The Hedonist: Cape Town
By Pippa de Bruyn from Hg2 luxury city guides
Saturday 24 July 2010
"How much longer?" We are waiting outside the Cape Royale (00 27 21 430 0500; caperoyale.co.za), a faux-French hotel. It stands opposite the Green Point stadium, now familiar to millions of World Cup viewers, yet is still so new to the city landscape it looks like a giant spaceship has landed on the common.
"He's talking to Halle Berry's people in LA. It could be a while."
"Can't he get a cab?" I whine. "The doors close at 7.30pm, and I don't want to miss a minute."
"He's the director. He calls the shots."
"I'm not working for him," I mumble, but then the director appears, coat flapping, and we roar into the city, the downtown streets near-deserted on this wintry Saturday night.
With minutes to spare our names are ticked off (advance bookings essential) and the doorman draws back the plush velvet curtain to reveal a woman on stilts, cocktail in one hand, a silk leash in the other, her flowing red ballgown matching the blush on her gaudily painted face.
If that isn't strange enough, at the end of her leash is a poodle on four stilts, its massive head looming over the entrance, sniffing each new arrival with vigour. It's just a hint of what's to come: step beyond the bar area and you're transported into a parallel universe, the surreal baroque of Vaudeville ( vaudeville.co.za ) at 11 Mechau Street, the atmosphere charged with anticipation and excitement.
Showgirls in scanty glimmering costumes and huge plumed headdresses sidle past, winking at the patrons; a strongman, his naked torso and massive biceps gleaming, wanders between tables showing off feats of strength; a penguin-like creature runs past, hiding from the fat master of ceremonies, his small red pout like a full-stop in the middle of his white painted face. Above are fluffy clouds and psychedelic video projections.
"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to VAUDEVILLE!" shouts the MC in a heavy French accent, and the applause is thunderous.
Our waiter, a skinny chap wearing top hat and tails in garish red and yellow, proceeds to explain how Cape Town's new burlesque supper club works: once we have placed our orders and finished our mezze, the show will officially start. During the break the main course is served. The show then resumes, and when it is all over we will be consoled with dessert. And consolation is exactly what is needed, for the show is superb – a high-octane series of professional acts sourced from all over the world, ranging from gorgeous showgirls doing erotically charged singing and dancing routines, to trapeze artists, muscled tap dancers, contortionists and firedancers.
Even the most apparently restrained among our party of 10 (the quiet, elegantly attired UK production designer) ends each act by stamping his feet and whistling, entreating "Encore, encore!" (though this may have as much to do with the many mojitos we've been throwing back as with the shapely woman dangling from a rope). And when it really is all over, the dance floor starts up.
By now we are feeling far too convivial to be constrained by a single club, so we split to heady, hectic Long Street, drinking slammers at Jo'burg (00 27 21 422 0142; joburgbar.com ) at number 218 before crossing to the postage-stamp Fiction dancefloor (00 27 21 424 5709), a boutique-sized club at 226 with excellent DJs, hypnotic lighting, explosive sound system and a balcony sweet with eye-candy.
It is amazing how many people are out and about, gathering in the decadent dives that line Long Street, or in the gay-friendly venues in nearby cobbled De Waterkant, or in the pavement cafes that line the sunset strip overlooking Camps Bay's palm-lined beach.
Then again, Capetonians are nothing if not up for it – whether it's the chattering classes toasting the setting sun from the top of Table Mountain or drinking mulled wine at its foot in the verdant Kirstenbosch gardens; the revellers cooling off in crystal-clean rivers at the psytrance outdoor parties, or the surfers lounging on the pristine beaches of the southern peninsula, the tribes have one thing in common – life in a city worth celebrating.
A Hedonist's Guide to... (Hg2) is a luxury city guide series for the more decadent traveller. For more information, see hg2.com
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