Cape Town & The Wine Routes

See the whole trip to South Africa

Day 07 – 10/3 Arrive Cape Town – 12 noon
Transfer from Railway Station to hotel
Check-in Queen Victoria Hotel booked through Expedia

Cape Town – What a fantastic place! We spent five full days here and felt we still had places to see. It’s a wonderful, vibrant melange of cultures full of hope and excitement – like the rest of South Africa. This is a windy hot city! lovely warm winds regularly gust up to 40 knots and give the whole area a fresh smell and clarity of vision that is very special. Make sure to put your suntan lotion on!

Table Mountain from Waterfront

The Waterfront area in the refurbished docks is alive with bars, restaurants, shops and fast food joints. It has a great buzz combined with fantastic views of Table Mountain and the marinas. It is a secure area so can be considered safe any time of the day or night. Don’t expect fine-dining in the Waterfront, it’s more what you’d expect to get in a big British town plus a ‘holiday chic’ appeal. Warning: the fish will be massively over cooked and covered in sickly sweet sauces. I’m sure Cape Town has better food to offer but we didn’t find it or particularly look for it on this occasion. What is worth trying is Cape Malay food. The dutch brought slaves from Malaysia to staff there provisioning port – Cape Town – in the 17th Century and they brought their culinary skills with them. Cape Malay food is mild curry often served with banana.

The best of the Waterfront restaurants is Bakara – serving very nice Asian Indian sushi fusion – situated on the first floor of the mall with great views of the harbour. Avoid Seruga – we were told it was really good but we were very disappointed.

Shopping at the Waterfront is very good with shops from Bond Street, Regent Street and Oxford Street present. There’s even a Hamleys! A handful of tourist shops to buy some memorabilia are there too. A better place to go is the market on the harbour of Hout Bay (see below). We thought the most fascinating item was decorated ostrich eggs.

The Waterfront is a completely rejuvenated section of the old port which was instigated after the new nearby container port was created. It still is an active port and well worth a quick boat tour.

If you are young at heart, like loud clubby music and not too bothered about fine cuisine go to the Grand Cafe & Beach for an excellent beach vibe. It’s full of young wealthy local professionals and could be in Ibiza or Majorca.

Day 08 – 11/3
Hop on hop off bus tour.
Lunch at the Codfather in Camp Bay

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City Sight Seeing Map

We decided to explore the city and local area and by far the best way of doing this is buying tickets for a hop-on hop-off tourist bus service.

We chose the City Sight Seeing company, you can buy tickets for the short tour for 160 rand each from a kiosk in the Waterfront or, no doubt, your hotel would oblige.

It takes you through the downtown area which is a standard city-scape but there are some interesting remnants of architecture still left. 2016-03-11 09.50.35 copyOn and upwards to the cable car base station for Table Top Mountain. We hopped off for a quick look round (see below) and then hopped on again. When you buy your bus ticket you are given a set of disposable head phones that you plug in next to your seat and you can even choose your language to hear about the sights on the tour! Great idea.

Next stop Camps Bay. A beautiful small town with a lovely – but windy! – beach. It could have been the South of France. We’d heard about a restaurant called the Codfather so decided to eat lunch there. It’s just off the main road on the first floor and serves excellent fish specialising in lobster and oysters with plenty of other fish, shellfish and sushi available. It wasn’t expensive – nothing really is in South Africa and I would give it 4 out of 5. I had prawns and while very tasty they were over cooked. The wine and oysters were very good though.

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After a lazy lunch we got back on one of the buses and headed back to our hotel for a snooze and dinner in the evening.

Day 09 – 12/3 – Cape Winelands Tour

With personal tour guide 09:00 – 17:00

“The full day Cape Winelands Tour consist of visits to 3 different wine estates in the Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek valley. Cheese and wine, chocolate and wine, olive oil tasting… this region has it all. You’ll go on a driving tour of historic towns and here it is possible to do a stop for a walk and shop around. You can visit Oom Samie’s shop, the town centre, the Stellenbosch University campus, town museum and more!”

We decided to hire a personal tour guide to show us around the local cape region, namely the winelands and peninsular. We booked it back in the UK and it cost about £150 per day for a professional tour guide driving us around and taking us to the various places of interest. I think this was the best way of exploring as if we had our own car we wouldn’t have known where to go, and if we’d taken a big bus it would have been too impersonal. In fact, as we were going to stay in Paarl later in the holiday, we didn’t go to Stellenbosch or Franshhoek towns. Instead we concentrated more on the vineyards, or wine farms as they are called in SA.

The first stop was the allegedly oldest wine farm in the Cape where you can taste 5 or 6 wines. You only get a sip or two but that’s enough especially at 10am! It’s quite well done with someone telling you about the varietals and how they are fermented etc. Once you’ve finished you are invited to buy some. There’s no pressure and in all it was a very relaxed experience. After lunch we went to another wine farm where they did a chocolate pairing. I found this very interesting and enjoyable. Overall, I found the wines we tasted as only ok and not particularly good value for money either. Being a cynic I thought the tour guide company picked the wine farms offering the cheapest tasting not the best. They have their own Cape varietal known as Pinotage which is a full bodied red with lots of tannin plus many other well know varietals. They are becoming very good at producing Bordeaux-like blends and these were my favourite throughout the whole holiday.2016-03-12 14.50.44

For lunch the tour guide had booked us for lunch at the restaurant in the Delaire Graff estate (Graff as in diamonds) restaurant near Stellanbosch. It was excellent. In fact, all the best restaurants we dined at were in the wine farms. Great service, great views, imaginative food and spectacular wine.

Back to the hotel and down to the local sports pub to watch England beat Wales 25 – 21 in the Six Nations. A great way to end the day!

Day 10 -13/3 – Cape Peninsula Tour
09:00 – 17:00

“The full day Cape Peninsula tour starts with a drive along the Atlantic Seaboard passing along Sea Point, Camps Bay and a stop at Hout Bay Harbour. Here you can take an OPTIONAL cruise to see the Cape Fur Seals at Duiker Island and it is also a great spot for curio shopping. You then continue along Chapman’s Peak Drive towards Cape of Good Hope National Park with the first stop at the Cape of Good Hope (Most South Western tip of the African continent). From here you can take an optional 45min hike to Cape Point or drive there with your guide. Once there, you’ll experience some of the most amazing views in Cape Town. On your way back to the city you will stop at Boulders Beach Penguin Colony in Simons Town and drive through Fishhoek and Muizenberg.”

DCIM100GOPROThis was a good day trip. Hout Bay Harbour has a fairly large market with stalls selling all sorts of african memorabilia, trinkets and gifts. Wood carvings of elephants, ostrich eggs, brass dishes, scarves etc. Be prepared to barter but the prices aren’t expensive and the people selling it look like they could do with a bit more income. We didn’t take the the cruise to see the Cape Fur Seals. Instead we went straight on towards the Cape of Good Hope via Chapman’s Peak Drive which was an interesting coastal road with some good views – but not exceptional. It is regularly used for cycling and running competitions so some days it may be closed. We had a good lunch at the Cape of Good Hope Visitor Centre restaurant with fantastic views of the Cape.

The actual cape is a further 10 minute drive to a spot where you can take a half-mile walk up to the old light-house, disused now because they built it too high and the mists obscured it. The Dutch thought that the Cape of Good Hope was the southern most point of the African continent but it was subsequently discovered that it was actually 200km eastwards at a place called L’Agulhas.

On the way back to Cape Town is a working ostrich farm where they sell a wide variety of handbags, wallets and purses.

DCIM100GOPRO
The penguin colony at Boulders Beach, Simons Town.

Last stop of the day was the penguin colony at Boulders Beach. It’s all raised decking walkways over the beach and dune shrubs where a lot of penguin pairs nest and coo at each other. They are cute when walking but far more impressive when they swim.

Day 11 – 14/3 – Sightseeing

On our own today with Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated) and Table Mountain on the agenda. To do both on the same day you need to do Table Mountain in the morning and Robben Island in the afternoon. There are two outbound ferries from The Waterfront at 1pm and 3pm. Book 3pm if doing Table Mountain as you won’t make it otherwise.  They don’t do refunds or transfers.

Table Mountain

A must-do on your list, the views are fantastic.

Table Mountain is offered covered in cloud – it’s table cloth – so as soon as you see it is clear, drop everything and go up there. Booking Table Mountain online will reduce waiting from 1.5 hours to 45 mins. There is limited shelter while queuing so bring a hat and some water. The cable car is clean, modern and well maintained. It rotates as it travels so everyone gets a chance to enjoy the view. Once at the top there is a small restaurant cafe and a short walk to the light-house where there is a panoramic viewing platform. There are further walks up to maybe a mile long around the plateau and is well worth doing.

The little furry guy is a Dassie (Rock Hyrax) and is the size of a small cat. They are considered pests and should not be fed. Cute though.

Robben Island

2016-03-14 15.45.43There is a huge sense of history when you visit this island. It has become a World Heritage Site and the curators are former inmates. (We were told there were some former warders too, but didn’t see any). The curators paint the picture with their first-hand descriptions of life there as it was. When they are gone it may not be so interesting. The history is too much for this blog but it is well worth reading up. Mostly, Robben Island can be described by photos.

Day 12 – 15/3 – Sightseeing

Our last day in Cape Town before starting on to The Garden Route was spent mooching about doing a bit of shopping. But we did decide to take a helicopter trip around Cape Town and the Cape Peninsular. This is the middle length of flight taking about 1/2 an hour.

There are three companies to choose from. They fly from a helipad behind the Waterfront and small sales offices are in the front of the Waterfront. We chose the little petrol-engined machine because everyone is guaranteed a window seat. It was a real treat and well worth doing.

Review : Queen Victoria Hotel – 5/5

A really nice boutique hotel centrally located right next to the Waterfront Dock and within it’s security zone.

Set on a secluded and secure hill next to it’s sister hotel – The Dock House – The Queen Victoria shares it’s private garden and open-air pool and is an oasis from the hustle and bustle of Cape Town. The public areas are large, spacious and interesting, and the designer, contemporary and large bedrooms rooms are matched with spacious, modern, quality bathrooms. I can’t fault the reception team with James, Jennifer and Lungo going beyond the call of duty in helping with our changing travel plans and other arrangements. The breakfast is good but remember to ask for your poached eggs soft, and you bacon lightly cooked. Room service food was very good. Minor criticisms are not changing the bed linen often enough, even when ‘putting out the card’; and not enough storage. Nevertheless the whole package was impressive and well deserves 5 out of 5.

Day 13 – 16/3 Depart Cape Town – Drive
Check-out Queen Victoria Hotel
Pick up hire car from Hertz

Next : The Garden Route

Day 22 – 25/3 Arrive Cape Town
Check-in Raddison Blu Waterfront.

At the very end of our holiday we spent a final night in Cape Town prior to our long flight back to the UK.

Review : Raddison Blu Waterfront – 3/5

Well, it was ok. Can’t fault the rooms, the staff were helpful, the location was pretty good. Yet the terrace was too small, the pool seemed more like a bath for the gull population and I reckon you’d catch something if you swam in it. My Pina Colada was made of ice-cream and gave me a brain-freeze. My wife’s gin and tonic didn’t taste of gin. Come on guys how difficult is it to make proper cocktails? The whole place had that slightly tired slightly soulless corporate hotel feel that leaves you feeling a bit numb. Not my favourite but ok hence 3/5.

23 – 26/3 Last day in Cape Town

The following morning we decided to forgo the hotel breakfast, we hadn’t paid for it and didn’t reckon it would be worth the £20 each they were asking for it. So we took the short walk down the hill back to the Waterfront figuring we’d get a coffee or something there. On the way there was a fairly large tented farmers Saturday market called Oranjezicht on our left. It seemed very popular so we popped in for a look. Wow! The place was teeming with artisan stalls selling anything from pies to coffee to vegetarian indian food to you-name-it. We picked the stall making various Benedict dishes faster than you would believe. Absolutely delicious and don’t forget the Jalepenos on the side! Everyone from all walks of life, colour and creed was milling about enjoying the good food and good vibe. We even managed to buy some fresh (which means soft not tough as old boots) biltong – Beef and Kudu – delicious. A great way to end a fantastic holiday in a world-class city in a great country. We can’t wait to go back.

Next : The Garden Route

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