Monday, February 28, 2011

Cape Tour

A tour of the Cape peninsula is a must do on any Cape Town itinerary. It was one of our favorite days on the trip. We started out at the Waterfront and drove along the coast along the beaches in Sea Point, Camps Bay, and on into Hout Bay. After leaving Hout Bay we continued our drive along Chapmans Peak Drive, a beautiful drive along the very edge of the coast high in the air.

At the end of Chapmans Peak Drive we saw a sign for wine tasting. Since we had some time before our lunch reservation, we stopped to go wine tasting at Cape Point Vineyards. They have a lovely menu with snacks and a cheese tray if you'd like a light lunch.

However, we were eating just down the road in Noordhoek at Foodbarn. Of course the name "Foodbarn" does not conjure up ideas of high quality cuisine. But you are wrong! This place is quite a foodie haven.

I had the Bistro menu which includes an appetizer, entree, and dessert. I can't remember what my appetizer was but it was seafood and the sauce it was in was delicious. My entree was "Andouillette": Spicy pork belly and chitterling sausage, wrapped in a crispy spring roll, served with sauteed apples and potato fritter, finished with an apple cider and thyme juice. Not surprisingly, I had a cheese plate for dessert. All that wine makes me want lots of cheese.

Nick ordered off the a la carte menu. His entree was hands down the best thing we ate the entire trip and one of the top things of our lives: springbok in a vanilla jus.  Foodbarn was a wonderful restaurant with a casual feel.
After our leisurely lunch, we continued our drive along the coast. Down in this part of the peninsula it was much more deserted and the wind was much stronger. It truly feels like the end of the world. We continued down to Table Mountain National Park to see the Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. It was freezing cold and there were hurricane like winds. Since we had a marathon hike up a very large hill it was kind of nice that it was so cool. Johannesburg is 1500 km from the Cape of Good Hope while Antarctica is only 3000 km. The Cape of Good Hope is not actually the most southern point of Africa. But it was close enough for us.

Last stop: Boulders Beach in Simon's Town for the penguins. I love love love penguins and was so excited to see them. In fact I wanted to climb over the railing to touch them and go swimming in the water with them. In reality, you are confined to a boardwalk elevated above the beach and the penguins are down on the beach below. They were quite adorable and not smelly at all. If only I could have fit one in my suitcase.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Waterfront

The Victoria and Albert Waterfront is a shopping, eating, accommodation, and activity destination in Cape Town. It's a little touristy but not overly so and definitely worth a visit. There are several luxury hotels. There's all sorts of excursions that involve the water from shark diving to tours of Robben Island. There's restaurants ranging from ice cream stands to nice dining. And there is any kind of shopping you could ever want to do from crafts markets to high end local stores.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Robben Island

Buy your Robben Island tickets in advance! I'm not a last minute person by any means. In fact, I'm often over eager. But I was trying to be more laid back and waited until 6 weeks before we left on vacation to plan out what we wanted to do in Cape Town. There was one boat left with 2 tickets available for us to do the Robben Island tour. ONE. During the whole 4 days we were in town. In my opinion, this tour is a not to be missed experience and gives a great background as to the history of apartheid and the resulting racial tensions that are still in South Africa today.

First, you board a ferry boat to take you to Robben Island which is a couple miles offshore. The ferry boat is very nice. You can sit inside in the comfortable seats and air conditioning or sit outside on the top or stand along the deck.

Then you are loaded into busses. There, a guide drives you around the island, showing you different sections such as where the guards lived and explaining the history. We really lucked out and had the best guide ever. I know he was the best since he'd been the one to show Obama and other visiting dignitaries such as kings and queens around the island. And speaking of dignitaries, there are rooms and conference facilities on the island for them. Knowing the history of the island, and seeing how creepy it is now that it's deserted, I'd never want to stay on the island overnight!

The next stop is the actual prison facilities. There, we were transferred to another guide, all of whom had been political prisoners on Robben Island at some point. This part of the tour was just heartbreaking to hear about the conditions they lived in and how blacks versus coloreds were treated. White people weren't brought to the island at all. They had better prisons on the mainland.

Finally, the last part was a return on the ferry to Cape Town. The Robben Island tour was one of my favorite activities of the two weeks we were in South Africa and it's a definite do not miss.

Here is an explanation from Wikipedia about the differences between black versus colored under apartheid: