African liveability Community Housing

A family talks about living in Cape Town's central city

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A young family traded in their life in their “forever” home in Johannesburg for an opportunity to lead a simpler life in Cape Town’s central city. Almost a year later, they’ve settled into a more public life of beaches, parks and public spaces. 

CV: Introduce us to your family.
Cecilia: My name is Cecilia Steinberg, and I am married to Mark Griffioen; we have a two-year-old daughter, Hannah. Mark is a chartered accountant who works in the mobile social network industry and I am an architect.

CV: Why did you decide to take root here?
Mark: I joined an up-and-coming mobile social media firm. It was an opportunity for me to join a new industry that interests me. With it came the opportunity to simplify our lives.

CV: In what ways is your life different since the move?
Mark: Before we lived in what is known as “the parks” in Johannesburg and we were lucky that we both worked within a 5km radius from home, which gave us a kind of village lifestyle. Because it was a typical suburb, the house had a garden where we could entertain friends. In Cape Town people tend to live more outside their home and meet each other in coffee shops and restaurants. I miss having all our friends over and having a place to braai.

Cecilia: The public spaces in Cape Town are used so much more than in Johannesburg and as a result encourage interaction between strangers. I’ve bumped into more acquaintances in the Company’s Garden in the past six months than I did in six years in Joburg. I’ve made some really good friends with other mothers who take their children to play parks in the city – children are a wonderful ice breaker. There isn’t one instance where I haven’t taken down someone’s number and become friends in some way. Although we miss entertaining a large group of friends at home but we don’t miss having to look after a pool and a garden.

CV: What do you do to relax?
Cecilia: We often go to the beach with Hannah. Time just ceases to exist when you’re on the beach. On weekends I jog the contour road below the Table Mountain cable car or along the Sea Point Promenade. I also take a ceramic class once a week at a studio in Dorp Street in the Bo-Kaap and have also joined the Musikanti Chamber Orchestra of Erika Naumann (a contact I made through one of the mothers I met in a park). I play violin. We practise at the St Martini Lutheran Church – which originally owned the ground on which the apartment block we now live in was built. It’s right around the corner in Long Street.

Mark: I love being able to take my mountain bike out to Table Mountain or Signal Hill. There are plenty of trails within a kilometre of the apartment.

CV: Describe your typical Sunday.
Cecilia and Mark: Hannah has a built-in alarm clock for six. If it is a nice day we might go to the beach early or climb Lion’s Head. We often go to Deer Park Café on Sundays for coffee and breakfast – Hannah can swing there as much as she likes. All three of us enjoy an afternoon nap, so there is nothing better than taking forty winks while the little one is quiet. We’ll go for an afternoon stroll to Green Point Urban Park where there is an abundance of jungle gyms and play areas for kids. Five o’clock we go to church. Our church, Shofar, uses the Presbyterian Church premises on the corner of Orange and Hatfield Street. It is a beautiful building and the cornerstone was placed by Lord Milner himself. It’s within walking distance from home and it feels like we live in a village.

CV: In your experience, how child-friendly is the city?
Cecilia: All the parks and gardens are very child-friendly, but there is a shortage of restaurants and coffee shops that are child-friendly. While there are activities for older children, I’ve also found that here are few places with activities for children of six to eighteen months. It’s the age when children don’t just want to sit in their prams but they don’t yet have the skills or attention span for activities like crafts. Something that is also a problem is that some of the doors of shops in Long and Kloof Street are often not wide enough for a pram. It is a bummer on days when I feel like browsing and I can’t help but wonder what people in wheelchairs do. I would love to see better access for people with wheelchairs, which in turn would make it easier for people with prams: This includes not only the width of the doors but also the layout of public toilets and the upgrading of kerbs.

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This article first appeared in the February 2013 issue of City Views. Text by Alma Viviers, photo by Lisa Burnell. Read it online. 

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