Welcome to South Africa week readers! I’m going to be sharing what we did on each of our main stops (see here for our hotels and route) plus a couple of additional South Africa related fashion and lifestyle posts. There may be more than one each day so do come back and as always, if you have any recommendations related to the post, please do comment and let everyone know!
Let’s get started with our first stop, Cape Town, where we spent the first three nights of our trip.
Our flight arrived in around midday and once we had got the car, bags and made the short (~30 minute) drive to our hotel in Camps Bay, the weather had started to go off a bit. We had checked the forecast and were expecting rain for about 24-36 hours from this point so weren’t too disappointed and decided to take in some culture by visiting the South African National Gallery. It turned out this was a great choice as the gallery was hosting a photographic art exhibition about Apartheid which was a great introduction to a time period I didn’t know much about – particularly how recently many of the laws that persecuted black South African people were introduced. The gallery also happened to be right next to Company’s Garden and the Botanical Gardens which we wandered through on-route to Long Street (just a couple of blocks across) and The Grand Daddy Hotel for a celebratory first-day-of-holiday cocktail on the roof under the heaters with blankets and Airstream caravans! It was cold but we were happy and as the weather really moved in we chose a local Camps Bay steak house and grill (which I think is a chain,) called Hussar’s for dinner that evening. We feasted on steak and a burger and enjoyed one too many glasses of brilliant South African wine
It’s worth noting that we could have spent quite a bit more time in museums – the District Six museum, The Slave Lodge and South Africa Museum all looked interesting and are very inexpensive to get into. (The gallery was R30/£2)
On Day 2 we were beholden to the weather as the rain with high winds continued - some of the activities we had on our to-do list like Table Mountain and Robben Island were weather dependent. We decided to make a day of driving down to the Cape of Good Hope and around the Atlantic peninsula which although a wet experience, was a great day and I’d highly recommend it. The weather was quite appropriate as the rugged coastline was pounded by huge waves and racing clouds.
The Cape of Good Hope marks the point where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet and warranted a photo stop before we went to Cape Point where there is a chequered maritime history due to the stormy Cape seas. There is a little museum marking these events, 2 lighthouses (one old and a newer one lower down making it more visible through the omnipresent fog,) and a funicular to take you to the top if you don’t want to walk.
There’s also a nice restaurant and a cafe where you can grab a snack or longer meal and I imagine that would have had an epic view for lunch if the weather had been better. After a warm-up coffee we headed up the Indian Ocean side of the penninsula through Simon’s town to Boulders beach.
Boulders Beach is famous for its African penguin colony – they’re called Jackass Penguins as they make a donkey-like hee-haw noise during the mating season (which we were there during) and apparently in the summer months they swim in the sea with beach goers. We watched them from a viewing deck and wandered down to another beach along the boardwalk with huge boulders and crystal clear turquoise sea as the weather started to brighten up.
By the time we reached our final destination Kalk Bay, the clouds were breaking and we sought out Live Bait for dinner.
Part of the harbour wall, you look directly onto the ocean, harbour and coastline and the seafood we ate there was not only the best but the cheapest we had all holiday. We feasted on a huge seafood platter that cost less than £25 and headed home just before sunset then hung out at the hotel that evening, warming up in our huge bath.
On our final full day in Cape Town the weather was still cold but perfectly sunny so we were able to visit Robben Island and go up Table Mountain. We drove to the V&A Waterfront area and parked before going to the Nelson Mandela Ferry Terminal to board the boat. It was an eventful 30ish minute trip as the sea was still rough and we were rocked a lot but there were amazing views back to Table Mountain and Cape Town!
Your ticket includes the ferry and then two tours. The first is a bus tour by a local Capetonian who told us all about the history of Robben Island – far from being just a prison it has also been a military base and a leper colony. The second part was a tour by a previous political prisoner who details what life was like as a prisoner whilst guiding you through the eerily empty and foreboding prison, including Nelson Mandela’s cell. I was a little unsure how that would be and anticipated it to be harrowing and uncomfortable but our guide stuck to a matter of fact style and covered the daily life and I think I actually would have liked to know more.
After disembarking the boat we grabbed a sandwich at the V&A and had a quick wander around the waterfront. If I’m honest this wasn’t an area that was for us. It was clearly the tourist centre and not representative of Cape Town at all, but it was busy, safe and very jolly with street performers and a fun atmosphere.
By late afternoon we drove back to Table Mountain – you can climb up along several paths of varying difficulty and I think it takes around 2 hours from the car park which is already a good way up, but we opted for the very fast cable car. It only takes about 5 minutes and revolves all the way up. We were told it would be cold at the top but it really was freezing. We were lucky it was clear though with amazing views in front to Table Bay, and left and right over the Cape Flats or the Atlantic coast down to the Cape of Good Hope. There are short, medium or long walks at the top, (which don’t take as long as they say they do) and we spent some time watching the famous ‘tablecloth’ of cloud coming over the top inland, then magically disappearing as it fell onto the Cape Town side.
We were too cold to stay for sunset and headed back to the hotel then chose a place that I had had several recommendations for called the CodFather. They have a great sushi bar and then a fish counter where you choose your fish for dinner but we were warned it was overpriced (we felt) for what it was – especially the prawns, and if I went back I would simply stick to the sushi which was brilliant. We did however very much enjoy our seat by the fire and it was busy with a great atmosphere even though most places were quiet due to the cold weather.
Our final day was my birthday and we woke to even warmer sunny weather. We were due to leave and keen to get to Stellenbosh, but decided to head down to the beach at Camps Bay as we hadn’t had much chance to enjoy it. The beach was glorious – white sand, crashing waves, blue sea. We sat and watched surfers then walked the beach admiring the dramatic back drop of table mountain before heading off for Stellenbosch.
That’s where I’ll leave you readers, until tomorrow!