It has been ten years since well-known public personality Gareth Cliff described Port Elizabeth as “the armpit of Africa”. Some loyal city residents were just horrified at his remarks, but there were more than a handful of people who agreed wholeheartedly with him.
But if those same people were to give Port Elizabeth a second chance in 2017, they might be pleasantly surprised. In the last decade or so, good old PE has become a city transformed, rejuvenated, and full of hip humans and hangouts. And the beaches are some of the best on the South African coastline.
Twenty-six-year-old Shepherd Pasipamire is just one of the cool cats you will come across should you pop in to Bridge Street Brewery (BSB) in South End, an area which has been given a seriously fresh lick of paint in recent years.
Thanks to some help from his parents back in Harare, Zimbabwe, and the “decent tips” he earns at BSB as a waiter, Shepherd is well on his way to his postgraduate qualification in Corporate Communications.
He says the brewery and its adjoining restaurant is the best place he has ever worked.
“It is all about proving yourself here. If you put in the hard work, you’ll get what you deserve. The management doesn’t just tell its employees what to do, it asks for ideas too,” he explains.
“I have met an amazing number of important people, and have been given several opportunities, just by serving them food and drink. Whatever you do, you have to do it wholeheartedly.”
Sure enough, Shepherd’s incredible people skills have landed him some favourable internship experiences over the last while. And it is not hard to see why; he brings the good vibes to the brewery’s bar and dining area, which already boasts a charming, feel-good atmosphere.
Grant Davies, whose family owns BSB as well as Something Good Roadhouse in Marine Drive, Summerstrand, says the success of the establishment revolves around those who work there.
"It's all about the people. It's all we've got," he says.
If BSB looks like a place you would quite like to visit, make sure to also head around the corner to Richmond Hill Brewing Co., well-known for their craft gin, or grab a takeaway box of Foong’s Asian-inspired food which is legendary in the city.
Further up the hill, you will find the impressively revamped Stanley Street which offers an array of restaurants and bars catering for all tastes.
PE’s main beach front is spectacular in nature and entertainment; from clean and safe swimming spots to swanky bars and beer tasting. Sardinia Bay’s sweeping sand dunes, and turquoise waters will take your breath away. Both places play host to popular parkrun routes on Saturday mornings.
When the wind ceases to blow, if only for a little while, one can truly appreciate one of the most beautiful cities in the world. And even if the wind is blowing, there is still so much to do, from music and beer festivals to ice skating and hiking.
Although “the armpit of …” has become a rather popular phrase, there can’t be many people who use it to describe Port Elizabeth any longer. And PE locals would dare Gareth Cliff to say otherwise.