Day seven – art galleries and museums

We spent a rather chilly night in a seaside room in winter with minimal heating. After which, we woke up reasonably early on day seven so we could hit some of the galleries in town that had been closed the day before.

The restaurant was closed for renovations, so breakfast was served in the lobby and an adjacent sitting area. We were relative latecomers so we were seated directly in front of the reception desk. 

Jessica was her usual semi-comatose morning self, which we typically ignore for the first half hour or so until she wakes up. She was wandering around listlessly trying to decide what to eat out of the large selection on offer. Unfortunately, the front desk lady took this to mean that her highness was unhappy with the breakfast selection and made it her MISSION IN LIFE to make Jessica smile. She repeatedly offered different options for breakfast and then reheated (sort of) some French toast that Jess didn’t really want. All this was pretty much akin to poking a hibernating bear with a sharp stick, but Jess thanked the lady and ended up eating an awful breakfast with the lady beaming and fluttering around. Very funny! 

It is kinda funny that as soon as people find out we are Canadian they offer us anything they have with maple syrup!

After our amusing breakfast, we headed out to check out the galleries- most of which were finally open. We were kinda kicking ourselves for not going whale watching the previous day, but now didn’t have time to get onto a boat. Ah well, next time!

There were some interesting little galleries in Hermanus, I must say. One guy made sculpture out of driftwood. Typically he’d find a piece that reminded him of some animal and carve and polish the head in a fair amount of detail; leaving the rest of the body to be suggested by the natural form of the wood. They were quite striking pieces and very reasonably priced, but nothing really called our name.

In another gallery, one artist took old envelopes that had been mailed and still had stamps on them and drew trees or birds overtop. They were really interesting and each letter had some sort of history behind it. He also did personalized pieces for people who brought in old documents. One guy brought him his father’s record of employment with a local mine, along with a birth certificate. He drew an intricate tree across the employment record and left enough of the document underneath to understand what it was. It was surprisingly beautiful! 

We wrapped up our stay in Hermanus with a walk around town and a final walk down our favourite part of the boardwalk. We checked out of the hotel, jumped in the car, and headed for Cape Town to meet up with our tour.

The drive was beautiful and uneventful. We checked into the Breakwater hotel – very cool! It used to be a prison and now it’s a combination business school and hotel. It’s very strange to be bumping into MBA students on your way to reception! 

The rooms, as you can imagine, are tiny and cell like. Jess has her own room and there are two little rooms in the hall between us. One with a shower and sink and one with a toilet and sink. Even with our modest amount of luggage the rooms are overflowing. I have seen larger rooms in New York! Even so, we have everything we need to be comfortable and Jess again has her own space which is great for her. 

We ditched our luggage at the hotel and dropped off the car without incident. I must admit, I’m always a bit nervous dropping off a rental car. There’s always that big moment of relief that you managed to not damage the vehicle, have it stolen, get too lost, or run anyone over!! 

We then debated whether we should head up Table Mountain because – for once – the weather up top was sunny and clear. But it was already 2pm and we had to meet our tour at six. We’d heard horror stories of power outages that cause the cable car to stop running for hours! People then have to walk down the mountain. Having already experienced one several hours’ long outage in Cape Town, we opted to wait until the following day and try our luck with the scheduled tour. The weather called for cloudy all day so we figured we were out of luck.

Besides which, I really wanted to get to the District Six museum. I thought it was an important thing to see while in South Africa. Also I wanted to mail my ostrich egg home and then do some shopping down Long street. 

We asked the lady at Thrifty where the nearest Post Office was and she said sorry they close at 1pm on Saturday… And by the way so do all the shops down Long street! Apparently we are destined to NEVER GO SHOPPING IN AFRICA!! 

Now worried that we wouldn’t even be able to see the museum, I dragged everyone into the nearest restaurant I could find that would serve something Jess would like. We ended up at Nandos where Grant accidentally doubled down on the spice with both hot chicken and hot wedges. It was amusing to watch him try to be cool about eating it all!

Dashing out of Nandos I convinced everyone we should cab it the few blocks to the museum as we likely would be short on time. Bad move. The cabbie was seriously sitting within six-eight blocks of the museum and had NO IDEA how to get there… Even with the help of an address and a map. He merrily started off driving a few blocks in the complete opposite direction. Thankfully he was smart enough to stop and look at my map and ask a traffic officer for directions!! I’m pretty sure we could have walked there faster!!

District six museum was extremely well done and worth seeing. Not for the first time in South Africa, I was ashamed of my skin colour. The gentleman who took our admission fee had actually lived in the district and his parents’ photos hung in the gallery. The whole experience was very personal and intimate. We spent an engaging 50 minutes or so looking at photos and reading articles before the museum closed.

We then wandered over to see if the Slave museum was still open… And managed 45 minutes in there as well. Not quite enough time to see everything but we did the most important bits on the main floor thoroughly and then dashed through the displays of silver, pottery, weapons, and textiles on the upper floor.

We stayed in the slave museum until they kicked us out at five. Then, with an hour to spare until our meeting at six, we spent a happy half an hour wandering in the company gardens looking at trees and a ton of cheeky grey squirrels.

Jumping in another cab, we proceeded to give him directions to the biggest tourist district in town… which was within about 20 blocks of where we jumped in! I honestly don’t know how tourists ever get where they are trying to go in Cape Town if they don’t bring a map!! Especially if they don’t happen to speak one of the local languages!

We made it to our hotel in good time to make it to the tour briefing. There we met all of our tour group, save the poor Italian guy who missed a flight and, therefore, the first full day of the tour. There was a solo teacher from the U.S., a retired couple from Sydney, and another family of three from Australia. We were relieved to see that there was another kid on the tour – even if it’s unlikely that Jess will have much in common with an almost 16 year old boy! 

The tour briefing took about an hour, and then we were on our own for dinner. We hit up a gourmet hamburger place Grant had spotted earlier and had yummy burgers and milkshakes for Jess and I. Another trip to the Pick n Pay for some drinks and snacks, and off to the hotel to do some sink laundry in the tiniest bathroom in the world! Fun times! 

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