There used to be a yearly balloon rally outside of Aspen. I remember the one in 1983 the best. There was one balloon that lifted off and it had writing on it that I couldn’t quite make out in the mist. But then it all came clear. It said: “Decadence – A Way of Life.” I can so relate.
Saturday night was our second concert in S.A., this time in Pretoria. This was quite a difference from the last time I was in the Joburg/Pretoria area because back in 1984 Pretoria was “white by night.” That meant that anyone not of Afrikans descent had to have special dispensation to be in the city limits after 6 pm. Now Pretoria is a noisy, crazy city chock full of anyone and everyone.
The hall itself was from that early ‘70s style of architecture now referred to as “Brutalism.” The sound went essentially nowhere and another problem was that the air was very dry. Joburg/Pretoria – Gauteng province – is essentially a desert. The combination of the dry acoustic and the dry atmosphere produced the most pointed, angry comment from Renée that I heard all week:
“Gee, it’s really dry in here and I’m having to work so hard that I’m almost leaning out over the audience. Please catch me if I start tumbling off the stage.”
Renee…… sweetie……. if that’s the most caustic thing you can come up with we’re going to consider rescinding your “Diva” license.
Despite the difficulties we soldiered on and the reception by the audience was fantastic. As much as we enjoyed our experience in Gauteng though, it was the upcoming trip that we were all looking forward to – Cape Town. On Sunday morning the entire party stumbled into our various motored vehicles (Renée’s Mercedes was always dubbed Diva 1), left the comfy Le Chatelat, and headed for Tombo airport in Joburg. I was just about to set foot onto the plane when I heard a crackle from the radio of the guy standing in the jetway… something about stopping the boarding. I thought this a fine idea since the smell of aviation fuel was quite strong and my confidence in this particular airplane was quite weak. A short time later we were booked onto another flight and we all settled in for the flight to the Cape.
Cape Town is the most scenic part of South Africa. The city is dominated by the dynamic Table Mountain, which is where we were whisked to immediately after arriving. Bongani Tembi (the GM of the orchestra) had arranged a little picnic for us on top of the mountain. We climbed into the funicular and a couple minutes later were greeted with one of the most amazing vistas I know of. The view from the top of Table Mountain on a bright, clear day is simply spectacular. Cape Town reminds me a little bit of a smaller San Francisco, what with the ocean, the mountains, the spread out communities and just the general feel. Looking down on the city from Table, wine glass in hand, one really gets a feel for why people came and stayed over the last 4 centuries.
The sun sets and we pile into our vehicles again. Next stop is our resort outside of the sleepy town of Franschhoek (literally French Hook). It seems this is the area where all the French decided to put down roots. To everyone’s great surprise it turns out that the French migrated to the one area in South Africa perfectly suited for growing grapes. I know – you’re shocked, shocked! This is where most of the great South African wines come from and there are some really fabulous vintages to be had. Unique to S.A. is the Pinotage grape, and a fine Pinotage is well worth drinking.
Nestled on the outskirts of Franschhoek we find La Residence. I didn’t think we’d encounter something to put the place in Joburg to shame but……… let’s just say that the bathrooms were large enough that it required a GPS unit to find the toilet. Although the property has only been open for 2 years both Elton John and Richard Gere have relationships with the management such that whenever they want a suite, it’s theirs. Frankly I can’t blame them. The staff is the nicest, friendliest bunch of people you’ve ever met, and they simply will not let you do anything. I could tell they got a kick out of us since no one in the party was used to this level of decadence, which led to hilarious moments of power struggles between us and the staff. But we were outnumbered and forced to succumb to their vile temptations.
Monday was a tourist day and the party broke up into various groups. I decided that the morning was the best time to get out on my bike and explore the beautiful Franschhoek valley. My goal was to go to Drakenstein Prison.