I hope you enjoyed the first part of my trip report to Dubai and South Africa (click here if you haven’t read it). South Africa had been on my bucket list for some time. High praise from Kate and Josh, meant we were really looking forward to our visit. We had decided not to try and see too much of this vast country on our first visit, just Cape Town and the Winelands.
We arrived in Cape Town after a 9hr 30min flight from Dubai, again we flew with Emirates. Another great flight. The views of Cape Town, the mountains and coast when coming in to land were stunning. Our driver was waiting to transfer us to our Cape Town hotel, it was about a 30 minute drive in to the city.
The journey into the city is quite an eye opener. You pass some of Cape Town’s largest townships and some of its wealthiest suburbs in close proximity. You get stunning views of Table Mountain and Lions Head which tower over the city and beautiful sweeping views of Table Bay.
Our Cape Town Hotel
The Mount Nelson is one of Cape Town’s oldest hotels. It is located in the Gardens area of the city on the lower slopes of Table Mountain and close to the city centre.
We chose this area as it was convenient for the city centre attractions, Cape Town beaches and Table Mountain. Parts of Cape Town do have a reputation of being dangerous particularly at night, Gardens is considered a safer area. Although we didn’t feel unsafe during our stay, we did at times feel intimidated by beggars on the street who can be very persistent.
The Mount Nelson
The Mount Nelson is a beautiful colonial building set in extensive gardens. Its what I would call an “old school” hotel, like something out of an Agatha Christie novel! Very luxurious with spacious lounges and terraces for relaxing, eating and drinking. It is “the place” in Cape Town for afternoon tea, which is served from 10 am until 9 pm, as it’s so popular. It’s affectionately known by locals and regular guests as the Nellie or the Pink Lady.
Our room was in the Green Park Wing. It was spacious and very comfortable. As requested we had a balcony with a great view of Table Mountain. If you decide to visit Cape Town and want to stay somewhere special I can highly recommend the Mount Nelson. Click here for more information.
After a long flight we unpacked followed by dinner in the hotel, an excellent Durban Malay Curry, and then an early night.
Day 1 – exploring the City
All the time we were in Cape Town I never tired of seeing the view of Table Mountain. That first morning we were fortunate it was clear, the “table cloth” wasn’t down. The “table cloth” is the layer of cloud that unfortunately is often settled on top of the mountain. Friends of ours visited last year and never actually saw the mountain top throughout there stay as the “table cloth” was permanently down.
The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront
After a lavish breakfast in the hotel, which included oysters, an array of fish, cold meats, breads and pastries and hot dishes, we decided to head down to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront (the V&A). The hotel provided a shuttle service to and from the V&A several times a day.
The V&A is one of Cape Town and South Africa’s most popular tourist attractions. It offers spectacular views of Cape Town and Table Mountain. Although it is still a working harbour and port it is also home to a huge number of shops and restaurants. Its also home to some of Cape Town’s top hotels and other attractions such as the 2 Oceans Aquarium, the Cape Wheel and art galleries and museums. As the top tourist attraction we found it a bit too touristy for us! But if you want some retail therapy, a waterside meal or sundowners its the ideal place to visit.
I would particularly recommend a couple of attractions. Firstly the Watershed which offers a huge selection of South African arts and crafts. It has over 150 stalls, live demonstrations and workshops open to visitors. Next to the Watershed you will find the V&A Food Market which showcases local food producers in a street food style setting. A great spot for a snack, drink or more substantial meal, plenty of free samples too.
As you would expect being the waterfront there are loads of boat trips on offer, harbour cruises, dolphin trips and party boats. The V&A is also where boat trips to Robben Island leave from. These trips to visit the island where Nelson Mandella was imprisoned for 18 years are very popular so you need to book in advance.
We spent a full morning exploring the V&A. We then had a light lunch at one of the many waterfront eateries before getting the shuttle back to the hotel.
In the afternoon we went for a walk near to the hotel to explore Kloof Street. Kloof Street is one of the best streets in Cape Town for restaurants, bars and shopping. It climbs up from the city centre towards the bottom of Table Mountain. Most of the restaurants and bars are located at the top of the street. Although Kloof Street is a very safe part of the city to explore on foot we were approached by several very persistent beggars who just wouldn’t take no for an answer. We found that to get rid of them you are best to go in to a shop, bar or restaurant.
We had a drink at the trendy Kloof Street House, a very quirky place but a great menu and very reasonably priced drinks.
The Pot Luck Club
After a few hours relaxation back at the hotel, it was time to try one of the Cape Town restaurant recommendations from Kate and Josh, the Pot Luck Club.
The Pot Luck Club is a very famous and popular Cape Town restaurant. You need to book well in advance and you have to pay a deposit when you book. The restaurant is situated in Woodstock a fashionable up and coming area of Cape Town! I would call it edgy and to be honest it is not an area in which I would venture out on foot after dark! We took a taxi from the hotel.
The restaurant is situated on the same site as its big sister, the Test Kitchen which is a lot more expensive and even more difficult to get a table. Its located on the 6th floor of a silo of an old biscuit factory. From the taxi an elevator takes you up to a huge room with large windows offering expansive views of Cape Town. The restaurant is very lively (noisy even!), but there is a good atmosphere with a casual yet elegant feel to the place. The kitchen is open to the main restaurant, with the most highly sought after seats being at the kitchen counter with a close up view of the chefs in action.
The style of food is sharing plates with dishes grouped as salty, sour, sweet, bitter and unami. You make your selection on a tick list of the menu items, with dishes delivered to the table in the order decided by the chefs. The front of house staff are superb, passionate about the food and they will help and guide you through the experience, because thats what it is, its not just a meal!
Highlight dishes were the poached crayfish, the Pot Luck Club peri peri chicken, the beef tataki and the chickpea fries with parmesan cream. The puddings were excellent too. With cocktails to start, a bottle of excellent Pinot Noir and a couple of additional glasses of wine and service, the bill was around £80. It was remarkable value considering it is one of the top restaurants in Cape Town if not South Africa. This was probaby our standout meal of the whole trip, if you go to Cape Town you must go to the Pot Luck Club!
Day 2 – Exploring the Cape
We were up bright and early to do some exploring further afield. We booked a car and driver with the hotel. Our driver, Jerry, Cape Town born and bred, picked us up at 9 a.m.
The weather in Cape Town was beautiful, bright and sunny, and the “table cloth” wasn’t down, so it looked as though we’d picked the right day to see the scenery!
The Atlantic Coast
I was so looking forward to seeing the Atlantic coast, I had heard so much about the spectacular sea views. From out hotel to Camps Bay was about 8 minutes by car about 4 km. With the weather being so beautiful in Cape Town you can imagine how surprised and disappointed we were to see the whole coast line completely covered in a thick sea mist. You literally couldn’t see a thing!
It stayed like this for over 20 kms! We couldn’t see the 12 Apostles a series of peaks which rise up from the coast as part of Table Mountain National Park. We couldn’t see Llandudno Beach, named after Llandudno near our home in North Wales, and recognised as one of the most spectacular beaches in Cape Town!
Chapmans Peak Drive
By the time we reached Chapmans Peak Drive I was feeling so disappointed. We’d travelled all these miles to see the Cape scenery and it didn’t look like we would see anything other than sea mist. However as we started climbing Chapmans Peak we emerged from the mist in to glorious clear skies and sunshine, with amazing views of the Cape coastline. Chapmans Peak Drive is about 10 km long. Its not for the faint hearted as it twists and turns clinging to the cliff face. Its a must for any visitor to Cape Town.
Cape Point Nature Reserve
Cape Point is a an hours drive further south from Chapman’s Peak. The scenery never gives up, the views are simply stunning. One of the advantages of having a private driver was that we arrived at the toll booth for entrance to Cape Point Nature Reserve well before the tour buses from Cape Town. At busy times you can be queuing for a couple of hours.
Our next stop was at the Cape of Good Hope the most south westerly point of the African continent. We were quite surprised to see wild ostrich on the beach, we also saw baboons, but no zebras which also inhabit the nature reserve.
From the Cape of Good Hope its was only about a 5 minute drive to Cape Point. This is where the tourist facilties are located. There is a visitor centre, a funicular railway to take you up to the lighthouse and a souvenir shop. It is worth taking the funicular or walking up to the lighthouse for more spectacular views of the coast and a False Bay. You also get views of Cape Agulhas, the most southerly point of Africa where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean.
Lunch at Two Oceans
We had booked lunch at the Two Oceans Restaurant at Cape Point. Being such a popular tourist spot we weren’t expecting much, with such a captive audience and no competition for miles. However we couldn’t have been more wrong. We had a table on the cliff top terrace with more of those spectacular views. Jane had fresh langoustines with home made chips (they were to die for!). I had Kingklip a popular fish in South Africa, it came with a crayfish broth, king prawns and mussels.
The food, service and setting were outstanding and amazing value, with a bottle of local rose and a couple of beers the bill was about £70!
Our next stop was especially for Jane! Boulders Beach near Simonstown is famous for its colony of African Penguins, and Jane loves penquins! Boulders beach is a series of inlets between huge granite boulders, hence its name. In 1982 the first penguins arrived, there are now around 3000 of them. You can get very close to them they definitely don’t appear to be shy.
From Boulders we followed the coast north along False Bay back to Cape Town. A memorable day, I would definitely recommend a private car and driver.
Sundowers at Camps Bay (not)!!!!
We arrived back at the hotel at around 16:30. We decided to take a taxi back to Camps Bay for sundowners in one of the sea front bars. As we dropped down from Cape Town in to Camps Bay we were shocked to see that the sea mist we had encountered earlier in the day was still there, there was definitely no chance of seeing one of the legendary Camps Bay sunsets. We asked the taxi to make a u-turn and take us down to the V&A waterfront again.
The Willaston Bar at the Silo Hotel
I had heard alot about the Silo Hotel on the waterfront but we couldn’t afford to stay there as rooms cost £900 per night! However, I had heard that the Willaston Bar had great views of Cape Town and hopefully a good sunset. We weren’t disappointed the bar was a great spot, with huge windows providing views of the city, Table Mountain and the bay for the sunset!
While chatting to one of the staff we heard about the roof top bar which was reserved for hotel residents and a limited number of advance reservations. Five minutes later we were told that a table was available for us if we wanted to try it. It was an amazing spot for sundowners, and the sunset was perfect!
After a very full day it was a snack in the hotel bar and an early night.
Day 3 – Exploring Cape Town’s neighbourhoods
The plan today was to take the cable car up Table Mountain. However the “table cloth” was down and the forecast showed little chance of it coming off so we decided to give it a miss!
The Cape Town Hop-on Hop-off Bus
Wherever we visit we try and take a trip on the hop-on hop-off bus. Some have been excellent, some not so good. I can highly recommend the Cape Town tour.
We were fortunate that there was a bus stop just outside our hotel’s front entrance. There are 3 different routes plus a mini wine route. We bought a 2 day ticket for £15 per person which included 2 free walking tours and a mini harbour cruise, excellent value.
The Blue Route
The first bus to arrive was the Blue route so we got on it. This route is the longest of the routes taking in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, the affluent neghbourhoods of Bishops Court (where Nelson Mandela lived) and Constantia (where you could take the Purple Route around the wineries), Hout Bay, the 12 Apostles, Llandudno, Camps Bay, Clifton, Bantry Bay and Seapoint. The full circuit without getting off takes a couple of hours.
As most of the coastal suburbs were covered in sea mist on the previous day we decided to head to Camps Bay for lunch. Within a few minutes of leaving the city centre the scenery changes completely with rugged mountains, vast vineyards, stunning properties, coastal views and even a shanty town. It certainly gives you a good feel for Cape Town and its contrasting neighbourhoods.
Fortunately the sea mist had cleared so we got to see the 12 Apostles and Llandudno Beach, we weren’t disappointed.
Camps Bay is one of Cape Town’s most affluent neighbourhoods and has some of its most popular beaches. Unfortunately the weather when we visited was not beach weather to say the least, it was freezing cold and very windy.
We chose Camps Bay as our lunch spot as we had been recommended to try one of its most popular restaurants the Codfather. Kate and Josh had ate there and also some other friends of ours. All had raved about the fresh fish.
The restarant itself was nothing special from the outside, overlooking a car park just off the seafront. The interior was basic but by the number of tables taken on a cold windy mid week lunchtime it was obviously very popular.
You could see why, the display of fresh fish was stunning. There is no menu you accompany your waiter to the fish counter. They explain what is available fresh that day. You then choose your fish. It is weighed and you are given the price before placing your order. I found this a refreshing approach as I have felt ripped off many times in fish restaurants where it is sold by weight, but you don’t know the price until you are presented with the bill!
Jane once again chose langoustines and again she was not disappointed. I went for Butterfish another fish popular in South Africa and one I had never tried before. I enjoyed it but not as good as the Kingklip I had the previous day at Cape Point. Again great value about £60 including pre lunch drinks, wine and service.
After lunch we caught the hop-on hop-off bus back along the coast to the city centre. A few hours relaxing on our balcony before a light supper and an excellent bottle of South African Pinot Noir in the hotel bar.
Day 4 – Table Mountain and Constantia
It was our last full day in Cape Town and we still hadn’t been up Table Mountain. It didn’t look promising when we woke, the “table cloth” was down. When we came out of breakfast it definitely was clearing so we decided to take a chance and take the cable car to the top.
It was just a short taxi ride from the hotel to the cable car station. To avoid queuing we had been told to get our tickets in advance. We didn’t and queued for about 30 minutes. I can imagine that in high season you could be queuing for a couple of hours.
Table Mountain is one of the modern 7 Wonders of the World. You can see why. It literally towers over Cape Town city centre and Table Bay. Its about the same height as Snowdon in North Wales at 1069 m. What makes it so special is that the top is a level plateau about 3 kms long. There are hiking trails to the top but most people choose to use the cable car.
The Cable Car
The ride on the cable car is very steep. I wouldn’t recommend it if you are scared of heights. As you ascend in the cable car it also rotates 360 degrees!
When you reach the top there are a series of paths allowing you to explore the mountain top. There are superb views of the city, the bay, the Atlantic coast and the outlying city suburbs. Its defininitely a must do but I wouldn’t like to be up there when the “table cloth” comes down!
By the way, you can get the cable car up and abseil down if you are feeling particlarly adventurous!
After an exhilirating trip up Table Mountain it was time for a nice lunch and some wine tasting.
Constantia is an affluent suburb about 12 kms outisde the city. It is a lovely area with a village rather than city feel. Its also where some of the top Cape Town restaurants are situated and it has a good a choice of accommodation. In fact I would definitely consider staying in Constantia on any future visits to Cape Town.
We decided to take the hop-on hop-off bus over to Constantia. You get there on the blue route. You then transfer to the purple route which does a loop around the wine farms in the Constantia Valley.
Groot Constantia Winery
We decided to visit Groot Constantia, one of the oldest and largest wine farms in South Africa. The views across the valley with acres and acres of vineyards and the mountains rising steeply from the valley floor are breathtaking.
Groot Constantia offers tastings and cellar tours. The original house is open to visitors and there is also an interesting museum. As we were hungry we decided to have lunch in one of the restaurants and try some of the wines to accompany our food. We ate in the Jonkershuis restaurant, a casual place with a very rustic feel. The food was suberb. We shared a home made pate to start. I then had fresh hake with home made chips (the chips in South Africa were superb wherever we ate!). Jane had the home made Malay style curry. We had a couple of beers and sampled 3 of the Groot Constantia wines. This was incredible value, the bill was £35!
Back on the hop-on hop-off bus
After another superb lunch it was back on the bus. We travelled through the beautiful Constantia Nek pass down to Hout Bay, along the coast and back to Cape Town
Another full day followed by another relaxing evening in the hotel bar. I just had to try the Durban Malay Curry one more time.
Day 5 – Goodbye Cape Town
Our last day in Cape Town. An amazing city with some of the best scenery I have seen anywhere in the world. A city of such contrasts it has to be experienced to understand the place. Highlights – Table Mountain, Cape Point, Boulder Beach and Constantia. For a foodie like me its is just perfect. There is so much choice and every meal we had just couldn’t be faulted and was such suberb value!
After breakfast we spent the morning relaxing on the terrace at the hotel. I could easily have stayed a few more days. There was a lot more to see and restaurants to try, we’ll just have to return!
Next stop Franshhoek, for part 3 of my trip report click here
The Guest Books Comment: “What an amazing city Cape Town is, if it’s not on your bucket list it should be! I can now understand why it’s such a favourite of Kate and Josh. If you want to read Kate’s take on Cape Town click here.”
No freebies have been offered or provided by any of the establishments featured in this post!