We (heart) Cape Town

Thursday 28 April 2011

Like I had previously mentioned, before moving to Africa, Joe and I had no plans nor desire to travel to South Africa.  SA has a pretty bad rap and I suppose rightly so.  If you look at the numbers, the crime rate is huge.  From what I gather, Johannesburg is a pretty rough city and even some locals cautioned us about going there (we didn’t) because of the violent crime.  One of our hosts in Cape Town explained that there is still quite a bit of crime but it is mostly gang-related and seems to stay in certain areas.  However, even in the nicest of areas, you do get a feeling that all is not perfect as houses are laced with razor wire and signs of armed response are seen on every gate.
Before I scare you, and perhaps Joe and I are a bit more immune to this sort of stuff now, we had absolutely no problems in Cape Town and we felt perfectly safe at all times.  Our hotel was on the edge of the city centre and we were able to walk short distances at night without a worry.  We were never hassled by anyone nor did we ever feel uneasy about where we were.
After having such a great experience at Kapama Karula, we both wondered how Cape Town and our next accommodation would measure up.  Often times when travelling, Joe and I try to book into smaller, boutique style hotels as they always seem more personal and are often just as nice, if not nicer, than many of the large scale hotels.  Cape Town is plum full of these and the decision was difficult but I ended up with “Rouge on Rose” which is owned and managed by a mother-son team, Ursula and Michel.  I think they may have been English (they didn’t have the South African accent) but Ursula did mention that they’ve been in SA for over 20 years.
Our room at the 'Rouge on Rose' hotel.
This hotel was by far, one of the best we’ve stayed in and mostly due to Ursula and Michel.  They were the perfect hosts and from the moment we entered, we felt like family.  We were greeted with a bottle of champagne in our room (honeymooners!) and Michel right away recommended a German pub in the basement of a church for a casual bite to eat on our first night.  Joe was in love!  They didn’t hesitate to do whatever we wanted or needed from reserving us a table for dinner to renting us a car to personally drawing up maps for us.  I cannot speak enough about them or their hotel but it certainly was fabulous!

We always start with a "Hop On, Hop Off" bus tour to get acquainted with the city.

We took a cable car up to Table Mountain to check out the views of the city.  It was pretty high and the trips up and down were a bit scary but the views were extraordinary!

Camps Bay below where you can find the who's who of Cape Town having cocktails on the beach.

Clouds spilling over the edge of Table Mountain.
There were so many things to do.  We were there 8 days but could have easily spent more time and not have been bored.  We dedicated one full day to learning where we started off at the Slave Lodge which is one of the oldest buildings in town.  It was originally owned by a Dutch trading company when they first settled in SA and was used as a house of the slaves they brought in from the East.  I found it really interesting that the Dutch did not want to use the locals as slaves as they felt it might create hostility (duh) so they brought slaves in from India, Malaysia, and others.  The museum began with the story of slavery in South Africa and then ended with an exhibit of Nelson Mandella’s life.
From there, we caught the ferry to Robben Island where Nelson Mandella and countless other political prisoners were kept during the apartheid era.
Robben Island Prison

                                      Nelson Mandella spent 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment in this cell.

This tour was led by an ex-political prisoner of Robben Island and he made it very clear that while the conditions in prison were far from ideal, they wanted a story of hope to come through.  They called the prison ‘The University” as they figured this was the time to educate themselves and each other.

Upon his release in February 1990, Nelson Mandella addressed 50 000 South Africans from city hall (the one with the tower.)

History is made.  Apartheid is abolished and Mandella becomes president in 1994.  His path is so inspiring.
Aside from learning, shopping and eating, we did rent a car and venture out of the city which is a must.  We did spend a day out in wine country although, we never did actually stop in at any of the wineries.  (Lame, I know!)  We were just enjoying our drives through Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl.
                                                                                      Wine Country

We stopped at a berry farm for lunch just outside of Stellenbosch.

We also went out to Cape Point but unfortunately it was cloudy, only on the point so we didn’t get to see a whole lot.  We went to Boulder’s Beach to check out some penguins and got to see a lot of baboon’s and ostriches.  The highlight had to have been Chapman’s Peak Drive which loops back around to Hout Bay and Cape Town.  The road was actually carved out of the mountain.  I spent the time ooing and awwing and Joe was cursing as he was driving the winding road and it was hard for him to catch all the views.  Luckily there were several pullouts and we were able to take in some of the best views we’ve ever seen.

Just off Chapman's Peak Drive with Hout Bay in the background.

Driving 'in' the mountain.

We loved every minute of the trip and getting on the plane at the end of it all was a bit of a struggle for both of us.  I’m quite sure if either one of us would have turned to the other and said “Let’s not go” we’d have run off that plane quicker than you can imagine.  Cape Town is fantastic and while it has it’s problems we found the people wonderfully nice, the food delicious, and it’s so full of culture and things to do.  I highly recommend a trip, after your safari of course!

Vancouver was the furthest distance on the sign. We were over 10 000 km closer to the South Pole than we were to the West Coast of Canada!

Looking back on one of the beaches in Cape Town.

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