Cape Town: Africa’s Europe

The doctor in Cape Town who administered my yellow fever vaccine told me with a smile that Cape Town is “Africa’s Europe,” and it is rather appropriate in so many ways. Urban, developed, multicultural, has some of the best wine in the world (and like France and Spain, it’s cheap!!!! Napa, I love you, but please get on board with YUM & affordable)… Cape Town has more to do than you can possibly squeeze into the WAY TOO SHORT 5 days I allowed myself here. I will have to come back!

I stayed at Marriott Waterfront Breakwater Lodge my first night because my hostel of choice was booked until Saturday night, and it best possible decision! Such a perfect introduction to Cape Town. The waterfront area is safe and walkable, and offers tourists so much to do and see. Lunch was at V&A Food Market, which has everything your heart could desire. Yum! The Waterfront area offers great views of Table Mountain; my views were a bit obstructed by thick clouds that hung overhead the entire time I was in Cape Town though.
Another thing that struck me during my time in Cape Town: how incredibly talented the street musicians were! Not since my time in Cebu did I come across so many talented musicians. Here’s a compilation of some of the musicians I watched… https://youtu.be/tlEU_VkYSaI
I then walked across the pedestrian bridge to the Nelson Mandela Gateway to buy a ticket for Robben Island tour (360rand) for the next day, one of the few things I wanted to be certain I did while in Cape Town. You can buy tickets online but online tickets were sold out; going in person worked! Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate during the week I was there. Advice: if you really want to see Robben Island, get a ticket your first day in Cape Town and be flexible enough to keep trying for several days in a row if weather conditions mean the tour is cancelled. Or do a free walking tour in the city where you’ll learn all about the city’s history of apartheid; I was told this tour is actually better than the trip to Robben Island (however, you do miss out on seeing the prison itself). Not far from the Gateway is the Modern Art museum, housed in this spectacular building…
This building also houses a couple of bars and restaurants that offer great sunset views. I did squeeze in a visit to one of the bars (the rooftop bar requires advanced reservations and was completely full the day I stopped in, so I instead had to visit the bar on the 4th floor), but unfortunately ran out of time to visit the actual musuem. Yet another thing to add to my “next visit” list! After I ran out of luck to visit Robben Island, I walked back over to the Waterfront area. I got my eyebrows shaped and a gel manicure at K Spa, (cost was 400rand for both, which is on par with the good salons in the city). I would definitely go back. I watched sunset from Ginja, which provided a stunning view of Table Mountain. And I got a 500ml carafe of one of the best rosés I’ve ever had (Lothian Rosé, Elgin) for only 160rand. Though there are cheaper places for drinks on the waterfront, it’s hard to be the view here (and service was so great!!). After so much rose, and night fell, I also enjoyed dinner here.
The next morning I went walking back over to the Gateway to again try my luck with Robben Island (spoiler alert: weather caused cancellations again), and came across this coffee cart with a quote painted on the wall that really hit home for me.
With my tour cancelled I first moved from my hotel to my hostel-home for the next few nights, the wonderful The B.I.G Backpackers in Green Pointe, another great neighborhood that was walkable and safe. I then took myself down to Camps Bay for sunset and dinner. I enjoyed a couple glasses of wine, a lovely salad, and the sunset at Cafe Caprice (recommended to me by the lovely Sarah G!). And best part of Cafe Caprice? Meeting an incredible couple, Shane and Silje (Britain and Norway), who I ended up spending the rest of the night hanging out with! Only warning about Caprice: it’s a small space, so the music from the live DJ is incredibly loud and you will have to yell to have a conversation if you’re sitting inside.
After Caprice, we walked 5 minutes down the road to have dinner at Paranga (thanks Heather G for that one!), which was amazing. Seafood is the specialty, but loads of vegan and vegetarian options! Cape Town is officially in the very top of foodie cities I’ve been to in the world, especially factoring in price! I have no idea how they can afford to be so affordable, but God bless this city for that. After an amazing dinner at Paranga, Shane, Silje, and I headed to the locals’ bar street in Cape Town, Bree Street. I wish I knew the name of the first cocktail bar we went to, but I don’t. I do recall the next (and my final) stop of the night, (because 2am was all I could handle) Arcade. The DJ here was great and it was a huge dance party.
Shane and Silje

The following day was another cloudy (and eventually, rainy) one, so I spent a decent amount of time walking around another part of the Waterfront, including lunch at Belthazar, which boasts the largest number of wines by the glass (250!!) in the world. Also, they had an incredible selection of vegetarian options. Yum. And a lovely waterfront view.

One of my finals evenings in Cape Town was spent at one of the most incredible Italian restaurants I’ve ever eaten at (and that includes places IN Italy): The Cousins Trattoria. I had the house specialty pasta, and GOD it was good. Highly recommend!

Stellenbosch Wine Country

I couldn’t visit South Africa without visiting the world famous wine region, so one of my final days was spent in the beautiful wine country around Cape Town. My hostel recommended Wine Files Wine Tours (http://wineflies.co.za/), and I am SO glad they did because I couldn’t imagine a better tour! All of the tours are led by “Wine Lords” and my tour Lord was LeGrand, an awesome guy.

Our tour included 5 different stops, all noted below. I also made notes of wines I especially liked at each winery, until the final stop; a day full of wine sampling led to a fuzzy memory by the end of the day and I forgot to note the wonderful wines at Vergenoegd Löw.

Stop 1: Villiera Wines. My favorites: Traditional Brut Rose NV (fab!!) and Pinotage.

Stop 2: Mitre’s Edge. At this winery we were treated to wine and cheese pairings. This small, family winery offers tastings in the family’s home! And another thing I loved, in addition to the lovely wines and winning cheese, is that the winemaker is a woman. In an industry still so heavily dominated by men, it was great that our tour included a stop at this winery. This winery had SO many good wines, if I wasn’t continuing my travels I would have purchased SO much (but shipment back to the US was almost prohibitively expensive). My favorites: (1) the 2015 Cab Sav 2015; (2) Sholto (Bordeaux blend); and (3) their most award winning wine, a 2015 Cab Franc 2015 was superb!

Stop 3: Middelvlei Wine Estate and farm! We were treated to a lovely lunch (so many vegetarian options provided for me) and a tour of the winery, which included all-you-could drink of some of the house red wine. For a reason- it wasn’t exactly spectacular.  I decided to drink very little and save what remained of my sobriety for the final stops of the day. The charm of this place was definitely in the staff and food, and especially farm animals, not necessarily the wine.

Stop 4: Lovane. This winery offered beautiful views, and a chocolate and wine pairing. My favorites: (1) Bordeaux blend 2015; and (2) Pinotage 2016.

Stop 5: Vergenoegd Löw Wine Estate. This winery offered beautiful grounds and really lovely wines, but unfortunately, I forgot to write down my favorites. 

My final morning was spent having an incredible brunch at Giulious Cafe with a wonderful new travel friend I met the prior day during the wine tour, Marco. My streak of meeting incredible people in countries around the world definitely continued in Cape Town. And I highly recommend Giulious Cafe, yummy!!

Cape Town was really a beautiful city and fully lived up to all of the hype I’d heard for so long. But during my next visit, I definitely want to be able to see more of South Africa!

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2 thoughts on “Cape Town: Africa’s Europe

  1. Welcome back to my computer.

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