Thursday, March 6, 2008

Tourists of reality part II: St James

One of my favourite places in Cape Town is the False Bay coastline which is flanked by the Silvermine mountain range and dotted with fabulous little seaside villages from Muizenberg through Kalk Bay all the way down to Simon's Town. While I was living in the city I'd often spend my weekends exploring the coast; having breakfast at the Olympia Cafe & Deli, rummaging through the antique shops and second-hand book stores or stopping in for a Windhoek (yes, I know Castle Lager is the national beer of South Africa – I’m just more partial to Windhoek) at the Brass Bell.

For most people though, False Bay's main drawcard is its string of sheltered, family-friendly beaches. With the water around 5-7 degrees warmer than on the Atlantic Coast on the opposite side of the peninsular, it's hardly surprising that it became Cape Town's first fashionable bathing area. There are several magnificent beaches in the area, such as Fish Hoek and Boulders Beach just past Simon's Town where you can swim and sunbathe with a resident colony of penguins. But by far the prettiest and most photographed beach is St James with its brightly coloured bathing houses and tidal swimming pool (see above).

While the stretch of beach itself is not very wide and can get quite crowded in summer, St James has become one of Cape Town’s landmark tourist attractions with its colourful beach houses popping up time and again on postcards, books and paintings of the city. The "tourist reality" captured by these images evoke a romantic vision of the Victorian seaside which is strangely at odds within the context of its modern southern African setting. Yet in an endeavour to sell the past to the present the "touristic reality" has been selectively framed so as to focus squarely on the old-worldly charm of the bathing houses while simultaneously erasing all traces of modernity including the Cape Metro train line that runs directly behind the beach (see below).

I wonder how keen Tourism Cape Town would be to show this reality of their picture-perfect tourist view?


Anonymous said...

Great story about false bay and really impressive photos. I can see that you are not wild about writing you are also wild about photos. Keep it coming. You may want to share an article on my blog if you like to visit Simon's Town from a travel point of view. Have fun. Johan

Kim Wildman said...

Thanks Johan! Yes, I do love photography and I also love Simon's Town. Hopefully, I can fit in a visit when I am back in Cape Town in May.