Whew…that was one LOOOONNNGG flight home. I think the longest flight on record for me. I left at 12:30am on Friday (Cape Town time) and pulled into my driveway at 11:45pm Friday (California time). It’s now Sunday and I’m still a little shaky trying to sort out my sleeping readjustment. I seriously don’t know if I could have done that if I was older than 65. That said…would I do it again? ABSOFRIKINLUTLY!
Despite its political and social struggles, Cape Town is a beautiful city. It seems so isolated way down on that southwestern tip of the African continent but that could also be to its benefit. Perhaps that isolation has allowed it to create and develop a strong identity of its own. It so beautiful and has so much in terms of culture, art, food, nature that is ideal for tourism. At the same time, I’d be so afraid that too much tourism would spoil it. There was so much I encountered in terms of food quality, design, environmentalism that made Northern California look like a hack. I’d like to spend more time interacting with locals to find out what day-to-day work/life is like. As a tourist, it’s a great destination to satisfy a wide variety of interests.
Here are some of my tips and suggestions.
Where to stay:
There are many places to stay from the tourist filled and full services hotels on the V&A Waterfront, to quirky boutique hotels and backpacker hotels on Long Street. Since my flight got in fairly late, the first night we stayed at the V&A Hotel on the waterfront. It was a lovely way to wake up and start with their buffet breakfast with a view of the harbor. For the remainder of our week we stayed at a residence apartment/hotel called the Rockwell. I liked it because it was far enough away from high tourist areas but close enough to walk to everything. Also, because one doesn’t usually want to walk alone at night, it’s across the street from many restaurants and also has a lounge in the lobby.
What to do:
Most tourist websites will tell you the usual and they are correct; Robben Island, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, Cape Point (and surrounding area), and District Six Museum. However, to add to this list, check out; Truth Coffee and Prestwich Memorial; Noordhoek Farm Village and tea at the Mount Nelson Hotel.
Where to shop. Everywhere…seriously. Especially around Cape Quarter, city Center (Long street, Green Market Square, and streets in the little villages around cape point)
Transportaiton: Taxis can be a bit tricky. There are a lot of unregistered cabs that you DO NOT want to get into. Try to find the big name taxi services and make sure they start the meter. Don’t let them tell you that there is a “minimum”. Sure, even a meter has a minimum but if they don’t set it, god knows what the final fee will be. We jumped out of several cabs because of this. To avoid this, call a taxi service directly (UniCab 021 486-1600) that way your name and destination should show up on their display inside the taxi and more likely that the driver will be obligated to set the meter. We also had a private driver set up via our accommodations representative at Cape Town Life. She set us up with a van service that picked us up at the airport, delivered us back to the airport and also filled in for last minute transportation needs we had around town. I found it very reasonable. The drivers were reachable via text and very responsive.
For our tour of cape point or other tours in and around Cape Town, we hired Derek Hinrichsen via Tours by Locals. You can also find him directly at Great Cape Tours and Travel. We could not have found a better guide to show us Cape Point and the surrounding area. Plus, once he was able to figure out the things that excited us, he could tailor our tour and make alternate suggestions on things to see.
From San Francisco, if I do this trip again, I think I’ll take advantage of the flight option that has me spend an overnight in Amsterdam. It helps break up the long hours confined to a small airplane seat.
If you are a shopper, don’t over pack. Wear what you buy. Leave your fancy shoes at home. Everyone really does wear flip-flops. Wear sunscreen.
Although I managed to get in a lot during 6 days (even with a headcold), next time around I think I’d like to be there at least 2-3 weeks so I can also spend some time along the Atlantic shoreline, False Bay and also take some time inland on Safari. However, if someone who had only a week to visit asked me if it was worth the distance, I would say, “Yes, yes it is.”
Now, what will my next adventure be?