Cape Town: The beginning of a love affair

We were “bitten by the African bug” back in 2015 when Jeff and I went on safari in Botswana, but on this trip to Cape Town, I believe we have been bitten again – perhaps an even bigger bite as we fell in love with this city as soon as we arrived!

After our stressful experience with the birth certificate saga, we arrived into Cape Town counting our blessings and eager to start our African adventures!

Yau family_115Day 1:   Bay Harbour Market | Hout Bay | Rambullion Sundowner

Having checked in and unpacked our luggage, it was time to explore this picturesque city and grab a bite for lunch!  We opted to head towards Hout Bay and check out Cape Town’s popular Saturday market – the Bay Harbour Market.  Opened since 2011, the Bay Harbour Market is housed in an old Sea Harvest factory in the working Hout Bay harbour.  What I didn’t know was that it was a funky indoor market selling cool handmade goods, crafts, jewelry, keep sakes, paintings and home décor.  As soon as we entered, we could already smell the delicious aromas from the food stores and feel the jazzy vibes from the musical bands.  Everything looked so good, it was so hard to choose.  At the end, we had a progressive lunch stopping by Zoop Soups for its hearty soups and cheese sticks, Dr Juice for its creative concoctions, Iced Dream for some chocolate goodies and Stokkiesdraai for its authentic African biltong!  It was a unique market, so upbeat and fun!  If we weren’t so full and satisfied with our lunch, we would’ve also ordered fish and chips from “Fish on the Rocks” across the road!

Preparing for our Cape Town week ahead, we stopped by the Woolworths supermarket at Hout Bay to get our supplies – with all the fresh produce on offer, we got just a little too carried away!

It is a fact that Cape Town has some of the most spectacular sunsets, and the best way to enjoy it is to grab a seat at Rumbullion for its sundowner.  Our table on the sweeping lawn was perfect – it gave us uninterrupted views of the 12 Apostles mountain ranges, colourful displays of the sun-setting sky and the magical phenomenon of clouds cascading down the mountain side.  The menu at Rumbullion was casual but unbelievably good value and tasty. We couldn’t resist the sundowner deal of 2 pizzas and two bottles of wine (R330 / US25 only!), the fresh oysters (R250 / US19 for a dozen) and the delectable tapas dips in a jar (must try the caramelized onions pate and jalapeno hummus!)!  Given the previous night we endued on the plane, it was the finest way to wind-down and enjoy the start of our holidays!

Day 2:   Constantia Wine Route | Lunch at Constantia Uitsig 

One of the most amazing things about Cape Town is that South Africa’s oldest wine country, Constantia, is only around 30 mins drive away!  There are around 8 wine farms to explore and some have excellent restaurants that are extremely family friendly.

A very good friend of mine recommended that we take lunch at the Open Door Restaurant at Constantia Uitsig.  Initially, the main draw was the beautifully built wooden playground fenced off just next to the outside patio seating area.  Whilst the boys had a blast in the playground and running back and forth for a bite of lunch, we soaked in the truly relaxing atmosphere and savored the delectable lunch menu.  IMG_2332As we were in a winery, we ordered a tasting “flight” sampling all their signature wines before settling for a bottle of Constantia Uitsig’s fresh and crisp Chardonnay Reserve.   The playground + restaurant combo is truly an ingenious idea that is both a win-win for parents and children!  We were in heaven – why don’t they have something like this in Asia?

Totally chilled after lunch, we stopped by Klein Constantia to grab a few bottles of its famous and award-winning Muscat, Vin de Constance.  Napoleon Bonaparte reportedly had gallons of this wine shipped to his exiled home on St Helena, so we too followed his footsteps and had some shipped back home!

We continued along the wine route to the grand estate of Groot Constantia – the oldest wine estate in South Africa.  Here we joined the tour visiting its museum and historical buildings, learning about its history, its wine-making process as well as tasting some of its vintages.  The grounds were extensive and immaculately kept and there were ample space for the boys to expand their curiosity to discover the grapes on the vines and explore the vineyards.

Day 3:   V&A Waterfront | Robben Island

The V&A Waterfront, once South Africa’s oldest working harbor, has been converted into a delightful entertainment venue full of restaurants, retail stores, food market, children’s playgrounds, hotels and an aquarium.  It was truly charming with sweeping views of the Table Mountain, a tiny seal colony and a working swing bridge which thrilled the boys.

IMG_2512We were at V&A Waterfront to take the afternoon tour to Robben Island.  It’s a popular tour so I booked online weeks in advance to secure us tickets.

Although only around 11 km away from the V&A Waterfront  it can be extremely windy on route making the waters very choppy.  IMG_2582The ferry ride took over 50 mins one way and it was at times difficult to endue as we got a bit seasick.  We took the afternoon tour (1pm-5pm tour) but heard that the ferry rides are often smoother during the morning runs (9am or 11am).

Once we gladly touched land, we boarded buses where a guide took us around the island recounting its history and stories about various prisoners that lived and died on the island.

We stopped by the infamous lime quarry where Nelson Mandela and his fellow prisoners spent years mining it tirelessly, the sole purpose of which was to keep them so busy and tired that they had no time or energy to discuss and think about politics of the country.

The second part of the tour was most fascinating – a walk through the former maximum security prison guided by an ex-political prisoner who once lived in one of the cells.  We saw all the tiny inhumane cells (paying our respects to many including Mandela who once lived there) and even the boys, at their age, were moved and touched by the sombreness of the place.  At the end of our tour, our ever curious Joshua had an amusing yet touching exchange with our ex-political prisoner guide (read it here “Robben Island:  Which Team Won?“).

The ferry ride back to V&A Waterfront was equally painful – but the boys were glad that we weren’t spending the night in those tiny cold damp prison cells.

Day 4:   Lunch at La Colombe | Table Mountain Cableway & Hike | Dinner Del Mar Camps Bay

We took an easy morning today as we were off to La Colombe for a relaxing long lazy lunch!  La Colombe has been ranked the 76th restaurant in the world and we were excited to taste what this top South African restaurant had to offer.  At R990 (R1890 for wine pairing) for its full lunch menu or R690 (R1270 for wine pairing) for its reduced lunch menu, together with its recent fame, attentive service, creative and high quality of the food, it was an excellent deal.

Even the boys’ “fish and chips” from the children’s menu was carefully crafted into a yummy pan-fried linefish with hand cut chips dipped in the renown AllGold tomato sauce (only R150 each).   It was a pity that the boys were too young to endue a 3+ hour lunch (our 2.5 hours was their limit!), otherwise, we would have gone for the full-blown menu with wine pairing!

After our sumptuous lunch, we needed to walk it off!  It was a glorious summer day, with the sky an amazing royal blue, not a cloud in sight and no wind blowing.  It was the perfect time to visit Table Mountain and experience the vista of this beautiful city from above.  The Table Mountain Cableway tickets can also be purchased online to avoid the often long queues at the ticket office.  We found the Cableway quite unique as the inner part rotates slowly while it ascends/descends allowing us to admire the 360 views without moving around.

As the name suggests, the top of Table Mountain is flat!!  There are 3 different walks of various distances, none of them too long or strenuous.   However, with the boys’ little legs and the edge of the cliff being often quite close to the walkway, we had to take extra care along the way.  Nevertheless, the views from our “elevated stroll” on top of Table Mountain literally took our breath away.  Photos or videos cannot do it justice!  My favorite was watching the fluffy white clouds dance over the top of the 12 apostles mountains and slowly cascading down – it was like this musical waterfall in slow motion.  So mesmerizing!  We took our time up there, and by the time we rode the Cableway down, we realized we had spent over 2.5 hours being entranced by the beauty that is Cape Town.

IMG_2935We then finished our perfect day, watching the sunset over the Atlantic and sipping Sangria at the Mexican restaurant, Del Mar, right along the Camps Bay beach promenade.

Day 5:   Hout Bay Fish & Chips | Cape Point & Cape of Good Hope | Boulder’s Beach Penguins | Simon’s Town dinner Saveur

Ever since primary school, I’ve learnt about the brave explorers navigating through treacherous seas to look for treasure, riches and spices in the new world.  Vasco da Gama and Bartolomeu Dias were names I remembered from our history books and names I associated with the Cape of Good Hope.  Now after all these years, not quite an explorer, but I finally got to set my own foot down on the most southern tip of the African continent.

The drive from Camps Bay is around 1.5 hours, but as there aren’t many food options in the national park, we took a brunch stop at the Hout Bay Marina first.  Hout Bay reminds me of Gold Coast in Queensland where I grew up eating fish & chips by the seaside and feeding fries to the seagulls.  Enjoying my fried fish by the beach, it gave me that same familiar nostalgic laid back feeling.

With our tummies full, we made our way down south towards Cape Point national park.  Being a little lazy, we decided to take the little Flying Dutchman funicular up to the old lighthouse rather than walk up the hill.  The sweeping views of the southern coast was spectacular, and on this beautiful calm summer’s day, the sea really didn’t look that treacherous at all!

We took in the amazing scenery as we walked back down, and drove a little distance to the Cape of Good Hope.  On route, we were interrupted by a family of ostrichesIMG_3175 who were taking their little ones out for a walk and a clan of baboons who had no problems playing around on the road.  The boys were extremely excited to be finally spotting some wild animals, though they were a little apprehensive when the baboons got too familiar and jumped on our car.

When it was finally safe to exit our car, we took our obligatory photos to prove our visit to the most south-western point of the African continent.

On route back to Cape Town, we couldn’t miss visiting the penguins on Boulder’s Beach!!  We read that the best time to visit is either early morning or late afternoon, so being nearly 6pm, it was perfect timing.

This beach is the only place where we can see the African penguins up close!  The population took up the entire enclosed beach.  There was much penguin activity, and entranced by it all the boys didn’t want to leave.  Even as we walked back to the car, we met a few penguin couples waddling on the road back to their beach.

With the sun setting, it was too far and too late to head back to Cape Town for dinner.  Lucky we chose to stay in Simon’s Town for dinner or else we would’ve missed the amazing mixed seafood boards at Saveur!

Day 6:  City tour:  Bo Kaap; City Centre; V&A Waterfront; Sea Point Promenade | Shortmarket Club 

Taking a chill day after our long drive yesterday, we decided to explore downtown Cape Town a bit more. The bright contrasting colors of the Bo Kaap buildngs were delightfully unique – it felt like we were in the middle of a Van Gogh painting!

We took more time exploring the shops within V&A Waterfront and discovered the Knysna Oyster Company inside the V&A Food Market.  IMG_5441Thinking large is always better, we went for the extra-large oysters at first, but surprisingly, on our second round (since the large ones were all sold out), the medium oysters turned out to be the best ones! They had a salty sweetness to it that was just d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s!!

In the afternoon, we leisurely strolled down the Sea Point Promenade letting the boys play in the various playgrounds, exploring the rock pools and learning all about the kelp and shells washed ashore.

Thanks to my mom, Jeff and I went on a date night at the Shortmarket Club.  Little did we know that evening was Cape Town’s “First Thursday“.  On the first Thursday of every month, the art galleries, bars and other cultural places open for free attendance and there are people everywhere on the streets eating, drinking, walking around and coming in and out of art galleries.  It was such a happening place!  We had no idea and thought initially that if every night was like this, wow, Cape Town had an awesome night scene.

The Shortmarket Club is a sister restaurant to Cape Town’s renown, Test Kitchen.  It certainly holds its own in terms of service and the quality of the cuisine.  The freshness of the oysters and the signature crispy octopus were unforgettable, and for someone like me who never orders chicken, its Coq au vin was perfection.  I would come back to this restaurant just for its duck fat roasted potatoes – I couldn’t stop, it was crunchy with a fluffy softness inside – absolutely divine!

Day 7:  Stellenbosch and Franschhoek Wine Country | La Motte | Chamonix | Blaauwklippen

Mimicking our day at Constantia, we took a long lunch at Pierneef a La Motte in Franschhoek.  It was rated one of the best restaurants in these wine regions and we cannot agree more.  The amazing thing was that the boys’ order of the tomato and cheese pasta was so good, we ordered an extra helping so we can steal a few bites more from the boys!!  Evidently, us enjoying our own meals and stealing from the boys’ pasta really show how good the overall food was!  The staff was also very attentive and took out an enormous chest of toys for the boys to play with in the nearby lawn.

Perhaps we enjoyed our long lunch too literally as we didn’t have much time left in the day to visit too many cellar doors!  At the end, we just managed to visit La Motte and Chamonix in Franschhoek and Blaauwkilippen in Stellenbosch.

We definitely need to return to Stellenbosch next time to do this region some justice!  The great thing about wine tasting in South Africa is that the wine is top notch and the prices make it even better.  As an added bonus, there were so many things to entertain the kids while we enjoyed the wines.  We also found these special wine carton boxes with styrofoam protection inside which allowed us to check in over 2 dozen bottles on our flight back home!

Day 8:  Col’Cacchio | Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens | Family Photo Shoot 

We found it pleasantly surprising that so many restaurants in Cape Town were extremely child friendly and welcoming.   An example was Col’Cacchio Pizzera along the Camps Bay strip.  It’s not just that they had a very extensive child’s menu, but also that there were so many activities to occupy the little ones.

After we ordered, the waiter gave the boys each a large piece of pizza dough and some tools, which kept them busy for the entire duration of our lunch!  Brilliant!

Against the eastern slopes of Table Mountain is the acclaimed most beautiful gardens in Africa, Kirstenbosch Botanical GardensIMG_8965Initially, I wasn’t too interested in visiting Botanical Gardens but Jeff insisted as it was a top Cape Town sight.  But seeing it in the eyes of the boys, it was a natural wonderland.  It was here where our city boys climbed their first tree, rolled down the long grassy slope and ran around everywhere barefooted.  We didn’t have much time in the gardens, but mental note for next time, I will definitely pack a picnic basket and enjoy the stunning mountain backdrop while lying on the soft lush grass.

In the late afternoon, through the recommendations of my excellent friend, we had organized a family photo shoot with local photographer, Nikki Meyer.  We met Nikki at Signal Hill where she captured some amazing shots with the Table Mountain ranges and the city below as our backdrop.  Then we move onto the Clifton Beach no. 3 right before sunset.  Nikki’s talented eye took stunning candid pictures of the boys and our family on the beach as the sun set over the Atlantic waters.  These incredible photos are now precious souvenirs of our wonderful week in Cape Town.  We cannot thank Nikki enough!

♠♣♥♦

Airlines

South African Airways was the most economical airline with a domestic connection to Cape Town.  Other than the entertainment system that didn’t quite work, we had no complaints about its service or the facilities in their relatively new air-crafts.

Accommodation

We split our 8 nights in Cape Town between 2 places.  We chose Houghton View 13 for its phenomenal sea views over Camp Bays and it did not disappoint.  We witnessed amazing colourful sunset displays, every night, each day its own.  The 3 bedroom apartment is large, modern and airy – but if anything else, stay here for the view!

The second half of our stay, we swapped the apartment for a 3 bedroom house around the corner from Houghton View 13.  This was our first Airbnb experience.  The house was basic but had all the amenities we needed for our stay and was a walk-able distance to the Camps Bay restaurants and promenade.

Car Rental

Renting a car was super easy through rentalcars.com.  Even better was that renting a car for 2 weeks with full insurance was cheaper than one week’s rental in Europe!!  We picked up the car at the Cape Town Airport and then returned it at Port Elizabeth Airport – driving in South Africa was a piece of cake!

Wifi Router

We went with a worldwide router from Telecom Square but unfortunately, it was slow and the boys were frustrated with its inability to stream and load YouTube videos properly.  Will need to find another provider next time.

Safety

Like everyone’s first trip to South Africa, safety was a concern.  Our agent and friends all assured us that Cape Town was a safe city so long as we take the same precautions as we otherwise would in Europe or Asia.  Never once did we feel unsafe or unsecured in any way or in any places we visited.  

Our choice of staying in the Camps Bay suburb was in part that it was one of the safest neighborhoods and even though our Airbnb offered us the use of the house security alarm, we didn’t end up feeling the need to use it. 

Author: yousillymommy

Mommy blogger. Writer. Avid Traveler with children in tow. Lover of great foods, wines & adventures.

2 thoughts

  1. You have a great eye for taking beautiful photos as well Joanna!! I really enjoyed this blog entry, you visited some fabulous spots (and restaurants!!). It was such a privilege to do a photoshoot for your lovely, spontaneous family!xn

    Like

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