“Welcome to Cape Town…let’s see you smiling! Put on your dancing shoes, Cape Town welcomes you!” The jolly, Kaapse Klopse vibe of the tune penned by revered Capetonian musician and playwright Taliep Pietersen comes to mind when one thinks of the irrepressibly fabulous Mother City. Let’s explore Cape Town!
I have always wanted to visit Cape Town. Not for the usual tourist-y reasons: rather, I’ve always felt strangely connected to the Mother City. Kind of like my roots are there, in a sense. I was thrilled to win a trip to Cape Town and a two-night stay at the luxurious Cullinan Hotel when I was awarded Employee of the Year last year. My husband, LJ, and I booked for the second week in January and counted every sleep until we flew out on Monday morning: here are a few highlights of our whirlwind week in Cape Town!
The flight out was bright and early – 8am, which meant we would have the entire day in Cape Town once we had landed. Though Durban was decidedly chilly upon our departure, the Mother City welcomed us with a deliciously balmy breeze that had us peeling off our jackets. It was still too early to check in at the hotel, so we switched on the GPS and headed for the famous Victoria & Alfred Waterfront for a bite. The V&A was almost overwhelming, when we (after a few wrong turns…men cannot admit when they’re lost!) eventually arrived. I was enthralled by the endless array of stores and the high-end brands I peeked at on the top floor: Gucci, Armani, Burberry, Louis Vuitton…sigh. A girl can dream!
Even though we have been following a healthy lifestyle, there was simply no way we could pass by a fish and chips shop without doing something about it. We picked a spot right next to the amphitheatre and indulged in crisp, golden fried hake, chips and tartar sauce. (Now, these were my first fried carbs in about six months so, Cape Town’s preposterously gorgeous weather aside, I heard the hallelujah chorus!) My husband insisted I kick my fear of heights and ride the Cape Wheel at the centre of the V&A. Though I was initially scared witless, I was bowled over by the exquisite view from the top of the wheel.
We chose to spend the afternoon visiting the District Six Museum, a deeply poignant experience for me. As South Africans, we were allowed in free (common at most tourist sites, and very encouraging!) We popped up at the moment a guided tour by a former resident, Ruth Jephta, was about to begin. Her impassioned portrayal of the forced removals moved me in a way I did not expect it would, and I left feeling more ‘in touch’ with my culture and ethnicity than I ever had.
As afternoon rolled around, we checked into The Cullinan Hotel. With its marbled floors, vaulted ceilings and quiet opulence, the Cullinan is simply one of the most stunning spaces I have been in. Our room was ridiculously sublime: a sitting room, downy King-sized bed and bathroom with soft, fluffy robes for us to relax in. Exceeded all my expectations, for sure!
On Monday night, I had my first taste of Cape Town’s odd (I thought) sunset…it was well after 8pm when the sun eventually went down! My body clock went slightly awry, but thanks to the block-out curtains in our hotel room, we had a bit of a lie in before indulging in a lavish buffet breakfast at the hotel’s Peach Tree Restaurant (the name made me smile, as I thought of our beloved Fig Tree Restaurant).
We set out for Sea Point, and strolled along the promenade at mid-morning. What a warm, welcoming atmosphere prevailed as mothers with strollers, cyclists, joggers and runners shared the walkway. I wanted to explore a bit, so we drove through downtown Woodstock. My creative juices went into overdrive as I spied the Old Biscuit Mill, surrounded by pockets of business: fashion schools, advertising agencies and cafés: oh-so-cosmopolitan! I believe I already mentioned our healthy lifestyle…but who can resist seeing the famous Charly’s Bakery in lewende lywe? I squealed like a five-year-old (LJ was embarrassed, but it’s cake. Come on) when I walked up to the candy-striped building made famous worldwide through their reality show, Charly’s Cake Angels. I gobbled the famous ‘Poo Cupcake’ and got a peppermint crisp cuppie to take away, while LJ succumbed to the ‘Death by Chocolate Loaf’. He refused to let me taste it, but judging by the way his eyes glazed over, I assume it was otherworldly!
Table Mountain was, of course, at the top of my husband’s list and we made our way to the World Wonder in the afternoon. It was an absolute beaut of a day at the foot of the mountain, but a guide warned us to take jackets. I thought he was a bit loony, but I complied…and, thank goodness I did! The famous ‘table cloth’ descended only half an hour after we got to the summit by cable car. Ominous sirens sounded and visibility became extremely poor as we were herded off the mountain and back into the cable car. The ride down, amid howling wind and ‘rain’, was rather treacherous but an experience I am glad I had. The ‘table cloth’ cleared for a polite 20 seconds so we could take our selfie.
When LJ mentioned he had booked a tour of Cape Point, I must admit I was not too excited. The drive from the city centre was enjoyable, though; an hour of passing through quaint towns to arrive at the National Park. Cape Point itself was utterly majestic. The roar of the ocean pulsates through your ears while the salty mist playfully dances on your face.
The oceanic theme continued, as we headed back through Simon’s Town to see what I had been dying to see all week…the Boulder’s Beach penguin colony! Ever since I watched Happy Feet, I have had a mild obsession with pikkewyntjies, and – let me tell you – seeing these adorable creatures up close was one of my highlights. With a bowl of litchi sorbet in my hand, we set off for Chapman’s Peak. I have seen this on postcards and on TV, but nothing compares to the resplendence of mountains calmly towering over the crystal blue water. We stopped for a moment to drink it all in – we had to!
Hout Bay was only minutes away, so we figured this would be a good time to brave the Atlantic Ocean. We courageously took our shoes off and padded across the white, pillow-y sand and then clutched hands, waiting for a (tiny) wave to caress our feet. Well. I am sure the poor car guard who nearly fell off his chair at our petrified howls can still hear me screaming. We bolted away from the water with our blue, frozen toes and were left chagrined when he chuckled “Durbanites” as we slunk back to the rental car. Ha! Off the bucket list, at least, I say. We consoled ourselves with lunch at Mariner’s Wharf in Hout Bay (fried carbs again…I hear the angels singing) and a quick chat with a few friendly seals out on the dock. I absolutely loved conversing with locals. Being half-Afrikaans, I very rarely get to speak this phonetic language unless I am with my Afrikaans family. Kaapstad gave me a linguistic adventure, and I found my taal lilting lyrically, the longer I stayed.
Our apartment on Blouberg Strand was gorgeous, with a distant view of Robben Island. We felt fresh and energised on Thursday morning, so ventured into Green Market Square for breakfast. Walking under a canopy of trees with the smell of coffee and croissants wafting past our noses made me feel like we were in a part of Europe for a moment. The journalist in me wanted to see Parliament, so we drove by in the hopes we would see someone important…no such luck!
A quick drive through Bo-Kaap to see the colourful houses made me smile, and I truly relaxed when we happened upon the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. LJ and I have had many dates in our local Durban Botanical Gardens, so this was an extra-special stop. Having been away from gym for most of the week, we worked up quite a sweat on the leafy, whimsical pathways of the gardens. My favourite was the suspension bridge that winds its way through the treetops.
After lunch, my Instagram brain wanted to see the Muizenberg Beach change rooms, made famous in the music video for Freshly Ground’s hit single Doo Bee Doo. Though I was rather disappointed to see how dilapidated the change rooms are…I got my shot, and that’s all that mattered! Such a millennial, I am.
LJ and I are both musicians, so imagine our ecstasy when we heard there was live jazz on the V&A? We thoroughly enjoyed the show of talent from locals.
And, all too quickly, my week in Cape Town had come to an end (cue sad music). Since my husband had been such a trooper all week, dealing with my tourist-y behaviour and dutifully posing for selfies, we planned an outing to the Franschoek Car Museum just for him. Again, what a scenic drive. Passing the wineries was quite something; I recognised several labels I am used to seeing in our wine gallery at Simbithi. The museum was brilliant: even I got caught up in the excitement of seeing the vintage cars.
After wrenching LJ away from a limited-edition Honda (which, I am convinced he would rather have taken home instead of his wife) we decided on lunch at the V&A to spend our last few hours in CT. The Jazz Festival was still on, so we grabbed burritos and enjoyed the music. A quick stop at Hamley’s (I needed just one more souvenir, haha!) and we drove, rather morosely, to the airport.
A week was not nearly enough to enjoy the undisputed beauty and warmth of the Mother City. I will surely be back!