Welcome to the Table, Cape Town
June 27 – July 1
Table Mountain dominates the cityscape as we arrive in Cape Town, the first stop on our South African itinerary. I let out a mental WOOOHOOOOOOO (or was it out loud? that would have explained the strange looks…) as our plane landed, and I kissed the sweet, sweet South African soil we deplaned for what would be the next two and a half weeks of our journey. Our 5 hour layover in Dubai (bringing Dave the American fast food, and me the Dt. Coke fountain drink we didn’t know we’d been longing for…) and overnight flight had left us slightly ragged, so we were THRILLED to arrive to such a comfortable, welcoming airbnb home where we’d be spending the next four days. Kristin, an ex-pat working for an non-profit that raises HIV awareness through soccer programs (awesome, right??), had a couch that was reminiscent of ours at home, comfy guest bedroom, a Nespresso machine and lived a block from the ocean – perfect!
After settling in, Dave and I took off for a long walk along the water to the V&A Waterfront – eerily reminiscent of the San Francisco wharf. After our Ethiopian adventure, I couldn’t help staring wide-eyed at the plethora of restaurants perched cozily on the harbor, the hum of shoppers as they roamed the small mall and the Polo clad locals as they made way to their yachts. We were home! (To be clear, we never owned a yacht at home, but we always thought we’d be really good yacht people.) Welcome to #3 on the Bauers’ future hometown consideration list.
We immediately sniffed out stumbled into the local V&A Market on the Wharf where we quickly honed in on the first craft beers we’d seen since departing Chicago. Pair that with biltong (like beef jerky, but better) and some cheese from a third stall, and we had the lunch I’d been longing for since Italy. Yes, I realize it’s only been three weeks, but may I remind you of THE AFRICAN JUNGLE WE CAME FROM?. (EDITOR’S NOTE: May I also remind you that we never set foot in any jungles. None.) A stroll home along the water at sunset had me in tears of happiness.
Seriously – Cape Town is a mix of Miami and San Francisco. You have an incredible waterfront, bordered by swanky beaches lined with trendy clubs and bars. Finally, amidst all this, you look up, and Table Mountain rules the skyline. Water AND vivid topography? Chicago, watch your back.
Cape Town is known for it’s rainy, hazy weather in the winter (which is now), so we lucked out with incredibly gorgeous, clear days during our entire stay. We took advantage of this immediately, taking the short ride to the foot of Table Mountain, and selecting one of the more moderate hikes to take us to the top. The climb up Platteklip Gorge offers great views, both toward the top, with Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head flanking the mountain, and back down toward the city. Once at the top, you can see for miles in every direction, from the full of Cape Town to Cape of Good Hope, the most South-Western point of the continent (which we get up close and personal with soon). To keep us company were the dassies, small guinea pig-looking creatures, crazily, the closest living relative of the African elephant. Google it. We spent a few hours walking the length of the mountain and relaxing atop of rocks and solving the world’s problems. After our arduous climb up, we opted for the cableway back to the bottom.
The taxi method was fascinating. They have a mini bus that just cruises the streets between neighborhoods. You flag one down, hop in to join the other half dozen folks, hand the driver 6 Rand (less than $1 USD) and hop out upon arrival at your destination. And you won’t miss them coming, the house music is blaring at top decibel, and the driver yells out the window to attract customers. Just like the CTA…
The next few days were filled with long walks along the coast, dining on the waterfront and in a few quaint neighborhoods and more sushi than we could have asked for (which we didn’t. but the city knew. it knew.). One evening, we explored some of the surrounding beaches, enjoying sundowners (a term for drinks at sunset we’ve come to love) at a peaceful spot on the water in Clifton (a few kilometers south of Sea Point, where we were staying), and (more) sushi at a cozy restaurant in neighboring Camps Bay.
Our local host directed us to our first brunch spot (and more importantly, Dave’s first Bloody Mary) (EDITOR’S NOTE: It tasted so good when it hit my lips!) of the trip on the foodie stretch of Kloof Street, where we dined on sour dough flatbread with tomato, bacon, mushrooms, boerewors, cheddar and free range eggs and a french toast croissant bacon, brie and maple syrup at Manna Epicure. A lot of detail but it was THAT. GOOD. We love you, Kristin. 4 Life. After a quick walk down Long Street, known for its shopping during the day and bar scene after sunset, we wandered up the hill to Bo Kaap, a residential neighborhood and bohemian hang out famous for it’s colorful homes.
Cape Town definitely exceeded our expectations. We were impressed by the modernism of the city, while still capturing the little of what we’d learned of African culture. The city itself was beautiful, and paired with its excellent restaurants and atmosphere, we were charmed. As excited as we were to begin our Garden Route journey, it was sad to say goodbye.