What remains from the Cape (or: A Guide to the Mother City)

My sweet travel-foodies, how are you?

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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” 

IMG_5673.jpgMy 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.

 

IMG_8778.JPGSunrise 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.

 

XOCV5843.jpgWine 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.

 

UJTNE9139.jpgBeer Tasting at the Urban Brewery in Hout Bay

 

#10 Have afternoon tea at the Tearoom of the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Get some hot chocolate.

 

IMG_7784.jpgHot 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.

 

IMG_7298.jpgEpping Food Market

 

Outdoor and Sightseeing 

IMG_6140.jpgView 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.

 

IMG_7431.jpgNantes 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).

 

IMG_7774.jpgChilling 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.

 

IMG_6103.jpgFishing 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.

 

IMG_8665 2.JPGalong 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.

 

KGRPE4373.jpgThe 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.

 

SDYW7427.jpgBoulders Beach

 

IMG_E7053.jpgJackass Penguin!

 

#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:

HIKING

TJAHE7949.jpgJonkershoek Hike

 

  • 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.

 

IMG_8557.JPGOnly 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.

 

PWGNE1390.jpgWall 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.

 

IMG_8710.JPGAgain, 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.

 

IMG_6866.jpgEvening 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!

IMG_8420.JPGMuizenberg Beach in winter

 

x, Florence

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wanderlust: favourite hiking routes 2017

Hello my friends of travel, food, food-travel and travel-food!

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What are you up to guys? After a failed iron injection I had to spend a couple of days in bed with fever, limb pain and John Oliver (whom I’d now be ready to marry on the spot if he wasn’t already married to a ridiculously beautiful wife. Is that one of the side-effects, too?). Whatever, instead of celebrating my first world problems, I decided to use this involuntarily gained time to start writing a new blog post (finally!), which I can conveniently do from my sofa bed (John Oliver on mute for the time being).

For, before my miserable encounter with ironman, I was actually a true jitterbug. And well, what is the thing you do when you can’t stand still? Exactly: You walk. Until. You. Drop. That is why I re-discovered hiking. I say re-discovered because my first discovery of hiking when I was a kid was not particularly pleasant, especially for my Mom and Dad (squeaky “are we there yets?!” included). But I am getting old and as it happens: I start enjoying running around on foot-wide trails up in the mountains  while breathing in cow shit. Ah, I should work in outdoor-marketing, shouldn’t I?

Anyways, hiking is great indeed, because it makes you focus on your body again when you are used to using your head all the time. You don’t to think things through too many times, you just move your limbs in the rhythm of the landscape. And it is a very welcome alternation from the running practice I am urging myself to do currently, thanks to my lovely sister, who signed me up for a half-marathon four ridiculously short weeks from now!

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But back to hiking! Here’s what’s gonna happen: I will let you in on my favourite hiking trails all over the world (this collection is definitely to be extended and complemented in the years to come and still quite humble, since I am not as old as I tend to portray myself). Also, I will include some really awesome hiking snacks at the end of this monologue. For, seriously: What better motivation can one have for hiking than self-made delicious food on top of the world?

So, let’s begin with the easy one: my tiny home country. There are hundreds of great hiking opportunities in Switzerland, nothing new as to that. But many of them are not an option if you are trying to avoid tourist masses. Don’t get me wrong. I love people from wherever in the world they might be. But if there is one thing I learnt while travelling it’s this: Everyone can be an a*****e when they are a tourist, including myself. Period.

What I wanna learn from the tourists in my own country, however, is the way they look at everything as if they’d seen it for the first time (probably because the actually DID see it for the first time). I might coin this as “home-town-estrangement” and invite you all to go out and discover your home-town, home-city or homecountry as if it was the first time, explore it with a tourist’s eyes. But also, I’d like you to get out while you still can and discover these beautiful landscapes, unless you haven’t already:

Switzerland:  Schwarzsee – Jaun (ca. 14km, 4 hours, medium)

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This is a fantastic hike for beautiful autumn days and weekend escapes. I started off my hike with a refreshing bath in the Schwarzsee (black lake) and spent the night after the hike in a cute bed and breakfast in Jaun, sleeping like a baby. If you go there, check out Schuwey’s BnB and consider the next hike on my list for your second day. The hike includes about 700 metres elevation gain, but it might feel like a little more, since the trail goes up and down quite a bit. We chose the longer version and took a little break half way through. Cows are included during the hike (like, lots of cows).

Switzerland: Jaun – Gastlosen (ca. 12 – 20 km, 4 -7 hours, tough)

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The Gastlosen are a small mountain chain, easily accessible from the village of Jaun. If you feel motivated for a proper (proper-proper!) hike, you might like to start off in Jaun. But if you want to shorten the walking distance (from about 20 km to 12 km), you should definitely take the cable car to overcome the first steep hills. Trail-wise, the Gastlosen hike offers pretty much everything from easy to challenging, culminating in something-like-climbing half way through. You’re going to get 400 metres elevation gain and lose just as much. There are incredibly different landscapes along the way and nice mountain restaurants, too. Hiking is only half as fun without a nice pint of cider, isn’t it?

Norway: Vesle Nup Hike (ca. 12 km, 5 hours, medium)

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If you really think you’ve had a breathtaking view over (almost) untouched, raw landscape, you must have been up on Vesle Nup in Norway’s Hardangervidda National Park! The way there is a bit tough at times, since trails are not always marked and you gotta deal with quite an elevation gain. Yet, every step of this hike is worth its effort. And, as a side-note: It’s much cooler, much less touristy and by far more exciting than the very hiped Trolltunga hike, where you are literally walking up in a column of tourists in white Nikes. Just saying.

Iceland: Lake Myvatn – Viti Crater (ca. 15 km, medium)

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Iceland – my one true love! To be fair, I did not really like this hike very much in the beginning, due to the endless lava field we were crossing. Lava fields can be fascinating, for sure, but only to a certain extent. I found the scarcity of the pitch black landscape quite depressing. But then, nature started to change.

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Small bushes decorated the trail with autumn colours on that picture perfect september day and geological forms became more adventurous, from lava tunnels to cracks to huge holes filled with snow. Well, don’t get me started on Iceland, I could talk for hours. Just go discover it yourself and, please, be as respectful as you could possibly be with that vulnerable landscape.

USA: Cathedral Lakes Hike (ca. 10 km, easy)

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My most recent hike! Of course, one cannot deny that hiking in Yosemite is a downright touristy thing to do. And the trail was indeed much more crowded than all the other hikes I am suggesting here. But the landscape makes up for everything. A thousand times! I cam across deers, all kinds of birds (I wish I could say anything clever on birds, but I can’t) pretty flowers (dito), and a stunning plateau in the end and I was simply left in awe. I did not see any bears, unfortunately (although, to be fair, anything nearly looking like a bear would probably have scared the shit out of me). This is an easy hike but be prepared for some heavy breathing due to the thin air. I sounded like a fat whale on a diet.

Norway: Nosi Hike (Ullensvang) (ca. 13 km, tough)

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This is my other absolute must-go in Norway for everyone who is looking for alternatives to the Trolltunga hike and still doesn’t want to renounce great views. But, as it tends to be the case with great views: they come with a price tag. And so does this one. Thing is: You start down at a fjord. Which is pretty much sea level. And you are going up about 1000 metres to get that view you asked for. Sounding cruel? Check this out:

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Looks absolutely worth it, right? Well, the fitter ones amongst you might like to continue their hike along “Dronningstien” down to Kinsarvik, a small town at the fjord you will be looking down on.

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So, what are you waiting for, pretty people? Pack your stuff and go! Oh, of course: The hiking snack! These challenging hikes really do require quick and satisfying energy-refills, don’t they? Well, what could do this better for us than chocolate? Exactly: pepped-up chocolate. Check this nasty hiking buddy out:

“Doped” chocolate bites with Ovomaltine, flax seeds, hemp, dried blueberries and cacao nibs

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  • 100 g dark chocolate
  • 5 tablespoons ovomaltine
  • 2 tablespoons flax seeds
  • 1 tablespoon hemp seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa nibs
  • 1 tablespoon dried blueberries

PREP: melt chocolate, mix with all other ingredients, spread on baking sheet, chill )in any sense of the word) and cut in pieces

And really people: Ovo is love, Ovo is life. I grew up with that thing. It brought me savely through any winter in Switzerland. And remember how perfect Ovomaltine’s slogan fits hiking: You won’t be able to do things better, but you will last longer (This really doesn’t sound very cool when you translate it, though)! Hah, I wish I got paid for saying this, after all.

Another awesome thing to take along in old jars or whatever container you have available are oats. Humble, simple oats. I love them. They give long-lasting energy and are as multifaceted as the landscapes you will encounter on your way. And, as far as I remember, it’s the only healthy thing I already loved when I was a kid: oats with milk, banana slices. So this version is a bit more fancy, but only slightly, since I really don’t want to steal this grain’s well-deserved show:

overnight oats in a jar with whole milk, dried apricots and caramelized walnuts

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  • 1 cup oats
  • 1,5 cups milk
  • 6 dried apricots
  • 1 handful walnuts, roasted with 1 tablespoon coconut sugar and 1 pinch of cinnamon

PREP: soak oats in milk in the fridge over night, add walnuts and apricots, done!

So, after this long post, I am gonna need another load of John Oliver. I wish you all a wonderful autumnal week and hope I go explore your wonderful surroundings one your own or with your loved ones once you’re able to make time.

Loads of love, Florence