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Most of my time in Africa was spent in Observatory, because this is where our hostel was located. Many hours were spent exploring what Cape Town Travel lauds as the “Quirky bohemian soul of Cape Town where you will find some of the Mother City’s most interesting residents.”
Observatory is a thriving suburb that is most certainly filled with interesting people and sights. Named from the first Royal Observatory which was located in the area in 1820. Under apartheid people from all races lived together in Obs, as it known by the locals, and that spirit lives on today.
The University of Cape Town is nearby and as one might expect the night life in Obs is hopping. The main entertainment area in the district is centered around Lower Main Road. You can find eccentric shops, quirky cafés that cater to health and whole food enthusiast, bars, live music and lots of easy going folks in the artsy district.
Enter any bar, café or shop and you are almost guaranteed to leave with a new friend. The locals are easy to talk to and genuinely interested in hearing your story. Just about any time of the day or night you will find interesting people lounging around the cafes and bars discussing politics, philosophy, music and literature.
Mimi’s was one our favorite breakfast spots, they knew our group very well by the end of our journey. We spent many mornings in the café enjoying freshly prepared delicacies. The menu is filled with organic healthy choices such as fresh juices, homemade omelets and decadent crepes filled with mouthwatering choices such as lemon and cream. You won’t find any preservatives in this kitchen everything is from scratch and the service impeccable.
OBZ café was a dinner time favorite with from scratch cuisine that kept us going back for more. OBZ café has one of the best pizza’s I ever put in my mouth. Thin oven fired crust, freshly chopped toppings including fresh herbs and spices that explode across the tongue. Just when you think it couldn’t get any better the waiter brings you two different dipping sauces for the pizza. One spicy hot delight and one rich garlic sauce that sizzle and tickle the taste buds.
One of my absolute favorite dishes in South Africa came courtesy of OBZ café. The Roasted Vegetable salad includes a mixture of oven roasted vegetables over mixed greens. The salad was loaded with a blend of spices and topped with fresh shaved parmesan cheese. I could not get enough of it and the chef, known only as Gypsy, was kind enough to share his recipe with me so that I could continue to enjoy this scrumptious salad after my return home.
Part of the appeal and charm of both of these cafés was the care in which the owners and staff took with their guests. It was more than simply refilling our glasses or the delicious food, it was the personal touches. They came to know us by name and always went the extra mile.
Observatory could be considered a sensory heaven to those who find appeal in music, art and a hopping night life. Avant-garde clubs line the streets offering up everything from 80’s music, Reggae, Salsa, Jazz, Poetry, and Performance Art. The bohemian lifestyle is alive and well in Obs where you will find some of the most interesting people in the world.
Musicians, Artists, Students, and World Travelers flock to the area to take in the culture. Art is everywhere in Observatory. In the shops, galleries, clubs and even the graffiti beautifying dilapidated buildings, bridges and overpasses. Sometimes the art is meant simply to adorn, but often there is a message as well.
If you are looking for something a little more upscale The River Club and Conference center boasts a 9-hole mashie course and a 90-bay driving range. The world famous South African Golf Institute is also situated here. The coaches are PGA qualified and personally trained by Golf Director, Grant Hepburn. Hepburn is internationally renowned and has trained coaches around the world.
If you enjoy the night life, but not the clubs then perhaps a visit to the South African Astronomical Observatory would be more to your tastes. The reason the area is called the observatory is because it is the home of the National Centre for Optical and Infrared Astronomy. The facility is open to the public every second and fourth Saturday of the month at 8 p.m. The headquarters include offices, the main library, computing facilities, engineering workshops and historic telescopes.
The Observatory has a fascinating history dating back to 1820, which is when the main building was constructed, making it one of the oldest permanent structures in Cape Town. Due to light and air pollution in the city, most of the actual observing happens in Sutherland in the Northern Cape, about 380Kms from Cape Town. Some of the telescopes in Cape Town are still used for outreach and public events.
An evening at the Observatory in Observatory begins with a program that includes an introduction to the historic McClean telescope, the observatory museum, and the observatory building. If the weather is clear, everyone is given a chance to look at something in the sky using the McClean and other telescopes set up for the evening.
Three weeks was not nearly enough time to explore all that Observatory had to offer, around every turn there is something new and exciting. My gypsy spirit was enthralled with the unconventional district where many new friends where acquired and a piece of my soul remains.