How to have a (safe) jol in Cape Town


How to have a (safe) jol in Cape Town

Travelling overseas this holiday season is out of reach for many, and Cape Town will be the most popular destination for a city break. HERMAN LATEGAN has tips on where tourists hang out and how to have a calmer experience.


WHEN I was a child in the 1970s, there were just over a million people in Cape Town. Today, the city's population is fast approaching 5 million.

You see them on sidewalks, people waddling like penguin colonies, in endless lines at supermarkets, liquor stores, beaches, restaurants; in cars that move a metre a minute. Although many residents leave during the holidays, many will stay because we have to count our pennies these days.

Furthermore, the tourism industry predicts that an almost unprecedented number of local and overseas visitors will arrive in the Cape over the next few months. I can already see the Germans with their burnt red faces.

In Sea Point, buses full of visitors from the East are dropped off at one of the many first-class Oriental restaurants. Americans talk on almost every street corner.

Great for the economy, and everyone is welcome, but what about freedom of movement and peace of mind? Let me make some suggestions.

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To the beach

Avoid Clifton and Camps Bay. It will take you hours to get there, parking is impossible, and those cocky young guys with their superior attitudes who spill onto the pavements from the restaurants will only make you develop a grudge against humanity.

If you insist on going, take an Uber but prepare yourself for the crowds. It's fine, everyone should have fun, but it could give you claustrophobia.

My suggestion is to head towards Blouberg, where the beaches are endless. On the way to Melkbos, there are turnoffs such as Holbaai and Eerste, Tweede and Derde Steen.

You can also fish here. The Cape sun is harsh, so take sunscreen and an umbrella. Just remember, the sea is not your friend: stay in the shallow water. The wind comes up quickly and currents drag you out.

When you're done and you fancy lunch, Damhuis in Melkbosstrand is an excellent option. It has a place where the kids can play and you can keep an eye on them. Something that always bothers me at restaurants is parents who let their small children go to the restroom alone. Regardless of what type of restaurant you're at, rather go together.

If you feel like it, you can venture further up the West Coast and visit Paternoster. The drive from Cape Town is about two hours. The beaches there are magnificent. You can walk around and look at the old, whitewashed fishermen's houses.

For the famous restaurant Wolfgat you will have to book months in advance, but there are other places to eat. Stop at the Panty Bar and ask them to direct you to an eatery.

Be warned: the R27 you will drive on, with its views over the sea, is dangerous. People in big cars race on that road and try to force you to make room for them. You will think you're doing them a favour by giving way, until you veer off the road and your car rolls.

Other beach alternatives are Muizenberg, Kalk Bay and Glencairn in the so-called Deep South. You can take a train to Fish Hoek but I would disembark in Kalk Bay, where there is more to see. The trains are safe. Once you arrive in Kalk Bay, you can decide which beach suits you.

There is a quay where you can look at the fishing boats but stay away from the seals. Don't feed them, don't touch them, you risk being bitten.

If, like me, you are not a beach person, you can walk around Kalk Bay and enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants. If you want to use your car, drive over Ou Kaapseweg and then to Glencairn. There is a tidal pool and a beach that is quite private. Dixie's across the road is a popular restaurant with Dutch dishes, as well as fresh fish, lamb curry, pizzas, good wine and beer.


If you want to head towards Sea Point, you will encounter a lot of traffic but there is parking in Mouille Point. Take a stroll on the boardwalk, it's free.

Near Three Anchor Bay you can rent a kayak and take to the waters. Don't leave the kids alone on the beach like two people I know. Chances are you'll never see them again. As in never.

One of the cheapest places to have a meal there is the Hussar Grill. It welcomes little ones and there's no corkage fee if you take your own wine. It is also dog friendly, so Oscar can go along.

Remember, if you are going to walk around the Cape with your dog, take water with you. On a hot day the tar roads are boiling hot and can burn the pads under their paws.

Speaking of dogs, Newlands forest is the ideal place for a walk. Remember the leash because the road next to the forest is like a racetrack. Deeper into the forest you can decide if it is safer to take it off. There is also an official braai and picnic area.

Back to Mouille Point. Diagonally opposite Hussar's you can check out some of the few trains that are still working. Stand and look in amazement that such a thing still exists. It's the little blue train for kids and has been around for decades.

To the mountains

Do you want to climb a mountain? Never go it alone. You might fall and then it will cost thousands of rand to get a helicopter and rescue personnel to you.

Unfortunately, the Mountain Club of South Africa will be closed over the big holidays. To tackle a climb, consult Google and communicate with a guide.

If you want to use the cable car, take an Uber. You will struggle to find parking. Also remember, it's packed with tourists, but once you're up there you can find some quiet spots.

Go for a train ride

In and around the Cape I recommend Uber. If you are a woman or have teenagers, sit in the back seat. For the most part, it's a safe way to commute. Sorry if I'm over-cautious but I know this city and its problems. Rather safe than sorry.

The MyCiTi bus is cheaper than Uber. Look here for more information. A return ticket for the train to Kalk Bay costs less than R20!

For the sports lovers

South Africans are sports mad, so there will always be something going on. I see there is cricket and rugby on. The city is known for its outdoor life. To find out about other sports, feel free to google. Golf is also usually peaceful and a break from large crowds. We have beautiful golf courses.

Before I forget, if you are looking for good and cheap meat for a barbecue, there is nothing wrong with Checkers.

Books and more books

There are good independent bookstores in Cape Town, such as The Book Lounge in Roeland Street and Clarke's in Long Street. The Cafda (Cape Flats Development Association) bookstore in Sea Point sells second-hand books and has an enormous collection of old and new. The income goes to poor communities.

Maybe it's time to bring back the old guard like John Steinbeck, Graham Greene, James Baldwin and Maya Angelou. Charles Dickens, even if he uses too many adjectives, remains the master of the cliffhanger.

There is also the Tears bookshop (The Emma Animal Rescue Society) in Fish Hoek, located in the Valyland Centre. The centre's architecture is so ugly, don't look. Just park your car and run to the bookstore. Inside you will be safe.

A regular customer is an old friend of mine, Father Harry Wiggett. He was Nelson Mandela's priest. He looks like an archetypal preacher; if you run into him there, feel free to talk to him.

When you're done buying your books, walk quickly to your car and don't look at anything. Get going, you came to buy books, not to faint from the ugliness around you.

Gallivant all you want

If you crave a busy nightlife, avoid Long Street. This place has lost its lustre and I have heard too many stories of assaults, thefts and shots being fired.

I drove through there at night and the smell of vomit hung over the place. It is safer during the day. Unfortunately, many of the lovely old buildings are painted so brightly; it is completely out of touch with the architectural history of this street.

This place is  a good example of a tourist trap. There is one highlight though, namely Revelas Fisheries. The food is fresh, the interior is beautiful with its small, colourful mosaic tiles, and it is one of the oldest fish and chip shops in the Cape. Clarke's bookshop is also just a stone's throw away.

For a wild but safer nightlife atmosphere, try Kloof Street. So many eateries and bars have opened, the whole street vibrates under your feet. It feels like the earthquake in 1969. Walk from top to bottom and choose where you want to eat or hang out.

Lower Main Road in Observatory also has a nice spirit, as does Regent Road in Sea Point. Just remember, if you don't like crowds, stay away, but you have to at least dip your toes in the hot water of the demi-monde.

Get thee hence, Satan!

I am intensely happy that the Waterfront creates so many jobs for people and that it is of world standard, but if you are looking for calm, find your salvation elsewhere. The prices are aimed at overseas visitors and the smell of Mammon is suffocating. Better spend your money on a visit to the District Six Museum and the South African Jewish Museum.

Walk through the peaceful Company's Garden for free and take a look at the South African National Gallery. Just a short walk away is the Iziko South African Museum with its interesting collections of African zoology, palaeontology and archaeology.

If that sounds too boring, head to the Kimberley Hotel in Roeland Street for a drink; it's walking distance from the Company's Garden. There you will meet characters who look as if someone has hit them with a broken fan belt. You will quickly forget about ennui.

Broaden your horizons and hang out with people you only read about in the yellow press. Bless. Just don't wake up two days later on a strange ship in port like I did (years ago).

Drama, drama

There are many independent theatres but some will be closed on the big days. Try Die Boer in Durbanville, The Outlore and the Kaapstad Toneelhuis. For more information, use Google, as dates and production times change. I have been to all three and can recommend them.

The Labia presents the best indie films and still has the original feel of an old-time cinema. I once interviewed the actor Richard E Grant and he mentioned that the Labia was like a second university to him when he was a drama student at the University of Cape Town.

Speaking of movies: did you know you can watch film noir productions  on YouTube for free? Those great movies shot in black and white are full of beautiful and difficult women, fast cars and men with drinking problems.


Gone are the days when the Cape had a gay ghetto because, well, I don't really know. Beefcakes in Green Point is a good option. It's like an American diner from the 1950s with excellent shows featuring really funny drag queens like Lilly Slaptsilli and others. Their burgers are juicy, nothing wrong with the food.

Café Manhattan is just around the corner. It is a bar and restaurant. The two sourpusses across the road who were always complaining about the commotion and secretly took pictures have moved. The parties there now sometimes spill over onto the sidewalks.

Be careful with dating apps, and if you want to meet someone, do so in public first. Café Manhattan is a good option.

If you are looking for a nightclub or cha-cha palace, The Pink Candy  is just around the corner. The LGBTQIA+ venues in the townships are still clandestine, but hopefully this will change.


Just because you're on holiday doesn't mean your mental health can't take a turn for the worse. Christmas and New Year may remind you of the first time without someone or make you feel like an outsider because there is so much fake bonhomie around you. Don't stay in bed when you're down. 

Help out at a soup kitchen like The Service Dining Room in the city centre, which is always looking for volunteers. If you're a teenager and you feel bad about your exam results, remember this: that school report is not going to dictate your whole life and identity going forward.

To talk to someone, contact The South African Depression and Anxiety Group or Lifeline.

Finally, keep this article as a guide, enjoy the holidays, laugh and frolic like a child and have fun. For even more information about what's going on in the Cape, click here.

♦ VWB ♦

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