Cape Town has been listed as the #1 place to visit in 2014 by the New York Times, and for good reason. Before my recent trip, I had no lofty expectations of Cape Town. In fact, I thought it would be dangerous, expensive, and unfamiliar. How incorrect I was – apart from a couple of streets in the city (Long Street) where you have to watch your pockets, it is the opposite of dangerous. In terms of expenses, once you get there, it is one of the least expensive places I have visited outside of Asia.
And as for unfamiliarity – well, isn’t that the reason why one goes on holiday in the first place? Cape Town is most beautifully unfamiliar: townships that go on for miles, and reminders of political and racial oppression, juxtaposed with stunning beaches, majestic towering mountain ranges that watch over you wherever you go, antelope steaks, wine for breakfast …
In terms of holiday destinations I’ve been to, it certainly ranks up there amongst the top for me. If you want to arrive with a little less unfamiliarity, I’d like to share with you some of the activities that we did, places we visited and stayed, and food we ate. Take from it what you will, and enjoy your time there! I wish I was going with you…
Day 1 : RELAX
Rent a car from the airport (I highly recommend booking it in advance during the summer period, or else you’ll end up with a manual car – like we did), and head straight to Camps Bay, a 20 minute drive from the airport. It’s been a long flight – set your bags down, put on your swimmers and head straight to the pool. If you don’t have a pool, go to The Bay Hotel and buy a day pass, grab a Windhoek beer, (the Club Sandwich here is awesome too), or the Camps Bay Beach and RELAX.
PM: Check out Test Kitchen for dinner, voted #1 best restaurant in 2013, or its sister restaurant The Pot Luck Club, located at the very hip Old Biscuit Mill, which also is the venue for a weekend market on Saturdays. Alternatively, you can take a look at Eat Out Magazine’s list of top Cape Town restaurants for an alternative choice.
Day 2: BE ACTIVE
AM: Wake up early (a 9am start is good enough) and drive to the Table Mountain cable car. Park further up the road, and locate the start of the Platteklip Gorge trail to hike up Table Mountain – you’ll find it next to a big green sign and a small house which is supposed to be a tourist centre. There are several popular hiking routes, but we chose this one so we could hike up then take the cable car down, and have easy access to our car. You can also go with a guide if you want, but the trail is pretty straightforward and it’s not necessary. It will take around 2 hours, and is a medium-level hike. That said, a beginner hiker was in our group, and she did fabulously!
Noon: Drive the Chapman’s Peak road for some stunning vistas of Hout Bay and it’s surrounding coastline. Stop in Kalk Bay for some seriously good mussels at Olympia Cafe and Deli. You can pick up some nice bread here at their Deli also. Continue on to Boulders Beach to chill out with some penguins, and the water is also the warmest here if you fancy taking a dip. Carry on to the Cape of Good Hope – I didn’t manage to make it, but here’s some additional info. There are so many lovely places to stop on the way down to the Cape, and this could easily be a full day adventure.
PM: You’re going to be nackered after your day, so you might want to stay around for drinks and dinner in the Camps Bay area. For sundowner drinks, Cafe Caprice gets packed full of beautiful people watching the sun go to sleep. Roundhouse offers sweeping views of the bay and nice garden tables, and Bungalow has a huge terrace. You could stay on at both of these places for dinner, or go to Hussar Grill for a mean South African beef steak or game meat steak (you can also buy the steaks uncooked if you have a BBQ in your accommodation), or Col’Cacchio for a superb pizza or pasta! Their full menu is also available for delivery (order 2 hrs in advance) or takeaway.
Day 3: IMMERSE YOURSELF IN SOME HISTORY
There are so many beautiful things to see, do and eat in Cape Town, and on this day of historical discovery, you will find yourself feeling mixed emotions of disbelief, anger and sadness at the ugliness that people can sometimes show one another. It is really hard to get your head around the fact that the segregative legislation of Apartheid was only dismantled between 1990 and 1992, and that South Africans of all races only took part in the first fully democratic elections as recently as 1994. It’s difficult to believe that this happened in my lifetime, let alone just several years ago.
AM: Catch the first sailing to Robben Island at 9am (also at 11am, 1pm and 3pm – I advise that you pre-book your tickets) from Nelson Madela Gateway, at the V&A Waterfront. If you’re lucky, you’ll end up on the white cruiser yacht. The tour is very informative and gives insight on how prisoners lived, with special mention of Nelson Mandela and other civil rights activists, of course. You’ll return to the waterfront around 12.30pm.
Noon: Head to the V&A Market on the Wharf for lunch. We started off with wraps from Awe Africa and empanadas from Como, The Fish Box does an amazing seafood platter, and we washed it down with fresh fruit juice from Dr. Juice. Treat yourself to local cheeses from Around Cheese, and for dessert, peanut butter ice cream from The Creamery and frozen yoghurt from Tuttis. There are so many more vendors, and it’s a real treat for foodies. There are are also kitchen demos, live band performances and open mic nights. Walk around the beautiful waterfront afterwards to digest, then onto the District 6 Museum and/or Bo Kaap Museum (or maybe even more if you can handle it!).