by adeline talbot

This is it!  The time of year that itineraries for our 2017 trips start to roll out.  As you will see from the tabs above, the first three of these include Havana, Prague and Cape Town.

 Today guest blogger Benjamin Briggs, Executive Director of Preservation Greensboro, Inc.(PGI), posts on 'Why Cape Town',  a trip that is being jointly offered by PGI and Weatherspoon Art Museum.  I've got to say--he makes a great case!  

Few cities in the world boast such a distinctive setting as Cape Town, South Africa. Nestled at the foot of the legendary Table Mountain, the city features a variety of landscapes and settings ranging from the dramatic coastline of the South Atlantic to the vinicultural foothills of the Constantia Valley.

Cape Town was founded by Jan van Riebeeck of the Dutch East India Company in 1652, and in light of its reputation as South Africa’s first European settlement, it is known as “the Mother City.” The city center is situated in the “City Bowl” a relatively flat area located at the base of Table Mountain, with Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head to the east and west respectively, and the harbor to the north. The Company’s Gardens, established by the Dutch East India Company to supply food for the Spice Route, are a green park surrounded by many of the city’s museums and the Parliament of South Africa. Cape Town is designated the legislative capital, Bloemfontein is the judicial capital, and Pretoria serves as the administrative capital. Cast iron verandas and Victorian facades house cafés and bars line Long Street, the main commercial road, and the Neoclassical Town Hall fronts the main square, called the Grand Parade.

Matching the city’s diverse topography is an equally rich ethnic history. Many Capetonians claim one of five cultural narratives, including the native nomadic Cape Coloureds, the Blacks from the Lakes District of central Africa, Dutch descendants known as Afrikaans, immigrants from the British Empire, and a distinctive group of people from South and Southeast Asia who consider themselves part of the Cape Malay community. Though many Capetonians live in segregated communities, there is hope that a truly integrated society will forge the concept of a South African “rainbow nation.”

In spite of economic and sociological challenges due to globalization and disparity, Cape Town has a charm unlike any other place in the world.  For visitors, the attractions are numerous, ranging from the emerging and innovative art scene that will be highlighted by the opening of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art in early 2017 to the haunted landscape of the former prison at Robben Island. Many visitors are enchanted by the seaside setting of Camps Bay or the colorful facades of the historic Bo Kaap neighborhood. Others will enjoy the historic landmarks of the V & A (Victoria and Albert) Waterfront, or the Baroque facades that grace the oldest houses in the city. Needless to say, this city has much to offer – even to the most jaded globetrotter.

Cape Town is the administrative and cultural heart of the Western Cape Province, the southernmost region in South Africa. The legendary Cape of Good Hope, a dramatic peninsula of rock pointing south to the Antarctic, is located just 30 miles south of the City Bowl. The eastern suburbs of Cape Town are a patchwork of Afrikaan, Black, Coloured, and White neighborhoods. In the far east, the Hottentots Holland Mountains provide a jagged backdrop to the charming wine-growing towns of Stellenbosch (second oldest settlement after Cape Town), and Franschhoek, a French Huguenot refuge settled in the late seventeenth century. Both towns feature an architectural style known as Western Cape-style that exhibits white plaster walls and distinctive Dutch gable rooflines.

Cape Town and the Western Cape enjoy highly developed and hospitable tourist economies that cater to South African and European visitors. With its growing arts community and temperate climate, it is now being discovered with great enthusiasm by North American travelers who are richly rewarded for their travel prowess!