Travelogue South Africa: Paternoster

CAPE TOWN & PATERNOSTER
21-24 March 2019

When one’s favourite band is paying one’s country a visit and their second show is not only in Cape Town, but also on a public holiday that can easily create a long weekend opportunity, one must jump at the chance! And so it was we found ourselves plotting, planning and booking a trip to the Mother City for the Rock on the Lawns 2019 festival.

With the mass emigration of Joburgers to Cape Town, we were never going to be short of playmates or offers of accommodation, but we decided it made more sense to book an Airbnb close to the venue rather than having to compete with a stadium full of people to get an Uber home. We were very fortunate to find a B&B easy walking distance from the stadium and so booked 3 rooms for the Joburg contingent; for us, Mich & Ian and Anna.
Since they had arrived the day before us and had a rental car, we were very fortunate to have a welcome party to collect us on Thursday morning when we landed.

We headed straight to the B&B in the hopes we could check in and dump bags. Although it was close to midday already, we had no idea if they would allow the early arrival – or in fact we’re expecting us at all – as since the initial booking a couple of months earlier, the host has gone quiet and not responded to any of my messages asking for early check in, then – thinking that maybe they felt awkward declining – asking if we could just drop our bags, and finally just asking for confirmation they were expecting us. We had only paid the R749 required from Airbnb and had asked for 3 rooms, so were fully anticipating being turned away or (possibly worse) having 5 of us share a double room!

But there was no cause for concern. When we finally found the place (the original Wetton Road had been split by the construction of a fly-over and some brightspark had duplicated house numbers on either side sending us on a wild goose chase), they were expecting us (although repeatedly asked if I was sure I’m not “Melissa with the 2 room booking”) and we were issued 3 rooms.

The digs was an old Cape Town home with the original wooden floors and pressed ceilings. And unfortunately also the old original single bathroom to service the entire house, consisting of our 5 and Melissa’s 5. A lot of people for one bathroom!

Nonetheless, the rooms were big, the linen clean and the location perfect.
We did some Googling to find a close restaurant to meet the rest of the gang and decided on Fat Harry’s “Burgers, Beers and Bones”. We spread the word, dropped a pin and hit the road, eager for lunch.

It was a spirited reunion with our friends and a solid carbo-loading with hungerbuster 200g burgers and loads of fries. I was cautious about the beer bit of the bargain, needing to go the distance with a long night ahead and also concerned about ‘breaking the seal’ with portable toilets being my future reality.

Still walking distance from the stadium, we all hit the road on foot at around 5 to make our merry way to the concert. The set up was very similar to the one we’d attended a few days earlier in Joburg, so we repeated the process, established a meeting point in the Golden Circle Beer Garden and allowed our cats to wander blissfully unherded between the bars, portaloos and occasional friend or acquaintance spotted. All while live bands entertained us from the stage.

At around 8, we moved into the crowds to get ready for the main act. We had a decent vantage point and again there was a lump in my throat as the lights dimmed, the spotlights came up, the backing music started and Robert Smith made his way into view.

The better part of 60, he still has masterful stage presence and puts on a helluva show. Almost 3 hours of vigorous guitar and album-perfect renditions of scores of their songs, both hits and a few more obscure numbers.

My experience was marred a bit by being pickpocketed and relieved of my cell phone… But still overall wouldn’t have missed the concert for the world.

We were fortunate that in the couple of blocks between the venue and our B&B there were 2 garages and – bliss! – a McDonald’s “walk-through” (the restaurant was closed but we were able to do the drive through on foot) and a midnight feast was had by all.

We were FINISHED by the time we got home at 1-ish. But not out soundly enough to sleep through the hubbub at 4am when we heard our front-of-house slash security man, Chance, yelling and screaming and throwing what turned out to be a coffee cup at some local entrepreneurs who had smashed a car window to relieve the vehicle of its contents and were proceeding to attempt to break into our house! Their attempts were thwarted and they ran off into the night. And we drifted off back to sleep.

On Friday morning we split into teams to get our communal admin sorted. Christian had a work telecon so he stayed at the house; Anna and I went to the bank to get me a new SIM card, restore my online banking (which has to be suspended when a phone is stolen) and to order me a new credit card (my old one had been in my phone cover) and Mich and Ian went to shower at her dad’s place which was just around the corner.

By 11 we were all done and ready to hit the road for our roadtrip to Paternoster.

Our first stop was, as planned, lunch at Darling Brew. Known for their award-winning craft beer, the innovative people at the brewery have also concocted a very refreshing range of ciders (very welcome after an onslaught of beer the previous day) as well as a menu that cleverly incorporates some of their by-products, an example of which was the beer chips used for the pulled pork nachos we ordered. As an easy hop from Cape Town, it’s a recommendable excursion.

It’s a very pretty drive along the coast up to Paternoster; no more than a couple of hours in total and through the grasslands famous for the Namaqualand Daisies (which weren’t in season, but one could imagine the awe of the expanse when they would be). 

We bypassed the few stops we’d toyed with making (Saldanha, Langebaan etc), keen to get to our destination. We did stop in Vredenburg for supplies though, forewarned that this was the last mall on our route.

Arriving in Paternoster, it was even sweeter than we’d imagined. A smattering of little white houses hugging a curved cove with perfect ocean lapping on perfect beach. Making our way in as it approached sunset, we were greeted with a glowing horizon and a golden sea.

Our host was waiting at the Airbnb we’d rented, which turned out to be a luxury 4 bedroom house, quite in contrast to our humble digs from the previous night! In the bulb of a cul de sac, we were in prime location across the road from the beachfront with a perfect view from our front patio.

The host showed us around and prepared us for our stay, which was mostly how to turn on and off the beams, alarms and other security measures. Sad but true, Paternoster too has become a haven for crime; although mostly opportunistic theft of valuables left in plain sight by carefree tourists leisuring on open patios, appreciating the view of the beach and forgetting that they in turn are providing a spectacle for petty thieves.

We each chose our rooms, made ourselves at home and settled on the front stoep to watch the day go by. 

Not one for sitting still for very long, Christian suggested a quick trot to get a lay of the land so the two of us and Anna hit the beach, turned left, walked to the very end, cut into the main road and returned home through town. Very easy to get one’s bearings when the two main concourses are parallel and sand and tar respectively!

With 2 restaurants on the beach and several in town, we surmised we were going to have a fun Saturday exploring. Friday’s plan was a braai at home though so we happily returned to our stoep and the slowly setting sun.
The sun takes ages to set and throws off all sense of time so we ended up having a late dinner of braaied steaks, salad and our favourite side, mac ‘n cheese.

Saturday morning began with a flex of good behaviour; we woke up to load-shedding so Christian and I took a morning run. Wanting to get our 30 minutes exercise to satisfy our Vitality requirement, we struggled to get the requisite 5km out of the little town. We ran to the far edge and then darted down every cul de sac on the way back to make up time – and still had to overshoot the house to meet the goal!

Fortunately the load-shedding in the Cape is a fraction of the length of Joburg’s so we were soon able to make a massive fry-up with the supplies we’d bought on our way in, to fuel our day of sightseeing.

This began with a drive to the lighthouse, which is in the nature reserve in Tietiesbaai (named after some chap, Jacob Titus, who drowned there) and was disappointingly closed. We got a few snaps from the outside though and went to a rustic beachfront pub called Seekombuis, known for its novel tables in empty rowboats, since proverbial planes had by now flown overhead.

Returning to Paternoster town, we did some shopping in the handful of gift shops on the main drag, walking away with t-shirts, scarves and olives.
Back to our lovely house for a couple of hours of relaxing and watching the ocean – which is all you want to do really since it’s too bloody cold to swim in – before our evening pub crawl.

Another hour of load-shedding ensured we really relaxed, by now well accustomed to whiling time on our front stoep, and we were soon off to the first stop on our evening adventure: Voorstrandt restaurant; a big red building a few doors down on the beachfront.

Ambitious to just rock up without a booking, we were lucky that the gracious host allowed us a quick half hour sundowner at a table that they were holding for a reservation. We managed to squeeze a bottle of wine (spritzered) and a plate of delicious snoek samoosas in and were soon back on the beach and on our merry way to the next stop.

The Paternoster Lodge claimed to have the best view in town so was a natural next setting for our Sundowners Part II. The view was good… But could hardly compete with Voorstrandt, on the beach. 

One more drink – at Benguela Blue, a couple of doors up from Paternoster Lodge – and we were ready to hit Blikkie Pizzeria for dinner and then last stop at the pub in the Paternoster Hotel (known as the Panty Bar for the rows and rows of panties hanging from the ceiling) before making our way back to our house. All in all we can’t have done more than a kilometre or a kilometre and a half, tops.

We retired to our back stoep, determined to enjoy every inch of our amazing rental home, and happily discussed our successful weekend.

Sunday morning saw us up for another quick run around town, this time peppered with our reviews of our experiences as we passed the places we’d visited the night before. Having to check out at 10, it left little more time than to have a quick shower, snack on our leftovers in the fridge, pack the car and make our way out of town.

With our homebound flight only at 7pm, we’d planned a roadtrip down the coast through the afternoon and then to meet some of Anna’s friends in Cape Town later in the afternoon.

We had scratched Saldanha off the list based on feedback from a restauranteur the previous afternoon, so first stop was brunch at Langebaan. We committed to the coastal experience and ordered an array of seafood from a busy pub and restaurant called Driftwoods, right on the Main Beach. We ate way too much and felt quite dozy getting back in the car for the second leg of the trip.

Arriving in Cape Town, we stopped for a leg-stretch and photo opps in Blouberg, happily snapping pics of the famous mountain from across the bay. It was a wonderfully sunny afternoon, with a bit of a chill in the breeze but otherwise a quick tonic for the time spent cooped up in the car.

Last stop was Forester’s Arms, a legendary pub in Newlands established in 1852 and still going strong. They serve a magnificent carvery on a Sunday and we were all very sorry that there was no space for another feast so soon after lunch. 

Still, it was a festive venue to pass a couple of hours to close our fabulous long weekend. Too soon we were off to the airport to catch our respective planes home and get back to the grind that makes these holiday hiatuses as valuable as they are to us.