Your blue skies, your rugged terrain, your diverse food, booze and coffee scene, your grit and your crazy loadshedding. You’re a very likeable town, and now that I’ve had a taste of what you’re about, I’m kinda surprised that it took so long for me to visit. As brief as it was.
As a final round-up of the Mother City, I’ve piled together a line-up of photos that show the character of the city and its stunning surrounds. A bit of a glimpse at what got whittled down from a few thousand captures.
Many that visit Cape Town are sure to do the V & A Waterfront. It’s a place to eat, a place to live, shop and stay.
My favourite part? The view over the water to the majestic Table Mountain.
Home for us was up in the Gardens district, at the top of Kloof Street near Lions Head and Table Mountain. The Cape Cadogan Hotel is a gorgeous Georgian and Victorian building that was a farmhouse in a previous life, given the Victorian treatment in 1912.
Twelve rooms decorated with antique and contemporary furniture, a communal lounge, high tea in the afternoons, private plunge pool and a very decent breakfast spread. Not too shabby, really.
Whilst there are pockets about the city that offer an array of drinking holes, Long Street seems like the best pick for nightlife. Beautiful Victorian buildings harbour bars and restaurants, teeming with people once Table Mountain casts its afternoon shadow over the city centre.
One of the most colourful parts of town would have to be Bo-Kaap, at the foot of Signal Hill. Gentrification may be taking hold, but there’s still a noticeable presence of it’s Cape Malay history. Many of its residents are descendants of slaves from Indonesia, Malaysian and various African nations; something that’s still very much part of the fabric of the vividly visual precinct.
One thing that’s difficult to ignore is the heady aroma of spices that waft from the Atlas Trading Company, filling the colourful street.
As an out-of-towner, I couldn’t stress enough how much easier and now necessary it is to have a car. Yes public transport can be adventurous, fun and inexpensive, but having your own wheels means you can zip about town and explore without timetables.
The most common question I was asked about being and driving in South Africa is “Is it safe?”
Well, all I can say is, it was when we were there. We heard the stories about car jackings etc. as well, and I must be honest I was on edge for a little while, but then you get so caught up in everything else that those stories are forgotten about. All I can say is – be street smart. Bad things can happen anywhere.
The drive from Cape Town to Hout Bay (above and below) is spectacular, to say the least. The rugged coastline is nothing short of breathtaking.
Hout Bay is a sleepy town nestled in a valley that fronts a rather gorgeous waterfront. The Mariner’s Wharf area down on the harbour got our attention, so a quick sniff around the craft market kind of happened by default.
Anyone that’s into their Africana can probably pick up a carving or two by the fish markets, and if you want to part wit a rand or ten, watch the guys on the wharf as they coax a seal out of the water.
Chapman’s Peak Drive is a 9 kilometre route that runs between Hout Bay and Noordhoek. The winding road takes in over 100 curves and straddles the mountainside as it looms overhead and drops into the ocean below. The great thing is that there are many places along the drive where you can pull over to get out and take it all in. Truly remarkable.
Our drive on that particular day continued onto the M65 down the Cape Peninsula into the fynbos and Cape Point Nature Reserve. Rugged landscape, wildlife, wildflowers and jagged cliffs that can take your breath away; especially the stunning sea mist/cloud that was blown vertically from the foaming waves straight up the cliffs.
The climate went back to warm and balmy when we continued on up the M4 to Boulders Beach, a bit of a hot spot for penguin spotting.
A stones-throw from the beach is the Boulders Beach Lodge, our lunch venue of the day. It’s far enough away from the main gate where you pay to see the penguins, but far enough away so you don’t feel like you’re sitting at a tourist attraction.
Not that you really need to pay to see the penguins, as loads can be seen along the boardwalk that straddles Boulders Beach. Realistically, you smell the penguins before you even catch sight of one.
The lunch menu at the lodge is cafe fare all the way, and my pick, the big boulder burger (90). My first impression was – “geez that’s going to be dry”, but I was totally fooled by the dry-looking meat patty. Thanks to a little basting action it was far from arid, and along with the slew of fillings like bacon, fried egg and gherkins, it was a winner.
A red coconut chicken curry (125) satisfied the other half, served over rice with dollops of coriander yoghurt and a curious garnish of waffle chips.
I couldn’t ignore the current dessert love of my life, the Cape malva pudding (25). A decent specimen, even if the caramel sauce wasn’t pre-soaked into the cake as it ought to be.
Barely a kilometre down the road is the small village of Simon’s Town, another place on this side of the cape that seems to have its own microclimate. Was this really winter? More like late spring.
The main drag consists of beautiful old buildings painted in pastel colours; home to shops, eateries and places to wet your whistle.
Ok, we didn’t pay too much attention to the menu at Monocle & Mermaid – full stomach, remember? – but there’s always space for another dose of caffeine. Good caffeine, much like the stuff we get at home.
I may not be the beachy type, but I do like the look of a beach hut. Especially when it’s garbed in primary colours and basking in the sunshine, like these little beauties on Muizenburg Beach about half an hour south of Cape Town.
Speaking of pretty, the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens is an ideal place to take a breather from the city and reconnect with flora. You could easily spend hours meandering about the pathways brushing up on botanics. My favourite parts have to be The Dell with its lush pocket of ferns, cobblestones and trickling water and the lofty Boomslang that takes you up into the treetops.
Back in the city, special mention needs to be made of a great little drinking hole we stumbled upon whilst exploring the inner city. Mother’s Ruin Gin Bar drew us in like moths to a flame. Or perhaps our livers were telling us they felt like a stiff one.
It was Klein slaaitjie (64) all the way – a delicious concoction of gin, elderflower, tonic, mint and cucumber.
And our visit to Cape Town wasn’t complete until we zipped up Table Mountain to get a birds-eye view. It’s pretty special up there, especially when you get past the hoards and hit the walking trails through the colourful fynbos.