite of Annie Lennox who’d been there the night before and written in their guest book. Speechless and Satiated, which I seconded.
Those in the know have a long Sunday lunch on the veranda of Chapman’s Peak Hotel in Hout Bay, across the road from the sea, where there’s a real buzz about the place and my grilled calamari served in a frying pan was the best I’ve ever had.
Right on the beach is the trendy Grand Cafe Grainger Bay where Ryan Gosling was hiding behind his shades, and cool couples sipped Caipirinhas watching the sun go down. Busy waiters with seafood platters charge between packed tables and there’s a whiff of fun in the soft night air.
Drive to Camps Bay beach and you’ll find the other Grand along the main drag and across from the vivid blue Atlantic. There’s a casual, Continental feel here as people parade past outdoor tables, and the just-caught fish is cooked with delicious Cape herbs.
Away from the eating and shopping, I bought some fabulous sunglasses at ever so trendy Oculus in the Cape Quarter, and a suitcase full of Cape cotton clothes, light as linen, from Just Cruizin – a visit to the contrasting Holocaust Centre, the first in Africa, is a sobering but enlightening experience.
Under the guidance of Director Richard Freedman, it prides itself on being an educational centre which sends teachers into the deepest parts of the country on school programmes and teacher training. It also works with the S A police, nurses and engineers who come to the centre to explore the moral and ethical issues. “The centre will help our children to understand that human rights are indivisible and that tolerance is essential to a free society,” said Mandela.
Cape Town is famed for it’s satin sand beaches where you must slap on your Creme de la Mer under the African sun and hold on to your bikini in the terrific waves.
It’s a leisurely drive to the Indian Ocean on the other side of the mountain, and the quaint bohemian villages Kalk Bay and Fishhoek.
This is a haven for the surfers but also a new danger spot because of the great white sharks, so keep your eye on the flags.
I had a lot of fun in my rented Kia from Europcar, always helpful.
A bit like a homing pidgeon I was ever glad to get back to the Mount Nelson and have that evening drink in their fashionable Planet Bar or out on the candle-lit terrace.
Dinner at the Planet Restaurant has a sense of occasion, stylish and romantic, with superb food, the one place to which my mother always wanted to return.
Cape Town is infused with the kind of magic you only find in place of great natural beauty. During his many years of incarceration on Robben Island, Mandela wrote of how he would gaze across at the magnificent silhouette of Table Mountain, and to him it was a beacon of hope. He said: “It represented the mainland to which we knew we would one day return.”
And that’s the thing about this city. It has a deep draw that makes you feel that as long as it’s humanly possible, one day you will return.”