Destination: South Africa: Cape Town
Cape Town is in the midst of the most rapid expansion in South Africa’s history. Construction is everywhere as the city gears up for the Football World Cup in 2010 by building hotels, a stadium and housing, and while it’s still a relatively laid-back, friendly place, tourism and its attendant ills (crowds, traffic and higher prices) seem to be increasing by the month. Yet now is an exciting time to visit Cape Town. Like a gawky adolescent who has suddenly discovered that she is beautiful, the city is practically preening as it shows off spectacular new restaurants and hotels. For the visitor, there are also lovely spas and excursions to the winelands and beyond, often with an African theme that will remind you that you are indeed far from the Northern Hemisphere. It’s a reminder you’ll also have when you arrive at Cape Town airport, surrounded as it is by shacks, which hundreds of thousands of Capetonians—as well as migrants from rural areas and other countries in Africa—call home. The townships are both daunting and impressive. “You mean everyone is a builder?” my six-year-old daughter asked as we drove past row after row of houses built from discarded materials. These thriving, dynamic communities are often the source of the incredible creative energy that can be seen in the art and crafts available on many a street corner (and, unfortunately, the source of gangs and much of the crime in the city).
It’s important to take in the two sides of Cape Town—its glamorous party spirit and its resilience and toughness. Pay attention to both and your visit will be greatly enriched.
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