With 2016 wrapping itself up, I can’t help but think back to what it brought. While for me as well as many others it has been tough and in many ways surprising and challenging, I choose to focus on bright sides and be thankful for the opportunities I have been given this year. I was able to finally visit city that has been on my wish list for nearly 4 years, beautiful Cape Town, SA.
If you are smarter then me, which there’s a big chance you are, you will zip over there now, since it is summer time that side of the world and will take advantage of hot African sun. I on the other hand left NYC heat and made my move in July, evidently ending up in winter but that didn’t spoil Cape Town for me one bit.
Since I was traveling for work, I was able to stay for 2 month mixing pleasure with business whenever I could. I realize that most people don't have such luxury, so I tried to pin point the most important/can’t miss spots.
Start with Table mountain (www.tablemountain.net)
I was personally obsessed with it. I think I literally took a pix of it every time I saw it, which is basically every day, because it is hard to get outside without spotting this beauty.
There are few ways of getting to the top: easiest would be using a cableway car, there will be a bit of a line on a ground, but nothing to be too worried about, cable car moves really fast and spins round so everyone get a chance to look around and possibly take some awesome photos, the trip itself is short but exciting; you could also opt for taking a hike up the mountain, I’ve heard different versions on how hard it is, from “it is super easy and takes bit over an hour", to “what was I thinking, took over 3hours to climb” so you be the judge of your adventure levels.
Pack a little picnic and have a bite while enjoying the most spectacular view…
The mountain is flat on top and it is really easy to walk around and explore the view from each side, it is hard to describe what you see, because you need to be there and trust me, you do need to be there. It doesn’t get to be one of the 7 Nature’s World Wonders for nothing.
Head down to Camps Bay after.
It is a beautiful area and often get compared with Malibu, CA, white beach houses and gorgeous ocean views, one can see why.
Stroll down the beach and grab a bite at one of many restaurants with the view on Victoria Rd. Endless ocean with Lions head and Table Mountain as a backdrop will make your heart skip a bit. Stay for the sunset, you won’t regret it.
If you are feeling extra fancy get a room at The Bay Hotel (thebayhotel.com) Outdoor pool, stunning views and clean design.
Continue next day with Old Biscuit Mill Market (theoldbiscuitmill.co.za) in Woodstock, usually opens at 10 a.m. and it is better to make it there before noon. It really reminded me of London markets, like Brick Lane one or Camden Market. There you will find various artisans offering there product from handmade jewelry to natural cosmetics to local honey all of it in a industrial setting of former Biscuit Mill hence the name. Come hungry! Food options are endless and rather exciting, you will want to try it all and most likely you will eat too much.
Roll your food coma body to the next spot and feast your eyes on nature (Cape Town is really all about magnificent nature). Kirstenbosch (sanbi.org) is an absolute must. This botanical garden will make you feel like you are in a middle of exotic (um, hello Africa) and magical land. It’s rather big, so plan on spending several hours here exploring, roaming around or simply lying down and relaxing.
Check out the upcoming events (www.sanbi.org/events) you might get lucky and get to a summer concert or experience an open air cinema. Food wise there’s 2 options Kirstenbosch Tea room restaurant - which is more of your usual botanical garden cold sandwich cafe or Moyo that is a full on restaurant with lots of seating space. Try bunny chow - lamb ragu served in a bread bowl.
Learn that "top is better then the bottom” and hike up the Lion’s Head mountain. It was really the most beautiful hike I have ever done.
The hike itself is relatively easy except the small bit closer to the top, that made me mentally thank myself for those 2 times I went to Brooklyn Boulders, but once you make it to the top you can truly say “ I am all the way up” enjoy 360’ breathtaking views of Cape Town and meditate watching clouds slowly rolling off the nearby Table Mountain. Take a moment. Breath. Be still. Remember.
Treat yourself to an afternoon tea at Cape Grace (www.capegrace.com/#/en/Dining/AfternoonTea) if you get lucky you will grab a seat outside and enjoy scenic waterfront views.
Explore Victoria and Albert Waterfront (www.waterfront.co.za). Beautiful and busy area full of shops, restaurants and small local designer markets. Take your time end explore the harbor.
Robben Island ferries (robben-island.org.za) are leaving from this point as well and if you want to get in touch with the history of SA and Nelson Mandela’s legacy you will want to visit it, but plan ahead as tickets sell out quickly and the whole trip and tour take about 4 hours.
Victoria Wharf Centre at the Waterfront is a great spot to top up your phone and change some cash, since there’s lots of exchange centers. Also if you are in a mood for sushi, one of the best sushi places is actually inside of this shopping mall - Willoughby & Co (willoughbyandco.co.za). I should mention that these are not traditional japanese sushi, but rather “creative” once which means complicated roll combinations, that still worth trying. There often times a line to be seated, but fear not you will be offered complementary wine tasting, which will make it all better.
Shop till you drop.
Start with the colorful Bo-Kaap (www.google.com/maps/place/Bo-Kaap,+Schotsche+Kloof,+Cape+Town,+South+Africa/@-33.9210611,18.4095455,16z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x1dcc676855f62c2d:0xecb3d386b6f6fa6!8m2!3d-33.9182226!4d18.4142522!6m1!1e1)
Small and rather poor neighborhood that attracts tourists with it’s bright colours and juicy colour combinations.
Make a pit stop at Honest Chocolate cafe (honestchocolate.co.za) offering artisan chocolates and vegan desserts, relax in a cozy courtyard.
Get your souvenirs fix at Green Market Square. (Burg St & Longmarket Street, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa)
Everyone has pretty much the same stuff, so take your time and look around, compare prices and bargain, its the market after all, bring cash.
If you are interested in local designers check out Merchants on a Long (merchantsonlong.com) this store showcases clothing and accessories made in Africa, even if you won’t find anything the store itself is in a beautiful historic building.
Stop by MEMEME (mememe.co.za) that features up and coming as well as established designers. Long street in general is full of little shops and vintage markets.Take your pick.
Have lunch at Kloof Street House (kloofstreethouse.co.za) great food in a beautiful setting with a lovely garden.
Grub a drink at Yours truly (yourstrulycafe.co.za) on Kloof. There are 2 locations, Kloof one is bigger and has a nice outdoor area, opt out for an evening and you will get pizza or walk over to The Power and The Glory and get a drink and pretzel hot dog…
or go all in and try Bombay Bicycle (thebombay.co.za)
Take a day tour of Cape Peninsula.
Here is where I left it to professionals and booked a day tour to explore everything Cape Peninsula has to offer. I personally booked with Cape Convoy (www.capeconvoy.co.za/capepoint.html) and was very happy with my experience. Rob was an excellent guide with the great sense of humor and we had a lovely group of people traveling with us, all around win win win situation, but of course it is up to you to decide, since most of the companies have more or less same routes.
Here you will get to see Muizenberg with its colourfull beach houses, Simon’s Town and Boulder’s Beach with African Penguins (I was most excited about) we also got to see the ostrich farm and the main attraction Cape Point, where you get to be on a very tip of a African continent and see Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, that is if you are lucky, I only saw fog that day, since weather Gods were unkind, but nevertheless I enjoyed that experience, hope you will be more lucky then I was.
Also you get to feel like an explorer gazing at the Cape of Good Hope, wrapping everything up with the most beautiful drive of your life Champan's Peak Drive. I know I have been throwing around words like the most beautiful, gorgeous and stunning a lot, but trust me if you get to see it all you will know, that it was all totally justified.
Find time to visit wine country either Stellenbosch or Franschhoek. Unfortunately I don't have much to say about it, since I haven’t had a chance to go there myself, but If you can you should, because firstly it is completely different nature then the rest of Cape Town, people often compared this part with France and secondly - wine, duh.
If you love raw adrenaline you might want to do a shark cage diving and Cape Town being the shakiest of them all is a perfect place for you to do it, this you will have to research on your own, since I find the idea of being a fish appetizer less then entertaining.
There are also crazies who want to fly and this is me all the way, so I tried paragliding in Cape Town and it was ahhhhmazing…. You get to fly off (in tandem of cause) Signal hill and enjoy the view of the Lion’s Head and the Ocean … I booked with fly cape town (flycapetown.co.za) but there are many options and everyone seem to be asking same price. I was happy with my experience, booking was easy, so was rescheduling, that I had to do few times, since weather was not on my side and couple of times, there were no fly conditions, something to keep in mind, since you might have to plan ahead, was totally worth it tho!
Be aware of Sunday, Old Biscuit Mill is closed and so are most of the shops on Long, Sunday as I come to understand is for Church and Braai (bbq/Sunday roast) with the family.
Uber everywhere. It is really easy, fast and cheap. Sometimes your uber driver might ask you to seat in front with him, since they are getting lots of heat from taxi drivers, who are really unhappy with the whole uber deal.
Cash is King, sure but try not to use ATM. Most of the stories of robberies or fraud I’ve heard involved ATM and some sort of “let me help you” situation. I used my card most of the time, but since my only no foreign transaction fee card is Amex I had some difficulties, Amex is not as widely accepted as VISA or MasterCard. If I needed cash, I usually just changed it at the V&A waterfront mall.
Safety wise, don’t be careless and walk around night time, take uber, ask him to wait if anything, it is totally normal here. Don’t show off your cash and just be aware and you will be fine.
Despite many gorgeous beaches you will probably not swim, because sharks, many many snarks and also icy cold water won’t let you.
Prepare to hear “hectic” a lot and it will mean wide range of things, prepare not to hear “Oh my God” because you are not supposed to mention Lords name in vain. “Vest” is any kind of top. “Blesser” is a sugar daddy, which I found hilarious and charming at the same time.
Prepare to drink lots of rooibos tea and “five roses” which I am still not sure what kind of tea it was, prepare to eat lots of wonderful food, papayas and dates that will make you weep.
Prepare to smile, because this people genuine kindness will most definitely make you.
Prepare to have a time of your life.