Friday, October 22, 2010

Be captivated by Bohemian Kalk Bay

Cape Town’s equivalent of the Riviera is reputed to be Camps Bay; because it is fronted by one of the most beautiful of the beaches of Cape Town and the main road is lined with trendy, upmarket restaurants and entertainment venues, where the beautiful people go to be seen. Life is very different on the False Bay coast; much more relaxed; where people walk barefoot in the street in their baggies with total disregard for the fashions of Gucci and Tommy Hilfiger. Amongst the coastal gems in the southern end of the Cape peninsula is an interesting and eclectic alternative dining and shopping destination which is the fishing village of Kalk Bay; always bustling on weekends throughout the year, and extremely crowded every day during the holiday seasons. Here people go to sea and to see.

Kalk Bay has a deserved reputation for being bohemian in character, but it has something interesting to offer the visitor on each occasion that one returns. This is why it is so popular with the people of Cape Town, and not only visitors. For a start; the main road of the village is lined with Victorian shopfronts housing antique shops , art galleries, crafts and simply collectable bric-a brac, as well as some outstanding restaurants. Look a little further and you will find quaint shops, boutiques coffee houses and restaurants up almost every one of the little cobbled lanes that lead from the main road up toward the mountainside. Who can resist browsing for an hour or two amongst the collectables in “The Trading Post “ which is located in the old Post Office building next to the railway station. On the third Sunday of the month, you will find the Fresh Etc market located in the community hall, making it the market with the best views in Cape Town . For more info see our Gourmet Markets post.
Fancy having a crepe in an old railway dining carriage? If not, there are many interesting restaurants along the main road; up the narrow alleys and in the harbor. Perhaps the most well-known is the “Brass Bell” situated between the railway platform and the sea; where you can enjoy good fish and seafood with the waves splashing alongside, as well as lovely views of the bay. Others include the harbour house and Polana restaurant in the harbour itself. Another old favourite is the Olympia café and deli where just to get a seat and a table is considered an achievement. Here you will find interesting and outstanding meals, making use of seasonal produce, as well as a bakery whose fame has spread far into the Cape countryside where they supply many restaurants on the wine farms.

Our current favourite is the truly Bohemian “Cape to Cairo” - situated on the beach. Be prepared for a total sensory overload- from the time that you walk up the twisted boardwalk wards what looks like a large beach shack, and enter the bar which serves great mojitos or the dining areas which are crammed with religious icons, myriad chandeliers, bric-a brac, and a variety of cottage and antique furniture where everything in the restaurant is reputed to be on sale. Whether you sit inside or on the small outside dining area you will be sure to have a ringside seat for the activities in the fishing harbour.

Ah … the fishing harbour; beloved of artists and photographers and those who just enjoy living next to the sea, the picturesque fishing harbour as well as the interesting and amusing fishermen and local characters gives so much colour to the village. The little fishing harbor is home to a collection of wooden fishing boats many of which are pained in bright colours and have evocative names like "Star of the Sea". There is a small fish market where you can be lucky enough to get fresh fish off the boat, but the prosperity of the fishermen has suffered because of the dwindling catches in False Bay over the years. During the season one can find good catches of the prized local “yellowtail” and the plentiful barracuda type “snoek” that is the staple of the coloured people; it is also a magnificent fish to be enjoyed on the braai as the South African BBQ is known. Kalky’s is an informal fish and chip sit down restaurant in the harbour which is reputed to offer the best fish and chips in the Cape. Judging by the long line of people at almost any time of the day the locals must agree. If you want to get a flavour of the local folk join the queue for an inexpensive but delicious meal.

Kalk Bay has an interesting history which began with the Dutch East India company who used nearby Simon's Bay as a winter anchorage for their ships to escape the storms experienced at Cape Town. Kalk Bay was used as a staging point from which to carry supplies by barge to Simonstown as there was no passable road from there on until the British occupation. The name “Kalk” bay comes from the Dutch for lime; the local community established lime kilns here to supply building needs in Cape Town. For a while it was the centre of the whaling industry which was a major income earner for the Cape Colony, but which ended due to almost total extinction of the southern right whale off the shores of False Bay. The fishing community of Kalk Bay comprises mostly mixed-race people known as “Cape Coloureds” who have a wonderful turn of phrase and great sense of humour. Their ancestors include people from the Philippines as well as many freed slaves who originated from Batavia, Java and Malaysia who brought their fishing skills and became influential in the community. Kalk Bay has become one of the trendiest villages on the False Bay coast and recent developments of the two magnificent old hotels and the area behind have seen property prices soar to the kind of levels usually only paid for properties on the Atlantic seaboard.

Although running a self-catering Cape Town accommodation establishment may not be as onerous as running a B&B, we often find our weekends fully occupied attending to the business, and to the needs of our guests. Fortunately we do not get many Sunday check- ins and once the guests have departed we have the Sunday afternoon to relax. One of my wife’s favourite treats is to have me drive her in one of our old classic sports cars to Kalk Bay for the simple pleasure of enjoying an ice cream cone, with 2 mixed scoops, at the Ice Café in Kalk Bay main road. Although we have travelled to many parts of the world, my wife emphatically states that there is no better ice cream available anywhere. Not only is there a great choice of flavours, but it is always packed and even boasts pictures of the famous Jamie Oliver delighting in a cone. After that we usually spend an hour or two browsing the shops before returning home relaxed to face the business again.

Visitors on a holiday in Cape Town should not be seduced into spending the whole time in the bright city lights and its environs, or rushing past in a tour bus to Cape Point– come and see how people really enjoy life on the False Bay coast.

By : affordable Cape Town holiday accommodation

1 comment: