It seems like a long time ago that we started our trip in Cape Town so I thought I’d best get this written before details completely blur!
Flew into Cape Town from Vancouver BC ( a long 27 hour flight). Collected at airport and transferred to An African Villa..excellent place to stay ( see review) We were there in time for breakfast and then settled in to await our traveling companions who were flying in on a different airline. As there was a very high wind we could see Table Mountain clearly but of course it was closed so after our friends arrival we headed out.
.Day 1 ( ½ day really) began by taking a cab to Kirstenbosch Gardens. First stop was the Tea Room where we had the afternoon tea.. by Canadian standards a very good value and just the right amount of food to to not spoil dinner. Sat outside, watched the birds and people. Spent about 2 hours here overall. Strolled through some of the garden and looked at the sculpture. For non-gardeners this would be a nice afternoon. From here we took a cab to the V&A Waterfront. Have to say we enoyed the architecture from the outside but were a little underwhelmed as it seems basically to be a large mall. We did find one shop across the bridge and near the large red tower ( sorry locals, forgotten the name) but on the whole we spent our time outside looking at the ships in the harbor and again just getting a feel for the scenery and setting of Cape Town. We spent about 2 hours here and felt it was more than enough. We didn’t do Robben Island on the trip (good thing as the ferry was not running for part of the time anyway). From V&A we cabbed it back to An African Villa and then walked to Miller’s Thumb for an early (7pm) dinner. I’ve mentioned in another post about restaurants that the Kob we had here would stand up to any at pricier more luxe places like Opal Lounge and La Colombe A great choice for a good first meal in Cape Town.. walked home and early to bed to try to get on SA time.
Day 2 had previously arranged full day tour with John Farthing of Kestrel Services so we were off at 8:30.. John was prompt, courteous and an excellent guide. The wind was howling again. We set off to Chapman’s Peak Drive via Camps Bay and then Hout Bay. The Drive was closed but we were able to go up to the lookout back towards Hout Bay.. a few small boats were braving the white caps and I expect full of very seasick tourists. We come from a part of the world with lots of ocean, mountains and rugged scenery so we had decided not to go all the way to Cape Point. Instead we backtracked and headed down to Boulders to see the penguins. Poor penguins.. the wind was so strong and the waves so rough that they were huddled under bushes or lying flat on the rocks! We were able to get quite close to them for photos and it was delightful to see my first wild penguins.. (and probably my last as I have no desire to visit the Antarctic!) I also got a photo of my favorite sign on this trip.. it’s now my new avatar. Locals will recognize the warning to look for penguins lying under ones car!
From here we planned to drive False Bay road over to Stellenbosch but because of the wind and blowing sand this road was closed.. so a longer detour which meant we arrived just on time at Simonnsig Winery where we had booked lunch at Cuvee. This was a very good meal. Food was well prepared and beautifully presented and there was ample.. so much so that with starters and mains we couldn’t fit in dessert. We didn’t do a tasting here but had a bottle of the merlot with lunch ( can’t find notes as to which one but think it was the 06). The banquette full of cushions was extremely comfortable and the room had a charming feel.. great ambiance and would definitely recommend.
From here we went on to Hartenberg Winery where we spent the next 2+ hours.. so my plans of making it to 3 wineries evaporated. Can’t say enough about the tour we had at Hartenberg. I had prebooked and had made contact with the export manager who then did the tour/tasting with us. We spent time out in the vines and had an in depth discussion about the wine making at Hartenberg.. then tasted the full range.( except the Stork) We were there before the release of the Gravel Hill ( hope someone there has had a chance to try this) but we took away the Stork for our celebratory dinner the next night …and I was able to buy some wine to be shipped to our daughter in the US from Hartenberg’s US agent .. which I will get to drink in November!
From Hartenberg we did a short drive through Stellenbosch.. no time to stop and stroll but looked a lovely place to spend some time and then back to An African Villa just after 6 pm. After a short tidy up we walked down to the Opal Lounge for dinner. Again, have reviewed in previous post. A good meal. Nice ambiance. Had the restaurant get us a cab back to An African Villa as per their instructions. Seemed as if we could have walked ( there were 4 of us) but we respect the fact that we don’t live there and don’t know the local ins and outs.
Day 3 slept in today and about 9:30 thought we’d take a cab up to Table Mountain as there was no wind… every tourist and bus in Cape Town appeared to have the same idea.. so after spending about 10 minutes part way up the mountain and not budging one inch we turned around and headed for the Pan African Trading building and the Tribal Trends shop. Spent a very happy two plus hours wandering in these two buildings.. did some actual buying….then outside to the street market where we also talked to a number of merchants.. many appeared to be from Zimbabwe and as we had spent time there many years ago it was interesting to hear their stories. Let’s hope some end to the troubles there happens sooner rather than later. (Over the course fo our trip we became very aware of the burden that South Africa has carried in regard to refugees from Zimbabwe…but that’s another topic). Wandered down a pedestrian street and had a light lunch outside then back for more street market...eventually walked to StreetWires on Shortmarket Street. I’d read about this shop and we wanted to see what they were doing. Had a tour and were impressed with the business as they seem to be employing people at real jobs. Bought several small gifts here as well as a few souvenirs. I’d recommend this as a good place to shop. Overall we were in the Streetmarket area from about 10am until about 3:30…Caught a cab back to African Villa and had him wait while we dropped off purchases and then off to Table Mountain. This time there was no wait and we did the ride to the top in spectacular clear weather. No one had told me the cable car revolves! I hate cable cars but this one was so interesting that I forgot to be afraid! We spent a lot of time at the top. Did the 45 minute circuit and stopped at many spots for photos and just admiring the magnificent vistas. Finally we had to come down as we were being picked up at 7 for our drive to Constantia Utsig for dinner. Down just after 6.. back at An African Villa by 6:30.. dressed for dinner and off again.
Dinner at La Colombe.. again I’ve reviewed this in a previous post about restaurants. Had possibly one of the best meals overall we’ve had anywhere..and extremely good value by North American and European standards. Comfortable ambiance, tables not crowded, good service without being intrusive, special touch on complimentary bonbons at end of meal ( Congratulations written in chocolate as it was our 38th anniversary). We took the Stork from Hartenberg and they did corkage without raising any eyebrows. A wonderful end to a very full 2 ½ days in Cape Town. Picked up about 10:15 by prearranged driver and back at African Villa for a late night glass of Port before heading out at 6am the next day for Namibia.
Overall Cape Town is a delightful city. Cabs were easy to get in the day time and easily arranged by restaurants and hotel. Our friends said they didn’t feel as if they were in Africa.. rather that they had dropped into some blend of Europe, New Orleans, and California!
Many things about CT were reminiscent of our setting here in Vancouver.. …we have our guardian mountain pair called The Lions, we have the cable car up Grouse Mountain to overlook the city..we have a bustling harbor and a mix of cultures. This may be why we felt quite comfortable in Cape Town. I know there are many questions on the forum about safety. We felt safe.. but we were also always alert and prepared to follow our hosts advice re: cabs/walking etc. I’d love to visit Cape Town again.. but would spend the time out in Stellenbosch and the countryside. If we’d had the full 3 days I think that would have been sufficient to also add in one museum which would have rounded out our visit. As it is I feel we had a good varied experience of the city and I want to thank all those on the forum for your many suggestions and help.