Tuesday, January 13, 2009
I thought that five days would be more than enough to see Cape Town. I was wrong. There was so much to do and see in the city and along the cape that my boyfriend and I easily filled five days and could have spent another five.
On our first day in Cape Town we headed straight for Boulders Beach, home to a band of African penguins. I took pictures of the penguins with one hand while restraining my boyfriend from petting them with the other. “They say 500 rand fine for touching the penguins,” he said. “I say 500 rand entry fee for the petting zoo.” I can’t take him anywhere.
Penguins safely untouched behind us, we spent the next day in wine country. We headed to Stellenbosch in the morning, stopping at Kanonkop and Meerlust wineries before going to Kleine Zalze for lunch at Terrior restaurant. It was hot, so we sat outside on the terrace overlooking the beautiful gardens while sipping a crisp Sauvignon Blanc that paired wonderfully with our fish.
After lunch we explored the gardens, then hit up a few more vineyards on the way to Franschhoek. Dinner that night was at Le Quartier Francais in Franschhoek, which is on the Top 50 Restaurants in the World list. I made the reservation back in July after hearing how hard it was to get into.
Having anticipated the meal for so long, we opted for a tasting menu to see the best of what the chef had to offer. The first course was a scallop with parsnip foam and three Parmesan croquettes. On the side was a salad of pea shoots, baby asparagus, and black truffles. It was one of the best dishes I’ve ever had. The rest of the meal was equally impressive, and my boyfriend and I rolled ourselves out of the restaurant full of great food and amazing local wine.
The next day we went to Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town, the first of its kind to be listed as part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The grounds were extensive and ran right up the slope of Cape Town’s famous landmark, Table Mountain.
Our next stop was Camp’s Bay, where we strolled along the beach and randomly ran into two of our friends from London. Small world. The beach was beautiful and it reminded us once again how lucky we were to be out of the frigid London winter.
That night we headed back to wine country for New Year’s Eve dinner at Le Bon Vivant restaurant in Franschhoek. It was our final tasting menu of the year, and we decided that it would also be the final tasting menu for a long time after that. Having done three in Paris not long before and another at Le Quartier Francais, we felt like we (and our waistlines) had experienced too much of a good thing.
Our bellies bulging, we had a great time at dinner listening to a live band and enjoying our meal. It was a low-key New Year’s, which fit the mood of our trip perfectly.
The next day we attempted to go to Cape Point, the southwestern most tip of Africa. There is a huge national park there with hiking trails and beautiful scenery, as well as a plethora of baboons and other wildlife.
Unfortunately, as we were pulling up to the park entrance we realized we were out of gas. The nearest station was miles away, so we ended up coasting down into the park, taking a quick hike, and then heading back to Simon’s Town on the False Bay coast to fill up the tank.
That afternoon we went hiking on Table Mountain, where we randomly ran into a friend from San Francisco that is now at Harvard Business School. Who knew we had to go all the way to Africa to run into our friends from home?
The next day we walked all over the city center, from the star-shaped castle to the beautiful Company’s Garden to Greenmarket Square where vendors sell goods from all over the continent. We strolled down St. George’s Mall, a pedestrian street with shops and restaurants, and over to Long Street, a bohemian thoroughfare with plenty of coffee shops and cafes.
Our final stop was at Melissa’s, a great restaurant and grocery store that a friend from London had told us about. We sat for a few hours reading books, eating lunch, and sipping on great coffee.
On our way back to the hotel, we made a detour through the historically Muslim Bo-Kaap district. Known for its brightly colored buildings, the neighborhood was particularly chromatic that day due to a number of colorfully dressed Cape Minstrels that had taken part in the traditional New Year’s parades that happen every January 2.
That night was our last in Cape Town and the next morning we were on the plane back to London. It was 1 degree Celsius when we landed. The next day it snowed in Hampstead. What a lovely welcome home.