It’s impossible to capture the beauty of Cape Town in words or photos. It can only give a glimpse of the magic.
Long, long ago when the likes of Dias were traveling the seas to discover new countries the Cape was called the “Cape of Storms”. Cape Town has very interesting weather patterns. Most of the times it is warm and sunny but when the “Suidoos” (the local name for the very strong South Eastern wind) starts blowing you have to hold onto everything you own.
Table Mountain is the best example of this unpredictable weather. The one minute it’s open and beautiful and the next minute the misty clouds come blowing in. Within minutes a white tablecloth of clouds rests on top of the mountain.
But it doesn’t matter how bad the weather is, there is always something to do. A big world city framed by the mountain on the one side and the ever changing ocean on the other side.
VICTORIA AND ALFRED WATERFRONT (V&A): Very commersialised and expensive but a total treat. The vibrant atmosphere and energy is addictive. The aquarium is well worth seeing. If you have children it is a must. There is a touch area with a variety of sea plants that can be touched to get an idea of the textures. Feeding times you can watch the sharks having their lunch. There are great restaurants and coffee shops for the hungry. In the designer shops you can virtually shop till you drop.
THE MOUNTAIN AND THE MOTHER CITY: The cable car is an experience on its own, with a rotating floor and magnificent views when going up and coming down the mountain. Phone in advance or check on the website if the cable car is going up. It is not always open. The weather can change in a second from great to foggy and cloudy. On the top is a restaurant and shop with great views.
Cape Town is full of historical buildings that are worth a view and great for pictures. In the famous Castle of Good Hope, you’ll find examples of beautiful antique furniture. You can also experience the dark dungeons where prisoners were kept. It’s horribly cold, pitch dark and small. You can take a guided tour at the Castle and get all the info on Jan van Riebeeck, the Van der Stel’s, Lady Anne Barnard and everybody that was involved in the beginning years of the Cape.
There are also numerous historical church buildings. Take a drive through the city area on a Sunday or Saturday afternoon to visit all these buildings. During normal business hours the streets are too busy to find parking.
KIRSTENBOSCH BOTANICAL GARDENS: Don’t miss this. You can pend a whole day and still haven’t seen everything. You will only find indigenous South African plants like Protea, Fynbos etc. There is a path up Table Mountain from inside the gardens. We climb for a while but it is quite steep and we had no idea how long it would take. I wouldn’t advise this unless you have all the info on hiking up to the top of the mountain.
The weather can change very quickly and then it is dangerous to be out somewhere on the mountain. On Sunday afternoons (late afternoon) in summer you can attend musical concerts. There is a nice restaurant or bring your own picnic basket. Lots of space for a picnic.
MALAY QUARTER The old Malay quarter or as it is called nowadays the Bo-kaap is worthwhile seeing. It is basically in the city. Drive in Wale Street to Green point. The area has been upgraded in a lot of places and property prices are rising sharply. It is conveniently located and has a great atmosphere. The houses are painted in bright colours and look festive. Streets are still cobblestone and narrow. From the top the view over Cape Town is amazing.
CAPE POINT: Contrary to some beliefs this is not where the two oceans meet. The actual meeting point is at Agulhas. Nevertheless Cape Point is an incredible experience. The last time we went there Chapman’s Peak was closed due to rock falls and we took the road past Kommetjie and Scarborough. The whole area is a nature reserve. There are 2 200 different plant species to see, as well as a lot of smaller animals. You can take the funicular to the point or take a walk. It is a bit of steep to climb but do-able. The view is absolutely amazing. Stop at the Dias cross in the reserve. It is a big stone cross that commemorates his achievements.
GREAT CONSTANTIA: THE OLDEST WINE ESTATE
The history of the farm dates back to 1685 when it was granted to the first Governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel, as an experimental farm for agricultural produce. Van der Stel named the farm “Constantia” and the produce of vegetables and fruit was supplied to ships that called in at the Cape. You can taste and buy the award winning red and white wines at the cellars. There are daily wine tours, tasting and buying of wines.
CLIFTON: THE PLAYGROUND OF THE RICH
Clifton is not for those scared of heights and narrow roads. The houses seem glued to the cliffs. They park on top of their roofs or so it seems. Any builder that can build a house here deserves a reward. Most of the houses are more mansions than houses and are worth a few million. Clifton is especially famous for its beaches but the water is still cold like the rest of the Cape waters.The small rock pools are excellent for children to play in and obviously not that cold. Unfortunately it is also the ideal spot for beach parties and some of these areas can be very dirty.
CHAPMAN’S PEAK: The view is worth paying the R22 toll fee on this road. You don’t need to come back the same way. From Noordhoek you can take the Muizenberg road back to Cape Town. From Hout Bay go back past Landudno and Camps Bay which is the other beautiful coastal road.
KALK BAY: A tiny little place a few kilometers out of the city. The shopping experience is very different form that at the V&A. Here you will find individualistic little arty shops each with it’s own character and style. If you are looking for something out of the ordinary, away from mass production, you need to visit Kalk Bay’s main street. Cape to Cairo and Papagayo stands out but they are all worth a visit. The shops are so nicely decorated and painted in vibrant colours. There are also nice art galleries, a theatre and restaurants.
SUNSET ON SIGNAL HILL:
Instead of going up to the cable car take the road to the right and drive up Signal hill. Lovely sunset.
CENTURY CITY: Century City is a bit out of the city close to Milnerton. It is a lovely centre with each and every shop you can think off. Less designer stores than at V&A and obviously not that expensive. The MTN science centre is a hit with children. You can buy a family ticket and spend the whole day there. You get a stamp on your hand and can move in and out as you please. Make sure you attend the “camera obscura” session. It works with mirrors and even though you are inside the building you can see the reflections of the cars moving, the movement of the water in the canals and whatever is happening outside. All the other mall things are there like movies, places to eat, lots of chain stores etc, etc…..
MORE RESTAURANTS AROUND CAPE TOWN BLUES
Sit outside with a beautiful view over the beaches of Camps Bay and the very busy and interesting street running next to the sea. You’ll see anything from a top of the range Ferrari to a “gedaan” (run down) taxi, a luxury tour bus to an old beetle. The menu offers seafood, pasta and a few grill goodies like hamburgers, lamb rib, steak etc. Nice cocktails and wine list. Excellent service.
MARINER’S WHARF (Hout Bay)
There is a beautiful upstairs area for a sit-down meal with spectacular decor. It opens at 12 in the afternoon. If you are too hungry to wait go to the open area downstairs. Get a box of real fish and chips and have a feast.
FARMSTALL, NOORDHOEK On the other side of Chapman’s Peak is Noordhoek. The Farmstall has all the traditional South African cakes and pastries, like scones and milk tart.
This is but the tip of the iceberg and just a few of the exciting places to visit. Explore and feel like Dias with every new discovery.