Archive for September 2005

Cape Town

After connecting in Frankfurt from London, an 11 hour overnight flight took me from where summer was ending to where summer is beginning – Cape Town. From the many evenings spent at the Smith & Wollensky side grill in DC over the past few years, I had come to expect great things of Cape Town. Sean and Paul who work there have raved about this place, and I am happy to report that they were not exaggerating. After a few days staying in the city center I decided to venture down the Atlantic coast, and as the taxi pulled around the first bend where the coast revealed itself, I had one of those recurring “wow, this is what it’s all about” thoughts


The first bay directly below contains the four Clifton beaches, and beyond the small peninsula is Camps Bay beach, where I was headed. The peaks that continue down the coast are part of a chain, beginning with Table Mountain, known as the Twelve Apostles. Table Mountain towers over downtown Cape Town, here is a shot from the hotel room that I stayed in for the first few nights. At the very top right of the mountain, you can barely just see the cable car upper terminal


I was advised by everybody I talked to in Cape Town to immediately take the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain to enjoy the view and get my bearings, and after disregarding this advice for several days I finally went up there today – and wondered why I hadn’t come sooner. Thanks to a recent upgrade to the system, the ride up is fast, it felt like only 5 minutes


From the top, at an altitude of 1073 meters, a view down of Camps Bay beach on the left, and the Clifton beaches on the right


Turning north, Lion’s Head (669 meters) on the left that connects to Signal Hill which runs all the way up to the Green Point. The island out there in Table Bay is Cape Town’s own version of Alcatraz, the former Robben Island prison where Nelson Mandela was held captive. The ferry out there is on the to do list. The area just to the right of and behind Lion’s Head is Sea Point, where I am now staying


Turning just a little more north, the Waterfront area is on the left, a recently developed area with more shops and restaurants packed into a single location than I have ever seen before. Behind the Waterfront is downtown, and behind it and to the right are the Southern Suburbs. Moving further to the right out of the photo are where the Cape Flats begin, home to miles and miles of shanty towns that are supposedly a must see via guided tour


Looking south down the Atlantic coast and at the Twelve Apostles


Camps Bay beach a little closer up, looking north with Lion’s Head in the background


And looking south down Camps Bay


Although this nice little break looks inviting for a body surf, the water is frigid right now, not warming up for a few more months. Even last Sunday when I was here, when the beach was packed, I only saw one or two brave soles in the water no more than waist deep. Maybe that also has something to do with the massive concentration of great white sharks here, although the surfers everywhere in wetsuits seem oblivious to that


The Clifton Beaches up close, which look very inviting and are on the agenda for tomorrow


In Camps Bay along the beach road there is a great cluster of restaurants and bars, where people gather after a day on the beach. Some are laid back dinner and wine establishments, and others are a Ft. Lauderdale Elbo Room style affair. Somewhere in between the two is Baraza, where Vuyo the head barman will pour you a tasty cocktail or shooter, and also serve you up a delicious lamb and red wine dinner. Close to sunset it is a free for all in there, as people battle for the front row. Here is a shot of the view from the bar at a far more peaceful afternoon hour


In my first five nights in Cape Town, I stayed in three different hotels, one nice, two not nice, before looking beyond the hotel arena to private apartments. I ended up finding a place on the water in Sea Point for 375 Rand a night (about $60) that if I could, I would buy. The entire living room is a three window panorama of the ocean, with a balcony off to the right side. Here is the view from the balcony of Table Bay with Robben Island in the background


The view from the dining room table where I am currently typing on my laptop


As I know my mom will be delighted to hear, not every night can be a night out, and so for those nights of just taking it easy, a tasty Castle Lager on the balcony washes the sun down nicely. What a beautiful place


And so much more still to do, including venturing out of Cape Town for safari and to visit the wine lands. Matt and Adam from DC are coming down to Cape Town next week, it will be great to see those guys and enjoy this place with them. Until then, I think maybe I’ll just relax on the beach, and pop in to see Vuyo every now and then at Baraza. He taught me a few words of Zulu last Sunday, but I have forgotten them. In the pursuit of higher learning, I feel I should continue to visit there until I have a basic grasp of the language.