Cape Town: 29 Jun- 08 Jul 2018
Updated: Oct 1, 2021
1. Arrived at Cape Town International Airport (CPT) from Victoria Falls and was bussed from our plane to Immigrations, where our passport was stamped. No visa is required for US citizens. Used Uber to transit to Cape Town city center @ $14.00. Pick up your Uber at the Parkade 1 parking garage. Airport wifi is free for 30 minutes and is a strong signal (all the way out to Parkade 1). You can also take a bus downtown, but you have to buy bus cards and then get them loaded with money - the economics just don't make sense. You could also take a taxi if you were inclined to pay @ $20.
2. Capital Mirage Hotel @ $104/night via booking.com. After I first booked the hotel, I noticed the price dropped about $10/night, so I made a new booking and then canceled the old one. Excellent hotel, modern, clean with a fully outfitted kitchen (with washer and dryer) - the wife was suitably impressed. On Saturday nights the parking garage across the street becomes a nightclub with very loud music from 2:00 - 10:00 pm. The Vue Bar on the 15th floor provides: an excellent 360-degree view, but is rather sterile (as are the cocktails and food), but with a solid $15/person breakfast (7:00 am - 11:00 am).
-Located two blocks away is a large well-run Spar grocery and liquor store.
3. Free Walking Tour: Historic City Tour. We try to take a free walking tour in every city in order to get the lay of the land, meet interesting people (like Tom, who was soon to be quitting his job and going back to school) and discover other sights to be seen. Highlights of this tour:
-Groote Kerk (the Dutch Reformed Church): go inside and check out the exquisite alter, the enormous column-less arched ceiling, and the headstone floor. This is the most austere church I have ever seen - but yet quite beautiful. The church and the denomination has had a checkered past, but as Pope Francis has said about Homosexuals "who am I to judge"
-The Eastern Food Bazaar: an alley off of Longmarket Street containing food stalls for numerous eastern cuisines (Indian, Pakistani, Turkish, etc). Pay first, then take your receipt to the stall and pick up your food. Get #605 Bunnychow. The best cheap eats in Cape Town.
-Portraits of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu: 106 Adderly
-City Hall off Parade Square: where Mandela spoke to massive crowds after the end of Apartheid.
-The Mutual Building: a fine example of art deco architecture and design. The exterior features sculptures of the nine ethnic African groups.
-Weeping Lion over the Slave Market
-Arch for the Arch: an interesting sphere/arch honoring Bishop Desmund Tutu. Free wifi that starts of with a short bio of the good bishop.
-The Company's Garden: the Central Park of Cape Town
-Piece of the Berlin Wall outside Motherland Coffee Shop
4. The Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island Ferry:
-Prior to boarding the ferry, visit Origin Coffee at the V&A Waterfront. It’s outside, so only go if the weather is nice.
-If you get there early you will just wait until boarding @ 15 min prior.
-When boarding get a seat outside otherwise you may be trapped inside where it smells and you won't be able to see out. When we de-boarded the “Sea Princess”, Susan (who was feeling a little piqued) asked me “Do you think Nelson Mandela was seasick when he arrived on Robben Island?” I replied “Definitely . . . if he took the Sea Princess”
-There are some seals directly adjacent to the ferry landing - you will smell them prior to seeing them.
-Exit ferry, board cattle bus with Llewelyn our guide (excellent)
-If at all possible on the return voyage take the “Madiba 1” as the “Sea Princess” is a shithole, and makes for an unpleasant smelly ride (and I used to be in submarines). Even the crew on the Madiba 1 was nicer.
-Ask your Prison guide about how he was detained/sentenced and if he knew Mandela.
-Review the ferry website for updates as the ferry is often canceled due to weather.
5. Table Mountain: Uber to and from Lower Cable Station @ 52 R ($3.81) or you can take the Public Bus (Bus #110 connects the Lower Cable Station).
-Buy tickets before on www.tablemountain.net. So you don’t have to wait online once you arrive.
I took the cable car up and down, but you should walk up and take the cable car down (easier on the knees) unless you are cardiovascular challenged. Steps to the top are located 15 min up the road past the lower cable car on the right (by a shack). - Free tour of the top of Table Mountain on the hour every hour until 1500. Meet at the Twelve Apostles Terrace. It’s free, but if your guide does a good job, slip him a couple bucks, it won’t kill you. Charlie did a fine job.
- Free WiFi throughout the Upper and Lower Cable Stations.
6. Walked up to Lions Gun and then signal hill. Follow Buitengract South, stop at Trip 21 for coffee, then continue and make a right on Whitford St. follow signs to Lions Gun. At the T in the road, make right for Lions Head, then double back to the T and go left to Signal Hill for panoramic views of Cape Town and the paragliders.
7. Uber to Mzoli’s in Guguthula @ $12.00. It looks a little sketchy out front but is perfectly safe. Enter and buy your meat (beef, port or lamb, or sausage). Pay at the cashier where you will be given two receipts. Proceed down the hallway to the braai and hand your meat to the cook. He will tell you when to return (@ 15 min for us). Go across the street, just to the left of the Yellow Zone shipping container, to a private residence to buy your beer (I recommend a 750 ml Castle for R20). Pick up your cooked meat and give the chef a tip (I gave him R10, and he was quite appreciative). Get utensils at the cashier and proceed to the patio on the corner. Eat your meat. Pap is also available, but we just ordered meat.
8. DIY Wine Tour: Used the local hop-on hop-off bus to create our own Wine Tour (Buy tickets online for 180R or in person at the Long Street ticket office for 200R). Go to Long Street (stop #5) and board the Blue Bus. Exit the Blue Bus at Constantia Nek Wine Stop (stop #21) and board the Purple Bus. We visited the following:
1. Groot Constantia Wine Estate
2. Eagle’s Nest Wine Farm
-we did not visit the third stop on the Purple Bus the Beau Constantia Wine Estate
-you can use the Purple Bus to visit two other wineries (Constantia Glan and Silvermist Organic Vineyards), by walking from adjoining wineries. See the Constantia Wine Route for further details.
Note: Normally I'm not a fan of the ubiquitous "Red Bus", but in this case think of it as a tool that will enable you to access some well-structured wine.
8. Shosholoza Meyl Train (Capetown to Johannesburg): 08 July 1000 (Sunday). Be careful if using Uber to get to Cape Town Railway Station. You cannot choose it from the drop-down menu. You must choose it by moving the pin. This caused an issue with us as our driver had an issue locating the station (at one point driving the wrong way down a one-way street - we may have encouraged him). Four(4) person sleeper cars. Same-sex, so my wife and I were assigned different cabins. We complained to the train manager, who reassigned us to the same cabin (he also informed us he was doing us a favor as all cabins are the same sex). No credit card only cash for purchases onboard the train. 60 R per bed for linen (or bring your own). Issues? Ask for the Train Manager. Wine by the bottle, beer: Black Label tallboy 18 R. Weak menu: we had a tomato cheese sandwich for 20 R. Nobody checked to limit the amount of luggage we brought onboard. At CT Railway Station, follows signs for long-distance trains. Go to the Sheyonal Meyl ticket counter to get tickets (present email voucher, that you purchased online via African Sun Travels - almost as bad as getting a JP Railpass). Then just prior to getting your tickets checked to enter the boarding area there will be a column with a printout that identifies where each passenger is sleeping (take a photo of it).
-An excellent resource for rail travel anywhere in the world is The Man in Seat 61.
- During our visit there was a water crisis, so if it’s brown send it down, if it’s yellow key it mellow.
- Cape Town Wine Recommendations:
“The Chocolate Block 2016” Boekenhoutskloof, Franschhoek, SA
“Two Oceans”Savignon Blanc 2016", Two Ocean Wines, SA