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Experience the wanderlust in Cape Town

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South Africa is fondly known as the Rainbow Nation and, at the risk of sounding cliché, the term is extended to all communities beyond race, creed or gender. Having lived in different parts of South Africa, my heart lies in “the Cape.”
Cape Town, or The Mother City, is known for its amazing beaches, vineyards, history and the majesty of Table Mountain. Different from the rest of South Africa, Cape Town is a quintessential melting pot, a city alive with creativity, colour, beauty and taste which is both sociable and sporty. What makes it unique from the rest of the country is its ability to combine the hospitality of Africa with the style of Europe.
Consider Cape Town a cocktail of San Francisco (we have our own “pink community”) and Napa Valley (some of the world’s renowned vineyards are nearby) with a twist of Los Angeles.
Admittedly, there’s a feeling of separation between the black and whites. Just look at Gugulethu, a township 20km outside the city centre. While it is colourful and vibrant, it is an example of the problems associated with poverty and should be experienced with a registered tour operator. This juxtaposition once again makes Cape Town rather unique from other South African cities.
That said, the city still offers an eclectic mix of society and lifestyle so let me share with you bits of my favorite city.

CITY CULTURE


Chic street cafes, bars and boutiques fill Greenpoint and Seapoint neighborhoods. There’s the un-bashful opulence in the Pink Village also known as “De Waterkant” and the pulsating and trendy Long Street with its hipsters. Fill your lungs with salty sea air as you stroll along Kloofnek Road or ride your hired Vespa along Camps Bay.

Colonial-style houses and buildings line the streets but you’ll always find something quirky and unexpected. At the top of the swanky Grand Daddy Hotel is a trailer park. I know what you’re thinking already, trailer parks and plush hotels don’t mix! The Airstream Rooftop Trailer Park does indeed exist with seven vintage trailers providing a novelty attraction. My favorite is the “Ballad of John & Yoko” with its simple white interior, shimmery guitar and pictures of the famous duo. Pictures of their “bed-ins for peace” protests, magazine covers (including the famous nude of John Lennon curled up next to Yoko Ono, which would be the last photo of his life), and other candid photos adorn the walls. Other themed trailers range from Afro-Funk to Goldilocks and the Three Bears are designed individually by local artists.

THE ISLAND THAT MADE HISTORY
Want to see where Nelson Mandela spent 27 years of his life? Then take a ferry ride to Robben Island, the notorious prison where the Apartheid regime kept political prisoners. Now a national museum, the island is a 35-minute trip from the rocky mainland. Ex-prisoners act as guides and escort you through their cells (including Nelson Mandela’s) to the quarry. Prisoners weren’t allowed to talk to each other so they spoke during toilet breaks here. It was here where the African National Congress (ANC) planned their next moves. If you’re lucky, you may glimpse a few penguins.
The first time I went to the island I was with my father, who lived through South Africa’s apartheid years. As ex-prisoners took us around the prison and shared their personal stories, I began to realize the significance of laying the past to rest and understanding how it has shaped the future. While I was saddened by the ex-prisoner’s stories, my father was more optimistic about the future of the country. He lived through the worst of the gloom.

SOMEWHERE OVER THE BO-KAAP
For expansive views of Cape Town, head to the Bo-Kaap. Formerly known as the Malay Quarter, it’s perched on the slopes of Signal Hill above the city centre and is the historical centre of Cape Malay culture.

Imagine a rainbow climbing up a hill, steep and narrow roads take you through brightly painted terraced houses along cobbled streets. Here you’ll find the Bo-Kaap Museum, which is the oldest house in the area dating back to the 1760s. Learn the story of the arrival of the first Muslims in the Cape and their contribution to the city as artisans and tradespeople. With its close proximity to the city centre and astounding views, it’s one of the most popular places to live.

The Fugard Theatre

 I believe cultural stories should be embraced in order to understand a country and its people, and there’s no better place than the Fugard Theatre. Named after South African playwright, novelist, actor and director Athol Fugard, the 270-seat theatre produces moving dramas about South Africa’s history, politics and society.

OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
Visitors to Cape Town cannot and shouldn’t miss Table Mountain with its natural beauty. For me, the real beauty is Cape Agulhas, where the Indian and the Atlantic Oceans meet. Unlike the popular Cape of Good Hope, Cape Agulhas is the southernmost point of Africa. Take a picnic basket or stroll through the old town and beach, but don’t forget a sweater because it can get really chilly there. 


The Bloukrans Bungee Jump
If you prefer something that gets your adrenaline going (like me) then shark cage diving in the Cape is a must. One of my most memorable experiences is shark diving with the late Steve Irwin, the legendary Crocodile Man from Australia.
For a different kind of adventure try bungee jumping of the third-highest commercial bungee jump in the world. The arched Bloukrans Bridge is 216 metres above the bottom of a gorge. Definitely not for the faint-hearted!

STRAWBERRIES, WINE AND GAME


South Africans are gastronomic geniuses who also produce great wine. We have over 800 wineries so the real dilemma is finding your favourite.


Vergelegen Somerset West, established by Governor Willem Adriaen van der Stel in the late 17th century, is possibly the grandest of the Old Cape estates. Vitner André van Rensburg took over the cellar in the early 2000s and turned it into the most decorated chateau in the Cape. His reds and whites rival the best of Bordeaux.

Many vineyards offer tastings so go ahead and make a day of it. Don’t forget to take a designated driver!

Nothing beats strawberry-picking in the summer. Mooiberg Farm, located between Stellenbosch and Somerset West on the R44, stands before scenic mountains and expansive vineyards. When you arrive at the farm, collect your basket and head towards the strawberries. Take your time picking, you’re only charged per kilogram you pick. When you leave the farm, drive around the circular peninsula to take in the natural and diverse vistas of this region.

Start at the picturesque fishing port of Hout Bay and then follow Chapman’s Peak Drive that runs along the Atlantic Ocean on the western side of the peninsula. The windy road hugs the face of Sheer Mountain on one side and the sandy beaches and cozy bays on the other. An engineering masterpiece, the 9-km road was constructed between 1915 and 1920 and has 114 curves. However, it’s prone to rock falls so be sure to check if the drive is open before setting off.


CAPE AND THE CITY

With plenty of restaurant and nightlife options in Cape Town there is something for everyone. De Waterkant (Waterfront) is popular with the sunset crowd while Camps Bay is a weekend hotspot. For the Carrie Bradshaw experience, and a delicious brunch, head to Cafe Manhattan bar. The cafe-cum-bar offers delectable American fare and serves up some serious Cosmopolitans.

On the rooftop of a 200-year-old house along Longmarket Street is Tjing Tjing, a bar styled in dark wood, red leather with a dash of copper. It’s whimsical yet strangely sexy but the views of the city are breathtaking.

For live music, head to Zula Bar, one of my all-time favourites for local talent. It’s a bit small, but you’ll have a great time meeting locals and foreigners alike, and dancing from dusk till dawn. 



In spectacular Cape Town there is something for everyone. What matters most in life is not about possessing but doing. So go and experience the wanderlust.

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