I have for quite some time, embarrassingly enough, been one of those people who thought that the only good thing about the N7 is that it’s an alternative route to the lovely Langebaan and Paternoster. I was pleasantly surprised to find yet another gem just outside of Cape Town. Philadelphia (meaning brotherly love) lies a quick 30 minutes away from the Mother City just off the N7. And if you blink, you’ll miss it. That’s what makes it so quaint and special.
Philly is a fun place. Full of history, natural beauty of winelands and farms and quietness… Ah the quietness. Oh, and it can get hot as hell there too in summer! The permanent residents of Philadelphia are friendly and welcoming and everyone knows everyone by name (and probably all the family intricacies and scandals too!) Most of them come across as extremely creative people – forming quite an inspiring hub to be living and working in.
The town dates back to the 1800s and the monumental church – which is the first thing you see as you drive in to the town – plays quite a big role in the history of Philadelphia. Legend has it that the land was donated on condition that a church gets built on it serving people in all the surrounding areas who were tired of commuting to Durbanville and Cape Town to go to church. To this day, the majority of the other buildings in the vicinity around the church are rented from the church – apparently even the police station!
On an outing to Philadelphia you can expect to come across a few cute and quirky shops and restaurants like Magic Minerals, Die Blikhuisie, Pepper Tree and De Malle Meul among others. If you head out there on a Sunday you’ll probably see some bikers who’ve become local and often pop in for a quick breakfast or lunch.
This was also the hometown of one of South Africa’s most popular artists, Pieter van der Westhuizen, for 24 years. He summarised his 2003 Landscape-etching and Philadelphia like this: “This is the world I live in. The sheep, the chickens, the barbed wire fences, the solitary trees on the horizon, the birds in flight: It is all part of my life.”
De Malle Meul offers more than 200 original etchings to the public at the Pieter van der Westhuizen Art Gallery. Visitors can also browse and relax in the gallery and memorial area where you can see a part of Pieter van der Westhuizen’s studio and his favourite chair and other personal belongings.
A personal highlight for me in Philadelphia has to be my new friends, Sven and Uro’s place, Epalazzo art gallery and Italian kitchen. Sven is a formidable writer who recently launched a new book, METAMORPHOSIS, and Uro is a talented artist and excellent cook (they did after all spend some time living in Italy). He often hosts Italian cooking classes which is quite popular for a girls weekend or even just a nice breakaway. Here is a snapshot of a lovely day at Epalazzo – Uro’s art exhibition, Angels on the Outfield, and the launch of Sven’s book which took place in May [Photographer: Nathan Kleinsmith]
Oh yes, last but not least, Philadelphia has the coolest graveyard with the biggest tombstones I have ever seen. Some rich folk must have lived here back in the d! Not sure this pic does justice…