One Way to do Cape Town

Cape Town is a well known tourist hotspot and ever popular cruise ship destination. One of its attractions to cruise ship passengers is that it offers them the opportunity to extend a visit either with pre or post cruise stays…

Following our recent cruise on Queen Victoria we had arranged a post cruise stay, which was for 3 days following our disembarkation at the port. This was the second occasion that we had stayed in Cape Town.

Colloquially named the Mother City, Cape Town  is the oldest city in South Africa, and is defined by the flat top mountain it sits beneath: the jewel in the crown, the magnificent Table Mountain National Park…

Utilising our experience from our previous visit we decided on booking our accommodation conveniently in the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront area…

…and chose to stay at the rather quirky and contemporary Radisson Red Hotel…

…with its excellent rooftop pool and Cocktail Bar…

It’s a particularly great position for a hotel, not just for the easy access it gives to the bustling and lively waterfront area, but also because it is considered a particularly safe area at night, as opposed to other more central areas.

For the purpose of this review I have chosen to illustrate the four main areas that we concentrated our visit on: The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, The Central District, Table Mountain and the Cape Peninsula.

The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is one of Africa’s most visited destinations and its 123 hectare area attracts some 24 million people every year. The area includes hotels, retail districts, and extensive dining, leisure and entertainment facilities. Its many heritage sites and tourism landmarks make it both exceptional and unique…

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…and it is a great place to visit by day and equally by night…

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Buskers and entertainers are everywhere…

…along with freely available open air concerts….

The country’s heritage is celebrated in many ways…

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…and the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is also the venue for boat departures to the infamous Robben Island…

…via the Robben Island Visitor Centre…

Sealife also plays its part and there are a number of facilities where local sea lions are happy to pose for the odd photograph…

As one would expect the V&A is also a hub for various visitor tours and transport. These include helicopter rides…

variety of boat trips…

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and of course the local HoHo buses…

Central District

The Central District, often referred to as CBD (Central Business District) is the colourful heart of the city, offering a cosmopolitan buzz of colourful restaurants, sidewalk cafes and museums. It is home to Cape Town’s rich history and heritage, from the South African Museum to the Castle of Good Hope and from the Company Gardens to St George’s Cathedral.

The district is surprisingly small and is easily explored on foot.

Starting close to the International Convention Centre we approached our visit here by walking along ‘Long Street’: possibly the liveliest street in town and surely one of Cape Town’s major attractions, with its Victorian Buildings a must see…

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…while making a possible note that one of Cape Town’s most notable restaurants, Mama Africa…

…is situated on Long Street.

Eventually we  turned left, crossing Queen Victoria Street, and entered the second place on our planned list,  The Company‘s Gardens…

The Company‘s Garden is Cape Town’s green heart. Originally created in the 1650s by the region’s first European settlers, The Company’s Garden is a large public park, heritage site and botanical garden.

Taking a stroll through The Company’s Garden is a must for every visitor to the ‘Mother City’. 

Entering close to the World War 1 Battle of Delville Wood ‘Memorial’…

…the South African National Museum can also be seen in the photograph above.

At the same level, on the opposite side of the Garden,  can be seen the ‘Artillery Memorial’ …

…and opposite is the South African National Gallery.

Heading down the central path, that runs the length of the park, in the direction of the Cecil Rhodes Statue…

…one will pass a number of separate attractions including The VOC Vegetable Garden…

…which was created in 2014 at the southern end of the gardens and was inspired by the original garden laid out by early Dutch settlers some 350 years ago, and a replica of the old Slave Bell Tower…

 

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…which once stood on Greenmarket Square.

Continuing through the gardens there are fountains, ponds, and tree lined walkways…

…that shield the garden from the bustle of the city, creating a green, peaceful sanctuary and a perfect way for the visitor to spend an hour or two while discovering central Cape Town.

Indeed, some say the trees are the star attractions: the ginkgo tree with no living relatives; the towering rubber tree; and the ancient saffron pear propped up by steel beams…

…to name a few.

Also not to be missed is the friendly bird life…

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…not to mention other wild park residents…

Not far from the above statue can be found another one, this time of Queen Victoria…

…outside the  South African House of Parliament…

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On leaving The Company’s Garden onto Adderley Street one comes across the second oldest existing colonial structure of the Cape Colony, today known as Cape Town, The Slave Lodge…

Built in 1679, it was previously known as the South African Cultural History Museum…

https://slavery.iziko.org.za/slavelodge

The front exterior of the Slave Lodge has an impressive statue of the former Prime Minister and South African Statesman, Field-Marshall Jan Smuts…

Heading down the side of the ‘Slave Lodge’ along Bureau Street and then Albertus Street we came to the District Six Museum…

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…though on the day of our visit the museum was not open.

As its name implies, District Six Museum is a museum in the former inner-city District Six residential area and serves as a memorial to the forced movement of 60,000 inhabitants of various races in the 1970s during the Apartheid rule of South Africa.

Just four blocks along Buitenkant Street is the Castle of Good Hope…

Considered to be the best preserved example worldwide of a Dutch East India Company fort, it dates back to the 17th Century and was originally sited on Cape Town’s coastline. Following subsequent land reclamation the fort now appears located inland…

…as can be seen from this photograph I took with a zoom lens from Table Mountain…

Within sight of the fort’s entrance across the open space known as ‘Grand Parade’…

…our final photographic stop was to be City Hall.

For our first full day in Cape Town we elected to take a full day private guided tour of the Cape Peninsular. For this we had negotiated with local company…

Uber African Travel and Tours.

In addition to the standard package, I had negotiated to have the itinerary include a visit to Simon’s Town and the Boulders Penguin sanctuary both of which were of special interest to us.

We were collected from our hotel by Shafeik who just happened to be the tour company founder and proprietor…

Our tour commenced with a drive past the magnificent Cape Town Stadium that was built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. We continued on and followed the western sea coastline in an anti-clockwise direction making our first stop at Camps Bay…

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…first taking in the popular view point above before heading down to the Camps Bay beach…

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Continuing to follow the Cape peninsular coastline our next stop was to the Hout Bay Harbour…

A small bustling fishing harbour and Marina surrounded on three sides by impressive mountains, it has many tourist attractions including being a departing point for various water excursions. There are numerous restaurants…

…and visitors can witness the landing of fresh fish…

…and enjoy live local sea life entertainment…

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Following this stop we continued to circumnavigate the bay and, immediately prior to joining the roadway named ‘Chapman’s Peak Drive’,  Shafeik insisted we visit The Workshop, billed as the smallest pub in Africa…

Further along the coast road we again stopped at a popular viewing point, directly opposite the harbour and incidentally called, Chapman’s Peak…

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Heading off once more we passed some pretty spectacular road cuttings into the rock face…

…before arriving at our next stop, Misty Cliffs…

…which certainly lived up to its name despite affording us a number of sightings of local sea birds…

We were now fast approaching Table Mountain National Park and were quite taken by the numbers of baboons that freely wandered both in front of us…

…or took up strategic positions to view us…

Once we passed into the National Park we had our first glimpse of Cape Point, away in the distance…

…but first we made a stop to take in the views of the False Bay Coastline…

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…before reaching the first of two important stops, the actual Cape of Good Hope…

…the most South Western point of the African continent…

…where we spent some time getting the above pictures and then driving the short distance to what appeared to be the more popular spot, Cape Point…

from where we commenced or climb towards the old lighthouse…

…pausing only to look back over Dias Beach and the Cape of Good Hope…

We eventually reached the top

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…and were able to enjoy the views both down onto Cape Point…

…and back over the whole peninsular including Dias Beach and False Bay…

For the less energetic,  who may still wish to experience the breathtaking views, all is not lost as there is actually a funicular service under the name of The Flying Dutchman…

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Our last two stops, and a mere 20 minute drive from Cape Point, were by virtue of a requested package. I had a wish to revisit Simon’s Town where I had been entertained as a visiting serviceman in the early 70s and, on its doorstep, my wife’s choice was to visit…

The Boulders is a series of beautiful secluded coves and beaches close to the picturesque  Simon’s Town and is home to the famous colony of African penguins…

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A short drive from The Boulders saw us in the centre of Simon’s Town…

A real picturesque town with quaint buildings lining the historical mile from the train station to Jubilee Square…

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Simon’s Town also has an attractive recreational waterfront…

It is located on the shores of False Bay and is also home to the South African Navy’s main Naval Base…

…and there are numerous reminders of the town’s maritime  importance over the years…

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…The Standby Diver…

…while definitely not forgetting Just Nuisance…

Just Nuisance was the only dog ever to be officially enlisted in the Royal Navy. He was a Great Dane who between 1939 and 1944 served at HMS Afrikander, a Royal Navy shore establishment in Simon’s Town, South Africa. He died in 1944 at the age of seven years and was buried with full military honours.

The above  statue was erected in Simon’s Town’s Jubilee Square to commemorate his life.

For those interested there is a comprehensive Naval Museum on the ‘Historical Mile’…

…with some fascinating exhibits both inside the museum and outdoors…

Simon’s Town saw the completion of our excellent day out and all that was left was the picturesque drive back to Cape Town along roads with many historical Dutch style buildings…

My thanks for a wonderful day out are extended to Shafeik and his company. He can be contacted through Facebook at…

https://www.facebook.com/Uber-African-Travel-Tours-Pty-Ltd-863959363781794/?__tn__=%2Cd%2CP-R&eid=ARAabRe5c2u_mBZ_ooit6ndFjt1xDI4G5QGQkpZjQDQs2bf9sCBbP9-0Pq6PczbTG9_vp2u2dqw5UpaL

…and is most highly recommended should any reader wish to follow the same excursion.

No stay in Cape Town would be complete without a visit to Table Mountain…

The mountain forms part of the Table Mountain National Park, a significant tourist attraction and the most iconic landmark in South Africa…

Table Mountain is often shrouded in clouds with one particular formation dubbed The Tablecloth…

…so the trick is to anticipate the lifting of the cloud if the weather looks even halfwaydecent. iPhone weather apps are ideal and that is exactly what we used when mid morning the ‘tablecloth’ was in place and the app predicted a cloud free period from just after midday.

The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway is by far the most popular route for tourists…

Continuing to put our trust in the ‘weather app’ we arrived just before midday and were surprised at the lack of a queue to purchase tickets. Within minutes we had entered the lower cable station looking up at the view…

…when all of a sudden our cable car approached…

…and we were ready to start our ascent to the upper cable station, some 1,067 metres (3,501 ft) above sea level.

Once in the cable car it was all very civilised and there’s no need to elbow your way into a forward-facing spot because the cable car floor slowly rotates so everyone gets to enjoy the views on the ascent and descent…

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Within 20 minutes of reaching the top our faith in the ‘Weather App’ paid dividends and the cloud, as if by magic, started lifting…

…and very soon we were enjoying the spectacular views down over Camps Bay…

…Lions Head and Signal Hill…

and a panoramic view of Cape Town and Table Bay…

The island just left of upper centre on the above photograph is Robben Island, seen with a little bit of camera zoom…

Robben Island’s allure lies firmly in its wretched history and is where South Africa’s first democratically elected president – Nelson Mandela – spent 18 years of his 27 years in prison.

Robben  Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must-do on the itinerary of any tourist to Cape Town; for centuries, however, the trip was one to be feared. We had visited the island in 2002 while on a QE2,  South African Line Voyage…

One of the biggest errors one could make on Table Mountain is to remain close to the viewing platforms near the cableway upper station. There are three clearly marked paths…

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……that will take you all the way around the top of the mountain for stunning 360-degree views of Cape Town while taking in some of the flora that the National Park is famous for…

Dining in Cape Town.

With three evenings in Cape Town we wanted to ensure that we fully immersed ourselves into the Cape Town dining scene and had done a little bit of homework prior to arrival.

It can of course be a little daunting planning interesting meals immediately on the back of a 19 night cruise with Cunard however, we were determined to give Cape Town’s cuisine our best shot.

For our first evening we had pre-booked dinner at Mama Africa…

Ideally situated on the lively Long Street this dining ‘institution’ boldly proclaims that ‘if you haven’t been to Mama Africa you haven’t been to Cape Town’, this restaurant’s atmosphere grabs you from the moment you enter the door…

…that’s the famous ‘coke bottle’ chandelier over the bar…

We had, while making our reservation, taken the option to dine in the ‘Music Section’ which is just to one side of the bar area, and we didn’t regret that…

…where the distinctive sounds of the marimba, well recognisable across the African music scene, is so infectious it’s hard to resist the urge to get up and dance, or at least stomp one’s feet.

Mama Africa boasts an interesting and varied menu…

…and while the music played, the service and food were all excellent…

…and we really felt as though we were fully immersed in a veritable Cape Town institution.

For our second evening’s dining we had again pre-booked, well in advance, a table at the high end Baia Seafood Restaurant…

Baia Seafood Restaurant is upstairs at the Victoria Wharf at the V&A Waterfront…

…serving many delightful dishes including oysters…

…and a local line caught KingClip fillets…

And all at very reasonable prices…

(thats under £74.00 even with a bottle of wine and the generous tip)

Baia is in itself a culinary destination for a gastronomic experience in the grand colonial Portuguese tradition. It fully lived up to its rave reviews and we had a thoroughly enjoyable dining experience.

For our third evening we chose one of the more traditional venues in the V&A Waterfront area…

…traditional fish & chips at the Ferryman’s Pub, that would have put Harry Ramsden in the shade, not to mention the live entertainment….

Summary

And, on that culinary note this review will come to a close. Cape Town is acity that is defined by the flat-topped mountain it sits beneath and brings together cultures, cuisines, and magnificent views.

It is a wonderful and diverse destination and every effort should be made to pack in as much as is physically possible.

We found our time in Cape Town well utilised and we achieved all our goals, but would comment that pre-planning, particularly if one intends to visit Table Mountain, is essential.

Of course on this visit we did not require to visit Robben Island, having ticked it off on a previous visit to Cape Town. It certainly is a must-do for those who haven’t yet visited the iconic island.

Solent Richard thanks Helen Green for her kind proofreading of the draft review.

If you have enjoyed this review of a visit to Cape Town and would like to be amongst the first to hear of new reviews, including a return to P&O’s adult only ‘Arcadia’ and a cruise on Saga’s new ship, Spirit of Discovery plus Solent Richard’s next guides to Port Victoria, Seychelles and Manila in his ‘One way to do…’ series, why not join over 500 followers by clicking on the ‘Follow’ link on the front page.

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©2018 – 19 * Solent Richard’s Cruise Blog * All Rights Reserved

Duplication in part or whole without prior written consent is prohibited by international laws.

 

Disclosure to potential conflict of interest:

It is common throughout the travel industry for travel journalists and many cruise bloggers to be provided with complimentary cruises for the purpose of their reviews.

Solent Richard has no ‘conflict of interest’ as he is not an accredited journalist, he pays for his cruises, and is happy to confirm that all his reviews are his own given without fear or favour.

 

 

3 responses to “One Way to do Cape Town

  1. Another detailed and interesting blog of a city I have not visited in 30 years. Sounds like I must return. Thank you

  2. Fabulous as usual! What a lovely trip down memory lane you gave me. We did a post cruise stay way back in 2014 and you took me right back there. The highlight for sure was a visit to Mama Africa’s – the evening we went the entertainment was opera – wonderful!

  3. Another brilliant review of Cape Town, just love reading and looking at all your photographs of your travels. Please keep them coming.

    Kind Regards Brenda Woodings

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