After a short 2 hour flight, Danielle and I arrived in Cape Town. Almost immediately, I could tell I was no longer in Johannesburg. As we were driving to our Airbnb accommodations, both of us marveled at how different Cape Town was from Johannesburg. At first glance Cape Town felt familiar; the tall buildings, outdoor cafes, people outside walking to and fro. Whereas in Jo’Burg, I felt like I was in a foreign country because much of what I experienced was not akin to my life back in Los Angeles. I say that because sometimes even outside of the United States, there are countries that may remind you of home for whatever reason. I enjoy being in places completely different from the U.S but sometimes it’s also nice to find reminders of home when you’re thousands of miles away. For example, I absolutely love Garrett’s popcorn. I can’t get Garrett’s in Los Angeles so last year when I traveled to Thailand, I could not have been more ecstatic to find Garrett’s. As I spent more time in Cape Town, the differences compared with Jo’Burg were even more apparent. I’ll elaborate in next week’s post!
Cape Town at night
My first night in Cape Town, Danielle and I decided to check out the nightlife. Fortunately, our Airbnb apartment was located on Bree Street which is a couple blocks away from Long Street. Long Street is located in the city center and it’s where you will find countless bars, restaurants, nightclubs, etc. It is definitely the place to be on the weekend. We were there on a Saturday night so the streets were jam-packed. We also met up with some folks from Nomadness, the travel group which is responsible for Danielle and I meeting. In some ways Long Street is reminiscent of Bourbon street in New Orleans in the way many of the bars are two stories and have balconies that overlook the street. The first place we went to was Long Street Cafe. Most of the patrons were probably in their 20’s to early 30’s. From there, we bounced around to a couple other spots before calling it a night.
No trip to Cape Town is complete without visiting Robben Island. Robben Island is home to the prison where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his 27 year incarceration. Political prisoners were primarily held at Robben Island. To arrive at Robben Island you take a 30 minute ferry from the V&A waterfront. We were able to buy tickets the day before online but I imagine during peak tourist season, it’s best to book tickets perhaps days or weeks in advance. You can also purchase tickets at the waterfront. Once you arrive in Robben Island, you are whisked away on a school bus. On the bus, there is a tour guide who provides a thorough history of the island. One of the stops on the tour is the actual quarry where Nelson Mandela worked. One of the stories which resonated with me was the story of how one of the prisoners had escaped twice by swimming to the other side of the island to Bloomberg which is 4.5 miles away (7km). I’m a pretty avid swimmer myself but I swim mainly in pools. Swimming in open water is challenging in it of itself. The Atlantic Ocean is filled with sharks which tells you how willing he was to risk everything to obtain freedom. After the bus tour is over, you’re taken into the actual prison. Upon entering the building, you are met by a prison guide. The tour is led by former Robben island prisoners; my tour guide’s name was Jama. Time is given to explore the cells before the guide tells you about his experience as a former prisoner. There is also an opportunity for questions. Listening to the speech by Jama, I was overcome by a sense of sadness but also gratitude. Sadness because I can’t imagine being subjected to complete isolation, having only a mat to sleep on, or having to use a bucket as my bathroom. Gratitude because I was again reminded that even though the United States is a country that is far from perfect, I do have the ability to express my political beliefs freely without fear from being imprisoned. I do however realize political freedom has not always existed in the United States. After the question and answer session with Jama, we were then taken to the part of the prison where Nelson Mandela was held. You are not able to enter the cell but pictures are welcome. After seeing Mandela’s cell, we had to rush off to catch the last ferry of the day. I enjoyed visiting Robben Island but the experience itself was somber. On the one hand it’s exciting to be in such a historical place but then you think about all the people who languished away from their families and loved ones for far too long.
Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and countless entertainment options can be found at the waterfront. This is also an ideal place if you’re interested in taking any type of tour: walking, helicopter, trekking or a cruise. Restaurants tend to be pricier but still affordable. Lots of tourists as well as locals frequent the waterfront. As I aforementioned, the ferry to Robben Island leaves from here.
District 6 Museum
District 6 is the former name of an inner city area where over 60, 000 inhabitants were forcibly removed during the Apartheid era. Majority of the inhabitants of District 6 were coloured, there was also a small group of Black and Indian residents. Coloured is the South African term used to refer to anyone of mixed ethic heritage. Currently the area is made up of the Walmer Estate, Zonnebloem and Lower Vrede. The museum is important because it serves as a reminder of what happened during the Apartheid era. In addition, it tells a story about the culture and the inhabitants of District 6 before the removals. Throughout the museum you see pictures of families, historical artifacts, and written accounts from former inhabitants. The museum is two levels complete with a cafe and bookstore. The entrance fee is 30Rand ($2.17). You could explore the entire museum in an hour or less. I definitely recommend checking out the District 6 museum.
The views atop Table Mountain are breathtaking from every angle. To arrive at the peak of Table Mountain, a rotating cable car provides awe-inspiring views of Cape Town. South Africa joins Switzerland and Palm Springs as the only three places in the world which have rotating cable cars. Since I live in Southern California, I have also been to the one in Palm Springs which is also impressive. Dress appropriately depending on the time of year. I only had on a light jacket which was not enough. If you happen to go in winter or spring, dressing in layers would be best. The cable car opens at 8:00am and the last car down leaves at 6:00pm. You also have the option to hike down the mountain. The ticket for the cable car varies depending on the season. For spring, ticket prices are 16$ per person. Before planning to go to Table Mountain, you MUST check the weather first. Danielle was not able to go because the day we initially tried to go, the cable way was closed due to poor weather. Tickets are valid for 14 days so even if you’re plagued by rough weather, you have multiple opportunities to try again. Table Mountain is a definite must!
Cape Point is the most south-westerly tip of Africa. It is believed by many to be the point where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. There is a lighthouse on top of the peninsula where you can take a railway to its peak. There are also walking trails should you desire to explore on your own. The day I went, the weather was foggy and windy which wasn’t ideal. There is also a restaurant which overlooks the water as well as a gift shop on site.
Cape of Good Hope
Located on the southern tip of the Cape peninsula. You might get lucky and see an ostrich or a baboon as they are some of the many animals which inhabit the area. The Cape of Good Hope is close to Cape Point, as result it is also considered the most south-westerly tip of the African continent.
One of the oldest residential areas of Cape Town which was formerly known as the Malay quarter. This hidden treasure is located in the city center and is known for its brightly colored homes and cobble stone streets. This particular area is home to a predominantly Muslim population. Unfortunately, this area has recently been victim to gentrification. This is now a much sought after area as families are leaving, wealthy outsiders are purchasing the properties.
Camp’s Bay is one of the affluent suburbs in Cape town. The white sand beaches are wildly popular with locals and foreigners alike. Across the street from the beach are several restaurants, bars, shops, and cafes. There are also several hotels to choose from.
Affluent suburb along the coast. The oceanfront promenade is a great place to jog. The boardwalk goes on for miles. Take your pick from one of several coeanfront eateries across the street.
Known for its Asian fare as well as the magnificent views overlooking the V&A waterfront. The menu is extensive so there are other options if you’re not in the mood for Asian cuisine. I opted for the Springbok which was served on a bed of mashed potatoes. Springbok is a gazelle native to South Africa as well as its national animal. The taste is akin to brisket. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was happy I decided to try something new.
Italian style pizzeria located right next door to my airbnb apartment. The location could not have been better. I was impressed with how fast the pizza was ready. The pizza is cooked in a wood fire stove and was done in less than 5 minutes. It was tasty and it’s worth a try if you’re in looking for good pizza in Cape Town
Greek restaurant which features all of the traditional dishes. We had the Greek salad, Spanakopita, and the roasted lamb. For dessert, we shared Baklava. My favorite was the salad and the Baklava.
Cute tapas restaurant located on Long street. The service was impeccable and I thoroughly enjoyed my meal. I had the pan seared ostrich, roasted goat cheese and an arugula salad. In South Africa, as well as certain parts of Europe, Arugula is called Rocket. For dessert I had the Toffee Pudding, which was to die for. It was delectable. Hands down one of the best things I ate in Cape Town.
I was recommended to try Jason’s and I was pleasantly surprised. I had the mango yogurt and a basil and tomato pastry. The pastry was a bit smaller than I anticipated but I still enjoyed it. Open only for breakfast and lunch.
This store had me at hello. Danielle and I were looking for a different store when we stumbled upon this treasure. There was a jacket in the window that I had to have. It took some time to convince me to buy it because I’m pretty cheap when it comes to clothes but I had to have it. Danielle also found several items that she loved but she opted to get something made instead. This store has a variety of women’s clothing that range from elaborate and bold African prints to traditional sweaters and dresses. Prices start at $40. The owner of the store, Sheray, is a great salesperson. Don’t be alarmed if you have a hard time NOT buying anything.
Located in the city center, you will find the Mecca of any souvenir that you would like to buy. I probably spent too much money here but I love buying souvenirs for people so it’s to be expected. You can find any and everything from art, jewelry, and clothing to music. Prices are negotiable so never accept the first price offered