Dazzled. That’s the word. Also totally smitten. I have run out of words to describe the beauty and wonder of South Africa. Gorgeous, amazing, stunning, awesome, fantastic. I’m sure I’ve used them all and none too sparingly. But I have yet to evoke that amped up state of my emotions, the it’s-so-great-to-be-alive exhilaration that I almost always experience when I travel to new places. I mean, it’s great to hang out at the beach or spend a week or two doing your favorite activity with your favorite people, but for us anyway, the relaxation and rejuvenation we are meant to reap from a good vacation is not enough. It does not approach the thrill of discovering new places and new people. We are so charged up! Still! And continue to discuss, remember, research, and learn more and more. We are improving our history and our geography and my cooking repertoire. We are looking at everything differently. So cool.
So Cape Town. Steep hills rolling to the sea à la San Francisco. White gleaming houses, aqua seas, pure white sand. A youthful, vibrant place, full of hip young people, international restaurants, colorful markets, singsong voices. A busy port with commercial and pleasure boats from all over the world chugging through the harbor. If I could go to only one place in South Africa, this would be it. Strolls through leafy parks, a glass of wine in an outdoor cafe facing the market, the red bus ride up to the cable car to Table Mountain. We *loved* it!
Quickly, a few details. Driving from Waterkloof along the coast was a little chaotic. Too much traffic, and the coastal toll road at Camps Bay was closed due to the recent fires and high wind. But an oasis awaited us at 4 Rosmead Boutique Hotel under the shadow of Table Mountain. This was our favorite hotel of all the wonderful ones we stayed in. The service was extraordinary and the decor stunning. Sonia and Nadine were so kind and helpful. In a hilly residential neighborhood, it was walkable to the Green Market Square and to the many restaurants on Kloof Street. I might have liked to have been directly on the water, but aside from that it was a lovely place to stay.
We did make it to the Victoria and Alfred (no not Albert) Waterfront one evening. It is a 21st century dining and shopping mecca–not really our kind of place, since it is basically an outdoor mall, but the setting was dramatic and the atmosphere was fun. It’s a highlight for many tourists, and I understand why.
Restaurants to recommend:
- Cafe Bellini on Green Market Square – best real Italian food we’ve had out of Italy!
- Manna Epicure on Kloof Street – a place to eat serious meat – South African Barbecue (Braai)!
- Karibu Great outdoor venue on the V & A Waterfront to sample South African specialties! Our server, Evidence, was a delight, as was my bobotie!
- Fork – really wonderful tapas on a balcony above the town- maybe the best wine we had? And sticky toffee pudding for dessert!
- Kloof Street House – charming venue and very hip younger international crowd but uneven service, eating al fresco marred by smokers and loud conversations, and food just okay. Looked good if you were young and just starting out a night on the town though.
- There’s also a place on Kloof Street called Cafe Paradiso, but book ahead – we couldn’t get in.
Make sure you buy a beaded animal at Monkey Biz to support the cause–creating self sufficient women artists and entrepreneurs. We had noticed the beautiful works at Four Rosemead and inquired about where to find them. Sure, you can find tons of beaded sculptures in the market and in souvenir stores everywhere, but this place was special. Each work is signed by the woman who created it, and she is paid by Monkeybiz directly, who then sell the works, returning all profits to the women. It has been proven that women who earn their own money spend it on the health and education of their children. It can make such a difference! When the money goes to their husbands, well…We were delighted to hear the story of Mathapelo Ngaka, who was discovered in the townships (shanty towns) by ceramicist Barbara Jackson, and who now travels the world for this cause. She was so jubilant and hopeful. Truly an inspiration.