My favourite things about Cape Town and its not the penguins

Blurb

Cape Town is almost like an alien city compared to the rest of South Africa. It is modern, trendy and very cosmopolitan. I was expecting it to have the same reputation of Jo’burg but it really is the opposite, I walked around the city centre during the night, enjoyed its local restaurants without hassle and I didn’t have to pray to the Uber gods that I reach home safely – I just walked.

Favourite Things in Cape Town

I will admit, Cape Town isn’t going to make my favourite places that I have visited. It was very cosmopolitan and reminded me of home except I was a tourist! When I went to Prague or Tokyo, although they are the capital cities they had certain aspects which made them very unique like the old square, castle, futuristic highrise buildings and towers. However what made Cape Town special wasn’t what the city had built but the nature that was surrounding the city.

Table Mountain

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When you arrive into the city then you cannot miss Table Mountain unless the clouds are obscuring it. I visited during the severe drought season and part of the reason there wasn’t enough water was because the weather was too good and there was little rainfall. On most days Table Mountain will be easily seen but the weather of Cape Town can change within a few hours so just be ready to get to the mountain once it looks clear.

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I believe if you really wanted to, you can climb the mountain from different access points. However unless you are an experienced hiker then consider getting a guide to show you the best routes. I decided I would take the overprescribed cable car (R270 return – prices varies on hours). Each car takes 60 people and does offer great views but unless you’re by the window, then you will get obscured views.

The views from the top and the walk around the mountain was definitely one of the highlights of my visit, this is definitely a must do in Cape Town.

Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope

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I researched different methods to get to Cape point (bus, rent a car, taxi, shuttles) and I decided the best method for a single traveller would be to take the City sightseeing Cape Explorer (R550 return). If you decide to take a taxi then it will cost roughly R300 more but if you decide to rent a car then it could be considerably cheaper but don’t forget fuel and entry fee into Cape Point national park, which is included in the bus ticket above (R147). If you manage to gather other travellers or friends on your trip then driving via car might be the most economical and scenic way to get to Cape Point.

The views from Cape point are spectacular and you don’t have to pre-book unless you are heading in peak season. I just rocked up and purchased a ticket but if you decide to do it on the day then you will have to be there at a specific time as it is literally a day tour.

Long Street – Eastern Bazaar Food Market

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Long street and Long market street are both famous for the pubs/bars and foodie places to eat at. I have to admit, the food is pretty good. The prices too are extremely cheap for freshly cooked food even if it is a heavy meal. I went to Mama Africa which had a very cool setting and sometimes has live music but the food was exceptionally good but expect normal city pricing (bit more pricey). Also I paid a visit to Bollywood cafe to get my last ever gatsby, its more of a take-out place even though it has a huge dining area but Little India boasted a greater food selection.

The best gatsby I had, was definitely in Mariams Kitchen – the half gatsby is enough for two people but all the aspects were on point, crispy chili chips and stewed chicken with a spicy mayo sauce – I was waiting for my heart to collapse! It is definitely an indulgent meal and a perfect “night out” sandwich but a very Capetonian invention.

The Eastern Bazaar is a corridor where there are about 4 different stalls, each serves a variation on Indian food. There is even a chinese-indian food counter which serves up fusion food even though it is labeled as chinese food, if you are thinking about having lunch or dinner here then just remember the portions are massive. Even for me, I had to save a little bit of the food because I felt that I would be overeating if it was just a single meal. They had biryani, bunny chow and different types of curry for as little as R40 (£2.50). Bargain!

If you are heading into town then you may be able to spot a stall selling tea/coffee with koeksisters pastry which is kind of like a fatcake (deep fried dough).

Victoria and Alfred Waterfront

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Although it just edges onto my list, it was pretty much a big shopping centre. However at the time that I was in Cape Town, Avengers Infinity War had just come out and I was desperate to see it. So as I had just landed in Cape Town, I thought I would orient by roaming around V&A and booking an IMAX ticket to see the film. It was a great film but the V&A was definitely quite an interesting place. It doesn’t beat Birminghams Bull Ring but it had alot of big brands inside and if you get bored you can take a boat out or book a ticket to Robben island.

Kirstenbosch

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It is boasted to be one of the best botanical gardens in the world, for some reason 7th rings a bell. If you are a botany lover then it is a heaven for you but even for a stroll and day-out with friends or family (bring a picnic!) it’s extremely peaceful and it never felt overcrowded. I was by my lonesome, so I strolled around the gardens and read my book. Even if you don’t have a burning passion for Botany then I would still visit just to admire its beauty.

It is one of the destinations on the blue line of the city sightseeing tour (R200 for a day pass).

Wine

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I’m not really a wine-guy but I think I’ll make more of an effort to enjoy it. There’s supposedly an art to enjoy it and alot of people know South Africa for its wine. There are a few wineries around, found in Stellenbosch and Constantia. Again if you are on the city sight seeing bus, you can visit some of these wineries, however if you want to go to Stellenbosch then you will need to take a different tour or even get a taxi there.

I decided that after much advice from my host that I should try the wine in SA while I was visiting. The establishment in Constantia Groot was really impressive and I got a R95 ticket which included a museum entry, wine cellar tour and wine tasting. Definitely worth it as you get 5 half glasses of wine and a little introduction into how the wine is made and bottled. I won’t forget running for the last bus with my glass of Cape Ruby.

Food

Gatsby

This is the star of the show, the gatsby was created by supposedly a Malaysian who tried to feed a group of hungry workers using the ingredients he had. The ingredients consisted of a soft baguette, chips, polony, egg and salad. As you can imagine there are various variations on this but it will always be a soft roll, chips, salad and a type of meat. The legend behind the gatsby and who made it has never fully been verified but the sandwich does refer to the famous novel because it is an extremely indulgent creation.

I tried the chicken gatsby from Mariams and a steak masala gatsby from Bollywood cafe but if you’re willing to accept the challenge you can get a gatsby with everything on it.

Bunny Chow

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There was alot of chicken pieces in it too! 

This consists of a loaf of bread which is hollowed out and then filled with rich curry. Although maybe not extremely different from having a bowl of curry with rice, it makes an interesting meal. If you have ever been to Europe or a Scandinavian country, they love having bread bowls and soup. I believe the presentation is one of the reasons but also when the soup makes the innards of the loaf soft and you get to eat this soft flavoured sludge which is really pleasant! The same is with the bunny chow, the curry mixes with the bread and is a flavour explosion!

The story behind the bunny chow is that Indian rail workers couldn’t bring rotis with them as they spoiled too easily. They decided to bring bread loaves with them and fill the inside with curry, making it easier to eat out of and leaving no waste behind.

Cape Malay

If you are unaware like I was, then you may not know that there is a large Malay population in Cape Town and a Muslim community which resides in Bo-Kaap. The history of District 6 saw them displaced from their homes and they had to relocate but still they managed to hold their community together. It is shown by the food styles which still exists there today. I would definitely recommend trying out the food as it will have an SA influence. I tried bobotie which was a minced meat which was covered in a sweet-sour sauce and a bechamel type topping. Mama Africa and Bismiellah are both favourites for malay food.

Durban style

Alot of Indians reside in Durban, Im not sure if someone said 80% of the population in Durban are SA indians. As a result there are still Indian communities in Cape Town and they’re serving durban style curries, so if you are dying for a curry and you’re tired of pap and beef stew then walk into any Indian food establishment and prepare yourself for a very good curry.

Top tips

  1. Garden Route: I was unfortunate enough to not do the garden route. I really wanted to do it but the cost of a car, accommodation and fuel swayed me away. I had to keep in mind my overall budget for the world tour. However if it was a regular vacation then I would definitely have done it but it is just another reason to return to SA. If you are visiting and want something different from your itinerary then you can drive yourself on the garden route (drive to Knysna and Plettenberg bay). However there are plenty of tours for this too but they will cost.
  2. Safety: Cape Town is much safer than Jo’burg, I remember walking home at night undisturbed and no one said the CBD was unsafe. However still exercise caution but rest assured you can walk out on the street without sweating.
  3. 4 days more than enough: If you want to see table mountain, cape point and robben island then 4 full days is more than enough to take your time to see the main attractions. I would highly advise building in some other things for your plan like doing the garden route and if you are feeling really adventurous, you could go across the Port Elizabeth, Durban and make your way up to Jo’burg.
  4. Eat out: the prices of food are so cheap in SA that its worth just trying the foods rather than saving. The portions are so big that you may only eat breakfast and one meal out.
  5. City sightingseeing: the bus tour is very good, usually I’m not a fan but the cost is great for taking you outside the CBD and you can get on/off as you please of course!
  6. There are some things which I didn’t think was spectacular but you may find really interesting. For example, the trip to Robben Island and tour was interesting but it felt very brief and I didn’t feel like it was worth R340.

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