Cape Town resident Ronel Stevens at Lola's restaurant in the South African city.
With the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa less than two months away, soccer-crazed New Yorkers have likely booked their tickets to Cape Town.
Whether or not a trip to South Africa is soccer-centric, Cape Town, the country’s most popular city destination and the setting for the World Cup, offers plenty to do.
We caught up with Ronel Stevens, 26, who grew up on the Cape Flats in Seawind township. Fluent in Afrikaans, English, Zulu and Xhosa, she has two undergraduate degrees and an honors degree in politics and history.
Here are Stevens’ recommendations in the “city of wonders,” as she calls her home town.
Mzoli’s This restaurant, located in the township of Gugulethu, is owned by local entrepreneur Mzoli, who saw a need for South African food served in a traditional setting. The butchery-grill is a “cool hangout for locals and a must-stop for visitors to Cape Town,” Stevens said. “It’s all about delicious barbecued meat, a friendly vibe, the local DJs, the diverse crowd, the township setting,” she said.
Long Street Stevens described Long Street as “an eclectic place, with a real buzz.” Known mostly for a bustling nightlife, this street in the City Bowl area in the Central Business district also offers “boutiques, antique stores (my favorite!), super restaurants, hip backpacker hangouts (such as Daddy Long Legs)...just about everything out-of-the-box,” Stevens said.
Her preferred hangout is Lola’s (228 Long St.), a colorful vegetarian cafe with great drinks at reasonable prices. “I’m always taken by the funky decor and the great people-watching that you can do on the sidewalk tables,” she said.
2nd New Year: Stevens described this — the second day of January — as her favorite day of the year, when the Cape Minstrels parade down Darling Street into Adderley Street, from what was formerly known as District Six (the neighborhood from which the Group Areas Act of 1957 forcibly removed many families to the Cape Flats, an area set out for the townships).
“The story goes that the Cape Minstrels started when the slaves celebrated their release from labor every January 1. This colorful affair marks a movement of the oppressed people taking to the streets and showing their resilience by singing and dancing. It’s special to me, since it’s the time when I get to see my extended family from all over Cape Town,” Stevens said.
Fish Hoek Beach No one should come to Cape Town without chilling on this beach, Stevens said.
The better-known Camps Bay and Clifton beaches boast a Miami-like vibe, but Stevens prefers the more off-the-tourist-radar Fish Hoek, about 20-30 minutes’ drive from the Central Business District. “It’s very family-oriented, laid-back, homey, always a hub of activity with plenty of sporting events. The water is warmer and so is the atmosphere. The beachfront is lined with eateries, including Bayside Restaurant, with the best ice-cream and shakes,” she said.
Bar favorites Stevens loves to hang out at Rafiki’s (13B Kloof Nek Road), which she describes as “not really on the beach nor in the hustle and bustle of the city,” but in the area known as Tamboerskloof. “It serves the best cocktails, offers chilled vibe and has local bands performing.”
“I also love the vibe at Zula (194 Long Street) - very cool, if you love underground hip hop and catching up-and-coming artists,” she said.
Know before you go
1. South African Airways (flysaa.com) has daily nonstop flights from New York to Johannesburg, with frequent connections to Cape Town.
2. Economy seats from New York to Johannesburg during the World Cup start at $1,480 roundtrip. After August 11th, fares will drop to as low as $1,045 roundtrip.
3. Climate-wise, May through September is actually not the best time to visit Cape Town, as it gets chilly, cold and windy. Their high tourist season starts in October.