Monday, May 20, 2013

Guide to Cape Town City

Cape Town is simply one of the coolest cities - if not the coolest - I've ever visited.  It is certainly the prettiest. Imagine yourself enveloped by sharply jutting, cragged mountains spilling into rugged beautiful beaches on one side and colorful Dutch colonial architecture on the other, all within minutes of some of the world's best wineries.  Throw in a rich melange of cultures from around the world, a fascinating history of transformation, struggle, and change reaching back to the 1600s, and an interesting, developing food scene, and you have yourself one of the world's premier travel destinations.

How to get there:  You can catch one of multiple flights from Jo'burg.  We opted to check out Cape Town after our trip to Livingstone, Zambia.  Another option is to fly directly into Cape Town through London or Amsterdam.  

Where to Stay:  Newmark Hotels have two beautiful properties in the Waterfront area.  We stayed at the Queen Victoria our first night and The Dock House the second night.  Both properties are within easy reach to the harbor, restaurants and sightseeing.  

The Queen Victoria is an ideal spot for the upscale business traveler.  You'll enjoy dramatic views of Table Mountain and city center.  The hotel features 35 rooms and the stylish, global cuisine restaurant, Dash.  The beds are comfortable and the bathroom even has a heated towel rack.
Frozen Tomato Basil Amuse at Dash
The Awesome Chefs of Dash - Jamie Lee Dempster and Craig Ferguson
The Dock House (my favorite of the two) is a cozy historic hotel that offers relaxation in the quaint and charming six room property.  Before Cape Town's harbor shores were expanded, water came to the edge of this property, which is elevated from the city below and surrounded by a tall brick wall.  As the name implies, the grounds served as a dock house offering guidance to ships in the night.
The Dock House makes you feel like home... like you're a guest at a friend's place.  I loved the colonial feel and beautiful chandeliers (not to mention a welcome bottle of champagne!).  The Dock House is a special place with smiling faces and experienced, professional service.  I highly recommend a stay.  
Brunch at The Dock House is delicious with beautiful fruit, fresh squeezed OJ mimosas, and yummy Eggs Benedict.  
Activities:  During our time in Cape Town, we started our day meeting with the city expert, Clive De Bruyne, from the Cape Town Tour Guide Co.  By chance, a friend of ours in the States had worked with Clive on public policy issues, and Clive's guidance proved indispensable (he even invited us to a South African braai at his home, but unfortunately we flew out the day before it was to occur).  Clive gave us a quick tour of the city during our all-too-short time and imparted some really cool historical anecdotes.  For example, the earliest Dutch settlers theorized that the thick fog that constantly rolls on and off Table Mountains was an intense smoke-off between old Captain Van Hunks (who by legend lived in the shadows of Table Mountain) and a dark, mysterious visitor.  After a day of constant smoking, the visitor became ill.  When he leaned over, his hat fell off, revealing him as the Devil himself.  When the fog rolls in, it is rumored that Van Hunks and the Devil are back at it, going puff for puff.

Cool service where they'll actually drive your car home for you if you're too drunk to drive.
The first day in Cape Town, Clive recommended jumping on the CitySightseeing bus to hop on and off all around town.  This proved a great way to get the lay of the land with stops near Green Market Square, the beaches, Table Mountain and spots throughout the city.  
We wandered through the vibrant Bo-Kaap neighborhood, renowned for its Cape Malay immigrant population and their exquisite cuisine (think Indian with less spice).  The next day we drove our rental car down to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope, the southernmost point of South Africa.  
On the way out to wine country, we stopped off to see the penguins at Boulders Beach.  (While they were cute, not sure it was really worth seeing them from a distance on the beach.)  After that we headed to the beautiful Constantia area for wine tasting.  

Cape Town is a place where Europe collides with Africa, where Cecil Rhodes built his diamond empire, the home of Desmond Tutu and the struggle against apartheid. With such a thick history, it is not without its problems. For example, crime and unemployment are high. We personally suffered a clever scam in which an organized syndicate inserted a device into an ATM machine that allowed them to make off with $1000 in just a few short minutes (be very careful around ATMs here!). But these issues are worth suffering to experience a place where north meets south and east meets west so starkly, where throngs of immigrants pour in daily from the poorest regions of Africa in pursuit of better lives, where the marks of apartheid are being shed, where energy reverberates, and where beauty presents itself on every street, beach and mountain.


Clive De Bruyne said...

Lovely write-up, thank you Lauren!

Lauren DeSantis said...

Thanks Clive! Hope to see you again soon!