by Harry Preston email@example.com
May 2 2006
Recently I took a trip back to Cape Town to spend a few weeks with my family whom I had not seen since I moved to the U.S. many years ago. I never dreamed the most beautiful city in the world had become the gay capital of Africa. Which was truly surprising considering how conservative things were fifty years ago when I was growing up there.During my visit, the Cape Times (where I was drama critic in 1946) featured a front page magazine article on the enormous economic benefits that the gay community has brought to the city.
After arriving in Cape Town, I checked with Gay esCape, the local gay tourist bureau and was referred to T'Groenezicht, a gay guest house, one of several dozen in the city. This establishment is an old Dutch mansion overlooking the city, built a hundred years ago, and has a pool, a sauna and clean, comfortable rooms each with private bath. Included in the daily rate was a sumptuous breakfast, all for 220 Rand a night, the equivalent of less than forty dollars! Believe me, dollars can buy you a great time in Cape Town.
The airfare is the biggest expenditure - - a fourteen hour flight that eventually numbs one's rear end... but nevertheless, once you step off the plane, the breath-taking beauty of Table Mountain and the surrounding peaks chases the boredom of the long flight. I understand the fare has increased since I took my trip, which is understandable considering the way prices of everything have risen.
With the rate of exchange, dollars can buy you just about anything in Cape Town at one-sixth the price in the U.S. Beyond the airfare, I spent less than $700 for a glorious four week vacation that included buying some wonderful clothes at a fraction of the price one pays in the States.
For those into the bar scene, Cape Town has many gay clubs that never close. One even has "dark rooms" in the back for couples who can't wait to get to a motel. Many have very professional floor shows, such as "The Broadway"
where a cast performed a salute to ABBA, using their own voices to re-create many of the group's famous hits.
I do not recommend "The Brunswick" however, where the floor show had the usual lipsynch drag queens who were, sadly, very amateurish, and the food and service were atrocious. "The Bronx" is strictly a loud, noisy gay bar that is packed every night with locals and tourists. I advise wearing ear-plugs!
But the best tourist attractions are the glorious wide beaches that stretch from Cape Town all around the Peninsula at the tip of the continent. "Graaff's Pool" on the beach is a walled-off area in the Sea Point suburb where swimsuits are optional. Further down the coast is Sandy Bay, a massive beach nestling beneath the mountains where dozens sunbathe and socialize in the nude.
Along the Cape Town docks is the Waterfront, a massive complex of malls with literally hundreds of stores and restaurants overlooking the ocean. Built recently, this is a "must see" spot for tourists who throng the walkways by the hundred. Cruising the Waterfront is a favorite pastime of the locals as they can meet visitors from all over the world.
Other than the very active gay scene, there are many outstanding tourist attractions - the cable car ride to the top of Table Mountain below which the city spreads endlessly between the mountains and valleys. Here the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet at the very tip of the African continent where the Dutch East India Company established the first settlement in 1632.
Trips to the wine districts are well worth it - viewing the acres of vineyards that produce some of the world's best wines. The small coastal city of Knysna is also worth a visit and boasts a very large gay community.Another beauty spot on the coast is Hermanus, where Mary Renault lived for years with her lifetime companion and wrote her epic trilogy about Alexander the Great and his lovers Hephaiston and Bagoas, the Persian boy who became the big love of Alexander's life.
Scenically, Cape Town is unbelievably impressive, but be forewarned - there are some unfortunate hazards stemming from the fact that since the black government took over, law and order are almost non-existent. No one should walk the streets alone after dark because muggings and holdups are a nightly occurrence. Civil unrest continues, and residents are forced to live behind barred windows and doors because of the escalating crime rate that has made Johannesburg the murder capital of the world, with over 70 murders a day. In fact, in Texas there are thousands of white professionals who have fled South Africa...over 3,000 in Dallas, over 5,000 in Houston.
More information can be obtained on the Internet by pulling up the "Gay/Lesbian" link on the South African search engine ANANZI.
Harry Preston is a veteran Dallas author and a former screenwriter at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios in Hollywood. His latest hardcover book, Thelma WHO? published by Scarecrow Press, is the biography of former gay film star Thelma White, and was cited by CLASSIC IMAGES movie magazine as one of the best top ten books of 2002. This book, as well as Prestonís latest novel, FACES OF ANGELS, a gay romance, may be ordered through Amazon.com on the Internet.