Cape Town. Once again, Mama Africa enchanted us with another beautiful city, brimming with natural wonders, compelling history, and cultural diversity. We spent nearly five days in Cape Town and her neighbouring cities. Here’s my list!
(10) St James Beach
The colourful Victorian bathing houses which lined St James beach is a quintessential South African sight, perhaps because they represent the multi-cultural aspect of the country. We were here very briefly, but I was pleased that contrary to Google weather’s warning, the sun was out that morning. The sky was dotted with a few white fluffy clouds.
(9) Wine tasting tour –
South Africa vino is known worldwide, thanks to the coast and mountains, ideal for growing wine. So…. wine tasting tour anyone?? Defo!!! Our tour guide for the day from Wine Flies, Wouter, gave us a crash course on wine tasting, showing us silly looking moves that wine connoisseurs do to evaluate the wine’s age, its ‘legs’, and the subtleties of taste. I particularly enjoyed doing move where you take a sip of wine, tilt your head down, and let air in through your mouth. Like gargling! Oxygen changes the way the wine tastes (Ahhh… so decanters now make sense). Anyway, we did four wine tastings throughout the day, with a stop at Paramus to do some whale watching. We also visited a craft cider place, Everson’s Cider, where we had some sausage, sampled freshly made cider, and had the best (I kid you not!) apple juice ever. Ever. We discovered Pinotage as well, a South African wine offering. This wine is a cross between two grapes; Pinot noir and Cinsaut. Perfect for your red meats!
(8) Saturday at the Old Biscuit mill –
I am a sucker for weekend markets. Local produce. Local sellers. Tourists and locals weaving a rich, moving tapestry of hungry and curious foodies. We took a taxi to Woodstock and followed the throngs of people making a beeline for this popular ‘village’. The Old Biscuit Mill did not disappoint. The vibe was great, choice was abundant.
(7) Sunset at Camps Bay
We didn’t exactly plan this very well, but the stars aligned the day we arrived at Cape Town. We found ourselves in Camps Bay just as the sun was setting on a beautiful afternoon. The view, Lion’s Head, Table Mountain, the beach. “Wow!” <Expletives>. “Oh my god I can’t believe we’re here.” <Expletives>. “This view is just <Expletives> amazing!” We watched as the sun changed the colours of the sky from a hues of blue to shades of orange. There were several restaurants facing the ocean, a perfect place to have a drink or a seafood dinner. This sunset gave us a preview of the beautiful sights and experiences to come in our unfolding Cape Town adventure.
Side note: Apparently there are a lot of celebs (and posh people) who hangout by Camps Bay. It’s not too crowded, and the beach was great for sunbathing (but the waves are not exactly ideal for swimming). Anyway, I think I spotted Emile Hirsch!! I think…
(6) Penguins in Boulder Beach
Anyone who tells me they don’t like penguins is a fool. How can you not find them adorable?! Seeing these penguins, who just mysteriously came to South Africa a few decades ago and never left, was on my ‘must do’ list. When we finally saw these Boulder Beach residents, I was giddy! Hundreds of them just hanging out by the shore, some shedding their older coats of wings, some standing still, others rocking back and forth on their bellies, waddling to the water, flirting with one another, occasionally flapping their wings. Cuteness overload! Just like lobsters, these African penguins are mates for life. How’s that for a sweet story?!
(5) Cape point, Cape peninsula drive.
Beautiful, unspoilt coastline. We spent a whole day just driving along the Cape Peninsula, staring out into the Atlantic Ocean, pondering about which way Antarctica or Argentina was. What a feast for the eyes! We were so eager to check into the Cape of Good Hope. After all, we’d read about it in history books! Portuguese explorers, like Vasco de Gama, were once here, en route to the spice islands. To be honest apart from the views going to the point, the ‘main attraction’ is really just a wooden sign, where one’s elbowing skills and assertiveness are put to the test. A good picture behind the infamous sign requires quite a bit of skill. Cape point is beautiful! And extremely windy. Best to wear an outfit which will not easily be blown over by strong winds, because the winds here are mighty!
(4) Amazing seafood
The Codfather. Making us an offer we just could not refuse, this Camps Bay institution far exceeded our expectations. It’s done very well in Tripadvisor, with consistent and glowing reviews. The Codfather, though not exactly beach front, had a nice view or the white sand and boisterous waves. There was a sushi bar/train with eye-catching rolls and sashimi. On the restaurant side, there isn’t a menu. Just a spread of South Africa’s choice seafood offerings: langoustine, lobster, Mozambique prawns, local fish, and squid. The idea was you pick your seafood, tell them how much you want, they weigh it, and they grill it. You choose your sides. They pile them all on a round, silver paella pan. You’re given four amazing dipping sauces (lemon butter, garlic butter, hot sauce, and a sweet and sour-y thing). Your brain will try to fathom the sweetness of the freshly grilled seafood, the taste of the ocean, and pure happiness, which all come at once, as you enjoy one amazing bite after another. Our server was a delightful Capetonian, who laughed when we rubbed our bellies post-meal, and settled into a satiated state of food coma.
(3) Authentic Safa Braai at Mzoli’s
Butchery turned party place, Mzoili’s Place in Gugulethu is a local institution, put on the map, funnily enough, by Jamie Oliver, who featured the restaurant in his show some years ago. We’d only become interested in Mzoli’s when Keysi did her Cape Town eats research during our down time in Joburg.
The township tour we eventually did in Cape Town concluded with a visit to Mzoili’s. Mr. Mzoli, we are told, is a local ‘kingpin’. A very enterprising business man, I must say! Apart from the butchery, there was an adjacent pub and carwash. On a Friday night, cars would line up in the street, and there’d be a constant flow of new and loyal patrons. We were super lucky that our tour guide assisted us in ordering (in the local language). Similar to the Codfather, we picked out the meats we wanted and they seasoned it (a dry rub first), grilled it, slathering it generously with magical BBQ sauce. The restaurant itself is not fancy. It reminds me of a non-airconditioned dampa.
We enjoyed our the pile of grilled meat, with side of salsa and pap (similar to mashed potatoes). For some reason, pap reminds me of puto! The grilled pork and chicken were amazing. Tender and tasty! What made it a memorable experience for me, more than the meat, was the atmosphere at Mzoili’s. Groups of friends getting together, heartily eating the grilled meats, sharing a bottle of Jack Daniels (or their liquor of choice), and dancing to whatever the DJ was playing. As cheesy as this sounds, I felt the spirit of South Africa here. Good natured teasing, a sense of community, made even more fun by the unpretentiousness of eating with your hands. Loved it!
(2) Walking through a township
Cape Town, in all its beauty and natural wonder, felt very European. Though we never really explicitly planned it, our curiosity for a township visit grew. Townships were built in the late 19th century, designated homes for non-whites. Most of the townships are outside the major cities and are underdeveloped.
We did the Lagugu Township Tour. Back in 2014, it was apparently a fairly new tour, though the guides reported that it was doing pretty well. Walking through the townships (Langa and Gugulethu) somewhat reminded me of impoverished areas back home, but with a twist!
We couldn’t help but feel amused about the first few houses we saw. They were bricked bungalows, quite decent looking houses. The streets were actually cleaner than average. And then, a BMW cruised by and I was like, “What the–?!’ A few Safa celebs (football players, artists, etc) grew up in these parts. We continued our tour deeper into the township, and the houses became more cramped. Our tour ended in the temporary settlements area, which resembled the impoverished neighbourhoods in Manila. We were invited into a local town call, where we we sat with a group and sampled their locally brewed beer from a communal tin container. I loved the smiling faces, the energetic children.
We also visited District Six musuem, which pays homage to the township which inspired the brilliant film District 9.
(1) Hearing first hand stories about the apartheid
During the apartheid (Afrikaans for “to be apart”) , where you live, what you can do, were determined by the colour of your skin. Back in the 50s or 60s, a comb dictated where you belong, we were told. Stick a comb through your hair. If it stood without falling, then you’re black. In Safa, coloureds are actually different from ‘blacks’. And the Indians had their own group all together. Such a terrible thing.
The Apartheid ended only 20 years ago, which eventually led to the African National Congress, headed by Nelson Mandela, winning the first multi-racial democratic elections in 1994. Two decades isn’t very long ago, and we can feel the wounds are still healing in these parts of the world.
Our Township local guide, a Capetonian from the township we were visiting, gave us a 20 minute narrative about the apartheid. His first hand experience, what his family had to endure, and the stigma which unfortunately still remains in the psyche of the people to this day. I kid you not, I was pinching myself to stop the free flow of tears. I felt angry and sad about what the non-white residents of Cape Town have gone through, what they’re still going through. Segregation, based on the colour of one’s skin, is never just about relocation. Being told all your life that you are inferior just because of who you fundamentally are. It’s just wrong. Heartbreaking.
Missed Top One:
So you’re probably wondering whatever happened to the majestic Table Mountain. Well! The weather was just temperamental when we were in Cape Town (too windy, too foggy, blah blah) , that we never got the chance to go up Table Mountain. I’m not monumentally sad. Only because this gives me the perfect excuse to go back to this beautiful city.