Cape Town was a mystery to me. I knew only that it was in South Africa and by the sea. Many friends who had visited there said it was a must do. Although I was anxious to get to the animals in Sabi Sand, I listened to their advice about a visit to Cape Town. Thank goodness I did.
Charles and I were met at the airport after a long, but very comfortable flight on British Air, by Steven Lake. As I mentioned in my previous blog see https://suddenly70.ca/2017/01/18/south-african-dream-2/ I used Roar Africa as our tour company and had stressed that we wanted to feel safe and to have a driver/guide who would learn about our tastes, and be with us. Steven was incredible and each moment we spent with him we discovered what a knowledgeable and brilliant guide he was.
He arrived in a van that was high and that made it easy to see, and also protect us from the baboons that we would eventually encounter. He dropped us at our boutique hotel, Cape View Clifton that described itself as a luxury guesthouse. When we entered our room/small suite the view of the curved land and beach was overwhelming. It was a warm sunny day with clear air and the brightness from the picture window afforded a brilliant view of the mountains that surrounded us.
View from our balcony at Cape View Clifton
After unpacking, I read all the info in the room as is my practice, had my usual late afternoon nap, bathed and got ready for dinner. Steven’s work hours ended at 6:oo each evening so we hired a taxi to take us to our first restaurant of choice in a small area called Constantia, a bit of a drive. Caroline, our expert at Roar Africa, had previously booked all the restaurants on our trip, after much discussion with me.
Kitchen at Open Door
This first one was called Open Door, a modern, colorful room with a bar and open kitchen. I chose cured trout that was simply yummy, and Charles had crayfish (tiny lobsters), followed by lamb. I had angelfish, something new for me, with artichokes. The menu listed line fish, and we wondered what kind of fish that was, but after seeing it on many menus finally asked a waiter and learned it meant catch of the day. Every restaurant we visited had line fish. We sat at the bar for cognac after dinner and people watched, then returned to our lovely room and the sound of the waves crashing against the beach. It was a romantic first evening.
great pool view
We both woke early and I went for a swim in the small unheated pool. It was very refreshing, or should I say bracing. The view was magnificent from the pool and I spotted people on the terrace eating breakfast. Soon after we joined them and found ourselves in a lovely room and open kitchen where we could choose all sorts of goodies from the buffet and we could order the choice of the day, a frittata, delicious. We met the charming owner, Jess, stunning and young, or are we old?
Breakfast at Cape View
Steven planned to pick us up around 9:30 and took us first to Simonstown and then to Boulders Beach to see the penguins up close and personal in their natural habitat. We went for a long walk and thoughtfully Steve left us alone with a scheduled meeting time after our explorations. The view once again was spectacular and the clear sunny, albeit windy day didn’t hurt a bit. I love penguins and had seen them in South America on Falkland Island and could spend hours watching them. These little fellows were different, smaller and not bashful, and hung out in couples.
Cuties,. Check out the egg!
Then we were off to Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. Okay, now we can talk about real wind. I was almost blown over. No wonder it was once called Cape Storms. It is best to read the hyperlink descriptions because there are many misconceptions about this being the southernmost tip of Africa, and Cape Point which is the second windiest place in the world after Cape Horn. Yes I said it was windy, but fun as the fellows had to hold on to me while I held onto my loose top.
And then the baboons presented themselves. They were on the highway and Steve made us lock the doors and the windows because these clever little guys know how to get in a car and takeover. Not fun, if very cute with the mom’s gamboling about with their babies on their backs.
We had worked up an appetite and arrived at a quaint farmhouse for lunch called incidentally Cape Farmhouse. We invited Steve to join us. He had delicious looking lamb, I had steak tartare and Charles grilled squid.
We left the restaurant sated and drove back to our lodgings via the scenic cliff side road to watch seals playing on the rocks.
Back to the hotel to read and look at the view, and get ready for another wonderful dinner; this one at Bistrot Bizerca where we were seated in a garden with strings of light overhead and locals to watch. We shared oxtail terrine then yellowtail fish and chocolate desert. I am starting to eat too too much.
The next morning we set off forTable Mountain which we decided we wouldn’t visit because of long lineups, but there was a second line for pre-paid tickets and we got in that one and were thrilled we had because the view and experience were stupendous. After that we headed to a market area called The Old Biscuit Mill. It was a very lively Saturday afternoon and we decided to eat and sit outside with food we purchased at various stalls. We chose freshly sliced and roasted sirloin sandwiches, sangria, and then wondered if we shouldn’t have waited for the paella that was cooking. Never mind all was very good.
Yummy food stands
climbers gear at top of Table Mountain
Fortunately we could walk off some of our lunch in The Kerstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. Steve was in his element here as he is a botanist and he was well versed with all the indigenous plants that we viewed. We walked miles and enjoyed immensely his commentary. These gardens have been around since the early 1900’s and are now a Unesco Heritage site. They are immense.
Steve and I in the gardens
What a full day it was turning out to be. We had a scheduled visit to Robben Island at 4:30 with a boat ride to get there. It is very organized when you can visit, very controlled. I was anxious to see where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27-year imprisonment. Now the mistake that I made was not reading his incredible biography ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ before I went because I certainly would have had a greater understanding of what went on in South Africa during his time. This book is really a must read for all of us. It is well written and tells the story of his struggles, his personal life, and Apartheid.
Now Robben Island is somewhat of a tourist visit, but nevertheless is not very commercialized. We arrived after a boat trip from Cape Town harbor, and then were ushered on a bus with a guide who told us what we were seeing. Please refer to the hyperlink above for details, but by the time we arrived at the prison we had some idea of the travails of Mandela.
Nelson Mandela’s cell
We toured the prison and saw where he was kept. Our tour guide was a political prisoner and he too had lived at Robben so it was quite a poignant visit. The tiny cell was kept as it once was and it was hard to imagine living in such as space, especially if you are slightly claustrophobic as am I. We spent a few hours there and then left to return to the mainland perhaps more thoughtful, sad, bewildered, and wildly impressed with Mandela’s political struggle. Read the book.
We returned to our gorgeous hotel and readied ourselves for dinner at a restaurant called La Mouette, where we sat outside and ate fois gras, lamb, and tuna tartare. It was a soft night with occasional blustery winds, but it matched our mood. We talked all evening about Mandela in awe of the man, and marveled that we were in South Africa and there were lots of blacks at other tables. Hmm, times have changed for the best.
The next morning off to the Winelands, and more adventures.