Durban, now known as eThekwini meaning bay or lagoon in the Zulu language, is the largest city in KwaZulu Natal. It is also the largest city on the east coast of the African continent. It is the busiest shipping port in Southern Africa and a major tourist destination with rows city beaches.
I first travelled to Durban in 1994, some eighteen years ago. It is a city I have frequently visited mainly to watch either cricket or rugby. Now I was back, again to watch rugby, but this time it was England v South Africa. In eighteen years I had never seen England play any sport here. Because I am no longer a
‘wanna-be’ sports journalist but now a ‘wanna-be’ travel writer, I have no need to reflect on the result of the match. What I will say is that the ‘Mr Price Kings Park stadium’ is a venue with a unique atmosphere. Supporters are passionate, beer is cold, and the air is filled with the smell of smoke as steak and boerewors are cooked on skottel braais.
I had been recommended a hotel in the suburb of Morningside which I was told was not far from the rugby stadium. The Saint James on Venice proved to be a short walk from the ground, easy to find and an ideal base for my weekend. The luxury boutique hotel has only fourteen bedrooms, its spacious, and the staff made me feel like I had been a regular guest. There is ample secure parking meaning I could leave the car and explore on foot.
The bedrooms are large with en suite bathrooms. Rooms have flat screen televisions, Wi-Fi connection and a tea & coffee station. The large windows made the room feel particularly bright in the early morning Durban sunshine. There is a restaurant and outdoor courtyard for dining. Lunch, afternoon tea and dinner are all available. For breakfast I opted for a full English with a Durban twist. It was served with fried bananas and cheese grillers. Sunet, the hotels general manager, and her team had also arranged for a cheese platter to be left in my room on arrival as I was running a little behind schedule. They also left me peanuts and biltong on the day of the match to snack on, which was a thoughtful touch, and went down very well with a cold beer. The match result may not have gone the way of England but the Saint James on Venice team made sure my stay with them was a memorable distraction from the rugby, thank you.
There are pubs and restaurants close to the hotel and the rugby ground was only a short walk away. I visited the new Moses Mabhida football stadium which was constructed for the 2012 World Cup. I even put my fear of heights to one side and rode the sky car onto the new stadiums viewing platform. From the platform I looked down into the rugby stadium. Still exploring on foot I walked from Suncoast beach to North beach on the new pedestrian walkways. There were surfers riding waves, fishermen on piers and families strolling, skating and cycling.
I really must make an effort to get back to The Saint James on Venice and explore a little more of, Durban, the city on the sea.