A rainy Tuesday afternoon in Stellenbosch, and I am seated in a cozy and charming coffee shop, Cafe Creme, with a tall red mug of hot chocolate, warming myself before the hour-long drive back into Cape Town. I think I shall take the coast road back, along the shores of False Bay, to avoid the rush-hour traffic, but also to look out over the grey and restless sea, at the gulls balancing over the sand-cliffs on the tips of their wings, to smell the rain and the open ocean and the wet fynbos.
There are black-and-white checked tablecloths on the tables, the interior of the cafe is warm and enticing, and the nineteenth-century shopfront opens onto the pavement where hardier souls are seated in their winter jackets and scarves. Across the quiet road the tall windows and stately white-washed verandah of one of Stellenbosch’s lovely old buildings peep through the rusting leaves of the oak trees.
A good day, so far – interviews at UCT, and with the Dean of Engineering, here at Stellenbosch. Tomorrow I will be spending the whole day out here. When I asked the Dean, what it was that attracted students to Stellenbosch University, the first thing he said was this: it is the town and gown experience. I hadn’t thought of it like that, being a city boy myself and a UCT graduate – but only Rhodes University, in Grahamstown, the University of the North West, in Potchefstroom, and Stellenbosch, can offer this, and of these three Stellenbosch, surely, must be the loveliest and most charming.
There’s something to be said for aging gracefully: something too for wearing one’s years lightly, and keeping a young student’s heart.