I usually prefer to break down a town or city we’ve visited by its landmarks, events, and attractions to describe them in a more detailed way. However in the case of Cape Town, we were only there for two full days, and didn’t spend enough time at any one spot to really split them into individual posts. So here is Cape Town in a nutshell.
Before visiting Cape Town, I had visions in my head and the expectations of what was, essentially, a shanty town, made of cobbled-together huts and garbage strewn about. Maybe I saw a documentary once on it, I’m not even sure anymore. But my preconceived notions weren’t very flattering, if I’m to be honest. So I was not only surprised by what we saw when we arrived, but I was also very impressed.
First off, Cape Town reminded me of, get ready for it, Nice, France. Something about the way the city is built around the crescent shaped curve of Table Bay, with houses rising up a hill on one side, and even geologically, it really reminded me of being in Nice. I wasn’t expecting that familiarity at all.
I also wasn’t expecting modern shopping malls, camping stores similar to MEC or Campers Village, and high-end restaurants. But Cape Town had it all. There are, of course, those rougher areas that all large cities have. But if you stick to the main streets and tourist-oriented areas, you shouldn’t have any problems getting around and feeling comfortable.
A great way to get an overview of the city is by taking the Hop On Hop Off Bus. This was one of the better tours. It took us through the city’s business center, past the ritzier, gated neighborhoods, and even up to Table Mountain. We wanted to climb it, but unfortunately it was too windy so they had closed the hiking trail. Still, the view just from the road was pretty spectacular:
We had arrived a day early before our group was scheduled to arrive, so we decided to stroll around and see what we could discover. Just a short walk from our hotel was the Two Oceans Aquarium, so we popped in to see what they had.
The aquarium was very nicely organized, and had some cool stuff such as sea turtles, sharks, stingrays, the obligatory penguins, and some pretty impressively-sized giant crabs. Again, we were pleasantly surprised. But that’s what travel is all about, isn’t it?
The next day after we met with our tour group, we went out to dinner to Quay Four, where Mark decided he was already feeling adventurous and ordered a dish featuring exotic game, such as kudu, springbok and gemsbok. Each chunk of meat came with its own identifying flag:
I don’t see this as a menu option on their current site. However it’s been a while since our visit, so I’m sure some of the menu items have changed!
Unfortunately, we missed out on visiting Robbin Island. Although our group tour itinerary said that an optional visit could be arranged, once our group met up we discovered it wasn’t an option after all. Had we known, we would have made the time to visit it on our own. So a good travel tip is to confirm in advance what attractions are actually offered as part of the tour. That way hopefully you don’t miss out on something you really want to see.
We also had a lot of people ask us if we ever felt uncomfortable or scared in Cape Town. Our tour guide advised us not to walk anywhere alone at night. He also said that if you flag down a cab, make sure that it is a proper licensed cab. Another tip is to establish the price before you get in, so you don’t get scammed. But a group of people from our tour did choose to walk back to the hotel from the restaurant, and they didn’t have any issues.
We felt quite safe everywhere we went. But we also stayed in the touristy populated areas, and just took the same precautions we would take at home walking around late at night. Cape Town is actually very multicultural and business oriented, like many large urban centers. There’s something for everyone here to explore and enjoy. For more information on what to see and do, check out their tourist information website.