African Beauty

Location: Cape Town, South Africa

Introduction:

It’s hard to imagine a better place than Cape Town to start off our first visit to Africa. This city and the surrounding area are simply spectacular. The combination of iconic mountains and stunning beaches make for unparalleled beauty. There are lots of interesting neighborhoods, restaurants, cafes, bars and shops. It was nice to be in an English speaking country once again. However, the accents are so different, that we often had trouble understanding what people said and vice versa. On the downside, we were approached by people begging more frequently than anywhere else on our trip thus far and we received more warnings than anywhere else to take extra precautions regarding our safety, which always kept us on our guard. Despite these concerns, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit.

Sights Visited:

We were given a tip to start out with a visit to Table Mountain. It was great advice, as we had no idea that the views from the backside would be so astonishing. While we could have hiked up, we took the easy way out with the cable car and did some hiking on top of the mountain.
We strolled through Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and had fun learning about the unique indigenous plants of the area, such as Proteas.
We took a tour to Robben Island to see where some of South Africa’s political prisoners were held during the apartheid era. Former inmates conduct the tours. We learned a lot about the hardships faced by the prisoners held there and the history of their struggle to overcome apartheid. It was an educational and emotional experience that made us feel fortunate that we have the freedoms that we enjoy.
The 2014 African Nations Football Championship was being held in Cape Town while we were there. So, we bought tickets to the finals featuring Ghana vs. Libya. Ghana is the country that has knocked the USA out of the last 2 World Cups and the 1st team the USA will play in the upcoming 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Libya beat them in a shoot-out 4-3 to win their 1st championship ever. We also got to see Nigeria beat Zimbabwe 1-0 in the consolation match for 3rd place.

Accommodations:

We drained our Starwood Account and spent 5 nights at the impressive Westin Hotel, which was conveniently located near the waterfront. They had a nice gym on the top floor with a great view.
When our points ran out at the Westin, we moved into Holiday Inn Express, which was nice. It lacked a gym but provided a decent breakfast.
We returned to Cape Town to spend the last 3 nights of our visit to South Africa at Alta Bay guesthouse, which was located at the base of Table Mountain. It was a nice quiet oasis with a/c and fair wifi.

Food And Drink

We benefitted from very favorable foreign exchange rates and it was most noticeable when it came to dining out. In general, prices were about half of what we’d pay for comparable meals back home. We enjoyed our first seafood meals at The Greek Fisherman restaurant in the touristy V & A Waterfront.  We had some great drinks and food at Asoka Restaurant in the less touristy Kloof Street area. We returned to the V & A Waterfront for some classic South African Chenin Blanc and an Italian fix starting off with some fresh salad at Meloncono. We took advantage of our patio at Alta Bay to enjoy a smorgasbord of foods from the local supermarket. The next day we walked to Kloof St. for lunch at Manno.

Transportation System:

We used a combination of Buses, Taxis and Hotel Shuttle services to get around. While just about every major city we’ve visited offers a Hop-on/Hop-off Bus Tour, this is the 1st time we took advantage of it and we’re glad we did, as the 2 routes we took were both very scenic and informative.

Shout Out:

We’re sending a shout out to City Sightseeing Cape Town for their Hop-on – Hop-off bus service.  The value for the 2-day pass that they offer was fantastic. At just over $20 US, we were allowed to use 2 different extensive bus routes and take an additional sunset tour, canal tour and wine region tour.

For Your Amusement:

While staying at the Westin, we took advantage of the club lounge on the top floor, with great views of the city, where we had breakfast in the morning and cocktails in the evening. The club room then turns into a restaurant. We decided to stay on for dinner one evening and were turned away due to our attire, which we found rather amusing.
A few years ago, our good friend Ann Taylor turned us onto a universal power adapter that has worked everywhere that we’ve ever traveled to until South Africa where we had to buy an adapter for our adapter.
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Highlights: Table Mountain, Robben Island and the incredible views all around the city.

Next Up: We’re heading out to explore South Africa’s wine regions starting in Stellenbosch.

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