What a beautiful place!
I must lead with that statement because it is true in every sense. Capetown is one of those gems that upon merely arriving there, you would have already started to make plans for a return trip. I went to Johannesburg to visit a very dear friend and in her well detailed itinerary she included a brief trip to Capetown. After a brief two-hour flight we arrived in Capetown and were immediately swept up by a cool ocean breeze. We took our rental to a gorgeous high-rise in the city that my friend had organized for us.
Some vacation spots are so unscathed it would be a sin to stay in a hotel. Capetown is one such destination. It is such a beautiful province, that offers one of the most unique ventures anyone could hope for. We stayed at this residence for free but there are tons of beautiful inexpensive private home and condominium rentals for as little as $63 through AirBNB. Travel Tip #1: Rent a car. That’s easy to say since we roamed the streets with our own personal tour guide, but it is best to get around on your own. It’s a small province and pretty hard to get lost.
Strapped for time our host packed a pretty intense itinerary in our weekend stay. Though it was fulfilling and we hit all the famous spots, three days is not enough to enjoy the laissez-faire ambience of the Western Cape. We started our saturday morning pretty early. Our host drove us through a somewhat questionable neighborhood (very reminiscent of Miami’s art district) and parked our compact rental along the side of someone’s front yard. We walked about a block over through local street performers, young beggars and freelance art vendors until we came up on the unassuming Old Biscuit Mill. There are no words that could meagerly encompass the magnificence that is the old biscuit mill. Some of the best foods I have ever enjoyed were all here. Had a our stay been longer we would easily have spent most of our day there. The Mill has several reasonable priced shops offering quaint memorabilia, scarves, hats, and beautiful unique art pieces. The piece de resistance is the food market. There is truly nothing like it. No, your local farmers market, food festivals or harvest mills cannot compare. The food is truly fresh and prepared to order. If you do or see nothing else on your trip ro Capetown Travel Tip #2: Be sure to visit the Old Biscuit Mill on a Saturday morning.
After the biscuit mill we headed to Greenmarket Square for some souvenir shopping. I am not one for souvenirs but South Africa offers so many handmade gems that display incomparable creativity and charm. Prices are markedly high but like any local tourist market, they are favorable negotiable. Later that day, we made our way to the Victoria Wharf. The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is a bustling park of sorts with beautiful water views, great views of the city and the breathtaking backdrop of Table Mountain. The area is a tad more Americanized with a large shopping center, strips of over 80 seafood restaurants, bakeries and other local eateries, charming street performers, and countless tours. Once you arrive, pay a minimal fee for parking and easily spend the day strolling through the wharf.
There’s a sincere semblance of the San Francisco pier with private docked boats, tours to Robben Island. We set out to take a trip to explore this now museum where Nelson Mandela was once held captive. Unfortunately last-minute trips are simply not an option. Travel Tip #3: Book your tour to Robben Island at least two days in advance. Otherwise you would have almost surely arrived to find that tickets are no longer available for purchase. The boat tours are pricey upward of $85 pp for about an hour. Though these tours are negotiable, don’t expect any major deals here. We took a lovely tour along the Western Cape waters, took quite a few picturesque photos of table mountain, Robben Island and the surrounding areas of the wharf.
When we left the wharf our hostess took us to a local look out spot. We made our way up narrow winding roads over look a deep precipice toward the town. When we finally got to our location we were awe-struck. The area rendered stunning areal views of the city, the still Indian Ocean and Lions Head Mountain. We strolled along the peak through sun ripened straw and sandy walkways, and made it just in time to catch the breathtaking sunset. We ended our night at the famous Cafe Caprice. The restaurant is directly on the water and situated in the midst of a bustling strip. The food is nothing to write home about but you’ll be sure to have an amazing time with new-found friends!
On our second day we visited the infamous Table Mountain. The views from here are unimaginable. Though I’ve opted to share a modest 5, I must have taken at least a hundred pictures there. Travel Tip #3: Convert your dollars. This tip rings true for almost any international trip. There are few places, like Panama and the Bahamas for instance, where conversion rates make little to no impact on your spending. In other cities, however the local currency goes a far way, especially during bargain shopping or local excursions. A cable car ride to Table Mountain will cost you just about 215Zar or $21. Travel Tip #4: Let your local friends pay. If you’re exploring South Africa with a friend, offer to pay them upfront and have them purchase entry tickets for the group. Get there early and wander atop the mountains. Gaze afar and try to spot where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet. Capture brilliant views of Lions Head Mountain and enjoy a tourist-priced lunch at the Table Mountain Cafe.
Later that night, we made our way to the internationally renowned NOBU restaurant. Located in Capetown’s One and Only resort, the panoramic views of table mountain will leave you at a loss for words. We enjoyed a few glasses of rose at the resort’s bar and patiently waited for our table. The food is what you would expect from almost any Nobu restaurant, exquisitely palatable.
On our last day, we packed our bags and started another full day. We had a scrumptious breakfast at Olympia Cafe. The drive alone to this local deli is a sight-seeing venture. Getting there requires a brief winding drive along yet another picturesque coastline. The service at Olympia is homey and charming and the food is just delicious. We took a drive further uphill, pausing for baboons in the streets, as we made our way to Cape Point. One can choose to hike to the top or take a brief funicular ride half way. Cafe point has much to offer; gorgeous views, a great lunch at the local Two Oceans Resort and endless flora.
We ended our day at one of Cape Towns famous wineries, Groot Constantia. Cape Town wineries offer great wine tastings and the grounds to match. If you have the chance, visit any number of Stellenbosch’s wineries.
Cape Town has so much to offer. There are endless things to do and an unimaginable amount of beauty to take in. Though it is somewhat hard to pinpoint any one thing that was most memorable about the trip, the food was truly impeccable at every turn. Some of the best eats you will ever enjoy around the world will not compare to many of the eateries here.
Select images © 2014 Donnatilda Tabana.