South Africa — Taste the Rainbow
Story by Justin Ocean
"A week-long exploration into the luxe queer side of the Rainbow Nation.”
Day 4, Cape Town
Located on a private quay between the hyper-rich private yacht marina and working marine harbor, The Cape Grace is nothing if not movie set perfect, especially when watching the sunrise with a steaming cup of roiboos tea (ironically caffeine-free). As my own hazy mind clears like the low-lying “table cloth” that’s currently spilling over Table Mountain, a product of warm Indian Ocean air currents condensing against cooler Atlantic Ocean ones, I truly do feel at the tip of the world — a luxuriously layered world.
It can also be a hectic one with much to do and see, although with a pace more San Francisco or Miami than New York City. Checking out of my airy butter cream-colored cocoon (not before pocketing the full-sized bottles of South African Charlotte Rhys toiletries), I can easily see why in a short ten years the Grace has become regarded as the best hotel in South Africa, if not the continent, buoyed by its highly professional and personalized, yet un-obsequious service.
Fantasizing myself among past posh guests including multiple heads of state — and Oprah, our own gay ambassador — I put on my shades and power walk to my waiting “limo”: a mini-bus from Southern Circle Tours & Safaris. For the next five hours my gregarious and knowledgeable guide Mareli wows me with a whirlwind history of the city, from its humble beginnings as a Dutch East Indies spice route re-supply station to the current building boom gutting downtown’s historic edifices in time for the 2010 World Cup. (Hello, short shorts!)
The star-shaped Castle of Good Hope, resplendent Company Gardens, modern Houses of Parliament, and ancient rock paintings at the South Africa Museum are boons for history, botany, political and archeological buffs. Architecture lovers will eat up the happy clash of sleek steel-and-glass modernity with stucco’d Cape Dutch antiquity, especially in the cobbled streets of the charming (and gay) De Waterkant district and brightly-colored Bo Kaap, a largely Muslim area populated back in the day by freed Malay slaves.