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We love Cape Town! As the first European port in Africa dating back to 1682, Cape Town’s historic mash-up of cultures still makes it one of the most diverse and exciting cities. With 3.5 million people you would think this peninsula would feel crowded but with jagged coast on all sides and mountains pouring down the center, it has all the excitement of a metropolis plus the laid-back vibe of the beach. Though we could have stayed here for weeks, here’s what we packed in during our amazing five days on the Cape.
The Dutch were the first to arrive to the Cape and their architectural sensibilities had the greatest impact on the city’s look. This grand balconied building is one of many that line the party-strip of Long Street. We checked into a basic little hotel for a night here and our walls were shaking from the bass pumping in every building around us (including the seemingly quaint pub directly below). This may have been he first time, we’ve ever felt old in our lives.
To get a good night sleep and soak up the best of the city and sea, we stayed a night at Cape Grace on the Victoria & Albert Waterfront (more on this fab hotel later). We could watch the boats come into port, enjoy views to Table Mountain, stroll the inner-harbor, and be downtown in a fifteen minute walk…it couldn’t have been better.
If Cape Town is one the most beautifully situated cities in world, its most striking feature has got to be Table Mountain. This flat-top, 260-million-year old mountain–that’s more than six times the age of any peak in the Himalayas–is visible from anywhere in town and begs to be explored. We took the cable car up and spent four hours strolling the craggy surface and soaking up the 360-degree views from downtown to the Cape of Good Hope. This detail shot gives a closeup of its unique landscape.
The neighborhood of Woodstock is like the Brooklyn of Cape Town and fun any day of the week for vintage finds and trendy cafes–but Sunday, the town becomes a foodie fantasy. Nearly 100 food stalls set up in the Old Biscuit Mill serving everything from paella to ostrich burgers to dutch pancakes to South African wine spritzers. Gathering around the warehouse’s candlelit farmhouse tables for nibbles then heading outside to the funky hay bales and AstroTurf seating areas is possibly the greatest way to spend a Sunday.
Taking in all the shopping recommendations I could and hoofing it from each trendy neighborhood to the next, I came across Africa Nova. The beadwork, textiles, sculpture, and furniture was all locally made but with a contemporary kick.
Like all great cities, Cape Town has fantastic food but they do gourmet African like none other. Under the heavy shadow of white rule until the 1990s, this genre of food was all but taboo until a mixed race couple took a risk and brought the Africa Cafe out from their underground kitchen to the Cape Quarter neighborhood. They take the finest recipes from nearly a dozen different countries around the continent and serve a bit from each in bountiful tapas style. A night here is an African cultural and culinary crash course.
We were quickly falling in love with South Africa but to fully understand it, we had to get a grasp on its dark apartheid past. We had already had an eye-opening visit to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg but to further our education we went to the ex-political prison, Robben’s Island. This is where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his life, serving hard time for sabotage and secretly writing his memoir A Long Walk to Freedom.
In preparation for our two-week road trip around the South African coast, we took a one-day drive out of the city and around the Cape Peninsula. As a Californian it’s hard for me to say this, but with charming towns, lighthouse lookouts, dramatic beaches, and rugged coast, this route rivals the Pacific Coast Highway.
But one thing, I must say the Cape Peninsula has up on the PCH is penguins! Boulders beach is home to a colony of hundreds of these waddling cuties and you can get within a couple feet of them!
If you ever make it as far as Cape Town you have to go the 41 miles further to get to the legendary Cape of Good Hope. Feeling the wind blow off southwestern point in Africa, watching the Indian and Atlantic oceans collide, and thinking about the centuries of sailors braving the seas to get here gave us chills.
There is a lot to love about the Cape Town and the peninsula, which part was your favorite?
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12. A list of everything we packed