13 July 2012 | BRUCE DENNILL
As anyone who was in Grahamstown for this year’s National Arts Festival will tell you, walking is your best bet to cover the short distances between the more central venues.
It’s a compact town, and there is also, during the Festival, the lack of adequate parking to consider.
So ideally, what you want when booking your accommodation is something central, and there is hardly a more middle-of-the-map (“X” marks the spot, above right) venue to lay down your head, when all your shows for the day have been watched and absorbed, than Eugene and Pierre Repinz’s Graham Hotel.
Halfway down High Street, the hotel is within easy trotting distance of around 30 Festival venues, and a maximum of five minute’s drive away from the outlying stages.
There are even two venues in the building – a conference room that gets overhauled to support music and theatre projects during the Festival, and the Champs Action Bar, a sideline business that serves good food and hosts live bands.
Performance times in the latter venue are guest-friendly, but the Champs lot can go on a bit, so check when booking as to whether your room is in close proximity or not.
The hotel’s Coachman restaurant hosts guests for breakfast and serves other meals as well, but should you require variety, distances to other worthwhile eateries on High Street range are minimal – 30m, in some cases.
And the late-night Festival hub that is The Long Table is a simple walk across the road and down the pavement. Drinking and driving won’t be a problem – just remember to look both ways before you stagger home.
The Graham’s central location makes it very likely that residents will find themselves caught up in the centre of the Festival buzz: an actor you admired in a play earlier in the day will be chomping his cereal at the next table; or a radio station will host an outside broadcast in the lobby.
And if you miss catching up on all the latest news first-hand, the hotel slides a copy of the latest Cue newspaper, packed with up-to-date reviews and production details, under your door every morning.
Of course, if you’re in town on other business or passing through the Eastern Cape as part of an extended roadtrip (highly recommended), then you’ll also be well- placed to enjoy the scenic beauty of Grahamstown – especially the historic architecture of its churches and schools.
If you’re planning a trip to next year’s Festival (dates have already been announced – June 27 to July 7), it might be a good idea to book now.
Most of the 218 236 people who made up this year’s audiences will return, and if you want to avoid landing up on the dubious mattress in the damp student’s room next to the geyser housing, it’s best to plan ahead.
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