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krisek Cape Town - A travel report by Krys
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Cape Town,  South Africa - flag South Africa
13837 readers

krisek's travel reports

Mysterious magnetism of Cape Town.

  14 votes
Page: 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
Cape Town (Kapstadt) claims the title of one of the most dramatically situated cities in the world. The Table Mountain and meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans contribute to the city’s confidence. But there is also something else...

Table Mountain viewed from The Waterfront
Table Mountain viewed from The Waterfront
It has never been on my destinations’ map. And there was never a particular reason for that. I have been strangely immune to countless praises from reliable sources, including backpackers with highly compatible sense and taste for travel and adventure with mine. Even my great passion and enthusiasm for good quality wine could not twist my arm and make me travel to Cape Town. There is seriously no explanation.

Then, one night something came over me and I bought a ticket for a weekend visit. From London, South Africa is one of the most convenient weekend destinations located farther than 10 hours in flight. Airlines are responsible. The flights are timed to leave both London and Cape Town in the evenings for the overnight travel. This way, one leaves London on Friday after work to wake up in Cape Town on Saturday morning. The return flight departs on Sunday night and lands in London early enough on Monday to make it home, shower and be in the office by 09:30 a.m.

My plan for South Africa’s parliamentary capital was not very ambitious. My objective was to relax and bathe in the February sun. I secretly kept my hopes high for a nice ostrich steak, fabulous red wine from the area and interesting, hopping nightlife. They did not have to occur in this particular order and I would not mind if they happened all at once, or better, in several doses.

Many raving reports from Cape Town by travellers met en route in Africa and my South African colleagues from the office kept flashing in my mind as soon as I closed my eyes on the flight from London. I so did not want to be disappointed, and yet I was thrilled that I finally made up my mind to arrive to my own opinion about this famous destination. Whatever was going to happen, it was going to be truly exciting, and most definitely a weekend to remember.

I landed on time, made a quick transfer to where I was going to stay, and immediately embarked on the Cape Town discovery and exploration.

Favourite spots:
City Bowl, central Cape Town, on approach from The Waterfront
City Bowl, central Cape Town, on approach from The Waterfront
The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, referred to as simply The Waterfront, was the greatest spot to sit in a cafe or a restaurant and admire white clouds sliding slowly down from the Table Mountains like magic flying carpets, made of soft cotton. The genius nature made the sight incredible. The flat layers of clouds travelled majestically and systematically as if they were computer-generated and programmed to throw gazers in awe. With their mouth opened! The Table Mountain itself stood proud with its head held high, over a kilometre above the sea level. One knows it the mountain is there for real, and that it is so close, yet it manages to strike a pose as if it was a mirage, looming in a distance, a creation of one’s imagination. Particularly when the air is hot, shivering ever slightly.

The Waterfront has it all. Shops scattered around cafes, bars, restaurants, clubs, along the fully operational quays, sell artifacts from the entire African continent. Masks are very popular.

What's really great:
Local performer at The Waterfront
Local performer at The Waterfront
Cape Town has it all. It is a whole package. Its vibrant population, a melting pot and home for many African nationalities and countless ethnic groups, rivals the natural and spectacular location of the city. Mecca for the anthropologists. The hills and mountains covered with surprising vegetation are a dream-come-true and a paradise for botanists. The many beaches with powder like white sand, hidden in bays amongst the rocks are perfect escapes from the hassle and bustle of the town, real Eden for the tanning addicts. Interestingly, each beach has its unwritten rules and hidden purpose. There is one for families, one for the muscle show-off and exclusively for the clinically certified narcissists, there is one serving as a meat-market for those bound by love of the different kind, and there is even one as a dining table for the great white sharks. The trick is that nothing is pretentious in Cape Town. Things here come naturally.

In the City Bowl
In the City Bowl
Sights seem unimportant in this part of the world. The city is not that heavy on monuments or places of particular interest. The downtown is a built up business district, a financial core of the place. Apart from an inconspicuous fort and the parliament building the buildings appear inconsequential, like in any large city on our planet. Sight seekers escape the city to do some hiking in the mountains, including the incomparable Table Mountain, or to try some exceptionally drinkable wines in the nearby and welcoming vineyards, or to hop on a boat to see the Robben Island where one of the greatest leaders ever produced by this planet in the entire history of mankind was imprisoned for over a quarter of the 20th century - Mr Nelson Mandela, the creator of the Rainbow Nation, the ultimate inspiration for freedom fighters and the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

Nevertheless, Cape Town offers a few museums, the Castle of Good Hope, Cape Flats township, and Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.

Red tower at The Waterfront
Red tower at The Waterfront
In my opinion, people who come to South Africa for holiday and stay at hotels make a big, huge mistake. Only staying at backpackers’ hostels make sense. This is where the action normally takes place, where unique friendships emerge, where invaluable experiences are exchanged between travellers, where mainly local folk work as the friendliest personnel, where inspirations for one’s next trip are born.

I stayed at Cape Town Backpackers at 81 New Church Street, just south of the centre. I booked my room online and there was never a problem. The staff were exceptionally friendly and very helpful. They could book rooms in many backpacker places in southern Africa, organise trips to the nearby attractions and recommend places to party. My room (200 rand, €16.50) was very comfortable and clean. The bathroom had a slight leaking problem, but otherwise it was adequate. The bed was fine although there wasn’t much room for clothes. It wasn’t a problem for me. I was staying one night only.

Long Street, City Bowl
Long Street, City Bowl
It’s not that Cape Town offers a multitude of places to go out, clustered conveniently around specific areas in the centre. The quality is purely about the clientele. There is no place in Africa like Cape Town, where one can meet the Congolese, Malawians, Ghanaians, Nigerians, Malians, Mozambicans, Zambians, Zimbabweans, Kenyans, Zanzibaris, Rwandans, Ugandans, Burundians, Guineans, Liberians, Ivorians, Angolans, Namibians, South Africans... plus travellers from around the world in one street, and with some luck perhaps in one bar. And everyone is friendly and eager to chat about life, the universe and everything.

Long Street is a very popular drag filled with restaurants, bars, clubs, pubs. It’s a cool street with a few examples of colonial architecture and a few very conveniently located budget accommodation options, including Long Street Backpackers. It seems that all bars are popular but, as anywhere in the world, some are more trendy than others, depending on the year or season.

The Waterfront and the cloud sliding down the Table Mountains viewed from a restaurant balcony
The Waterfront and the cloud sliding down the Table Mountains viewed from a restaurant balcony
The Waterfront appears to be the most popular hanging out area for both the visitors and the local residents. Some come here to browse the shopping malls, others just sit down at the many bars, where silky red wine, chilled lager and even wheat beer served taste wonderful and the views are spectacular. Couples just come here for a walk, to lean on the balustrades and look into the horizon, just being together, or perhaps chatting to the occasional seals visiting the shores. Local entertainers moving from one little spot tucked between pubs or souvenir shops with African masks and postcards on display to another, sing and dance to the highly captivating rhythms of the Black Continent. There is always so much joy in the alleys there that it is infatuating, addictive and stimulating in equal measure, making these moments unforgettable. This is the real secret of Cape Town. This is its magic. It is impossible not to long for those colours, smiling faces, warmheartedness and genuineness.

A Dutch-looking building at The Waterfront
A Dutch-looking building at The Waterfront
Cape Town does not disappoint about food. South African Airways in their inflight magazine endorse a few promising-looking eateries, some of which look posher than average. It makes a hard choice - lean, juicy, velvety ostrich steak or fresh and succulent shell fish?

Belthazar at the Waterfront has tables outside and the sea breeze is wonderfully balmy, the tables look lovely with their crisp linen cloths and professionally set, with wine glasses positioned like a representative squadron welcoming a royal family and shiny designer cutlery laid perfectly to a millimetre. Yet the impressive wine list makes this eatery legendary. In fact, Belthazar has the biggest wine-by-the-glass list in the world (196 wines). The restaurant won many awards of excellence, professional service, and people's favourite. Staff is attentive, careful, and exceptionally friendly. Yet the prices are not prohibitive.

I went for an ostrich steak and shiraz. Unbelievably perfect! I keep dreaming about this meal!

Other recommendations:
Colonial architecture along Long Street
Colonial architecture along Long Street
The city receives mixed reviews with regard to safety. The City Bowl, including Long Street, Green Point - the two party places and the walk between The Waterfront and them are largely considered safe, even during the hours of darkness. Every now and again someone breaks a terrible horror story about an assault between these points and the staff from the Backpacker places are well informed about the most current and accurate situation. Overall, Cape Town is chilled and if one does not look for trouble, staying in the city is trouble-free. Nevertheless there are areas in town that are generally not considered safe during the night, like most large cities in the world. The joy of staying at the backpacker places is that the local guys working there as night guards or bartenders are usually very happy to show visitors the more remote spots of the town, those less visited places for more adventurous, including less glamorous residential districts.

Published on Friday July 25th, 2008

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Thu, Sep 04 2008 - 05:54 AM rating by marianne

a joy to read, as always

Sat, Jul 26 2008 - 08:15 AM rating by eirekay

Wonderful report! Your description under Nightlife - sounds like a real crossroads!

Sat, Jul 26 2008 - 06:18 AM rating by here-i-come

This I will take heed of... when I next fly to CapeTown for a casual conference with a local... and Belthazar is sizzling in my ears for my fork on that Ostrich steak with some other red I would like to discover too! Thank you Krys, you make a weekend lasting as long as a whole week for a good memorable trip... good job!!!


Sat, Jul 26 2008 - 05:30 AM rating by mistybleu

Interesting report; great pictues.

What d'ya know, I stayed there as well for one night. It really is a popular backpacker accommodation; I suppose it is because it is so conveniently located.

Fri, Jul 25 2008 - 11:17 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Good report. I am surprised to read that you stayed in the Youth Hostel in New Church street (I also stayed there). I thought that usually you stay in hotels. It is a nice place, is not it? with the cafeteria in the patio where they organize barbecues.

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