For the entire five days I had to spend in Pretoria it rained. Nonstop. It was almost like being back in Vancouver except for the distinct feeling of being in Africa. Pretoria is nothing like Cape Town and I’m sorry to say, it is a slightly mangled, dirty city with the only redeeming feature being the architecture, which is an interesting mix of British Colonial and Art Deco.
One of the most culturally-vibrant areas in the city is Church Square. We sat at the historical Cafe Riche, a coffeehouse built into the ground floor of a gorgeous art nouveau building, which turned out to be a perfect spot for people-watching. The Oscar Pistorius trial was taking place just around the corner in the courthouse, and a protest in favour of Julius Malema’s EFF unfolded before us with the signature bright red berets.
I won’t get into the astonishing details of my experience obtaining a visa, but I will say this: corruption is alive and well at the Department of Home Affairs. What was meant to be a simple collection of my papers all of a sudden resembled a dodgy drug deal with a man who looked remarkably like Thabo Mbeki.
After agonizing hours in traffic and marching through the unrelenting rain to various government buildings only to wait in long queues for bad news, it was a pleasant surprise to stumble across a lovely little cafe called Ginger and Fig in Brooklyn, Pretoria.
I started with a fresh carrot, pineapple and ginger juice which felt like it was cleansing away the day, and then ordered the chicken salad, which was exploding with flavour from the Korean chilli paste marinade, coconut, coriander, sesame seeds and tangy sun-dried tomatoes. One of the most satisfying salads I’ve had since Cape Town (by the way, the chef/owner trained in Cape Town before returning to his hometown to open Ginger and Fig).
My boyfriend’s lunch always looks better than mine – the open-faced, slow-roasted pork belly sandwich was perfectly crispy and meaty, topped with a coriander pesto, ricotta, and caramelized peaches. Incredible. It was totally unnecessary, but we ordered the daily muffin to have with our coffees after – a super moist and ridiculously fluffy banana, lemongrass and green tea muffin served with homemade peanut butter.
As we were finishing our coffees, the sun started to peak out from behind the black clouds, and for the first time since I arrived in Pretoria, things didn’t look so bad.