An April 2002 trip
to Cape Town by Linda Kaye
Quote: Cape Town, also known as South Africa’s Mother City, is a mixture of incredible scenic beauty, interesting history, varied cultures and warm, friendly people. Mountains, wine lands, waterfronts, coastlines, fabulous restaurants and excellent shopping opportunities make Cape Town a Number One destination.
Our first few days in South Africa were a blur of beautiful scenery and new and different experiences. We took an all-day tour with a super guide who designed the tour just for us. We visited Boulders to see the penguin colony, toured the Scratch Patch where semi-precious gems are polished and shipped all over the world, and visited the Cecil Rhodes Memorial. We drove up Signal Hill for spectacular views of Cape Town and Table Mountain. We drove to the Cape of Good Hope and upon arriving there, we saw our very first wildlife.
We enjoyed the wonderful hospitality of our hosts at two Bed & Breakfast locations and sailed around Seal Island amid a large pod of dolphins. We took a half-day fishing trip but couldn’t fish because of bad weather, discovered the World of Birds, Hout Bay Mariner’s Wharf and several terrific restaurants.
If you drive and park on the streets or in parking lots, there will always be someone who will offer to watch your car for you. This seems to be a highly accepted practice; accept their offer graciously. When you return to your vehicle, give them at least 5 Rand (50 cents U.S. currency). Occasionally, they will hand you a small card or document that says they are “authorized” for this duty.
Go to the Victoria & Albert Waterfront, lovingly called the V&A, and sit outside at one of the many coffee houses. From there, the view of the Cape Grace Hotel with Table Mountain in the background is quite memorable.
When needing to refuel your vehicle, you will not be allowed to do it yourself- there are no self-service filling stations. The attendants will fill your tank with gas, wash the front and rear windows, check the water and oil, and will check the tires if you request it. Tip the attendants at least 8 Rand (80 cents U.S. currency) a little more if they check the tires.
Again, another accepted practice.
Do not “flag down” a taxi. Call for a specific pickup and let the driver “find” you. The best and safest mode of transportation is to hire a guide with a vehicle.
There is a braai(bar-be-que) under a vine-covered trellis on the patio. Walkways lead from the parking area around the pool and along the house; each unit has a private entrance and access to a beautiful swimming pool, patio and gardens. El Gecko Cottage is in a quiet, peaceful residential area. Magnificent sunrises peeking over the mountains greeted us each morning.
We stayed in a beautiful room with private bath, a small refrigerator and tea and coffee making facilities. The décor was contemporary country. The best part was the huge bathtub. Our hosts thought about everything, even bubble bath for that relaxing soak after a long day of sightseeing. The bed was very comfortable, with a thick but soft cover and fat, fluffy pillows. There was a television, but the programming left a lot to be desired. We did enjoy listening to the news broadcasts offered in several different languages.
Our hosts, Bill and Jeanne Cope are quite interesting and very accommodating. They provide guidebooks, maps and other information to help their guests plan their day. Of course, the bonus in staying at a small B&B is that the hosts usually know everyone in the community; where to eat, what to visit and how to get there. Jeanne is the one who recommended Dave of Silverleaf Tours when we first made our reservations. That alone was a worth its weight in gold.
Breakfast was geared to fit our schedule, served in a beautiful setting in the dining room of their home and was prepared by both Bill and Jeanne. We enjoyed fresh fruit salad, cereal and yogurt, fresh baked pastry, and toast with homemade jellies. Delicious coffee served from a coffee press completed our breakfast. Better than the food, however, was the delightful conversation we shared with our gracious hosts about their life in South Africa.
The only problem we experienced for the two nights we were at El Gecko was that we did not have a car; there were no restaurants within walking distance, so it was difficult to get dinner. The first night, our hosts ordered pizza delivery for us. On second day, (the one we spent with Dave) we had a nice big lunch, so dinner turned out to be just snacks.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 11, 2002
El Gecko Cottage
1 Karakal Road
Cape Town, South Africa
Our friends had the cottage, a large one-bedroom apartment with a full kitchen that can sleep three and we had a room in the main house, right in front of the pool. Unfortunately, the weather was a little too cool for swimming.
There was a large living room area in the main section of the house with comfortable seating, a fireplace, a table for cards or board games, a TV and a large supply of travel literature. There was also a kitchen that we were invited to use.
The rooms are bright and spacious with a definite Mediterranean feel. Kay is originally from Cyprus and it is reflected in the décor. Our bed was large and comfortable; oversized pillows and plush towels defined the quiet elegance of this beautiful property.
Tony is quite a character. He has been everywhere, done everything and has an opinion on every subject. One evening he "entertained" us for hours with his expertise.
Since our visit was slightly off-season, there was only one other room occupied so we basically had the place to ourselves. The Trodoos House is centrally located in Hout Bay, a scenic 20-minute drive from the center of Cape Town, and close to the World of Birds.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on August 12, 2002
8 Plumtree Avenue
Cape Town, South Africa
Restaurant | "Bertha's Restaurant"
Bertha’s offers breakfast, lunch, dinner, light meals and afternoon tea. The menu contains a tantalizing array of seafood, pastas, steaks and some exotic dishes such as ostrich and kudu. Here, there was no rushing customers, no clanging of dishes, just enjoying the food and the beautiful scenery. We took our time and savored every minute.
Inside and outside dining is available and the wait staff is friendly and helpful. I ordered cream of zucchini soup followed by blackened chicken and grilled sweet potatoes covered with a mint cream sauce. The different flavors of the chicken, the very sweet- sweet potatoes and the sauce created a delicious combination.
Harry enjoyed a succulent steak, fried potato wedges and grilled zucchini. Dave of Silverleaf Tours recommended this venue and he delivered us there just in time to satisfy our hunger pangs. We were not disappointed.
The prices were exceptionally low due to the exchange rate to the U. S. Dollar. The chicken dish was $4.50 USD and the steak $5.20 USD. After lunch we strolled the waterfront, listened to a street band and perused local artists’ wares on the sidewalk.
Right next door was Bertha’s Coffeehouse offering light meals, sandwiches pastas and of course, a variety of coffees.
In a small park immediately adjacent to the Bertha’s Restaurant was the bronze statue of Just Nuisance, a much-loved dog who befriended British servicemen during the Second World War. We heard stories from our guide, Dave, of this legendary example of man’s best friend and his contributions to South Africa’s history. Email: email@example.com
Cape Town, South Africa 7995
+27 21 786 2138
Restaurant | "The Oven Door"
Upon entering, we were greeted by the staff who were enthusiastic to see us. We were their only customers. The four small seating areas were light and airy and the walls had a wonderful collection of plates- all types, colors and designs. The small alcove we chose was decorated with children’s drawings.
As with many restaurants in the area, meat pies are quite popular. All five of us ordered something different so we could experience the local cuisine. We liked trying each other’s selections. Using the "something for everyone" approach, the menu was plain and simple, good down-home cooking in generous portions. My choice was the beef pie, tender roast beef in thick onion gravy, wrapped in a tender, flaky crust. There were also lamb pies, chicken pies and as is typical in South Africa, most dishes include French fries and salad.
One of the local dishes made famous by the Cape Malay society is Bobotie: It is a baked casserole made of minced lamb, bread crumbs soaked in milk, onions, butter, almonds and eggs, seasoned with curry powder, brown sugar, garlic, salt and bay leafs. It is decorated with lemon and orange slices and always served with yellow rice.
The entire cost of our meal, including coffee, dessert and tip, was less than $5.00 USD per person.
We were determined to stay inside the restaurant until the rain stopped and after our wonderful meal, we enjoyed coffee with piping hot milk. The delicious lemon meringue and apple pie completed our feast. The waitress, a rather large Black woman with a bright scarf tied around her head was so gracious and funny- she kept insisting, in her wonderful South African accent, that we stay longer- "do not worry- do not rush – enjoy yourselves-what else is there to do". We took her advice.
Cape Town, South Africa
Attraction | "Tour with DAVE-Part One"
From Hout Bay we drove to Cape Town along beautiful coastline roads, stopping frequently to photograph the Twelve Apostles (mountain formations) or the exclusive beaches behind gated residential communities.
It was from Dave that we received our first African history lesson, the origins of the colonization of Cape Town and the 13 official languages in South Africa. Dave’s first language is Afrikaans, a language derived from the Dutch settlers. I am familiar with German and I was amazed to hear phrases and read signs that I could almost understand.
The first part of our tour included Bo-Kaap, a charming inner suburb of Cape Town, also known as the Malay Quarter, part of Cape Town’s Islamic Community. This area is where many freed slaves first made their homes on the picturesque slopes of Signal Hill. The vibrant colors of the homes in the area welcome visitors and invite them to stop and enjoy their creativity. A photographers delight.
The Community Gardens: The wonderful oasis in the heart of Cape Town is also known as the Public Gardens and was formerly called the Company Garden. This was the first established area of Cape Town. In 1652 it was a stop over for the ships of the Dutch East Indian Trading ships to pick up fresh vegetables and water for the crew’s consumption during the long trip from the Netherlands to the Far East.
Today, the Gardens boast over 8,000 different trees, shrubs and flowers. The east boundary is the oak-lined Government Avenue; an aviary and tea garden at the Mountain end. From the Gardens you can see the House of Parliament and the City Office of the President, The National Gallery which houses 7,000 works of art, the domed and twin towered Great Synagogues and the Old Synagogue, housing treasures of the Jewish Museum; the South African Museum, the Planetarium and the South African Library.
Cecil Rhodes Memorial, is a temple-like structure, situated on the eastern slopes of the Table Mountain Range, and honors the 19th century imperialist, tycoon, politician and controversial visionary Cecil John Rhodes. Young Rhodes and his brother sold all they had to chase their dream of finding diamonds in South Africa. In1871 the brothers staked a claim in the newly opened Kimberley diamond fields, where Cecil was to make most of his fortune. In 1880 he formed the De Beers Mining Company.
Later, Rhodes devoted himself to the development of the country that was called Rhodesia in his honor (re-named Zimbabwe in 1980). He died in South Africa and was buried in Zimbabwe. Rhodes left nearly all his fortune to public service and education, thereby creating the Rhodes Scholars.
Cape Town Tour
Cape Town, South Africa 8000
Attraction | "Tour with DAVE- Part Two"
In 1982 there were only two pair of African Penguins but due in part to the reduction in certain fishing techniques in False Bay, that provided an increased supply of pilchards and anchovy, a major element of the penguins’ diet, the colony has grown to over 3,000. It was wonderful to watch the parent penguins, who incidentally mate for life, interact with their young, building nests and gathering food. www.cpnp.co.za.
The Scratch Patch, in Simon’s Town, has become world-famous where young and old can "scratch" for their favorite polished gemstones from countless thousands that literally cover the floor. For about $3.00 USD you are given a small bag, pick a spot on the floor, settle in and fill the bag with your choice of gemstones. There is also a Gem and Minerals Shop where you can purchase larger stones without all the work- that was my choice. The polishing of the gemstones is a long process, taking several weeks, and can be seen on a short tour of their plant. The Scratch Patch is the world’s largest gemstone tumble-polishing factory.
Our visit to the Cape Town area would not have been complete without standing on the southern most tip of the African continent, the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. The short drive from Cape Town passes through the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. In springtime, blankets of vibrantly colored wild flowers cover the landscape. The Reserve is also the home to a variety of indigenous wildlife species including Cape Mountain Zebra, Cape Fox, red lynx, caracal and a variety of antelope. Chacma Baboons run wild at Cape Point looking for food, primarily from tourist. They are dangerous and should not be fed. In fact, Dave told us stories of visitors who had food in the car or carrying bag lunches resulting in their run-ins with the Baboons.
At Cape Point, the very best view of the Cape of Good Hope and the surrounding coastline is from the top of the cliffs near the Old Lighthouse. For those of us not ambitious enough for the hike from the parking area to the top, there is a funicular to get us there for a small fee. At the top, there are several walkways to explore and find that perfect spot to photograph the Cape of Good Hope.
Facilities at Cape Point include the Two Oceans Restaurant and two curio shops.
Our trip to Hout Bay would not have complete without a visit to Mariner’s Wharf. It was modeled after the famous Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco and was the first development of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. The Mariner’s Wharf Maritime Emporium includes the Wharfside Grill, where superb cuisine complements the magnificent views, the Fish Market, the Shipwreck Shop for nautical antiques and artifacts, the Pearl Factory and the Mariner’s Chest, which was my favorite, offering thousands of shells and seaside gifts.
It was early morning and many fishing boats had just come in and were off-loading their catch. It was amazing to watch the large baskets being lowered into the hole of each boat and an overflowing container of small silver colored fish brought up. We were mesmerized by the speed at which the crew unloaded and packed their cargo into wooden crates for shipping to places unknown to us.
A short distance from there, vendors were hawking larger fish- some up to two feet in length. The fresh fish sold quickly, mostly to locals. Continuing along the wharf, we entered the realm of souvenir heaven, with local artists selling their wares, ironwood and soapstone statutes, woodcarvings, glassware, and hand painted fabric. We looked, but did not buy as we were assured that this was nothing compared to the markets we would visit in a few days.
Beyond the vendors were the charter and tour boats. It was here we found our tour to Seal Island and also a half-day fishing excursion.
The beach at Hout Bay is long, sandy and safe for swimming. The protected bay is suitable for water sports such as windsurfing, paddle skiing, surfing, fishing, scuba diving, sea kayaking or dinghy sailing.
Our day at the wharf was exciting and relaxing and I highly recommend spending least a morning there.
Hout Bay Mariner's Wharf
Cape Town, South Africa
There are two ways to the top, climb or take a cable car. Only the very daring and brave choose the former. The circular cable car, called the Rotair, carries up to 65 passengers and rotates a full 360 degrees as it ascends to the top Table Mountain in only 76 seconds, giving everyone on board incredible views.
Once on top of Table Mountain, there are pathways and trails, benches and seating areas. If you are lucky, and the weather is good, you will be able to see almost forever. The lofty heights of this table top is nothing short of spectacular. We could see in all directions- ships at sea headed toward the harbor, numerous bays, and the City of Cape Town itself. We could see Lion’s Head Peak, Devil’s Peak, Signal Hill and even the towering formations of the Twelve Apostles. We could see Robben Island, the island maximum-security prison when Nelson Mandela spent so many years during the Apartheid.
Several types of tickets are available, one-way (if you are planning to climb down), round trip and combination tickets. We purchased the Lunch Package ticket. This combination ticket was not advertised and we had to ask for it. The $13.50 USD ticket included the round-trip ride on the Rotair, and a self-serve buffet lunch. However, it was not the typical "all you can get" type arrangement. At end the buffet line, our plate was weighed; if it was over-filled, there was an extra cost. Luckily, none of our plates went over the limit. Lunch is offered between 11:30 to 3:30. Drinks, sandwiches and salads are available, or bring your own and have a picnic is one of the most interesting setting in the world. I think we could have stayed there all day just looking at the world below.
Table Mountain is also handicapped accessible, providing space for wheelchairs on the Rotair and eleven of the thirteen overlooks on the top are wheelchair accessible.
Table Mountain Website
Cape Town 7848
Cape Town, Western Cape 7848
00 27 21 7156136
Attraction | "Tour of Seal Island"
With only about 20 passengers on board, the Nauticat set out for Seal Island and an unexpected surprise that none of us, including the crew, had anticipated. The day was textbook perfect; sunny skies with only a few puffy white clouds in the sky and the temperature about 75-80 degrees f. We left the docks and traveled about 20 minutes towards the mouth of Hout Bay to the pile of rock named Duiker Island and endearingly known as Seal Island. The seals on the Island were quite cooperative, showing off their swimming and playful talents and demonstrating the wonderful art of relaxation - just lying on the rocks, oblivious to all the picture taking that was going on.
When the passengers had their fill of these cute creatures, we started back. We noticed the Captain was taking a course to the right of the normal route, and when the crew appeared on deck, many with cameras, we knew we were in for a treat. The Captain had spotted a large pod of dolphins and headed straight for them. Once he got their attention, they began swimming alongside and in front of the large pontoons, cutting back and forth through the waves created by the Nauticat.
We estimated 50 to 75 dolphins, too many for anyone really to count. I believe the dolphins were having as much fun as we were. Cameras clicked for over 10 minutes. Then, one by one, the dolphins started dropping back. When the last one left the side of the boat, we all took a deep breath and "WOW" was the only expression anyone could come up with.
One the most spectacular views from the boat is Chapman’s Peak. There is a road that winds around Chapman’s Peak and is said to be one of the most scenic marine cliff drives in the world. It was hewn into the side of the mountain between 1915 and 1922, cut on the dividing line of the base granite and sedimentary sandstone. Brilliantly colored layers of red, orange and yellow silt along with dark purple lines of manganese are extraordinarily beautiful. Unfortunately, several months before our visit, a portion of the road was closed due to rockslide, so our only chance to see it was from the Bay and the open sea.
Be prepared - take your camera and lots of film. You never know what you might see!
Robben Island/Robben Island Museum
Cape Town, South Africa 8002
+27 (0)21 409 5100
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