When a guidebook tells me a place is 'rough' and to be wary of it, it only makes me want to visit said place even more. In this case, I'm talking about Woodstock in Cape Town, a mix of
poverty, crumbling buildings and ongoing gentrification where derelict warehouses and factories have been converted and reclaimed, with galleries and creative businesses appearing among the dilapidated Victorian cottages. It's an area in transition, where tension exists, many local residents being forced out due to the rising rents. But in 2010, to lift the area and start a bit of a revolution, street artist Freddie Sam started asking locals if he could paint murals on their walls. One by one people agreed, and now the crumbling buildings are canvases for street artists around the world. So, obviously, a walk through the neighbourhood was high on our itinerary.
The sensible thing to do would have been to book an art tour with these guys, but we weren't that organised... So, with the guidebook's advice in mind, Ellie & Co team (of two) set off carefully on a street-art trail around Woodstock.
Woodstock kids hanging out...
So much of the art focuses on endangered South African wildlife...
A few streets in and we bump into this guy. Turns out he's a gangster and has just got out of prison...
There's so much to take in... which I ponder on our way back on to Sir Lowry Road, a busy main strip with an eclectic mix of shops. Here there are more obvious signs of gentrification, like a cafe called The Kitchen, a twee place Michele Obama chose to eat in on a recent visit to Cape Town. To be honest, it feels a bit strange to be heading for lunch in one of the area's new so-called 'hipster hangouts'.
A minor detour en-route sees us following a sign for 'burgers, shakes and muscle cars'...
Because I feel self-conscious gloating about expensive yet tiny platefuls of food with poverty-ridden streets just moments away, and in case you don't want to see endless plates of what I've eaten anyway, I've picked out two of the most photogenic and highly Instagrammable to show you – these carrots and fish tacos – to give you an idea of what to expect here. There's no doubt it's good.
We only had an afternoon in Woodstock, but if you've more time, check out these places too:
Downtown Ramen – 103 Harrington Street
Jamaica Me Crazy – 74 Roodebloem Road (+27 21 448 0691)
The Taproom – Inside the Devils Peak Brewery, 95 Durham Avenue (+27 21 200 5818)
Truth Coffee – 36 Buitenkant Street, (+27 21 2000 440)
Lefty's Dive Bar – 105 Harrington Street (+27 21 461 0407)