I have just returned from a trip to Cape Town. The trip was… eventful. Here is what happened.
I had to visit Cape Town on a meet and greet mission for a new client, visit my existing clients to see that we are still meeting their expectations and to visit my Cape Town based staff. I therefore had to be in Cape Town for two full days and that meant flying down on the Wednesday night and returning home on Friday afternoon. That meant two nights away. When booking my accommodation, I found a much cheaper (about half the price) ‘inn’ about a block away from the apartments I usually stay at. The pictures on the internet looked good and as it was in the same area I thought ‘how bad can it be?’ and happily booked two nights’ accommodation.
I arrived in Cape Town on Wednesday night and had a trouble free experience in stark contrast to my last experience in the Mother City when my credit card was unnecessarily blocked and all sorts of disaster ensued. I was looking forward to getting to my room, having a quick change into some feminine attire (I had cleverly shaved at home just before heading to the airport), doing my makeup and heading out for a bite to eat. My GPS directed me to the accommodation and my first challenge presented itself. Parking! Seapoint is a rather tricky place to find parking. My inn was in the main road and, so I had to park in a side road about a block away and walk to the inn to check in.
I found the place and discovered it was literally a ‘hole in the wall’. I needed to ring an intercom and explain who I was and what I was doing there. The door opened, and I walked down an alley where I found yet another door which led to a tiny reception area. The man behind the desk was unable to find my booking. We had paid a deposit and, so I was a little miffed. I was also somewhat sceptical of the place. There was a group of men sitting in the crowded reception area and they were looking at me rather strangely. It seemed I did not fit in with their usual clientele.
After some searching and confusion my booking was eventually found. The receptionist took a copy of my identity document and I was led up a very narrow staircase to my room. I realised that dressing was not going to happen. Not only was it now getting late (thanks to the search for my booking), meaning that the time taken to get makeup done would result in me possibly not finding a place to eat, but leaving the inn meant walking past some rather burly men. Men who had already made me feel less than comfortable. I was frankly worried for my safety. I also still had to go and fetch my car, bring it to the parking area and then take my luggage up to my room. I therefore decided to do all of this and then get a bite to eat en homme.
Once I had my luggage in my room I started realising the full state of affairs. The room was relatively clean, but it had a decidedly odd odour to it. I kept looking in the dustbin and under the bed to see if there was perhaps something organic rotting away somewhere, but I could find nothing. I headed out to a local restaurant and started looking for accommodation on a booking website. My usual apartments were fully booked. There were one or two other places nearby that did have rooms available, but they were prohibitively priced. I reluctantly returned to my room. On returning to my room I noticed that the door of the room next to me was open. I had to walk right up to it before turning right to face my door. In so doing my line of sight happened to intersect with the open door and I therefore saw the bed in the room. I could not help seeing a naked man sitting on the end of the bed receiving fellatio. Shaken, I got into my room as quickly as possible, showered and got into bed.
Whilst catching up on some reading in bed, I felt something tickling my arm. I looked down and saw a reddish-brown insect crawling on my arm. I tried brushing it away. It did not move. I looked more closely at it. It was definitely what I had fervently being hoping it was not. A tick! I grabbed it and in something of a panic squashed it against the bedside table. I then frantically pulled all the linen off the bed and looked for more of the parasites. I also contorted my body in all sorts of strange positions to ensure that there weren’t more of them crawling all over me. Needless to say, every itch, real or imagined brought a sense of panic… And I kept on feeling the tickle of imaginary six legged creatures all over me.
Strongly motivated to find alternative accommodation for the following night, I found the owner of my usual accommodation’s cell phone number on my phone (I had occasion to call her the last time I stayed) and texted her asking if she had any availability. It had occurred to me that she may have more apartments available than she had ‘opened’ on the booking platform. She confirmed that she did indeed have a studio. I literally rejoiced. I saw out the remainder of the night.
The next day, I went out for some breakfast and on my return, I was again confronted by an open door next to me. I glimpsed the sight of a naked man in the room but deliberately averted my eyes so that I would not see any more. I quickly packed my bag and went down to explain to the receptionist that I would not be spending another night there, before heading out to a day filled with meetings.
After a busy day spent in the company of clients, I drove back to Seapoint and checked in at my apartment. It felt like heaven. It was clean. It smelled clean and the people were friendly. After attending to some work matters I bathed (given Cape Town’s water shortage I probably shouldn’t have but after my tick related adventures I really felt the need for a soak. I then dressed and headed out into the twilight.
I decided to go to the Italian place I went to the last time I was in town, but as I was not yet famished, I thought I would have a little walk and explore the area some more. Johannesburg has probably the best weather in the world. We have been enjoying balmy summer weather since mid-September. Cape Town is far more ‘variable’ and I had come prepared with a leather jacket. The day was fine and warm though, so I chose not to bring it with me. Mistake! I was about two blocks away from my apartment when I started thinking I should have brought it with me. The wind had suddenly started gusting blasts of cold air and I was feeling decidedly chilly. My hair was a fright as the wind swirled around me.
Fortunately, I did not run into any groups of youths who had made me feel so unsafe last time. Although I did catch one rather well-dressed man in his twenties staring at me. His eyes were drawn to my waist area. I was a little anxious as he may have been staring at my groin, or maybe at my tummy. The top I was wearing is a bit short in the front giving the odd glimpse of bare tummy flesh. Anyway, he did not do or say anything. So, no harm no foul I suppose.
I came to the pizzeria and decided to walk a little further down the main road to see what else was to be seen in the neighbourhood. As I approached a fast food chicken restaurant, I noticed a homeless man sitting on one of the outside benches staring (through the glass shop front) at a group of women seated inside the restaurant. My ‘danger sense’ was triggered and I thought that this was unusual and a little disturbing. As I came closer to the restaurant I was even more disconcerted. I noticed that the man had his hand down his trousers and he was very obviously pleasuring himself. What to do? I was concerned for my own safety but especially for the safety of the women in the restaurant. On the other hand, assuming they had not noticed the guy, if I alerted them to the problem would I just make the matter worse? Also, if I notified the management and they called the police, would I be required to make a statement? If I did so I would have to explain who I was and as I was en femme this may be somewhat fraught. I decided to leave the situation be. The women were indoors and safe from him and I could only hope that he would have ‘finished’ by the time they were done with their meal. In retrospect this was probably the wrong thing to do. I wish I had been less selfish and less self-absorbed. We really do have a duty to deal with sexual predators and I should have done something. Oh well we live and learn.
Shortly afterwards I turned around and returned to the pizzeria. The service was excellent. Although the staff were entirely different to the people who served me last time. Both the waitresses who served me and the manager (owner?) were professional and very polite. They referred to me as “ma’am” which is always nice and neither one did a double take when they spoke to me, so either they are very well trained, or I am getting better at this talking to strangers when en femme thing!
Sadly, the food was less than spectacular this time. I am not sure why, but the last time I was there I found the food to be wonderful. This time, not so much. It was ok but only ok. As I was at the seaside I thought I would have some calamari with a salad. The salad was very good, but the calamari had a slightly bitter undertone. I think it had been overcooked and ever so slightly burned. I then had a portion of tiramisu for dessert. Last time I was there the tiramisu was fresh. So fresh it had not set properly. It therefore looked a little less than perfect, but it tasted divine. This time the tiramisu was set. It was so well set it was a little hard and it did not taste nearly as good. I was disappointed. The espresso was however very good.
I left the restaurant and braving the gusting, chilly wind, returned to my apartment. I revelled in the clean (and clean feeling) parasite free sheets and fell into a lovely sleep. But my adventures on this trip war not yet over.
My last day of the trip involved meeting my Cape Town based staff. As I had a mid-afternoon flight home we had decided to meet for lunch at the airport. I had very little else to do that day so after checking out of the apartment I headed to the airport. My thinking was that if I was there, I was there, and nothing could go wrong. As I knew I was going to be at the airport so early and as I had to check my baggage and as I had no means of printing a boarding pass, I decided to not check-in online and to rather check-in at the airport.
I arrived at the airport and went to check-in in hope rather than expectation. I handed over my identity card and was told that they could not find me on the system. I explained that I was flying to Johannesburg and that I was early for my flight. I was asked what time I was flying. I was actually not sure and started looking for the flight information on my phone. The person at the counter said not to worry and that she would look at the flights on the system. She told me that the next flight to Johannesburg was at 3-20 pm and that I could check in any time from 1-20 pm. I took myself off to a quiet spot to do some work and wait for my colleagues to arrive. They arrived at 12 and we went and had our meeting over lunch at a fish restaurant. After a good meal we asked for the bill. The bill was a little slow in arriving, but I was not under any time pressure, so we paid and left in a relaxed mood.
I arrived at check-in and handed over my identity card. I was again told that they could not find me on the system. Perplexed, I started looking for my booking details again. Before I found anything the person at check-in said they had found the problem. I was in fact not booked on to the 3-20 flight, but on the 2-15 flight. Problem! Check-in for the 2-15 flight had closed. Two minutes ago! I begged and pleaded but there was no way they could get me on the 2-15 flight. I was told to go to ticket sales where I was charged R1 400 (US$100) to change my booking from the 2-15 to the 3-20 flight.
Needless to say, I was less than impressed. It takes a rare skill to arrive at an airport nearly four hours before your flight and to then miss that flight. I have this skill! Sadly, if I had just bothered to check my details and not taken a stranger’s word, if the waiter at the fish restaurant had been slightly quicker with the bill or if I had just not been quite as slow walking to check-in I would have made the flight. But I missed it. Lesson learned!
After checking-in I made my way straight to the boarding gate and did not take any risks. I made my flight and am feeling suitably chastened.