The first time I visited Cape Town I was an 18 year-old exchange student on a ‘caravan vacation’ with my host family. Table Mountain loomed ominous over our RV park. We stayed in a tiny, gritty little fishing village called Fish Hoek. Each morning, fisherman speaking staccato Cape Afrikaans used their large nets, wiry arms and little boats to fish as they’d done for hundreds of years.
In the years following, I’ve visited Cape Town four more times, each adventure giving me a better sense of the city. Cape Town is to South Africa what Vancouver is to Canada. It may not be the economic power house that Johannesburg or Toronto is, but it’s a cosmopolitan city known for its food, culture, history and geography.
It’s the kind of city where you can take a creaky, crowded train with all walks of life past shanty towns and end up in a ritzy, tourist area. It’s a city where you’ll eat Cape Malay curries that have stayed in family recipe books for generations. If you’re lucky, you might frolic with models at one of it’s numerous aquamarine beaches.
Besides it’s mystique and omnipresent fog, zebra and antelope dot Table Mountain’s slopes, uber cool hoods and numerous parks, Cape Town is also home to many dark annals of South Africa’s history. One of my biggest regrets in visiting the Mother City as many times as I did was not going to the District 6 Museum or Robben Island. (So please do me a solid and visit those two when you go – don’t just read about the atrocities of colonization and apartheid, but see and feel them with your own eyes, hands and heart.)
There’s a saying among travellers that goes something like, ‘Go to Cape Town before you die’. I have and I’m glad I did. If I get smacked by a bus tomorrow, that statement will ring true.
So, without much ado, is my list of reasons you’ll love the Mother City or Cape of Good Hope.
Table Mountain – It looks like a table and the communities that comprise Cape Town cling to it’s feet like children to a mother’s skirt. Perhaps this is why it’s called the Mother City. There are numerous ways to take Table Mountain in – you can hike up one of it’s many trails or take the aerial cableway up her sides. If you have a lot of cash, maybe you’ll even take a helicopter over it’s koptjes. Either way, it’s a mush see. Try to go up the mountain on a day that’s not foggy – which is hard in a coastal city, but it does happen.
The view from the water – The last time I visited my dear friend Chantelle in Cape Town, we sailed with a group of girls from the Royal Cape Town Yacht Club to Clifton and back. IT SOUNDS FANCY, but it was pretty down-to-earth and chill. A friend of Chantelle’s who ran girls’ surf camps at the time organized a girls afternoon on the water. We pretty much listened to Nickelback, Bryan Adams and drank a potent mix of Savannah Ciders and bargain bin champers while our mulleted captain guided us through calm waters of the Cape. That afternoon was truly one of the best afternoons of my life. Once we anchored in Clifton for some food and a swim, we played in the clear, clear, clear blue (and friggen cold) water and watched the sun slowly set. On the tour we saw: Table Mountain, a shark, Robben Island in the distance and a boat called Exta-Sea, clever, right?
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens – For a protea lover like me, a stop at the 102-year old gardens is a must. Kirstenbosch was established in 1913 to promote, conserve and display the extraordinarily rich and diverse flora of southern Africa, and was the first botanic garden in the world to be devoted to a country’s indigenous flora. Kirstenbosch was built in 1913 to conserve unique Southern African plant life, including flora indigent to the Cape. Schedule in a lazy afternoon to wander, get lost and grab a leisurely lunch at Moyo, the Kirstenbosch Tea Room or Vida e Caffe.
Bree Street – Besides one of the BEST TEXTILE ARTISTS in the world – Skinny LaMinx, you can find all sorts of restos and indie shops on Bree Street. Go to SAM (South African Market) for art & design gear or Missibaba for leather goods. Sample South African artisan cheeses at the Culture Cheese Club, grab a coffee and record shop at Hard Pressed Cafe or feast on strictly fresh only (no frozen) fish’n’chips at Lucky Fish’n’Chips.
Observatory – I’m probably dating myself here but Observatory has always had a soft place in my wandering heart. It’s the multicultural bohemian hood known for it’s night life, vegetarian cafes and University of Cape Town student population. I’ve stayed there the most of of all my visits to iKapa. It’s where I saw Max Normal play before he became 1/2 of Die Antwoord as Ninja. Observatory is the kind of boozy intellectual hood where linguistics profs will quote William Butler Yeats in the same breath as Zakes Mda or Nadine Gordimer. ‘Obs’, as the locals call it, is one of my global happy places.
The last time I visited Cape Town I stayed at Mountain View Spa and Resort. A B&B style guest house located in Sea Point, the hosts were gracious and the location close to Clifton, Camps Bay and the 2010 World Cup Soccer Stadium.
As if your travel bucket list wasn’t long enough, right? Well here’s another city to add to your must-visit tally. Do me a favour, move it up the ranks. The Mother City is waiting and she makes for a perfect host.
Here’s what Girl About Town PR gal Carey Townsend says about her home city:
There really is something for everyone in this city. From beautiful outdoor activities for nature lovers to an incredible food scene and dynamic design industry.
Here favourite hood?
Sea Point. I live and work in Sea Point and love the everything about the neighbourhood. I walk along the promenade on my way to walk and absolutely love looking down at the glittering swimming pools and rugged coastline. There are also lots of great parks for my little one.
How would you describe Cape Town’s vibe?
Cool, calm and relaxed yet upbeat and energizing at the same time!
Have you been to Cape Town? Where were your favourite parts? What did you do while you were there? Share in the comment section below.
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