South Africa is often called the ‘Rainbow Nation’ because it is a melting pot of many ethnicities and nationalities. The cuisine is just as colorful as the nation is because it borrows flavors and cooking styles from a wide range of nationalities from the indigenous people of Africa to the Malay, the Indians, the Dutch, the English, and many others who have settled there. However, Cape Town, like all other urbanized, cosmopolitan cities, offers fine examples of some of the food that everyone from anywhere can appreciate. I had pizza at Bocca that rivaled those you might find in Italy, fries at Delaire Graff Winery that were crisp, and infused with truffle oil, and gelato at Gelatomania that I couldn’t eat often enough. Cape Town is a dining Mecca, whether you are eating the local rainbow cuisine or any other cuisine that you might crave.
Color abounds in Cape Town. The Bo Kaap section of town is a neighborhood with vibrantly painted houses in hues such as cobalt blue, lime green, and hot pink. This hilly neighborhood with cobblestoned streets is home to descendants of Malay slaves who were brought to Cape Town hundreds of years ago by the Portuguese. There are several theories about the genesis of the brightly painted houses. One theory is that the people who reside there were called “colored” during the apartheid era, when South Africans were forced to live in different sections of the city based on their race. Another theory relates to the Muslim culture of the residents of this neighborhood. Whatever the origins of the tradition, Bo Kaap is a beautiful and cheerful neighborhood and well worth a visit to see.
South Africa has some of the greatest variety and abundance of animals in the world. Most of the game viewing takes place in the northern parts of the country near the borders of Botswana and Zimbabwe, where elephant, lion, hippo, zebra and many other animals roam freely. Cape Town, a beautiful and cosmopolitan city in the southern part of the country, is known for its coastline, mountains, and winelands but not, typically, for its wild life. Most of the wildlife that we spotted lived on or near the ocean.
On a daytrip to the Cape of Good Hope, we saw groups of seals and penguins, the latter of which I had never seen, before, in the wild. While the population of penguins seems plentiful, sadly, their numbers have dwindled from 3,500,000 at its high in the late 19th century to a mere 44,000, today. Waste from ships, predators feasting on eggs, and human interference in the breeding process, have all had a negative impact on the penguin population. If conservation efforts do not reverse this decline, South African penguins could be extinct within the next 10 or 15 years.
Also spotted in the parklands near the Cape of Good Horn, were baboons, ostrich, and buck. We kept our eyes peeled for zebra but they are elusive in this part of the country. So, for an area that is not known for its animals, we certainly saw more than our fair share of them.
The sprawling metropolis of Cape Town, on the southwestern coast of South Africa, is ringed by some of the most beautiful mountain vistas in the world. Table Mountain, the city’s iconic plateau, Lion’s Head, the mountain resembling a reclining lion, Devil’s Peak, and Signal Hill, form the boundaries of the main part of the city.
A trip to the top of Table Mountain is imperative during a visit to Cape Town. Hearty adventurers might choose to climb to the top, but most tourists take a quick cable car ride up to the 3600 foot high plateau. The cable car whisks visitors up in less than five minutes. However, a trip up is dependent upon weather conditions and in Cape Town, the weather can change on a moment’s notice. Visitors must seize the opportunity of a calm and sunny day to make the ascent.
Seize the opportunity, we did. Despite jet lag, after a long flight from New York City, we decided to make the trip up on our first afternoon in town. The conditions were perfect, with sunny blue skies and little wind. We did not want to risk the possibility that the weather, over the next few days, would prohibit us from going to the top. Ascending up in the cable car, it felt as if we might slam into the rock face. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the exquisite vistas of the nearby cliffs, the beautiful cityscape, and the sea below. In the distance, we could see Robben Island, the island on which Nelson Mandela was confined for much of his lengthy and unjust imprisonment.
I had never been to Amsterdam before but my luck changed, yesterday, when I had a long layover there. No one ever feels lucky to have a layover. However, when the airport is a mere fifteen minutes from the center of one of the most picturesque cities in the world, one cannot pass up the opportunity to head on in and get a quick lay of the land. I picked up a Lonely Planet guide book from the airport book store, hailed a taxi and took a scenic tour of the city, making a mental note of all of the sites that I must revisit on a future trip. The canals, which I just discovered, were man made, beginning in the early part of the 17th century, form concentric semi-circles, with smaller canals passing across them. They are lined with beautiful, charming buildings, no higher than 5 or 6 stories, each slightly different in style and color than its neighbors. The houseboats, motorboats, and tour boats contribute to the activity and beauty of the canals. Quaint little bridges, as many as 1500 in number, traverse the canals. We attempted a visit to the Anne Frank House but the line was several blocks long and, alas, we did not have sufficient time to wait. I was so taken with Amsterdam that I cannot wait to return sometime soon.
A visit to London would not be complete without a trip to one of its famous shopping arcades or markets. There are upscale arcades found in some of the fancier parts of town and then there are glorified flea markets such as The Camden Market, which reminded me of a Middle Eastern bazaar. Despite the dreary UK weather, the colorful buildings, murals and wares brightened my day. The kitschy, inexpensive finds are almost secondary to the festive atmosphere at this market.
While I had not seen any of the Oscar-nominated movies this year, I still looked forward to watching the spectacle of the red carpet and the award celebration, itself. My nominees for the best dressed were Nicole Kidman, Scarlett Johannson, Naomi Watts, Lupita Nyong’o, and Dakota Johnson. And the award goes to Lupita Nyong’l, whose custom-designed Calvin Klein Dress was made with 6000 pearls. She looked stunning, but I wonder just how heavy that dress was.
Sitting atop the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), at Columbus Circle in New York City, is the restaurant Robert’s. It is a colorful, brightly lit space, overlooking the southwestern entrance to Central Park. I came here to celebrate my cousin’s birthday. The view from the restaurant is breathtaking and we had the pleasure of watching a snowstorm blow in, which created blizzard-like conditions. I enjoyed my meal but especially loved the artfully crafted desserts.
While I didn’t have a chance to see any exhibits on this visit, I look forward to returning. This museum exhibits a wide range of decorative arts such as textiles, jewelry, home decor and fashion, to name a few. They also have artists’ studios on the premises, where visitors can observe the creative process that artists undertake, as they work with various materials, creating original works of art.
Henri Matisse had an illustrious career as an artist and is largely considered one of the greatest, most influential artists of the 20th century. He painted in a wide range of styles throughout his life but focused on painted, paper cut-outs in his latter years. During this period, he was confined to a wheelchair, which hindered his ability to paint on large canvases and easels. He cut out abstract shapes from paper that had been painted in vibrant tones of gouache paint by his assistants and, with their help, arranged them on paper or canvas. This body of work, which he described as “Painting with scissors” has been on display at the Museum of Modern Art and seen by over half a million visitors.