Day 5 Today is all about Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront and Lion’s Head. But before we go anywhere, we need to stop of at the dentist as I broke a tooth.. Our landlady Vanessa recommends one in Seapoint so we decide to park up for the day here and walk to the V&A Waterfront via Greenpoint and get all the sights in on our way. However, it looked a little closer on the map so by the time we reached the Waterfront we were parched and needed to rest our feet BIG TIME! When our feet felt ready to hit the road again, we preceded to check out the Waterfront, the lovely local Crafts Market and then on to the Aquarium which was the main thing Mike want to see. We got there just in time to see divers descent in the big “predators tank” to feed the rays and turtles which was great to see! Other than that we were not so impressed (how can I be when I’ve been to the one in Atlanta which is HUGE!) so we left soon after that. Time had flown by and it was already 4pm, time to get back to the car. We had a few hours to go before sunset, so we decided to check out Clifton’s beaches (they are numbered 1,2,3 and 4) before heading to Lions Head. However, the numbers are not displayed on the road so we have to guess. After parking and on walking down to the beach, it turns out to be number 3, the gay beach…whoops! Oh well, we are here now and it’s lovely and quiet so we enjoy our books and the sun for an hour before moving on to the car park at the foot of Lions Head.
Lion’s head on it’s turn is at the foot of Table Mountain and the hike/climb up is about 2.2km. The view from the top at sunset is supposed to be breathtaking, being able to see all of Cape Town, Table Mountain, from Clifton to Hout Bay and the Twelve Apostles. We chose today to do it as it is the coolest day and it is partly cloudy, which hopefully means it will make for some dramatic sky…
Despite choosing a cool day, after only ten minutes of walking up the hill, we are both sweating like there’s no tomorrow. The trail gets steeper and steeper and at one point we can choose the recommend way or the quicker way with chains that involves actual climbing. Three guesses which trail we took..!!
When we finally get there, out of breath and HOT, it as all been so worth it! We both get snap happy until the sun is gone and we must go back down before it is too dark to see the trail. Content and shattered, we reach the car and opt for an easy take away of pizza. I see a pattern emerging: Steak, Pizza, Fish, Steak, Pizza… oh dear!
Day 6: another EPIC day planned that we’ve been looking forward to since we read about it in the Lonely Planet well before we even left and many of our cycling and wine loving friends would be envious of… Cycling around vineyards and enjoying some wine tasking with Bikes ‘n Wines!
It’s a completely ecological tour, so we meet at cafe Eco on Long Street, where we have an organic breakfast and coffee before walking to the train station whilst our tour guide Richie tells us about some points of interests. There is only three of us on the tour; Mike and I and New Yorker Dennis. On the hour train journey to Vlottenberg in the Stellenbosh wine area, we chat and find out Dennis is an actor and has just finished filming his latest project for Iglo. As Dutch (or other European) readers will know, this is the frozen fish product, otherwise known as captain Bird’s Eye in England and Dennis is in fact the new Captain Iglo of Germany and Sweden! What a great job to have with the added travel perks!
When we finally arrived in Vlottenberg, the Bike ‘n Wines office was right by the station and soon we were on our bikes and on our way. We only cycled a couple if hundred meters though, to the other side of the train track where van Ryn Brandy Distillery is. Here we learned that Johannes van Ryn (Dutch) started making Brandy with his first shop being in Strand Street. Strand is Dutch for beach and even though Strand Street is in the middle of the city now, it did actually used to be on the beach until the Dutch used their world famous engineering skills to reclaim 1.4 km of land. Brandy can only be called brandy in SA if it is distilled twice and aged for at least 3 years. They are aged in oak barrels from the finest oak trees in France. These barrels uses to be made on site and it is a real skill as the guy showed us how to make one. Van Ryn uses the Chenin Blanc grape to make brandy’s.
We got given 3 brandy’s to try, van Ryn’s 12, 15 and 20 year old brandy’s with specific chocolates to enhance the flavour. Only their 5 year old brandy is in the shops in SA, the others are only sold in the distillery or to exclusive restaurants and bars. It is not exported though, so South Africans must drink a lot of Brandy!!
Onwards and upwards to a vineyard where we can drink some real alcohol We arrive at Vredenheim not long after we leave van Ryn, as again it was a short cycle. We enjoy at local dish for lunch called Bobotie, an African beef curry with scrambled egg and rice, which is yummy, before we get to taste 5 different wines from the menu. We learn that Pinotage is a cross breed grape, made from Pinot Noir and Hermitage seeds. Planted by a professor at Stellenbosh University who forgot about it and when he left his job and subsequently his house, the plants were saved from a garden clean up by one of his students. It is now SA’s only indigenous grape and we reckon the wine tastes lovely. So we take a bottle with us.
Finally we do a proper cycle through some fields, vineyards, mostly flowing Eerste Rivier (First River, the first river discovered in the Cape by Europeans) and a few time crossing it. The last Vineyard is Spier, here we get to thieve some wine from a barrel that is only 18 months old, so we can compare the flavour from a bottled 2004 wine.
Even though the 2004 wine is clearly smoother, I still didn’t mind the young wine that is not due to be bottled for a while yet… We also talk about the benefits of screw tops and corks, what sommeliers need to know and try a disgusting smelling white wine that taste a lot better then it smells!!
Unfortunately we are now finished with the wine tasting and after a little cycle we are back at Bikes ‘n Wines. Gutted! It was great day although next time I will definitely do the longer cycle!
We return to Cape Town and do a bout of sightseeing which include the Dutch Iziko Koopmans de Wet House on Strand Street, a funny sight this ancient Dutch house in between the high buildings, the Company Gardens, which used to be vegetable patches for the Dutch East India Company (VOC), the unimpressive Castle of Good Hope and the Cape Town Town Hall in front of where Nelson Mandela held his first speech when he was released from prison in 1990. A great day which we finish with a lovely meal at Mamma Africa.
Day 7: Initially we had planned to go to Table Mountain first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds, but when setting the alarm last night we realized we needed a little sleep in and awoke at a more acceptable 8 am for a leisurely breakfast.
After having climbed Lion’s Head in the stifling heat a few days ago, it was unanimously decided to take the cable cart up this time. Just as well we did as we ended up walking almost the entire table top after not heeding advice and deviating from the path and getting lost whilst the sun was slowly frying our skin.
Luckily we were prepared with our hiking boots, suncream, plenty of water and snacks. The views were stunning from up there, nevertheless we were very grateful to see the cable cart station in the distance after a long hot 3 hours of walking and for having a return ticket in our pockets! Lapping up the shade and wind, we drove with both windows down on the motorway towards our next destination: Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. We headed straight to the restaurant as it was already 3pm and we needed some energy!
During lunch we planned a route at Kirstenbosh with maximum shade and minimum sun. We were both mostly impressed with the rock garden full of succulents and Aloes even mahouuusive Aloe Vera Trees! We also liked the Restios, which are different kinds of indigenous Cape Reed, Mike’s favourites the Agapanthus, the Yakkas and the Agaves and last but not least the Protea which is a BIG indigenous flower who we had already met at the top of Table Mountain.
Finishing with not enough time for the sunset cruise, we opt instead for the lovely cool pool back at the apartment and a good book. We definitely wanted steak for our last night as South Africa is obviously very good at it. We googled the best steak in Cape Town and everywhere we looked it was Hussar Grill Steakhouse, the one around the corner where we had already been twice…. We felt we had no choice but to go a third time. With full intentions to try something different this time, we both concluded ‘our’ steak really was the best thing on the menu and so it happened that for the third time in one week we had the same delicious steak again.
Day 8, our last day Still slightly panicked from checking the loads last night for our flight home this evening (FULL FULL FULL), we accept there is nothing more we can do and we get on with the order of the day. Packing up our stuff in the car and enjoying our last breakfast with view over Camps Bay, we then head off towards the V&A Waterfront for our 11am Robben Island boat. As we have plenty of time we go via Signal Hill, but the view is nothing compared to Lions head or Table Mountain.
We bag the nicest seats on the boat: on the top deck! On arrival to Robben Island the whole boat load of passengers are lead into buses to drive around the island, we have a nice commentator called “MP” in our bus. We were let out twice for about 5 minutes and when the tour is over we are all lead into the prison en mass where we get shown Nelson Mandela’s prison cell. It is impossible to take a picture without it being obliterated by (other) tourists and before I even get a chance to take a second rated picture instead, I am ushered away to the courtyard and into a room which used to be a dorm room for 60 inmates. Here the ex inmate is droning on about freedom which I didn’t get to taste at all since arriving on Robben Island. My favourite part of this trip were the seals swimming around the boat and jumping playfully out of the water, whilst the other tourists were still rushed and pushed along on the boat for the return journey.
We still have another 4 hours left to play with and we both want to have a last jump in the ocean (as it is too cold for a proper swim, about 11 degrees Celsius) and chill on a beach before a potentially long and stressful night at the airport.
We haven’t been to Bloubergstrand yet and the views of Table Mountain from here are supposed to be good so our choice is made. When we arrive, there are even some surf able waves, but the only surf shop is closed and the dude informs us of a different one in the next bay. Eagerly we drive there only to find a lifeguard competition going on, so no surfing for us..
We chill and enjoy the sun and ocean before it really is time to head to the airport. Our fears are confirmed, the flight is full and with 25 staff passengers above us, who are on stand by like us, there is no chance of getting on unless we manage to get a jump seat. We are advised to check out South African Airways instead. There, they look on the computer and type in some stuff whilst we are planning where to stay for the night in our heads, when she hands us two boarding passes with seats next to each other!! How unexpected! However, in true staff travel style, I do not count my chickens just yet and we don’t high five each other until we take off. We did it and had a hell of a great time doing it! Bye Cape Town, we shall be back!
Pictures are HERE! Please note, I have nabbed some of Mike’s pictures, when I have, they will say so. Apart from the obvious when I appear in the picture, it is obviously not me who took it
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