Monday, 1 June 2015

May 9: Killing time at the Castle

We leave on safari tomorrow, and wanted to be ready. There’s a lot to do in Cape Town, but we wanted to keep the day easy. We wanted to visit the botanical garden, but you seriously can’t get there from here (you need a car or to be on the City Sightseeing bus; no public transit goes near the place). So we planned just to explore the Castle of Good Hope and maybe the District Six Museum, plus get our laundry done.

We woke to the “Table Cloth”, the famous cloud that commonly shrouds the mountain.

The clouds pur over then dissipate
But the power was off when we woke up. Now, I checked yesterday, and the power company Eskom said that loadshedding (rolling blackouts) was “suspended until further notice”. Our whole block was off, but the stop lights were working. Not being able to make breakfast, we opted to go out and hopefully find out who had power.

It was a random thing. The coffee shop across the street did have power, but the building next door didn’t. About 50% of the buildings had some power, a few were on generators, and the others were dark. Our laundry lady did have power, so we dropped it and went home, and by the time we got home, the power was back on. Go figure.

Having burned up a lot of the morning, we opted to just visit the Castle of Good Hope, which is right across from City Hall and the Grand Parade, where Mandela made his first speech after being released.

A pretty building
The castle is the classic pentagonal rampart castle style that the Dutch built and we visited in places like Naarden, as you can see from this castle model.

Note the sea, just meters from the front wall
The entrance is moated and pretty. It's the "new" entrance. Not long after the castle was built, they realized having the door meters from the front door was a bad idea. Sea water would come in during storms and high tides, flood the castle and put water in their wells. Oops. So they renovated after 50 years and moved the door to the side.

Entrance #2 
The bell dates from the 1600's

Inside, they give regular demonstrations of firing a cannon

Loading the little guy 
Pay 100R and you can set the cannon off

The fort was build in the late 1600’s, and the castle’s interior has lots of original (though restored) stuff.

Detailing above the entrance
The original 1600's water pump 
Corridors and tunnels 
Cannon ports on the ramparts 
Talk about aiming at the British 
A different view than when the castle was built 
Fortifications behind the walls
The Governor lived in the centre cross 
Impressive rockwork 
Inside archways 
Inside courtyards 
The entrance to the armoury 
The Governor's balcony
There’s a dungeon and torture chamber where prisoners were forced to confess guilt. The original manacles remain attached to the walls.

Looks like no fun at all
The interior of the castle’s pentagram has marching areas and is still used by the military, plus is a conference centre.

Pretty yards 
Rented out for weddings
Considering that the castle was built on the waterfront, and now it’s miles inland, it’s not surprising the views have changed somewhat.

City hall next door 
That tower used to be the ocean

The detail work in the original stone walls is stunning.

The rock mostly came from quarries on Table Mountain
Inside the castle, there’s a commercial business running in the same place as a business that would have been here 400 years ago: a forgery.

Tools of a blacksmith 
Who knew?
I’m not sure if this offer is real or fake.

Oh, I hope it's real...
I was impressed to see this in the museum

WW2 Medals
My dad earned medals #2 and #6. They hang in my living room.

The Castle isn’t exciting; the military museums have too many narratives and things to read, aren’t laid out chronologically, and are confusing, though the weapons from the 1600’s to the 1940’s are interesting. There’s a museum of the interior furnishings of the 1700’s and they’re beautiful, but out of context. There’s a “long table” that seats 100, but it’s just a bunch of tables for 4 jammed together. And the “castle” isn’t a castle; like Naarden, it’s a fortress.

But it was perfect for us today. We were done by 3, had laundry in hand by 4, were packed for our safari departure tomorrow by 5, and were on the balcony with wine in hand for sunset – ready for this to be my home for the next 21 days.

Our truck, I think, parked and ready to fly

Today's Africa Travel Tips: Alcohol

I admit it, I’m a wino, and Southern Africa is an awesome place to be a wino, and to drink in general. Perfectly good wine is available here for R30-R40, and really good wine for R50-R80. That’s $3-$4 and $5-8. In restaurants, it is rare to find wine over R150 (unless the restaurant is stupid expensive, and even they are rare). The price increases and selection decreases the farther you get from South Africa, but not by much (except in Vic Falls). Wine is sold in grocery stores, in specialty liquor stores attached to grocery stores, and in specialty wine stores.

It’s also great to drink G&T’s here, which can be regularly had in a lounge or bar for between R20 and R40 ($2-$4). In fact, it’s so cheap (and we’re talking Gordon’s gin or Bombay Sapphire) that they’re always suggesting you have doubles, because it’s R10 more. Now, this I find more interesting, because Bombay Sapphire is still about R250 for a 750 ml bottle, not a lot more expensive than home. But their mark ups in bars are so much lower.

Put cheap wine and cheap food together and we haven’t had a meal that has broken $75 Canadian, and our average is $42, always including appies & mains & a dessert & wine.

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