04 May 2011 by Chris Marais

At the Dock of the Bay

No matter how many times I visit Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, that old Table Mountain gives me gooseflesh. It’s been giving newcomers gooseflesh for many centuries, going back to the early seafarers who scooted past this stormy sea lane to get to the spices of the East.

I remember sitting here in the 70s, feasting on fish and chips and cold beer at the Harbour Cafe in the days before the Cape Town waterfront became the country’s prime tourist destination. It was then the haunt of salty sea dogs, gulls and seals by the dozen. The Harbour Cafe was the only joint around that served lunch, and it had a faithful clientele since its inception in 1903. Some of the drinkers around me looked like they’d been there since the doors first opened.

I watched our national rugby team win its first World Cup from a brewery at the V&A, and celebrated with thousands of painted TV warriors that night in 1995.

So here I am, at the end of summer, admiring the Coke Man with his huger index fingers pointing at the heavens. There’s a massive cruise ship in port and tourists from all over the world are milling about the V&A, making shopkeepers very, very happy. There’s something about a day trip ashore (if you’re a cruise line traveller) that just makes you wanna spend, spend, spend.

From grimy beginnings, the V&A has developed into the world’s top waterfront, they tell me. Not only has it become the haunt of millionaires, top-end yachties and high-flying tourists, but I occasionally spot the odd seal - and the seagulls are here in force. And who plays the salty sea dog in this little piece of outdoor theatre? Why, yours truly, of course…

Category: Culture & History

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