A city rich in culture and color, Cape Town captured my heart on day one. We spent six blissful days exploring the city so far; here is a day-by-day breakdown to the highlights during those days.
Day 1 – Getting Settled
Our train arrived in Cape Town in late afternoon. We took a taxi from the train station to La Rose B&B in historic Bo’Kaap. This quaint little B&B is owned by a Frenchman and his South African wife, who have done a superb job creating a cozy space for travelers who want more than a backpacker but a more unique of an experience than your local Hilton can provide. Each morning they serve a fresh breakfast between 7:30 and 9 a.m. Most mornings all of their guests gather here to catch up on each other’s activities from the day before while sipping on coffee and eating freshly baked muffins and bread, fruits and yogurt, and eggs made to order.
By the time we checked in, it was close to dinnertime. The owner of the B&B suggested we drop our bags and head down to Bree Street to put our name in at Chef’s Warehouse & Canteen. When a local gives us a dining suggestion, we usually take it. We did as we were told, and were not disappointed. We had a cocktail in the wine shop below as we waited for a space at one of their few harvest tables. After about an hour, we were seated. Each evening, Chef’s Warehouse offers a set menu of tapas. We feasted on oysters, lamb, bone marrow, pork belly and prawns. It was delectable.
Day 2 – Table Mountain
The first day you’re in Cape Town and the sun is shining without a cloud in the sky, climb Table Mountain, according to every local you encounter in the city. “It doesn’t matter what else you have planned, do it.” So we did. And it was awesome. We took a taxi past the base of the mountain. You can take a cable car to the top of the mountain, but we opted to hike. Depending on fitness levels, the hike takes around 2.5 hours to the top (we pushed the pace and made it up in about 90 minutes). It’s a beautiful hike with stunning views of all of Cape Town. Once you reach the top, you can see the harbor, central business district and beaches. You can hike back down, but you can also buy a ticket at the top to take the less than five-minute ride down the cable car.
Day 3 – Robben Island & V&A Waterfront
Nelson Mandela spent almost 30 years as a political prisoner in South Africa. He spent 18 of those years in the small, maximum-security prison on Robben Island. You can purchase tickets for a tour of Robben Island at the V&A Waterfront. We opted to take the first ferry at 11 a.m. I would highly recommend the early tour – the later tours were jam packed. The ferry ride takes about 45 minutes to an hour, and once you’re on the island, the tour takes about an hour. You start on a bus tour around the island. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot a penguin, and if it’s whale season, you can spot them as well. A former political prisoner gives each tour through the prison, which was built by the prisoners, including Mandela, themselves. You see the small cell where Mandela was held, the courtyard where he walked and the quarry where he worked.
After the tour we spent an hour walking around the waterfront and then decided to enjoy the afternoon tasting local beers and eating cheese. Not a bad afternoon at all.
Day 4 – Bike Tour
As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, we love to go on bike tours. We found a highly recommended bike tour in Lonely Planet called Awol Tours that because it was low season, basically gave us a private tour of the city. We started in the V&A Waterfront, hit the city center, parliament buildings, gardens, Bo’Kaap and the World Cup stadium. The tour was extremely informative with a healthy mix of history and current events. It lasted about three hours.
After the bike tour we visited the District Six Museum. During the 60s, black and coloured Africans were relocated from within the city to the outer townships. The museum depicts this dark part of South Africa’s history.
Close to the museum, we found a great little coffee shop and bar where Jay had his afternoon coffee and then we had our evening happy hour.
Day 5 – Camps Bay
After several busy days, we decided it was finally time for a beach day. We took our time getting going in the morning and sat around the breakfast table chatting with other guests and the owner longer than usual. We were checking out of our hotel, so we checked our bags and decided to pop into the Bo’Kaap Museum before heading to the beach. It’s a small little museum, but does a good job capturing the history of the neighborhood. Bo’Kaap was originally inhabited by slaves and is heavily influenced by Malays. It has become a trendy neighborhood lately with its cobble streets and brightly colored houses, but Cape Town is now making attempts to try and restore some of the original inhabitants back to the neighborhood.
Once we arrived Camps Bay, we bought a few bottles of water and then rented an umbrella and two lounge chairs for 180 rand. We spent the next three hours talking with the Malawi artisans peddling their work on their beach and watching a group of school girls play in the surf for the first time.
We grabbed an appetizer at one of the restaurants along the beach before checking into our new hotel, the Hippo, in a trendy part of Park Street in Cape Town. Another unique boutique hotel, the Hippo sat above several restaurants and offered vouchers each day for breakfast at each of them. Our room opened on to a balcony over Park Street, which made for great people watching. A great find on the street was a replica of Rick’s Café Americain from Casablanca.
Day 6 – Stand Up Paddle Board
Traveling to Cape Town in fall has many perks. The weather is phenomenal. And to boot, it’s slow tourist season. We were able to book a last-minute standup paddle board (SUP) lesson just north of Cape Town. The instructor met us at their shop, gave us our wet suits, drove us to the cove for our lesson and spent two and half hours with us on the open South Atlantic Ocean. She wasn’t the best instructor, but she definitely was very lenient on the time we spent on the boards. Jay wasn’t the biggest fan of being out on the open ocean with the big waves and surf, so the instructor and I spent most of the time one on one hanging out in the waves. I hadn’t played in the ocean like that in way too many years!
We spent one more night in Cape Town at the Hippo. The next morning we picked up our rental car to begin an eight-day road trip through Wine Country and then along the Garden Route. Check back in the upcoming days to read about the wine we drank. The zebras we saw. The beaches we visited. And whether Jay was able to remember to drive on the right (left) side of the road.