The ‘velvet’ in the name of the website The Velvet Escape refers to the elements of luxury that Keith Jenkins expects when he travels. “And there’s a depth to velvet as well,” adds Keith.
Keith was a banker before he started travel writing on a full-time footing. He was born in Malaysia but Amsterdam has been his home for the past 26 years and is likely to remain so – he loves the worldwide accessibility that Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport offers. But if Keith was to relocate he knows where he’d go. I spoke to him about his love of Cape Town.
“I go there every year,” Keith told me. “I think it’s an amazing destination. The nature is spectacular both in the ocean and on the land. I also think the food and wines are incredible and the people are great.” If that isn’t enough Keith says that South Africa is one of the few places where the pound still buys a lot. “It is a huge value-for-money destination especially as the rand is so low against it, the euro and the dollar.” Wise words from this former moneyman.
During his ten visits to the Cape, Keith says he’s developed a ritual that he follows every time he returns. “The very first thing I do is have a glass of South African Pinotage red wine. I look out across the water and see Table Mountain in front of me and I know that I’m back. It’s a great feeling.”
Even though Keith is a regular visitor he always tries to ride up to the top of the city’s 1000 metre-high landmark. “I never get tired of taking the cable car up Table Mountain and doing the Chapman’s Peak Drive, which is the spectacular road running from Cape Town. You can do it as a day trip from the city. It’s one of my favourite drives in the world and the views are just spectacular. You drive along the road and if you stop and look down from the cliffs around Hout Bay you might see two whales swimming below. The light is always different and the scenery changes because of the ocean climate. I never tire of it.”
Although Keith has his favourite trips he’s always discovering new places to go. “The Old Biscuit Mill is now a cultural centre with markets, artists’ studios and restaurants. It’s a great place to hang out for the afternoon and taste all the different foods and wines or to enjoy a lot of great artwork.”
Keith believes that the Western Cape is like a little pocket of Europe on the African continent. “Johannesburg, Durban and the countries of Botswana and Namibia are the ‘real’ Africa that people think of. If it’s your first time in the continent then Cape Town is a great way to acclimatise because it is very European. You can start to explore the rest of the country and then go on to neighbouring nations.”
Keith’s blog, The Velvet Escape, also features destinations nearer to home. He told me he enjoyed his recent trip to the capital of Latvia. “Riga is a cool city. It’s very pretty with a mediaeval core and stunning buildings. It’s been very well restored and has great history. I highly recommend it when people ask me what my up-and-coming destinations are. It’s a great place to explore for a weekend.”
Keith has some advice learned from his years of travel – ask before you snap! “Not everybody likes to be photographed. I was in Mexico once and I was taking a photo of a beautiful couple in traditional dress in the marketplace. They started yelling at me and I realised that I hadn’t asked if I could take a photo. In certain cultures people don’t like being photographed. It goes against their cultural beliefs.”
So what else has he learned in his travels? “In Thailand it’s rude to point with your index finger. That’s why research is important. Look at the dos and don’ts before you get there.”
You can follow Keith at VelvetEscape.com.