My sweet travel-foodies, how are you?
It’s been a while, hey? Well, let’s cut a long story short: Last time I found myself chitchatting, or rather, lamenting, here, I was about to prepare myself for something big: The unknown (dramatic pause).
The unknown, that was Cape Town. And preparation, first and foremost, meant putting together a pile of documents. Really, any document. Mostly those with numbers and those which prove that I am alright, health-wise and behaviour-wise, since I was going to stay there for quite a while. Then, finally, I was all set to move to “the Mother City”, with an overweight suitcase and a fast-beating heart. Now, five months, and a bag full of memories as well as some weird, tanned stains on my skin later, I am back in my picturesque little hometown in Switzerland, enjoying my second summer this year while trying to settle in. And also, trying to answer the one and only question everybody’s asking: How was it?
So, this is a therapy session in disguise of a helpful blog on what to do in Cape Town (beyond Lionshead, the V&A Waterfront and the Table Mountain). And yes, this will be about food, too. You know me. Thus, there are two categories for my guide to the Cape: Food and Drink and Outdoor and Sightseeing. And a very personal note at the end. Here we go.
My ultimate ‘Dos’ for Cape Town, aka “The Mother City”
My hood for 5 months: Observatory
Food and Drink
#1 Just do it, do not question it, thank me (or, rather, my friend Florian, who let me in on this secret) later: Go for cheesecake at Hello Sailor.
#2 Be fancy. Be decadent. Treat yourself. Go for dinner at Kloofstreet House. Book in advance. Yes, also on weekdays. Yes, also in winter. Order polenta chips. And chocolate fondant.
#3 Missing the good (German, Swiss, Swedish, French?) bread? Don’t be all drama. Go for breakfast at Mango Ginger.
#4 Be a tourist. Admit it. You want it. Go to Truth Coffee Roasting. Order a sunrise espresso. Be surprised that milk, orange juice and coffee go so well together. And have a stroll in the Company’s Gardens afterwards.
Sunrise Espresso at the Truth Café
#5 Have a Bunny Chow, originally from Durban: Curry in toast. I took a huge step out of my non-spicy comfort zone and had an especially hot one (mild smile from my savage curry-friends) at Curry and Craft in Observatory. And I tried to be brave. Also, I love their white wine.
#6 Speaking of which. Go for wine tasting. Yes, there are a lot of wine tours around. No, it’s not THAT much fun going on an all-day-all-inclusive-wine-tour to Stellenbosch and Franschoek and Paarl, just to be three sheets to the wind after 25 (!) wines and then, hungover at 9 in the evening. Rather: Go to Constantia Nek. It’s literally just around the corner. Be moderate. Also, Beau Constantia’s MCC (the South African version of Champagne) is divine. Promised.
Wine with a View on Constantia Nek
#7 Eat a Koeksister: Egg-shaped, fried bun with coconut sprinkles and cardamom. I hate sweet fried stuff. It’s just a thing. And still, I loved them. Says it all. Get them fresh. Maybe while walking through Bo Kaap? Or get them at every run that is on in Cape Town (see point #12).
#8 Eat fish. In Hout Bay. Or in Kalk Bay. Any Bay. Fresh. There is a lot that speaks for as well as against the fishing industry. Discuss over Snoek or Hake, maybe even with Brent Thomas. He knows. A lot. (See point #22).
#9 Go to the Bay Harbour Market. Have a stroll. On a Friday night, ideally. Listen to the music and try not to overeat. Then go straight to the local Urban Brewery. Get a beer tasting board. Find your fave.
Beer Tasting at the Urban Brewery in Hout Bay
#10 Have afternoon tea at the Tearoom of the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Get some hot chocolate.
Hot chocolate with marshmallows in Kirstenbosch
#11 Go to the huge food market in Epping. Get cheap, fresh produce. Grapes for instance. Or the best apples. But wash them first. Really. Do. Sincerely, your stomach.
Epping Food Market
Outdoor and Sightseeing
View from the Train to Simon’s Town (which stopped only shortly after in Fishoek)
#12 Kick your ass. Get up early. Participate in a local run. Especially a Park Run. Every Saturday, for example at Nantes Park (learn about its history and Nates Running Club Founder Caroline Peters!) or around the Rondebosch Common. Share the social experience. Have a Koeksister afterwards.
Nantes Park Ornaments
#13 Have a walk at the Kirstenbosch Botanial Gardens. Be amazed how vast it is. Take a breath. Enjoy the mountains. Have a picknick. Or an afternoon tea (see point #10).
Chilling in Kirstenbosch
#14 Have a walk through picturesque Kalk Bay. Get some fish. Watch the seals (not too close, though). Or enjoy the sea breeze. Or do some souvenir shopping. Or have a drink. Or everything at once. Go there by train if you have time and do not care if you actually arrive.
Fishing boats in Kalk Bay
#15 Have lunch at the Rhodes Memorial. If you’re feeling political, discuss #rhodesmustfall. Over a red cappuccino, maybe? Then air your heads on the pretty 3k walk to Newlands Forest, at the foot of Table Mountain.
along the path from Rhodes Memorial to Newlands Forest
#18 Go see the sunset at Llandudno beach. Cry because it’s too pretty. It’s alright. It’s alright.
The golden sun of Llandudno
#19 Swim with the penguins at Boulders Beach. Yes, it’s another tourist spot. But the entry to the beach, contrary to the one to the crammed platforms, is worth it. Come early and find your spot. Watch the quirky penguins, find Dassies (the cutest ever mix of a guinnea pig and marmot) in the trees (!). Do not leave your bags unattended. The beach is small and the water levels change fast with the tides. I know what I am talking about. My rucksack is a non-swimmer.
#20 Have a stroll through Observatory. Visit second hand- and record stores. Try all the students’ bars. Be young (again). Recover from the hectic city. Stay.
#21 Go on a hike. Or better: many hikes! Always go in groups. Always check the weather. Use your common sense. Don’t be negligent and be well-informed. So, here’s a small compilation:
- Skeleton Gorge: short and intense, well guarded, starting from Kirstenbosch. Fantastic view, picknick at a water reserve. Drawback: the entrance fee to the Botanical Gardens.
- Jonkershoek Hike: Stunning landscape. A hidden waterfall with paradisiac basins. Be careful when going down there. Drawback: 45 minute drive to the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve and its entrance fee.
- Devil’s Peak: my absolute fave! Not for children and not for people who can’t handle heights. Although, I thought I couldn’t handle them either. And then it was worth it. Absolutely worth it. You well never get a better view on Lionshead, Signal Hill, the City, Table Mountain, yourself. Start from Rhodes Memorial. Bring a good jacket, very good hiking boots, picknick, enough to drink.
Only one of many stunning views on the Devil’s Peak hike
#22 Do a walking tour through Hout Bay with Brent Thomas. Learn about his projects and the community. Open your eyes. Talk to people.
Wall in Hout Bay
#23 Planning on staying longer? Join a running club, like Itheko! Socialize. Get fit. Claim your space and run the city.
#24 Be artsy. Go to the MOCAA. Museum of Contemporaty Art Africa. I know next to nothing about art. That’s no excuse. That’s a reason to go.
#25 Go to an open mic session at the Armchair in Obz (Observatory in the cool kids slang). It’s small. It’s quirky. There is a fireplace in the backyard. And it’s always a bit of a bag of suprise. But at times, I was simply left in awe by the amount raw talent there.
Again, my hood
That’s surely not everything there is. But it’s what my nostalgic brain can offer you at this moment in time. Please add, you Capetonians and wannabes (like me) out there.
Also, there are things that are as great as they are because they are my very own experience. A glimpse:
My friend’s beautiful voice in my ears as we jam under the stars on a patio. Fast rides on the back of a motorbike with the sea breeze in my nose and my arms around his waist. Driving home from the beach all sunburnt, as a group of 7 crammed into a 5-seater. Dancing the night away with our sweaty hair sticking to our foreheads, holding hands and jumping ’round like little kids. Cuddling up on the carpet next to the fireplace in my living room as the rains start raging outside. Going for late night cheesecake, all giggly and tipsy. Contemplating our academic fate over popcorn at the kitchen table, pretending to write papers when in fact, we discuss what is for lunch. Brunching on late hungover Saturday mornings, recalling last night. Falling asleep on her chest on our ride home after hiking the next closest thing to paradise. Doing a workout in the grass down by the river (that only recently became a river again) to get ‘in shape’ for the summer back home, only to go have pizza and chocolate covered raisins afterwards. Running through the night, people of all ages, shapes and colors, all in our neon shirts, all in one rhythm. Walking home at 1 am in warm air and feeling safe. Climbing up that mountain we have been looking at since our arrival, beating our vertigo. Sharing brownies and coffee as he and I chat the afternoon away on the stairs in my backyard, just because we can. And laughter. Lots of laughter.
Evening stroll in Kirstenbosch
So, coming back to the intial question: “How was it”?:
It was a lot. Always Surprising. Challenging. Overwhelming. Heartwarming. Cheesy. Insightful. Fun. Light. Heavy. Too hot. Too windy. Too rainy. Just right. And boring, sometimes, really. Living there can be an adventure everyday. But it doesn’t have to be.
On that note: Hear from me soon, sweethearts, with adventurous recipes for your summer (or winter?) kitchens!
Muizenberg Beach in winter