A long weekend in the Cape

Cape Town

I am getting married tomorrow  in the seaside town of Hermanus. I never need an excuse to visit the  Cape, but April is definitely one of my favourite times of the year to explore Cape Town and the Western Cape region.

Cape Town should be bustling over the Easter long weekend with holiday makers making the most of autumn. A large contingent of athletes will converge on the city to compete in the Two Oceans Marathon. A colleague at Waggener Edstrom is travelling from the US to run this 56 kilometre ultra-marathon. Her goal is to raise funds for Sudanese orphans.

If you ever need a break from Jozi, a long weekend in Cape Town should do the trick. This is what I would do if I only  had a few days to explore the Mother City.

Exploring the Mother City:  I feel safe walking in Cape Town. I don’t get the same feeling in downtown Jo’burg. Don’t get me wrong,  I love Jo’burg and you should always be aware of your surroundings no matter where you are in South Africa, but there is no doubt that Cape Town wins first prize in the city walking stakes. If you are driving into the city, use the underground parking on the corner of Park and Kloof Street. I think the mall is called the Lifestyle Centre. The parking fee isn’t too bad for the city.  It is also a good spot to start and finish your city walking tour. There are loads of restaurants in the area, but rather head down Kloof Street towards the city, passing the Long Street Baths to your right. If you are hungry, make at pit stop at Royale’s. It is the best burger joint in town. They have an excellent vegetarian burger selection. Don’t be shy, as you are going to need to fuel your big walk! A walk through Cape Town will give you a good sense of South Africa’s oldest city and its diverse population. There is so much history and fine architecture on offer. I especially love listening to the banter between the street vendors plying their trade and making everyone smile. The rest of your city adventure is up to you, but I would aim to make it a round trip, taking in Green Market Square, St. George’s Mall and ending off with a stroll through The Company’s Gardens – Cape Town’s  Central Park. I suggest you invest in a decent map and shoes. If you are a history buff, there are a number of worthwhile museums to explore during your city trip. It is an easy walk back to your car from the top entrance of The Company’s Gardens off Orange Street. At this stage, you will most probably need a drink to quench your thirst. You may wish to head to a bar off Park Street or treat yourself to a drink at the Mountain Nelson Hotel. If it is a beautiful day, it is worth putting the city walk on hold and heading straight for Table Mountain. It is a bit of a hike up the mountain and as you only have the luxury of a long weekend, take the cable car and book your tickets online. It will save you waiting in a queue. Once on top, you should be able to see Cape Point on a clear day.If you feel energetic, trekking up Lions Head is also an option. The view is magnificent and it’s an enjoyable climb. As with all mountain-based activities, make sure you take a friend to share the experience and  to help you out if anything goes pear-shaped. Robben Island should also be on your city activity list. This former leper colony and prison is now a popular tourist attraction.  Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners spent many years on the island.  The island’s recent history and the beautiful panorama of Cape Town make the choppy ferry ride worth the journey. Click here for more details on the ferry service and museum entrance fee.

The French corner: Franschhoek is my favourite  wine route in the Cape.   The town has changed dramatically over the years, but I am glad to report it has retained its charm and beauty.  It is around 60 minutes from Cape Town by car. My lovely (and soon to be wife) and I enjoy walking, drinking and eating our way through the town. Stop in at Reuben’s. We usually enjoy a lunch in the  courtyard, as we tend to always forget to book in advance for dinner.  If you like trout and a view, La Petite Ferme, situated off the Franschhoek Pass is a winner. Le Quartier Français is  rated as one of the top restaurants in the country and is regularly on the top 100 global  list.  They have a few dining  options, but I am told the Tasting Room is the way to go. My favourite wine estate (and there are many in the valley) is Cabriere, run by Achim von Armin. I would invest an entire day in Franschhoek. If you don’t have the time and want a Cape wine experience, head out to Constantia. It is the closest wine making area to the city.

To Cape Point and back: This spectacular drive from Cape Town’s city centre could take the entire day. It all depends on how many times you find an excuse to stop on the route. Trust me, you will find plenty of reasons to stop and take in the view, as this has to be one of the most spectacular drives in the world.It is also the route of the Cape Argus Cycle Tour. The route is especially busy over weekends, so you may want to drive it on the Friday or Monday. Start off in Cape Town, heading out on the M3 towards Muizenburg. Your mission is to reach the Cape Point nature reserve. Your first stop should be Kalk Bay. If it is lunchtime, try the excellent Harbour House restaurant situated in the  harbour. The grub and view of False Bay is superb. Simons Town is also worth a stop. You may wish to visit the penguins at Boulders (five minutes from Simons Town), but if your time is limited, I would just head straight to Cape Point Nature Reserve. Watch out for the baboons on this stretch of road. They aren’t shy! The Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet at Cape Agulhas, the southern most tip of Africa, , but Cape Point is still a treacherous piece of coastline with stunning views. There are same spectacular beach walks in the Reserve.  The drive back from Cape Point to Cape Town is one of my favourites! Turn left out of  the main gate of the Cape Point Nature Reserve, driving towards Scarborough. Your mission is Chapman’s Peak Drive, via Misty Cliffs and Kommetjie. There is small toll fee for the privilege of driving Chapman’s Peak. Keep on driving, through Hout Bay, over Suikerbossie, through Camps Bay and Clifton. You will end off in Green Point, at  the new football stadium recently completed for the World Cup. You will be exhausted and your camera flash memory card should be full, but you will have plenty to reminisce about over  sun downers in Camp’s Bay, Sea Point or Green Point.

A relax in the Overberg: I recently re-discovered the brilliant Overberg region.  If you are looking for something totally different and don’t mind a  romantic adventure, I can recommed Langrug Lodge as a central base for the exploration of this gem of a region.  Built in 1912 as a shepherd’s cottage, Langrug Lodge is my favourite countryside break in South Africa. There is no electricity. You will cook on gas, read by candle light and start a fire in the ‘donkey’ before bath or shower time. It is romantic, excellent value and the best kept secret in the region. There is also so much to explore in the area, including Cape Agulhas, Arniston, Greyton and Hermanus.

 My other Cape Town favourites:

– Breakfast at the Radisson Blu – a view of Table Bay to aid your digestion

– A jog along the Sea Point promenaded –  your lungs will  feel inspired

– Sipping on a mojito along the  Camps Bay strip

– A day watching cricket at Newlands   – beer, cricket and a view of the mountain!

– An afternoon at the District Six museum – a dedication to this vibrant Cape community and a reminder of the atrocities of Apartheid

– Sitting on Llandudno beach –  watching the surfers and the waves do their thing

Getting there: Unless you live in the eastern suburbs of Jozi, the easiest way to get to Cape is to fly out from Lanseria airport. It is a comfortable two hour flight from Johannesburg with Kulula Air. The parking and boarding experience at Lanseria is quick and easy, but OR Tambo International has more regular flights serviced by British Airways, SAA, Mango, 1Time and Kulula. If you are travelling from Europe, there are regular direct flights to Cape Town from London and other major hubs. The total flying time from Europe is around 11 hours. If you are feeling more adventurous, take the train from Johannesburg to Cape Town. I hear it is a magical overnight journey through the Karoo, ending up at the refurbished Cape Town station.

If you have any additional ideas for a long weekend in-and-around Cape Town, please contact me or post a comment.

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