7 days in December in Cape Town
I recently took a trip to Cape Town, the most visited tourist destination in South Africa and the African continent (surpassing even Cairo in Egypt). South Africans refer to Cape Town as the “Mother City” or “Ikapa”. Afrikaans folk refer to Cape Town as “Kaapstad” (It’s Afrikaans name) or “Slaapstad” (translated as “Sleep City”). On my last visit to Cape Town in 2005 I traveled mainly around the Northern suburbs of the city. I skipped the areas in previously visited in 1997 (which are nowhere near the Northern Suburbs and closer to the Cape Town City Centre). Cape Town’s land area is 2,499 square kilometres (965 square miles) with a population of 2,8 million and a population density of 1,158 people per square kilometre (2,999 per square mile). For South Africans: Cape Town is about half as big again as Johannesburg, with a lower population. So there are fewer people in Cape Town per sq km. For Europeans: Cape Town occupies 60% more space than Greater London. But with only 40% of the London population, in Cape Town you’ll have almost twice as much space to call your own. For Americans: Cape Town is about 3 times the size of New York City, but has 5.25 million fewer inhabitants. That puts it at about 23,000 fewer people per square mile. Cape Town is well-known for its long summer days. The sun only sets by about 8 o’clock in the summer. Enough facts. I will be giving you a day by day account of my recent trip. Hopefully this will not be a boring read. Feel free to comment or correct me if I’m wrong.
Friday, 18 December, 2009: We arrived at Cape Town International Airport an hour-delayed Kulula flight from O.R. Tambo International Airport (in Jhb). Me and my brother waited for my dad to collect the Avis rental car. When we finally had the keys to it we found that the Hyundai Atos’ boot is not big enough for 3 adults’ suitcases, so we traded it for a VW Golf Chico (which has a bigger boot). We made our through the Friday morning traffic (which was heavier than expected) from the airport to Sea Point to put our luggage into storage (since we could only book into our apartment at 4 in the afternoon). We then embarked on a expedition trip around the Sea Point shops to stock up on groceries for the week, ventured into Cafe Adelphi (who make an excellent beef burger by the way) on Main Road for lunch and finally booked into our room an hour earlier. After a well deserved power nap (since I only had 3 hours sleep the night before) we went for a stroll along the Sea Point / Green Point ocean front, ending a tiring, yet satisfying day.
Saturday, 19 December 2009: I was greeted by a splendid Cape Town day. The crisp see air filled me lungs as I went for my morning walk along the ocean front. I must say that Cape Townians seem to be a lot more fitness and health conscious than us Vaalies. The rest of the day evolved into a mixture of shopping in Sea Point, another walk along the ocean front and watching the Proteas crawl their way back into the first test against England at Centurion. A lazy, quite uneventful day passed.
Sunday, 20 December 2009: We made our way to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront (one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions). We decided to take the bus tour (red route) offered by Cape Town City Tours. Our bus tour took us on a tour of the Cape Town City Center, the Company Gardens, South African Houses of Parliament, the Castle and District 6. Eventually we reached the Table Mountain Cable Way station. We paid the R160 per person charged for return tickets and after a 15 minute wait in the cue we made our way up to the summit of Cape Town’s most famous landmark, Table Mountain. It was a glorious wind-still sunny day so we could see most of the city and its suburbs, the newly built Cape Town Stadium, Robben Island and the harbor clearly. It was my second time up the mountain (since 1997). After enjoying lunch at the Table Mountain Cafe and exploring the summit we made our way down and climbed back onto the Cape Town City Tour bus to continue our tour of the city. We moved through the kloof into the Camps Bay area (which is home to one of Cape Town’s most famous beaches), then through Clifton, Bantry Bay, Sea Point, Mouille Point, Green Point and back to the V&A Waterfront. After replenishing our reserves at the apartment me and my brother met up with some friends from Joburg to catch Goldfish at La Med in Clifton. The venue was jam packed with holiday makers and locals alike. Goldfish provided and excellent soundtrack to the brilliant view of the sun-glazed 12 Apostles and the breathtaking sunset in the background. On the way back from the gig we turned around in Camps Bay and drove past the jam packed cocktail lounges, restaurants and bars. There is truly no other place like that in South Africa (not even in Durban or the South or North Coast). I take back anything negative I’ve said about Cape Town’s nightlife…
Monday 21 December, 2009: After sleeping off my slight beer buzz from the previous night me and my brother embarked on a journey to the Gordon’s Baby / Strand area (40 km from Cape Town) to visit friends. This area has truly expanded since my last visit in 1997. The day was a mixture of beach cricket (on the Strand beachfront), enjoying cocktails at Fat Cats at the Strand Pavillion and admiration of the sea and mountain views that this area of the Western Cape offers. On the way back we caught a glimpse of a cow crossing a sky bridge over the N2 highway reminding us that we’re still in Africa.
Tuesday 22 December, 2009: After dropping off some laundry we embarked on a shopping spree at the V&A Waterfront (“typical Vaalie style” some Cape Townians might say). This was the first day of our stay that mist / clouds were hanging over Table Mountain. We explored the shopping area, picked up lunch from Dodge City in the Victoria Wharf mall and visited the Two Oceans Aquarium in the late afternoon. The rest of the day was a mellow one, truly relaxing. Once again we were treated by another breathtaking Sea Point sunset.
Wednesday, 23 December 2009: We headed off to what many people call the biggest shopping mall in the Southern Hemisphere, Canal Walk. This truly is one of the most remarkable shopping venues I’ve ever visited. It really has it all, 17 cinemas, 2 supermarkets, lots of fast food places, restaurants and lots of shops. About every major South African chain store has a branch in Canal Walk. Besides being overcharged for biltong (by Pretoria standards), it was still a very satisfying experience. After spending most of the day here we ventured off to nearby Bloubergstrand to admire the cloudy view of Table Mountain from across the bay. I then met up with a friend (who used to live in Pretoria) for a braai in Bothasig. It was good catching up with a friend for the first time in 9 yrs. After a few cold ones we ventured into the Cape Town CBD for a drink at The Shack (which has a really chilled out vibe which reminds me of how Pretoria jols used to be 10 years ago). After a few drinks we moved over to Mercury next door to catch South African reggae maestros Tidal Waves in concert. I also randomly bumped into a friend from Joburg at about 1 o’clock in the morning. This day will be remembered as a most satisfying one. This day proved that there’s nothing wrong with the Cape Town nightlife.
24 December 2009: Our last day in Cape Town was fairly uneventful. The only eventful thing was having overpriced (yet tasteful) fish and chips at the V&A Waterfront. I know this is a tourist zone and things are more expensive than in the rest of Cape Town, but charging someone R13.50 for a can of Coca Cola is quite ridiculous (and might be considered outrageous by most South Africans). After strolling around the shops at the V&A for one last time we headed back to our humble apartment abode for a quiet Christmas Eve. The African sun treated us to one last brilliant Cape Town sunset over Sea Point.
We left Cape Town on Christmas Day morning with our rental car. We took the hour and a half drive to Sandbaai (near Hermanus) to visit family for 2 days. We flew back to Johannesburg on the 27th of December 2009 (in time for New Year’s Eve celebrations in Gauteng). We were moved onto a British Airways flight to Johannesburg because the Kulula flight was delayed by 2 hours. Luckily we didn’t loose any of our luggage.
In Retrospect: I take back anything negative I’ve said about Cape Town in the past few years (a result of working as a customer care consultant for 3 years). It truly is one of the coolest cities in South Africa and worthy of being mentioned as a World City. It’s definately the cleanest city in South Africa (mostly because of the South Easter called the Cape Doctor by the locals). Cape Town’s public transport system is the best in South Africa (compared to cities like Johannesburg and Pretoria). I spoke to numerous locals who all make use of public transport (something which is frowned upon in my native Pretoria). I definately felt a lot safer in Cape Town than in other parts of the country (even in the Cape Town CBD). Cape Town also offers some of the best scenery in South Africa. There’s definately not a shortage of attractions. Unfortunately we did not have time to include Kirstenbosch and Hout Bay in the list of places that we’ve visited on our trip. A friend of mine has urged me to consider moving to Cape Town. I might just take him up on that offer, but I must admit that I’m not a fan of Cape Town winter weather. That is a major factor blocking me from moving down here. On the other hand I’m thinking that a change of scenery (and fresher air) and probability of meeting new friends will do me good. Only time will tell if I’ll end up moving to Cape Town. Even though the Cape Town traffic was a bit heavier than expected I still think that Cape Townians do not have a reason to complain about heavy traffic because it’s definately not heavy compared to Gauteng. The Mother City will possibly see me again next year and will definately be missed by this blogger.