Cape Town: for fans of fancy footwork

What are World Cup widows to do during next month's tournament in South Africa? Rosemary Behan finds out.

A view of Hout Bay harbour from Chapman's Peak Drive on the outskirts of Cape Town.
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What are World Cup widows to do during next month's tournament in South Africa? Rosemary Behan finds out. Wives and girlfriends have no fear - Bastien Gonzalez is here. Yes, you can have the Frenchman's pedicures in Dubai, but here at the One&Only Hotel in Cape Town, they are not only available within the Fifa exclusion zone, but also come with a view of Table Mountain thrown in - or, rather, to boot. Zandre de Vaal is my "technician" (no lowly pedicurists here) and her room feels a bit like an operating theatre. Small drills, clippers and sharp blades are laid out neatly on a small trolley to my right as I'm sat on a reclining table. There's no feel-good foot bath, dreamy spa music or nail polish in sight - only me, my much-neglected feet and Zandre, with an ever-so-slightly scary glint in her eye.

"I don't like football," she says, referring to the coming influx of World Cup players. "It's the women I'm interested in." Some of the men could no doubt use a Gonzalez pedicure, which is available only a few hundred yards away from the new Green Point Stadium: close enough to walk to yet far enough away not to be disturbed by the rabble. My feet certainly need some attention because despite playing football I don't usually do pedicures. I don't really believe in chemicals and cuticle bashing, but luckily Gonzalez pedicures are different. There's no water, no scrubbing and no polish - water, according to Zandre, only obscures the dry skin and filing and scrubbing only encourages more of the hard stuff. Nail polish, and its removal, weakens the nails.

Gonzalez's medicalised approach to foot care was apparently formed after a serious skiing accident put him under the care of a physiotherapist for six months. He was so impressed with the science of caring for feet that he opened a podiatry clinic of his own in Paris; when fashion models began queuing up for his services he realised he was on to a winner and developed his own international pedicure brand in hotels around the world.

Instead of endless scrubbing and soaking, which apparently only aggravates the skin, dries it out and promotes the growth of more dead skin, Gonzalez pedicures get back to basics. First, Zandre wields a tapered, diamond-dusted rotating drill-head to remove surface dead skin from the soles of my feet and toes. "Just sit back and relax," she says - and something about the accent just makes you comply.

It's painless, but I can feel it gently sloughing away the flaky skin which disappears in a satisfying cloud of dust. Then she uses a sharp blade to cut off any stubborn hard bits - a delicate task, apparently, because take off too much and you'll be in serious pain. I look away. Next, Zandre digs out any surplus skin from underneath the toenails and gives the cuticles a light sloughing over with another drill bit. Next it's time for a clipping - my nails aren't long but the treatment will apparently promote their growth so she takes off a couple of extra millimetres, keeping the tops straight.

Then it's time for the glass nail file to come out. Glass nail files, Zandre tells me, are gentler on the nails and surrounding skin, giving a smoother finish and preventing abrasions. Into the final straight and on with the mother-of-pearl buffing cream, which makes the nails sparkle naturally, and a final manual going over with a chamois leather buffing horn - a favourite of Gonzalez's grandmother, who knew how to get shiny nails without using nail polish. It's invigorating and, after a brief massage and some Reverence de Bastien foot cream and talcum powder, I'm on my way.

Cape Town is a compact city, its town centre divided into two: the Waterfront and the city centre. The Waterfront area is dominated by the Victoria and Alfred docks - still working, although most of the ships now go into the much more industrial-looking docks behind - and Victoria Wharf, a huge indoor shopping centre selling everything from books to high-end fashion. The One&Only hotel, the latest venture by South African hotelier Sol Kerzner - also the creator of Atlantis, The Palm, in Dubai - opened a year ago to much fanfare and is just a couple of minutes' walk from the Waterfront. The seven-storey hotel faces a private island containing villas and the hotel spa; all of its 123 rooms also boast impressive views of Table Mountain.

World Cup widows may prefer simply to lounge by the infinity pool, although the cable car up Table Mountain is only 10 minutes' drive away. When you reach the top, there are a variety of walks of varying lengths, enabling large numbers of tourists to appreciate the stunning views without feeling crowded. Up here, more than 1,000 metres above the sea, cold currents from the Atlantic Ocean meeting warmer air from the mainland result in near-constant cloud, but the strong winds when I was there created a shifting montage of light and shade over the crenellated cliffs - or Twelve Apostles - of Table Mountain to Camps Bay and the city centre; it hovered as well over Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison.

Back in the central business district, we make our way to Long Street, one of Cape Town's oldest areas. The nicest section boasts a small park, pretty Victorian houses, some impressive Art Deco buildings and a selection of attractive cafes in the pedestrian zone - perfect for people-watching over a cappuccino. At night, many of the coffee shops become trendy nightclubs and restaurants - a more interesting choice than the Waterfront area.

Staying at the One&Only, however, World Cup visitors may prefer to stay in the hotel and take advantage of its location within the Fifa exclusion zone. With a selection of boutique shops, restaurants including Nobu and Maze by Gordon Ramsay and South Africa's most extensive wine list in the spectacular triple-level Wine Loft, there's little need for its guests to leave. However, if you're staying in Cape Town for more than a night or two, it's worth making the effort of getting to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope at the southern end of Table Mountain National Park. It's easily done in a day and can be arranged quickly - our small group chartered a minibus and saw virtually the whole peninsula in an afternoon.

After passing through the genteel vineyards of Constantia, our first stop was Kalk Bay, a gorgeous little seaside town reminiscent of a Cornish fishing village. Down by its pretty harbour, we found Kalkies, a no-frills, great value fish-and-chips shop (Hake and Kingclip are local favourites and perfect for lunch); next door and with better sea views is the fine-dining Harbour House restaurant. Round the corner from Kalk Bay is the beach resort of Fish Hoek, known for its sharks; a swimmer was eaten here in January by a Great White. "Sharks never used to eat whole people," says our driver and guide, Stephen. "They only used to give them a nibble. Now people are disappearing completely which is worrying."

Round the corner again at Glencairn, Stephen has another tale. "A couple of years ago a 77-year-old woman was eaten whole too," he says. "She swam across the bay every day for 17 years and always said the sharks didn't bother her." As we make our way round the peninsula, the scenery gets more and more dramatic, with cliffs plunging onto treacherous rocks and small, isolated towns by the sea. At Boulders Beach in Simon's Town, though, in front of some prime real estate, is a large colony of small African penguins, calmly bathing and sunning themselves on the rocks like the residents of a seaside retirement town.

Most of the peninsula is part of Table Mountain National Park, but the approach to the southernmost point, made up of the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point, both heralded as the south-western tip of Africa, is the wildest. Paying an entrance fee at the small gateway to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, we cross thick heathland as we head south, with rugged cliffs and deserted beaches on either side. We stop at the Cape Point car park and hike to the lighthouse and lookout point at the top, where we are buffeted by freezing winds from Antarctica as we gaze out at the spectacular view across False Bay to the jagged, imposing outline of the Kogelberg Mountains.

It's nature at its most raw - the sea here, where the Indian Ocean meets the wild Atlantic, is an angry, violent mass of cresting waves, famously treacherous to ships and the perfect setting for the whales and great white sharks which patrol it. The drive back to Cape Town takes us along the western side of the peninsula, first through the picturesque valleys of the nature reserve and then past some townships towards the coast and one of the most spectacular drives in the world - the 9km Chapman's Peak Drive, a precipitous winding coast road to Hout Bay, where Sol Kerzner has a large home. With its dramatic sweeping surf and its high elevation, the road is similar to and as impressive as Big Sur in northern California.

The California feeling extends to the small towns further north, too - Llandudno, Camp's Bay and Bantry Bay, where cool restaurants and multimillion-dollar designer homes jostle for space behind the beach road. The next morning, back in the city, we head to the Saturday market at the Old Biscuit Mill in the newly hip Woodstock area. It's like a self-contained village, a sort of cross between London's Camden Town and Notting Hill but with better atmosphere and weather.

People stream in and out of the various old buildings. My favourite is the food section, two packed rooms filled with local purveyors of everything from handmade cheeses and biltong to wood-fired bread, champagne, gourmet sandwiches and cakes. By about 11am the large communal tables are filled with stylish but laid-back Capetonians eating and drinking and generally making a fine start to the weekend. Elsewhere, local designers sell clothes and artwork from their workshops and a selection of cafes provides just enough resting places to eke out the vibe until it's time to move on.