A lovely garden on a very very hot day

mountain view

In preparation for a series of blog entries on my business site, I spent a few hours in the Company’s Garden yesterday. I needed good quality photos so I asked my friend Sheila to come along and take some. I bribed her with the promise of lunch at the new restaurant in the Garden.

Being vegan, Sheila always has to pick her way through menus to see what she can eat. Sadly, vegans are not well catered for. Even vegetarians have complained so you can imagine how vegans fare. I understand what vegans are all about but I don’t know if I could live without cheese and eggs. Meat, possibly, but seeing as my idea of heaven for breakfast is a good Eggs Benedict … no, not going vegan any time soon.

The restaurant doesn’t have soya milk – despite this being a common request, according to one of our many waitresses, and the entire range of sandwiches from which Sheila could’ve chosen something (sans one or two animal items) was not available yesterday. So she settled for a plate of chips. Seeing as we’d decided to have brunch instead of lunch, a plate of chips for breakfast is not exactly ideal. Sheila took some awesome photos so I feel I still owe her lunch.

Despite my earlier feelings about this restaurant  and their lack of sensitivity towards the history of colonialism in the Cape I have now eaten there three times and I must admit it is very nice (even with their very bad attitude towards tour guides) and anyway if you’re in the Garden you have no other choice for a meal unless you go into the CBD. The food is good and if you want a light lunch you can get a top quality sandwich for under R50 which includes fries and a salad. The service is usually good (yesterday we had about 7 different waitresses – possibly because we sat at the ‘loungers’ and not a table), and the setting couldn’t be more lovely. Birds, ducks and squirrels scurrying all over the place, a magnificent garden with some of the oldest planted trees in the country, and the sounds of kids playing in the play area which I suspect is what is drawing all the locals.

I previously had my doubts about a giant tree that may or may not have fallen over in a storm but it turns out that no foul play took place and the tree did succumb to a severe storm – I’ve investigated this.


These ‘nests’ are very popular with kids.


Too much shade for a good photo – but the shade is divine.

tree stump

The famous tree stump – the restaurant owners decided to replant the stump in memory of the tree.


Some of the wood from the fallen tree. I’m not sure if they intend doing anything further with it or if they will leave it there like that. Sheila liked it like that, something arty or other.

After our brunch we spent a happy 3 hours strolling from cool shade to sweltering heat, with me directing Sheila to what I needed. We spotted a pigeon in distress so that distracted us for a few moments while Sheila picked it up and we tried to revive it with water only to find the poor thing had a broken neck. We couldn’t bring ourselves to put it out of its misery so we laid it down in the shade. When we returned later it had gone to heaven so we buried it under some leaves.

pigeon and sheila

Poor little pigeon being comforted by Sheila. We also gave it water.

how we found pigeon

This is how we found it after a couple of hours. It had literally rolled over and died. We turned it over and …

leaves for pigeon

… buried it under a pile of leaves.

The new vegetable garden is coming along beautifully, but I was surprised to find out that it is not supplying the restaurant as previously stated, and instead all the produce is being sold at the (in)famous Oranjezicht City Farm Market.

veg garden

sheila in rose garden

The Rose Garden is not the best aspect of this entire garden but the sprinkler was a big attraction for us as we took turns allowing it to cool us down. That’s Sheila.

Sheila then went off to protest outside a circus and I went home to fetch Vida the 4-legged wonder and took her to the beach for a late afternoon walk. I finally managed to cool down.

These are all my photos – Sheila’s will feature elsewhere.


Lovely walk on the beach.


Giant tree, gone


A few months ago the restaurant in the Company’s Garden – aka the Gardens Tearoom – in the centre of the city was closed down and the Zingara Group was awarded the tender for a new restaurant. Immediately, there was controversy and in typical Capetonian manner we all jumped up and down, worried about this change. The tearoom was seen as charming and olde worlde, was inexpensive, and was an institution. We like our ‘institutions’ whatever that may mean.

On the other side of the coin was the opinion that change was needed, the food was not great, and tourists wanted something better. I doubt anyone had actually asked the tourists what they thought but I’m on the fence with this issue until they open. Yes, the food was mediocre but the service was quick and friendly, and no-one went there for fine dining. A quick snack during a walkabout, surrounded by trees and squirrels and ducks was all that was required. But, as I say, I decided to remain on the fence – not my usual position, I must be getting mellow.

The Zingara Group does not offer cheap quick meals so the general fear was that they would open something too ‘fancy’ for the Garden, would detract from the charm of the setting, and be too expensive for locals. They were quick to issue a press release promising to keep the ‘historical integrity’ of the tea room. A tearoom in South Africa is an olde world unpretentious little restaurant, there are very few left and they don’t generally inspire much confidence these days.

I often walk through the Garden with clients so I am looking forward to seeing what the new restaurant – Haarlem & Hope – will offer.  They should open this month but when I was there this weekend it didn’t look as if this deadline will be met. However, that’s not my bugbear today.

I peeked through the fencing to see the progress and my eyes almost popped out when I saw that the magnificent old eucalyptus tree that was the talking point of the restaurant is no more. This tree was massive and had the most stunning bark. Now, I’m all for chopping down alien trees because they often prevent the natural vegetation to grow and they are too thirsty. But in this case the Garden is full of exotic trees and the Camissa River running under the city is being completely ignored as a source of water. This is an urban setting, not the mountainside where fynbos needs to be the focal point!

It appears that this tree fell down after they took over – how convenient, it was a bit messy. A eucalyptus tree will coppice when trimmed so why was this not permitted to happen? Did it break so far down that it could not coppice?

Tree stump


This looks like the trunk, apparently to be used to create a play area for children.

Vegetables, going full circle

Vegetable garden

Just over 350 years ago a vegetable garden was planted at the tip of Africa to replenish passing ships on their way to or from trading with the east. One thing led to another – mainly the colonials realising that this land could give them much more than fresh produce and water –   and now we have the country known as South Africa. (I’m leaving out quite a few events but suffice to say that the garden was the original reason for Europeans bothering to settle in what they considered to be a savage hostile land).

The Company’s Garden, as it is still called to this day, is much smaller now and is a lovely public space in the middle of the city with flowers and lawns and old trees. It’s known as the museum precinct as most of our best ones surround it.  Also the Houses of Parliament and many other beautiful old buildings.

But, the vegetables are coming back. I’m very excited to see the project has begun and can’t wait to see the final product. The waters running under the city from Table Mountain have been abandoned and the water runs wastefully into the ocean – Reclaim Camissa is a project that hopes to revive them, let’s give them all the help we can.





Gallery and Contortionist

Today was cold grey and a bit wet and I had planned to do a few things in the centre of town, on foot. I stupidly wore the wrong shoes and walking through Greenmarket Square I hobbled like an old drunkard on the cobblestones. Luckily the rain had stopped by the time I got there because I forgot my umbrella. Great planning, as you can see. After my errands I headed for the Company’s Garden and on my way I stopped at the Crypt Coffee Shop under St George’s Cathedral which serves nice cappuccino (I got one with a heart shape in the froth – very flirtatious) and has posters commemorating the 1989 peace marches held throughout the country – a sobering moment down memory lane.

Then I walked up Government Avenue which I am loving more and more every time I go there. I can’t believe I used to walk up and down through the Company’s Garden every day on my way to and from school and am now enjoying it as if for the first time. On the lawns in front of the museum was a group of about 300 small children on a school outing, managed by only 4 adults – it was chaotic! One of the teachers was screaming her head off at them to sit and stop throwing stuff into the pond. I stood and watched for a bit, took a few pics which I am not crazy about so they won’t feature here, and commiserated with the teachers. I would have liked to stick around and see the after effects of the gallons and gallons of orange squash and crisps that was about to be given to them.

Next stop was the Iziko National Gallery to see the French exhibition Rendezvous 12. I had a client last week who had exhibited there so I wanted to see her work. The gallery is looking very tacky considering all the others nearby that are so well looked after. That’s because we, the general public, don’t support them enough. I was glad to see that the front façade has vivid paintings which are recent as they weren’t there in January, but it isn’t enough – it really merits a better first impression. We have several other galleries in Cape Town but this is the National Gallery so it’s important and it’s ours. When did you last go there? It costs only R20 and there are always some interesting exhibitions. Check out what’s on the programme and make a point of visiting but make sure you take a walk through the gardens as well while you’re there.

This is the only painting I managed to shoot properly before the security guard told me to stop :-/ It’s called Contortionist. The whole exhibition was quite unusual and I won’t pretend to have understood even half of it. I liked my client’s work (photographic) but couldn’t get shots of them.

So it’s two pics today.


A note to all accidental visitors:

I am not a photographer and do not claim to have any particular skills whatsoever in that department. I have enormous respect for those who can see the potential in a scene and can create a great photo. Good photography is an art, in my opinion.

I am just a happy snapper, I have no special lenses or accessories, my camera is very simple and it's usually best to leave the setting on auto.

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