Tag Archives: Cape Town

Cape Winelands

Before heading out to wine country, we walked to a beautiful market with a huge variety of foods and crafts.

“There was a time long before apartheid
when South African wines were savored
by Napoleon and Louis XVI. The vintages
are reclaiming their global renown now
that democracy … has arrived. ”
New York Times

Today we’re escaping the city in search of some of South Africa’s fabulous wines along the Paarl Wine Route,  We travel over the 366 metre (1,200 foot) Helshoogte Pass to elegant Stellenbosch. Founded in 1679, this is the second oldest town in the country and is home to South Africa’s first Afrikaans-language university.

“The district of Stellenbosch is one of the oldest and most
important wine producing regions in South Africa. It is
located just east of Cape Town within the Western Cape
and along with Paarl and Franschhoek helps to form the
Cape Winelands. Simon van der Stel is credited with
founding the town of Stellenbosch back in 1679 and the
first vines were planted in 1690 according to our
Stellenbosch Wine Guide. Stellenbosch is composed of
mostly hilly terrain and a Mediterranean climate with
warm and dry growing seasons. The variety of soils in
the region in combination with its location at the foot
of the Cape Fold mountain range gives Stellenbosch
a favorable terroir for viticulture. Our Stellenbosch
Wine Ratings would indicate that Cabernet Sauvignon
helps to produce the best wines in this region.
However Merlot, Pinotage, Shiraz, Chenin Blanc,
Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are also all grown
throughout Stellenbosch. For more information on this
region check out our Stellenbosch Wine Guide.”
The Wine Enthusiast


There are over 60 wine estates in the Stellenbosch area and we will stop at one for a wine tasting in this heavenly setting.   For more on the “rich, juicy syrah, perfumed Chenin Blanc and Viognier, tobacco-laced Cabernet and Merlot blends and easy drinking whites and roses,” check out The Jaw-Dropping Wines of South Africa’s Stellenbosch, at Winefolly, here

First we stopped in the scenic town of Stellenbosch.

We arrived at our lush destination, the winery, L’avinir, where our guide, Sarah, dramatically lobbed the cork and top of the bottle off with a sword.  We tasted a selection of champagnes, known as Méthode Cap Classique (more commonly the rather uninspiring short form “MCC”, as in, “MCC anyone?” Or, “a glass of MCC, s’il vous plait?”) alluding to the fact that they use the same method as classic french champagne producers.  We also sampled some delightful Pinotages.

We stopped for a delicious lunch at a spot that specialized in cheeses and, not surprisingly, kept some jolly billy goats gruff.  After salads, cheeses and a charcuterie board, we went next door for more sampling, this time, everything from beer to chocolate.

Returning to Cape Town, it was our last night and I had to return to the vibrant waterfront to wander, enjoy the saturated evening light, music and gelato.  One of the prettiest scenes among all of the gorgeous scenery we have seen in Cape Town, is right here.


I hope South Africa is able to turn itself around economically and narrow the gap between rich and poor, because Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen and I would love to return.

Now that I have Zigged through Amsterdam and Zagged through Capetown, it’s time to Zog, meaning this trip is about to take a very different turn!  As we fly over more beautiful South African scenery, I am eager to get to the heart of this trip, spectacular Namibia.  We’re flying to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia.



Cape of Good Hope




Chapman’s Peak Drive is considered one of the most spectacular coastal drives in the world, and you can see why in the gorgeous shots I downloaded from online above, and my shots below.  Above the road, vertical sandstone cliffs rise 700 metres to the summit of Chapman’s Peak while the cliff below drops away equally vertically. At the northern end of this 7 km series of twists and turns is the picturesque lobster fishing town of Hout Bay.



In 1607, the skipper of the ship, “The Consent,” found his vessel becalmed in Hout Bay and sent his pilot, John Chapman, to row ashore in the hope of finding provisions. The pilot later recorded the bay as – guess what? – Chapman’s Chaunce (chance) and the name stuck, becoming official on all East India charts.

In 1914, preliminary surveys on the road got under way. Surveying the route was a scary business – at times the surveying party was on all fours as they investigated the perpendicular terrain. The project appeared to be a ‘mission impossible’ but the Governor would not take no for an answer and eventually he ordered the ‘go ahead’ for the highway along the cliffs.  The spectacular roadway took seven years to complete, at a cost of ₤20 000, hewn out of the stone face of Sheer Mountain.  It opened to traffic on Saturday 6 May 1922 by the Governor of the Union of South Africa, His Royal Highness Prince Arthur of Connaught.


The road seemed doomed again for reasons familiar to us in B.C. – there were many dangerous, some fatal, rockfall accidents and landslides and through several lawsuits, the law evolved and the government was forced to take responsibility for the safety of the travelling public.  As a result of these incidents and the resulting liability, Chapman’s Peak Drive was officially closed to traffic indefinitely in January 2000 and was open and closed for the next few years.  The problems continued until 2009 when it re-opened after a year of major upgrades and repairs.  Chappies has remained open since then and is beloved by locals and tourists like us.


Along the way to the Cape, we came across these guys – the males are black, the females buff, and it is spring, after all, there are some very fresh chicks if you can spot them:



The Cape


The Cape of Good Hope has been engrained in my mind since public school.   Originally claimed in 1488 by Portugese navigator, Bartolomeu Dias, and declared by King John II as the southern tip of the African continent, the Cape was so-named because its discovery was a good omen that India could be reached by sea from Europe.  While that part was true, the southern tip of Africa where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet is about 150 km southeast of here. Nonetheless, the Dutch certainly prospered from the discovery of this trade route to Indonesia and India.

The Flying Dutchman

298324C0-42FD-4B80-A980-13DF5EBA54D1                                         The Flying Dutchman by Albert Pinkham Ryderc, 1887

Legend and many literary references have it that the ghosts of the crew of  the ship, “The Flying Dutchman,” haunt the headland and its waters. It is said that the ghost ship can never make port, doomed to sail the oceans forever and that the crew will try to send messages to land or to people long dead.  In ocean lore, the sight of this phantom ship is a portent of doom.


There have been many reported sightings of the ship, or of a ship glowing with ghostly light.   On a three year educational voyage with his tutor and older brother, the future King George V,  recorded this in his journal:

July 11th. At 4 a.m. the Flying Dutchmancrossed our bows.
A strange red light as of a phantom ship all aglow, in the
midst of which light the masts, spars and sails of a brig
200 yards distant stood out in strong relief as she came up
on the port bow, where also the officer of the watch from
the bridge clearly saw her, as did the quarterdeck midshipman, who was sent forward at once to the forecastle; but on arriving there was no vestige nor any sign whatever of any material ship was to be seen either near or right away to the horizon, the night being clear and the sea calm. Thirteen persons altogether saw her… At 10.45 a.m. the ordinary seaman who had this morning reported the
Flying Dutchman fell from the foretopmast crosstrees on to the topgallant forecastle and was smashed to atoms.”

Whether good hope or bad omen, we were visiting the beautiful peninsula today.   It was atmospherically grab-onto-something-or-be-knocked-over windy.  The Cape Peninsula is a 100 km (60 mile) long spit of land at whose tip stands the most powerful lighthouse in the world.   



Look who dropped by while we were there [baboons]:



Yesterday we saw some beautiful scenery and some wildlife on Robbens Island, too – a tortoise, some oyster catchers and some Steenbok, a small species of antelope:




We have been hearing lots of African music at the V & A, and today being Saturday, we heard and watched some enthusiastic school-aged kids at Boulders Beach.


Status:  Endangered (but recovering)

Two feet tall, brimming with head-cocking curiosity and hair-trigger irritability, the Jackass Penguins are among the most endearing sights on the Cape, and being thoroughly socialized, they grudgingly tolerate human presence.  Boulders Beach, with its gigantic beachball-round boulders, has one of only two land-based African penguin colonies.

Maybe you’ll fall in love with them as I did, watching this lovely video, and you’ll hear how they got their name, too:

Sure enough, we heard them heehawing when saw them today.



Living proof as to just how windy it was along the coast today:




Home to about 2,600 species of flowering plants, the Cape Peninsula Nature Reserve is part of one of the six floral kingdoms in the world, the Cape Floral Kingdom.

The Boomslang

Beautifully situated on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, our last stop today was at the breathtaking Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens dedicated to the preservation of plants indigenous to southern Africa.  Kirstenbosch includes a fragrance garden, a medicinal garden, 2,500 species of plants found on the Cape Peninsula, a Protea garden (the beautiful National flower), a braille trail, a cycad amphitheatre and a conservatory.  The indigenous fynbos, of which the protea is a type, are said to be at their best this time of year.




A special feature is the Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway – affectionately known as the Boomslang (a highly venomous bright green snake), and you can see why. This 130-metre steel-and-timber bridge snakes its way through and over the trees of the Arboretum, providing stunning views of the Garden and the Cape Flats.



Of course, where there are flowers, there are birds, and the Garden’s home to some beauties:




All the senses were treated today!




Rolihlahla ✊🏼



We visited Robben Island today, whose prison was once home to former South African president Nelson Mandela and many other members of the African National Congress (ANC.) The island is now a United Nations World Heritage Site. Our trip to the island offered a glimpse into the apartheid era as we toured the prison with a former political prisoner as our guide.



We saw the cell where Mandela lived for 18 years, with nothing but a mat on the floor to sleep on.  We saw the small yard where he could exercise and later he was permitted to plant the small garden at the back of the yard, which he used to hide pages of his manuscript that would become Long Walk to Freedom.


Many have compared South African Apartheid to southern American segregation, but South Africans argue that Apartheid was worse.  In South Africa, the 18% white race minority population was dictating to the 82% majority of black African population while the divide in the U.S. was roughly the opposite.  Apartheid was enshrined into the South African constitution, and Apartheid was advancing while the rest of the world was moving away from racial segregation.

Not to say that being black in America was or is easy, and Canadians have nothing to feel righteous about, considering the atrocities and the ongoing struggles of our Indigenous peoples.

1700-1800’s – Roots

In South Africa, informal segregation and slavery began almost as soon as the Dutch and British colonized the region.  In 1833, when Britain passed the Slavery Abolution Act, South Africa took a different path.   


The Canadian Indian Act, first passed in 1876, is a Canadian act of Parliament that concerns registered Indians, their bands, and the system of Indian reserves. Indians needed permission to leave reserves and the government had to approve it like a passport.


With industrialization in the 1800’s, racial policies and laws in South Africa became increasingly rigid. Cape legislation that discriminated specifically against black South Africans began appearing shortly before 1900.

Early 1900’s – Foundations


Into this setting, on July 18, 1918, Rolihlahla Mandela was born into the Madiba clan in the village of Mvezo, in the Eastern Cape. His chosen name, Rolihlahla, given him by his father is an isiXhosa name that means “pulling the branch of a tree”, but colloquially it means “troublemaker.”   His father was Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela, Chief and principal counsellor to the Monarch of the Thembu people, Jongintaba Dalindyebo.  He was appointed to the position in 1915, after his predecessor was accused of corruption by a governing white magistrate.

A71E0175-E6AE-4327-B283-A27F479B39FFIn 1930, Mandela’s father died from tuberculosis when Mandela was just 9 years old.  King Jongintaba Dalindyebo became Manela’s guardian.   Mandela lived at the Jongintaba homestead from age 9 to 16 and was raised with Jongintaba’s children. It was his first school teacher who gave him the Christian name, Nelson.  Hearing the elders’ stories of his ancestors’ valour during wars of resistance, he dreamed also of making his own contribution to the freedom struggle of his people.



By 1930, there were 80 residential schools in Canada.  Indigenous  children were torn from their parents and placed in Residential Schools where they were “assimilated” – stripped of their culture and language.


Mid-1900’s – Apartheid

Education is the most powerful weapon
which you can use to change the world.
– Nelson Mandela


Mandela studied for a B.A. at the University College of Fort Hare but did not complete the degree as he was expelled for joining in a student protest.   On his return to the Great Place at Mqhekezweni, the King was furious.  In 1941, Mandela and his cousin ran away to Johannesburg.  Through acquaintances there,  he did his articles through a firm of attorneys – Witkin, Eidelman and Sidelsky.  He completed his B.A. through the University of South Africa and went back to Fort Hare for his graduation in 1943.

By this time, all of Africa, except Ethiopia, was colonized in a series of feudalized states in which white colonists controlled or owned most of the land and held all the power.



Mandela, increasingly politically involved from 1942, joined the African National Congress in 1944 when he helped to form the ANC Youth League (ANCYL).  He quickly rose up through the ranks of the ANC.

At the end of World War II, all of the African nations were given independence and most colonists were repatriated to their home countries.  It must have been a time of great optimism and hope for Africans.


But not so for South Africa.  In 1948, just three years after the war ended, the (former Afrikaner) National Party was elected, and Apartheid was enshrined in federal legislation and the country’s constitution.


In 1950, the Population Registration Acclassified all South Africans into one of four racial groups:  “White,” “Black,” “Coloured” and “Indian.”  Places of residence were determined by racial classification.  From 1960–1983, 3.5 million Non-White South Africans were removed from their homes and forced into segregated neighbourhoods, in one of the largest mass evictions in modern history.

Most of these targeted removals were intended to restrict the black population to ten designated “tribal homelands”, also known as bantustans.  The government announced that relocated persons would lose their South African citizenship as they were absorbed into the bantustans.

Mandela continued to work his way up in the ANC through activism.  In 1952, he was chosen as the National Volunteer-in-Chief of the Defiance Campaign. He and 19 others were charged under the Suppression of Communism Act for their part in the campaign and sentenced to nine months of hard labour, suspended for two years.   He used this time to complete a 2-year law diploma which allowed him to practice law.

In 1955, the Strijdom government stacked the courts and the Senate, adding new positions and appointing pro-Nationalists.  In 1956, a joint sitting passed legislation that paved the way for what would ultimately leave whites as the sole group enfranchised with the right to vote.

On December 5, 1956, Mandela was arrested in a countrywide police swoop, which led to the 1956 “Treason Trial.” Men and women of all races found themselves in the dock in the marathon trial that only ended when the last 28 accused, including Mandela, were acquitted on 29 March 1961.

To be free is not merely
to cast off one’s chains,
but to live in a way that
respects and enhances
the freedom of others

– Nelson Mandela

1960’s  and 1970’s – Fighting Back, and Detention



Sharpeville was the first major event to attract international attention.  On March 21, 1960, police killed 69 unarmed people in a protest in Sharpeville against the pass laws. This led to the country’s first state of emergency and the banning of the ANC. Mandela and his colleagues in the Treason Trial were among thousands detained during the state of emergency.  After a day of demonstrations against pass laws, a crowd of about 5,000 to 7,000 protesters went to the police station.

The South African Police opened fire on the crowd, killing 69 people and injuring 180 others.  There were 249 casualties in total, including 29 children. Many were shot in the back as they fled.  Photographer Ian Berry, who made this photo, initially thought the police were firing blanks.

In April 1960, the UN’s conservative stance on apartheid changed following the Sharpeville massacre, and the Security Council for the first time agreed on concerted action against the apartheid regime, demanding an end to racial separation and discrimination. On August 7, 1963, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 181, calling for a voluntary arms embargo against South Africa. From 1964 onwards, the US and the UK discontinued their arms trade with South Africa.

Apartheid policy was championed by the country’s prime minister, Hendrik Verwoerd, who was born and raised in Amsterdam.  He was responsible for the tightening of the laws and enforcement.  On April 9, 1960, a deranged white farmer shot Verwoerd in an assassination attempt that failed.  Six years later Verwoerd was stabbed to death in the parliamentary chamber by Demetrio Tsafendas, a Mozambique immigrant of mixed descent who said that the assassination was motivated by the great resentment he felt toward apartheid.

In May 1961, before the declaration of South Africa as a republic, an assembly representing the banned ANC called for negotiations between the members of the different ethnic groupings, threatening demonstrations and strikes during the inauguration of the republic if their calls were ignored.  When the government overlooked them, the strikers (among the main organisers was a 42-year-old, Nelson Mandela) carried out their threats.

The government countered swiftly by giving police the authority to arrest people for up to twelve days and detaining many strike leaders amid numerous cases of police brutality.  Defeated, the protesters called off their strike. The ANC then chose to launch an armed struggle through a newly formed military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), which would perform acts of sabotage on tactical state structures. Its first sabotage plans were carried out on December 16, 1961, the anniversary of the Battle of Blood River.

In the face of massive mobilization of state security a massive national strike against Apartheid was called off early.

In June 1961, Mandela was asked to lead the armed struggle and helped to establish Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), which launched on December 16, 1961 with a series of explosions.

Rivonia Trial

On January 11, 1962, using the adopted name David Motsamayi, Mandela secretly left South Africa. He travelled around Africa and visited England to gain support for the armed struggle. He received military training in Morocco and Ethiopia and returned to South Africa in July 1962.

On August 5, he was arrested in a police roadblock outside Howick while returning from KwaZulu-Natal, where he had briefed ANC President Chief Albert Luthuli about his trip.

Mandela was charged with leaving the country without a permit and inciting workers to strike. He was convicted and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment and, for the first time, spent time at Robben Island.

Within a month, police raided Liliesleaf, a secret hideout in Rivonia, Johannesburg, used by ANC and Communist Party activists, and several of his comrades were arrested.

On October 9, 1963, Mandela joined 10 others on trial for sabotage.

On April 20, 1964, while facing the death penalty, Mandela made a statement from the prisoner’s dock that inspired and motivated, and must have struck fear in some:

I have fought against white domination,
and I have fought against black domination.
I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and
free society in which all persons live together
in harmony and with equal opportunities.
It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to
achieve.  But if needs be, it is an ideal
for which I am prepared to die.

On June 11, 1964 Mandela and seven other accused, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Denis Goldberg, Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Mlangeni, were convicted and the next day were sentenced to life imprisonment. Goldberg was sent to Pretoria Prison because he was white, while the others went to Robben Island, where Mandela would spend the next 27 years of his life.

“A winner is a dreamer who never gives up.
– Nelson Mandela

I wondered what Mandela did in those 27 years and how it came to be that on his release he immediately became the key figure negotiating for an end to Apartheid with the South African government.  I think it is important to note that he was imprisoned with many of his ANC compatriots, and I imagine they found ways of meeting and continuing their work.   I found this article very illuminating about this difficult period:


Soweto Uprising

In 1976, secondary students in Soweto took to the streets in the Soweto uprising to protest against the imposition of Afrikaans as the only language of instruction. On June 16, police opened fire on students protesting peacefully. According to official reports 23 people were killed, but the number of people who died is usually given as 176, with estimates of up to 700.  In the following years several student organizations were formed to protest against apartheid, and these organisations were central to urban school boycotts in 1980 and 1983 and rural boycotts in 1985 and 1986.

The UN Security Council also condemned the Soweto massacre in Resolution 392.   In 1977, the voluntary UN arms embargo became mandatory with the passing of Resolution 418.

1980’s – Progress

On March 31, 1982, Mandela was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town with Sisulu, Mhlaba and Mlangeni. Kathrada joined them in October. When he returned to the prison in November 1985 after prostate surgery, Mandela was held alone.  Justice Minister Kobie Coetsee visited him in hospital.  Later, Mandela initiated talks about an ultimate meeting between the apartheid government and the ANC.

In the early-1980s, Prime Minister Botha’s National Party government started to recognise the inevitability of the need to reform the apartheid system.  Early reforms were driven by a combination of internal violence, international condemnation, changes within the National Party’s constituency, and changing demographics – whites constituted only 16% of the total population, in comparison to 20% fifty years earlier.

The drive for change must have come out of a prevailing sense of dread in the white South African population.  Underlying Apartheid was always Africa’s geography itself, (so ironic considering the Dutch East Indies Company’s original success as mariner):  the white minority population living off the tip of Africa was terrified that the majority black population might rise up and run them all into the sea.

Concerned over the popularity of Mandela, Botha denounced him as an arch-Marxist committed to violent revolution, but to appease black opinion and nurture Mandela as a benevolent leader, the government transferred him from Robben Island to Pollsmoor Prison just outside Cape Town where prison life was more comfortable for him. The government allowed Mandela more visitors, including visits and interviews by foreigners, to let the world know that he was being treated well.

In January 1985, Botha stated that the government was willing to release Mandela on condition that Mandela pledge opposition to acts of violence to further political objectives. Mandela’s reply was read in public by his daughter Zinzi – his first words distributed publicly since his sentence to prison twenty-one years before. Mandela described violence as the responsibility of the apartheid regime and said that with democracy there would be no need for violence.

In 1986, the South African government began making its first serious overtures, and Mandela was secretly driven from the prison to the home of Kobie Coetsee, the justice minister, who would meet often with Mandela in the years that followed.

After much debate, by the late-1980s, the U.S., the U.K. and 23 other nations had passed laws placing trade sanctions on South Africa. A disinvestment from South Africa forbidding corporations from doing business with South African firms was also imposed.  The sports world also shunned South Africa and its athletes.

Between 1987 and 1993, the National Party entered into bilateral negotiations with the ANC for ending segregation and introducing majority rule.

On August 12, 1988, Nelson was taken to hospital where he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. After more than three months he was transferred to a house at Victor Verster Prison near Paarl where he spent his last 14 months of imprisonment. He was released from its gates nine days after the unbanning of the ANC. Throughout his imprisonment he had rejected at least three conditional offers of release.

1990’s – Freedom!

After 26 years in captivity, Nelson Mandela did not want to be set free straight away. Two days before his release, the world’s most famous political prisoner was taken to see President F.W. de Klerk in his Cape Town office. President de Klerk got a surprise.  “I told him he would be flown to Johannesburg and released there on February 11, 1990. Mr Mandela’s reaction was not at all as I had expected,” said De Klerk. “He said: ‘No, it is too soon, we need more time for preparation.’ That is when I realised that long hours of negotiation lay ahead with this man.”


Just after 4pm, Mandela, then 71, walked free from Victor Verster prison, in Paarl, near Cape Town. Mandela held up his fist in an ANC salute. In an instant he switched from being a symbol of the oppressed to the global symbol of courage and freedom that he remains today.

“The cameras started clicking like a great herd of metallic beasts. I raised my right fist and there was a roar.  I had not been able to do that for 27 years and it gave me a surge of strength and joy.”

Four hours after leaving prison, Mandela arrived in Cape Town to address thousands of people gathered outside city hall. The impatient crowd had clashed with police and bullets had been fired. But Mandela did not bring a message of appeasement. “The factors which necessitated armed struggle still exist today,” he told the cheering onlookers.

Mandela immersed himself in official talks to end white minority rule and in 1991 was elected ANC President to replace his ailing friend, Oliver Tambo.

It always seems impossible until it’s done.
– Nelson Mandela

Apartheid was dismantled in a series of negotiations from 1990–91, culminating in a transitional period which resulted in the country’s 1994 general election, the first in South Africa held with universal suffrage.

In 1993 Mandela and President F.W. de Klerk jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize and on April 27, 1994, Mandela voted for the first time in his life.


On May 10, 1994, Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first democratically elected President.

Established in 1996, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was a court-like restorative justice body assembled in South Africa after the end of apartheid.  Witnesses who were identified as victims of gross human rights violations were invited to give statements about their experiences, and some were selected for public hearings. Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty from both civil and criminal prosecution.  The TRC, was seen by many as a crucial component of the transition to full and free democracy in South Africa.


The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was active in Canada from 2008 to 2015, organized by the parties of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. The purpose was documenting the history and lasting impacts of the Canadian Indian residential school system on Indigenous students and their families. The Commission concluded in December 2015 with the publication of a multi-volume report that concluded the school system amounted to cultural genocide.


In 2005, Nelson Mandela spoke at the Live 8 concert in Johannesburg:

Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great.
You be that great generation. Let your greatness
blossom. Of course the task will not be easy.
But not to do this would be a crime against
humanity, against which I ask all humanity
now to rise up.

In April 2007 his grandson, Mandla Mandela, was installed as head of the Mvezo Traditional Council at a ceremony at the Mvezo Great Place.


On June 11, 2008 Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood in the House of Commons to offer, on behalf of the Government of Canada, an apology to Aboriginal peoples in Canada for the abuse, suffering, and generational and cultural dislocation that resulted from assimilative, government-sanctioned residential schools.

Conditions on most of the Canadian northern reserves remain poor, without access to clean drinking water and access to education mostly requiring children still to be separated from their parents to travel south.  The suicide rate is triple the rate of non-Indigenous.   The restorative justice work continues.


Today in South Africa, problems remain, with a massive divide between wealthy whites and extreme poverty of most blacks.  At the end of Apartheid, land wasn’t transferred; blacks still don’t own land.  Some public housing projects have happened, but the homes were constructed within the Townships, those former bantustans and the land isn’t owned. Most still live in shacks.

The 2008 financial crisis led to massive job loss in the country’s biggest employment sector – mining.   Moody’s has South Africa’s credit rating at Baa3, the lowest investment-grade level, and has just slashed the country’s 2019 economic growth forecast for the second time.  If the agency downgrades South Africa again, it will kill foreign investment.  Tourism and other sectors are growing and there is a slowly growing black middle class, but there is still much economic work to do.



On December 5, 2013, Rolihlahla “Nelson” Mandela, the first President of South Africa to be elected in a fully representative democratic election, as well as the country’s first black head of state, died at the age of 95 after a prolonged respiratory infection.  As he slipped off into sleep, I think he must have been satisfied that it was a life well-lived.  

















Mother City



Cape Town is the founding city of South Africa and was established in 1652 as a refueling station for Dutch ships bound for the East (the Spice Route).    Dutch settlers were sent here to supply the ships of the Dutch East India Company.  The city is often referred to as the Mother of South Africa because it gave birth to the nation.

We visited “The Captain’s  Garden” on the site of the original garden where the first Dutch settlers grew their vegetables.  Now a botanical garden with an amazing array of trees, many of them came as gifts from countries around the world since it is located at the presidential palace.  A medicinal garden has been planted in tribute to  the first garden here, and a white rose HIV memorial garden has been added.    At the cafe, we had delicious red cappuccinos, made from rooibos tea.



On leaving the garden, we saw Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s home cathedral.  Next to it, a memorial to him was erected two years ago, known fondly as, “The Arch’s Arch.”





Spices were imported from Indonesia in bulk and brought huge profits due to the efforts and risks involved and seemingly insatiable demand.  The fusion of influences between Indonesia and the Netherlands is still present today in both the Netherlands and in Indonesia, especially in fusion of cuisines.  Similarly,  Indonesians came to Cape Town off Dutch ships as slaves, and their descendants are now known as “Cape Malay.” From their colourful enclaves, they have also influenced Cape Town’s cuisine, further discussed here

We visited the Cape Malay district and visited the Atlas Trading Store’s spice shop where fragrant bags of spices still roll in today.



We walked around the colourful neighbourhood, and were told the fashion industry often does photo shoots here.  We looked up, and…




“CAPE Town is South Africa’s Los Angeles
to Johannesburg’s New York — the glitzy,
gorgeous, self-obsessed foil to its grittier,
more serious and more powerful big sister.
Which is not to say that it lacks a serious
side. Cape Town holds its own with
Johannesburg as a locus of South Africa’s
liberation struggle, and no other African
city combines heart-stopping beauty and
historical gravitas so effortlessly.”

                                                                             – New York Times

The legislative capital of South Africa, the city is known for its harbour, its natural setting in the Cape Floristic Region and for landmarks such as Table Mountain and Cape Point. It is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, reflecting its role as a major destination for immigrants and expatriates to South Africa.  The city was named the World Design Capital for 2014 and was named the best place in the world to visit by both The New York Times and The Daily Telegraph.  There are few better places to saunter aimlessly – and get a thrill out of it – than Cape Town. A fascinating blend of African, European and Malay influences, this wonderful city has emerged as the cosmopolitan heart of South Africa.

A Christo-sized Table Cloth


The name Table Mountain is self-evident, but the mountain itself is unsurpassed as a dramatic backdrop to the gorgeous city sprawling below.   Yesterday, we hoped to take a cable car to the top for spectacular views, but our tour description was “weather permitting” – the flat top of the mountain is often covered by orographic clouds, formed when a south-easterly wind is directed up the mountain’s slopes into colder air, where the moisture condenses to form the so-called “table cloth” of cloud. Legend attributes this phenomenon to a smoking contest between the Devil and a local pirate called Van Hunks.  When the table cloth is seen, it symbolizes the contest.



We saw the table cloth for ourselves yesterday, but the forecast looked more promising more promising for today..

Instead, we went up Signal Hill for fabulous views of Robben Island and the city.



This morning was gloriously clear, and we made our way to the Table Mountain gondola to the peak for spectacular views of the city.  The wildflowers were spectacular, too.

The V & A




The V & A Waterfront refers not to Queen Victoria and her beloved Albert like the museum in London, but to Queen Victoria and her second son, Prince Alfred, who inaugurated the V&A Waterfront’s construction as a 16-year old midshipman in the Royal Navy in 1860. He returned 10 years later for the official opening of the completed works in July 1870. The area had electricity 10 years before the rest of Cape Town. 



The Waterfront has had a modern renewal and has become South Africa’s most-visited tourist destination.  We are staying in this  area comprised of a busy working harbour and with shops and restaurants, The Watershed, a beautiful and vibrant market for ceramics, textiles, furniture, fashion and jewellery. Also at the V & A are Africa’s premiere modern art gallery, the MOCAA, the South African Maritime Museum and an aquarium.  I am going shopping!



Another contribution from the New York Times, a blossoming love story from New York to Cape Town:

Capetonians have an expression that captures the atmosphere – “Moenie worry nie” – relax and enjoy.



PS. This is off-topic but I just discovered this incredible website for van Gogh lovers – “Unravel van Gogh” by the van Gogh Museum:    https://ontrafel.vangogh.nl/en