Wednesday, February 3, 2016

South Africa - Cape Town

Before I tell you about our first day in Cape Town, I'm going to describe our last night there.

On our last night in Cape Town, I sat on a huge boulder on the beach. To my left, the sun was enjoying its last 15 minutes in the sky. To my right, a blanket of fog was rolling down over the Twelve Apostles like a table cloth floating down to cover a table. I felt relaxed. I don't often feel like that away from home on a doing vacation. I also had a weird sensation of feeling at home in a place on the other side of the world I'd only been in for three days. I felt deeply at peace, even though I knew we had to pack up and travel the next day. A lot of times when I talk about trips I focus on what we did and saw so I wanted to lead in with how I felt. Because this post is long and full of photos and that will get lost among the ruins of the trip.

Cape Town straight up blew me away. The seafood was amazing, the US dollar goes far when converted to the South African rand, the history is interesting, the scenery is dramatic and breathtaking, and the city has quite a laid back yet cosmopolitan feel to it.

We don't often do city vacations. Cape Town didn't feel big city-ish to me, but it is spread out. Like any other city, Cape Town has crime. I was comfortable walking around by myself during the day (not with a camera around my neck, but just like a regular person) but wouldn't do that at night. On our first day we did a half day overview tour. We started off at Table Mountain, accessible by cable car (about $13USD round trip). The flat-topped mountain has withstood six million years of erosion and in 2012 was named one of the New7 Wonders of the World after a global poll. The view from the top is wonderful and the mountain itself lords over the city and coastline, present in some viewpoint almost anywhere you go.
Video going down in the cable car. Turn your sound down because a child is losing her shit:

My favorite thing about this overview tour was learning about the history of Cape Town, which of course includes the relatively recent departure of apartheid. I'm not going to conduct a history lesson here, but as a result of apartheid black and colored people were pushed out of their homes and into townships, many with tin roofs and walls and no running water or electricity. You can see the townships on the outskirts of Cape Town. Seeing in passing how people were forced to live made me feel shame as a human being.  The government is now making reparations of sorts by building homes for families who were displaced beginning back in the 1960s. As an outsider, the country seems to have come pretty far in a very short amount of time, especially in how they see each other as people. America feels like it has a bigger race war. One of the oldest neighborhoods in Cape Town is Bo-Kaap, notable these days for its brightly colored homes. Many of the residents of the Bo-Kapp area are descendants of the slaves who were imported to the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch during the 17th & 18th centuries. Bo-Kaap is also a largely Muslim community and has been since the late 1700s. I adore color and standing in this neighborhood made me happy. 
City Centre is where the biz goes down...we didn't spend much time there, but did see Parliament and City Hall where Nelson Mandela made his famous speech upon his release from prison in 1990, the WWII memorial, and St. George's Cathedral, from which Desmond Tutu, the first black archbishop in South Africa, led many marches calling for the end of apartheid. The cathedral is a strong symbol for democracy in South Africa.
We spent the afternoon at the V&A waterfront, beginning with lunch at Baia. The seafood in this town is absolutely outstanding. We wandered around the waterfront for a while, listening to some street music, and shopping at the Watershed, which is full of goods produced entirely in Africa. I hate when I buy souvenirs and they don't go back into the local economy.
We closed out our first day rambling around Sea Point. MFD hit the public pool, we wandered and collected shells on the beach and he napped and I read. All the music people came out with their guitars right before sundown. We watched the sunset and peaced out on the day, unable to travel far for dinner so we ended up eating a gross meal at the restaurant attached to the hotel. It reminded me of TGI Friday's, South Africa style. And with less flair. See the trees in the pics on the bottom? There are insane winds in Cape Town during the summer season so you see a lot of that. We experienced the winds on Friday and they are no joke.
Our third day was supposed to be shark cage diving. We got a cancellation notice the night before because the water has been too warm - no sharks had come to the boat in the past 21 days. We found ourselves with an open day, so we lingered over coffee and trolled the beach a bit. MFD got a haircut and a massage while I roamed around the promenade. And saw old men in the tide pool in underwear. LOL for days.
After a bit of dithering back and forth of what we should do, we headed down to Camps Bay, the little section of the city right next to where we were staying. It had great gobs of lively energy in its streets and on its beaches. MFD had carried his bathing suit in a backpack for two days and never used it. On the day he didn't have it, he wanted to hit the beach. So we found a shop and outfitted ourselves for the day. I was happy to get a beach bag made in Kenya and a towel/blanket with the blanket side made there too. We rented two chairs and an umbrella for about $6USD - anyone who rents umbrellas from a beach in NJ knows what a freaking steal that is. I could do without the people trying to sell me everything under the sun on the beach, and it is not a beach where you can just leave your bag and wander. We had an early dinner in an awesome little sidewalk restaurant, Tuscany Beach, with the best waiter ever - Gus.
The scenery is insane on this beach:
But the star of the day was seeing the fog come down over the mountains like a table cloth, sitting on huge boulders warm from the sun, and watching the sun dip into the sea while hearing the sounds of native Cape Towners all around us out enjoying their slice of heaven.
Hotel
Protea Hotel Sea Point, Arthurs Road, Cape Town
Nice rooms, a block from the promenade
Breakfast was included for us, and it was totally passable. The restaurant attached to the hotel and providing its room service sucked.
Booking this trip
This trip was the first escape I booked via Living Social. The airfare and hotels were set - I could choose the travel dates, but not the airline or time. I could have switched the hotels, but I let it ride.

When we arrived in Cape Town after 9:30 on Wednesday night after a long travel time that started with us leaving our house in Philadelphia at 10 a.m. on Tuesday morning, I realized that this was actually a tour group.

I like to plan my own vacations and I don't like to feel forced to be around people. I was filled with dread but then I realized that I would still be doing my own thing, like usual, with the exception of a half day tour of the city the next morning to get the lay of the land. And I felt better. The tour was through Gate 1 (which is actually headquartered outside of Philadelphia), and I have to say our tour guide was exceptional and it was REALLY nice to have someone take care of your bags and checking into your hotels for you. I can see how it would appeal to people traveling internationally. And the price was absolutely unbeatable for what was included. Like less than half of what it would have been if we booked it all on our own. I would actually book through them again if it was laid out like this trip, where most of the stuff was optional to do with the group. We were a small group of 21 traveling together and 15 of them were travel buddies who booked at least one trip through Gate 1 per year for the past 10 years when they saw a good deal. They had no complaints.

For our second day we hired a private driver, and I'll share those photos Friday. My brain is reeling from this post alone. If you got through it, I'm sure your brain is too. LOL

 photo green_zpsc25796d6.png









46 comments:

  1. Good golly your pictures and videos are amazing. I've had Cape Town on my list, but the travel time keeps pushing it further away. Your pictures and descriptions have definitely bumped it up a few spots. WOW, just wow!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love how colorful the city center was! I personally love that you had a little bit of city and adventure in cape town - I've never thought to visit but I'm definitely intrigued now!! xo, Biana -BlovedBoston

    ReplyDelete
  3. What an amazing trip. I love what you said about that feeling of home on the other side of the world. I suspect we have "soulmate" places that beckon us home.; perhaps Cape Town is one of yours. My 3rd grade students were writing "All About" books and a couple of them chose penguins. I shared your photos of penguins on the beach. They thought that was the coolest thing ever. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I am thrilled you had that feeling of peace and home. I have read that others have the same feelings there. I love this whole blog ' I love the shells, the 12 apostles mountains, the fog. All of this stuff I would never know existed and you make me feel like I am right there with you, which I was in spirit! Oh, the places you go! Beyond ecstatic that the shark dive was cancelled. The universe delivers when you ask them to protect your chickens. Love. Your. Momma.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Such gorgeous photos!! Love all the beautiful colored buildings! Glad you all had fun :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Wow! I can't believe that you took all of these photos and got to see all of these pretty things! What you put up on Instagram while you were gone was just a taste of it all! It looks like the first part was incredible!!
    Go you for getting all of the pics and videos uploaded. I know that was a chore you weren't looking forward to haha

    ReplyDelete
  7. What an incredible trip! It sounds like you had a great time and the pictures are absolutely beautiful!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have too many things to comment... just... thumbs up! More!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Being able to see the fog like that is unreal... like movie special effects. I love hearing about South Africa, of course, but the Living Social escape experience is interesting, too. I always see those deals and wonder how they'll be so I appreciate the insight.

    ReplyDelete
  10. This is amazing. South Africa seems so different from what you think of when you imagine Africa, you know? I always see awesome travel deals on Living Social and other sites like that, but have always been afraid to book them.

    This is just such a cool vacation...I would love to do something like this with Jack and any future kids when they are older. Disney/the beach in the US/the Caribbean is great, but imagine coming home and telling your friends on the first day of school about your trip to South Africa.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I love cities that don't feel like cities. They're our favorite kinds of places to go!
    Also, I like having a plan on vacations, but organized fun/scheduling groups is not my cup of tea. It stresses me out.

    ReplyDelete
  12. That fog is CRAZYYYYY
    ... confession - the whole time I'm reading your post, that song "Sin City" about Cape Town was in my head. There's an 80's throw back for you.

    ReplyDelete
  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I've been waiting for your vacation recaps! This sounds amazing! I love the colored buildings in that neighborhood, and how awesome that there is so much music. And that's great that you could feel so relaxed and at peace in a busy place on a busy vacation. Matt and I have gone to island resorts for our last two vacations, which I love but he doesn't. He likes to go go go and explore and learn about the history of where we are. We are looking into taking more trips like this one, so the booking/tour group info was super helpful!

    ReplyDelete
  15. What an amazing trip!! I love all your pictures. South Africa is on my bucket list.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Wow I think you've just convinced me that Cape Town is a must see in my lifetime with it's amazing scenery, seafood and history. Sounds like you really enjoyed learning about the land and the package you got seems like a steal! Nice find on that. I've been tempted to book vacations on Groupon or Living Social but have yet to pull the trigger because of thinking it might be a too good to be true type deal.

    ReplyDelete
  17. LOVE the table cloth reference because that is just what it looks like (and also like a Halloween punch bowl with dry ice at the top). And good on you for noting how you FELT, that is a good thing to do as it's easy to let that pass you by without note. Well, this whole place looks amazing, for real. And there are a lot of places that I would go on vacation and travel during the day but not at night so I know what you mean. Bo-Kaap looks especially beautiful!! I love those colorful homes my goodness. How sad to read that, just like a lot of other places, the less-fortunate were systematically forced into worse conditions. Ugh. Anyway, that food looks great, the underwear man is hilarious and MFD has some cool shades!!! Looking forward to more posts!

    ReplyDelete
  18. That fog is insane! It doesn't even look real! I love the views from Tabletop Mountain, and it's so cool that it was named one of the New7. I want to know what that furry little creature is, and why he appears to be so close to you. Love all the vibrant colors, and seashells! Did you bring any back with you? I'm such a sucker for collecting seashells.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I would have loved the history tour, I like to learn about the history of any place I travel too. It's one of my things.

    I love all the brightly colored houses, America should have more of that!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. *to. I should really spell and grammar check before hitting send. UGH

      Delete
  20. After seeing your pictures and Jody's from when she went and another friend's, it makes me really wish I wanted to go there. It seems gorgeous and amazing and the history is right up the alley of what I enjoy and yet...no desire right now.

    I'm so glad you guys go to go and MFD got to fulfill his dream of going; that's a big deal. And I'm really glad booking with LivingSocial worked out for you, too!

    ReplyDelete
  21. That first picture is everything!!! I mean, all of the pictures are amazing!!! The cable car ride is something I would have been scared shitless to do but with that view....you have to do it! I love all the history and that you enjoyed the food and got to shop local. Sounds like the trip was just wonderful and you got to feel at peace :)

    ReplyDelete
  22. I am going to have to go back and reread this later and watch videos at home but... wow. The pics are incredible. That fog... just amazing. I love all the local flavor you got to experience. That to me is what travelling is all about... doing your own thing!

    ReplyDelete
  23. my brain is definitely reeling, but in a good way! this is awesome. also, i love the explanation of the living social / tour group thing. that would have turned me off, but the way you explained it totally made it sound like something i would do and enjoy, especially somewhere like that where it would help to have someone knowledgeable and helpful.
    the brightly coloured houses are gorgeous! and i loved the sprinkling of information and history throughout this post, so thanks for that. it really does make me feel shame as a human being when i learn about something like that and i'm complaining about something ridiculous. but i'm glad it seems they have come pretty far in a short time.
    the guys in the underwear - LOL. thanks for sharing that ;)

    ReplyDelete
  24. Cape Town looks absolutely gorgeous, and I had no idea about all of the mountains that surround the area! I also love how brightly colored the houses are, and that no hipsters sign too! I've heard a lot of people say that they've enjoyed booking trips through Living Social or Groupon, so I might have to look into that for future trips!

    ReplyDelete
  25. I was looking forward to your posts recapping your trip!! It looks amazing. Cape Town is some where I have always wanted to go to. My sister actually lives and works in Rwanda right now so I think an Africa trip is in my future. can't wait to hear about the rest of your trip!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Oh my goodness your pictures are AMAZING!! The colors, the fog covered mountains, and all the smiles= perfection!!
    XOXO

    ReplyDelete
  27. The pictures of the fog rolling over the mountains! I can see why you were moved. I love all the colors in that one part of town. How can you not be happy around that?!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Bo-Kaap looks so cool! Interesting background info on it, too.
    Bahahahahah @ the tidepool pic!

    ReplyDelete
  29. Wow... That fog is absolutely unreal! What an interesting phenomenon!

    ReplyDelete
  30. The fog rolling in is just incredible, surreal even. That man in the underwear, yeah I zoomed in on that shit and wish I hadn't. Hahahah. My eyes!!!!
    How you describe feeling is how I imagine I'll feel in Kenya. I feel so drawn to Kenya and have for years, I can't even put it into words. It's my dream. I know that when I do make my way over there, I'm going to have an incredibly tough time coming home.
    I feel blessed you're sharing these photos and your experience with us. xo

    ReplyDelete
  31. South Africa is definitely on my bucket list, I've heard it's one of the prettiest places to travel ever. Loved this post!

    ReplyDelete
  32. What beautiful photos. I really really hope I can get to visit one day! Its been on the list of places to go forever!

    ReplyDelete
  33. I was hooked at your opening paragraph!

    ReplyDelete
  34. This is so amazing. Your photos are stunning and I always love the details of your recaps. I would love to go to Cape Town someday!

    ReplyDelete
  35. Oh my goodness, this trip. I can't wait to read/see more!

    ReplyDelete
  36. Loved reading this post! Beautiful photos!

    ReplyDelete
  37. These pictures are stunning! I've always wanted to visit Cape Town, and now I want to even more! I remember when you found the Living Social deal, glad it worked out well but good to know that it usually involves a group tour. Can't wait to see the rest of the recap!

    ReplyDelete
  38. I'm so glad you got to enjoy and relax (despite all your DOING). That's a beautiful feeling. My mind was reeling over the coast line, but I love the brightly painted houses too. I didn't remember that you did this as part of a Living Social deal - but what a steal!! I'm glad your experience was good! I'm in disbelief at the 6 million years thing - things that I can't even comprehend/fathom.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Trying to catch up on my reading . . . loved this. Love the details and gorgeous pictures. We have a friend from South Africa and always talk about going there together. Maybe when the kids are grown! Can't wait to read more!

    ReplyDelete
  40. I didn't realize you were using Gate 1 for this trip! We used them for our Europe trip in 2014, and thought they did an amazing job! We also booked through Groupon Getaways and saved SO much money. I think a lot of people are wary of booking through sites like Groupon or Living Social, but when so much is included in one flat price, I think it's well worth it.

    The pictures are amazing, and I love that cloud of fog ... I've never seen anything quite like it!

    I've always wanted to go to South Africa, and your pictures make me want to go right now.

    ReplyDelete
  41. http://www.pri.org/stories/2016-01-04/south-africas-native-american-fetish-very-strange-thing

    ReplyDelete
  42. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Spur Steak RANCHES !!! http://www.spur.co.za/

      Delete
    2. Spur Steak RANCHES !!! http://www.spur.co.za/

      Delete
  43. Amazing pictures! When we spent three weeks in Europe we did it through a tour, with all things optional, and I loved it. There was so much I didn't have to worry about and since it was our first trip abroad I liked having someone to lean on. We also got priority entrance to all museums, churches, and monuments, so I'm all about that! Haha! I'm so glad the deal worked out for you! I cannot wait to go to South Africa someday. Nolan is studying it in school and I showed him all your pictures from Insta. I think we might have to make it a family trip. We have friends in Joburg (they call it Jozi, ha!), but would have to do Cape Town on our own. I'm glad to hear it was easy to do.

    ReplyDelete

Tell me what you think, leave a comment! I'll reply to you via email if you have an email associated with yourself, otherwise, check back here for my reply. Thank you and good day. I SAID GOOD DAY.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Blogging tips
Pin It button on image hover