This one goes out especially for our friends Lisa, Wolfe and Christa — and all those who are planning to visit Cape Town in the not too distant future. Cape Town has it all: mountains, water, good food, stong music scene, and a dash of geeky-hip-coolness, including a gamer community!! Feels quite a bit like Seattle, actually! Here’s a slice of what we did in Cape Town.
First, a bunch of hiking, which Aaron can claim 100% credit for! Wolfe and Christa, we want to hear how you do all three in one day.
We started with Signal Hill – this one even Anner admits is an easy hike…um a walk really, but let’s call it a hike so it sounds better. Our AirBnB in Tamboerskloof was close enough that we could hike our way up there directly, but you can also take the red tour bus, a car or Uber to the top.
Next up: Lion’s Head where the only way to the top is to hoof it.
The summit held almost all young people sitting up there drinking, smoking and generally just lazing around. That’s what we saw once we finished catching our breath, anyway.
Finally, the infamous Table Mountain!
As well as going hiking, Capetonians love to have fun and maybe that’s why we got to play games for the first time since Seattle! Well, play games other than the ones we brought with us, anyway. It started when we happened upon The Big Box – a brand new game store and cafe! Emilie, one of the owners, was quick to show us around. Sure a certain amount of their games are in French, as that’s where she and her husband bring them in from, but we knew enough to get by just fine. Having made gamer friends earlier at Ferdinando’s (below) we got invited to a game night at The Big Box and had a wonderful time. That parlayed into another game night with new friends Nolene and David who just happened to live about three block from us! How perfect is that? Anner even won a game (rare event) and Aaron experienced a resounding loss during another (even more rare). Put those on the spreadsheet because Anner wants to improve her standings. We also went to a trivia night twice where our motto became, “We’re not last! We’re not last!” (That’s at the Beer House on Long St. on Tuesdays at 7:30 if you’re interested).
Cape Town itself is nice, but with all the cars zipping to places so nearby, we couldn’t resist a road trip! Renting a car went smoothly and I’m happy to say that even navigating on the left side of the road Aaron was a pro! Day One we went to the Stellenbosch wine lands, where even Aaron had a good time. We ate gourmet food, saw art, walked in nature, watched a “duck parade” – seriously, check it out in our video – and squeezed in a wine tasting. With literally over 200!!! wineries in the valley, we hope to go see a few more when we head back to Cape Town pre-Mongolia.
Day Two of our road trip took us to the Cape of Good Hope which has some weird title like ‘the most southwesterly place in western South Africa’. It’s where the Indian and Atlantic meet. One word: Crash!
Leaving the Cape, we were off to Boulders Beach to see the African Penguins. PENGUINS!!! SQUEAL! I was happy to add to the list of penguins I’ve seen and Aaron finally got to start his own penguin list. They are every bit as cute (and dumb) as they look on TV. While I absolutely love March of the Penguins, I am certain they are not thinking nearly as much as Morgan Freeman made it sound like.
Back in the city, we wined and dined in a lot of places in Cape Town. These are our Two Timers Club members – the places we went to twice because once wasn’t enough!
We **loved** Ferdinando’s! It’s a pizza place with a crazy spitfire of an artist for a manager/owner/host. Trust me, you want to meet her! The flat crust pizza was yummy and we liked it because we made friends there and everyone talks to one another, not just sitting at separate tables.
We were having dinner here when the news broke about the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality. A young man walked in, immediately identified us as Americans and said, “Happy Pride – congratulations!” I was confused. I knew it was pride week back home, but couldn’t make the connection. Then all he had to say was, “Supreme Court” and we knew exactly what he was talking about! We clinked glasses all around – SO happy to hear the news. Why? Because being married is fun! Our trip and this blog are living proof.
Melissa’s on Kloof was a GREAT spot for a croissant, a nice lunch or to pick up some deliciousness to go. We had lunch there at least three times and picked up various dessert/breakfast goodies for home eating. Oh, and their homemade strawberry jam is awesome!
We also enjoyed the Royale Eatery on Long Street. Great burgers (meat and veggie), salads, milkshakes and boozy shakes and big wedgy fries. Nom. Nom. Gulp.
And for the first time in a loooong time we had Thai food! Yindee’s was the classy kind of thai place with linen napkins and servers with long aprons. This might be less of a big deal for friends coming straight from Seattle, but for us, after months of food with no real spice to speak of, it was heaven!!
We don’t normally go to a lot of museums, but decided to take a chance on the Jewish Museum (it was across the street from The Big Box game store). Turns out — oodles of Jews making Cape Town home. Now you know! Gotta say, it was really good. Big enough that you get your money’s worth (R50, ~$4), but small enough that you aren’t totally exhausted when it’s finished.
There are jewelry stores EVERYWHERE! First of all, everyone wants to sell you Tanzanite – which is only mined in Tanzania. It’s beautiful and Anner has wanted a Tanzanite piece for a long time, but her personal jeweler warns her that it’s one of the softest stones and she’ll break it before she even gets a chance to wear it. *sigh* So no Tanzanite for us! Diamonds are also big business. Turns out no diamonds for us either. (Anner is making a push for an ostrich egg pendant – no decision yet on that one.)
We went to a couple of big jewelry stores where they give tours. This, my friends, is where mass-market jewelry comes from. Gotta say, not nearly as fun or interesting as art jewelry pieces. This was a sobering tour to say the least. (Why this would motivate anyone to buy is beyond us!)
If that wasn’t enough, the guy giving the tour literally had his fly open with his shirt sticking out and didn’t know what he was talking about. We nodded politely while Aaron bit his tongue during the guy’s monologue. When we reached the show room the one piece that sort of interested us turned out to be costume jewelry, a la Claire’s – the store in the mall where tweeners shop.
And now for a few random shots:
A few little extra (but important) notes:
In South Africa they have a massive power-grid problem. Put simply, there’s not enough energy to go around; apparently due to complete mis-management and a lack of maintenance. They are limping along by using “Load Shedding” or rolling blackouts to distribute the energy throughout the country. The good thing is that you know before hand if it’s going to happen (if you check the website). There’s even an app to warn you. Most businesses carry on in the dark – which is weird, but seems to work even though sometimes you can’t use your credit card until the lights come back on. Nothing you can’t handle. Just be mentally prepared for the lights to go out and maybe bring a headlamp or small flashlight.
We shoud also warn you about Long Street. It’s the super touristy part of town and hard to avoid completely, but this is also home of some serious olympic style panhandling. Like they put hands on you in a kind of threatening way sort of panhandling. You can avoid most of it by just walking along one of the parallel streets. Also – just don’t bring or wear anything remotely valuable. Anner has stowed her fake wedding ring – no need to get mugged over cubic ziconia. Keep phones out of sight. Use zippered pockets. You know the drill so just do it. Oh, and we took to ‘walking with a purpose’ and avoiding eye contact, which helped quite a bit, too!
Along the same lines, locals never ever let us walk after sunset even though we felt like we’d probably be okay. We were once driven home about three blocks. The good news about this is that people are more than willing to give rides and there’s Uber.
Uber cars are very popular, reputable, and affordable in South Africa (unlike the other taxi services) – especially Cape Town. It’s incredibly quick and easy. You probably already have the app anyway. So, if you can, bring your smart phone with a plan that will work in SA or uses wifi – there’s wifi all over – and you’ll be good to go.
We hope you all have as much fun as we did. I think there are oodles of other amazing places to eat, drink and shop that are very affordable by US standards, but we avoided because of our backpacker budget. And backpacker space limitations for souvenirs!
Have a great time and let us know what you think!