Cape Town: The beginning (continuing) of a love affair

This article has been updated following our recent visit to Cape Town again!  

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 Hout 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!

Update:  The first day back in Cape Town, we returned to the Hout Bay Harbour Market and visited those vendors we loved so much from last year!  This time, we left enough room to try the fish and chips from “Fish on the Rocks”!   They were excellent!  In fact, I thought they were much better than the fish & chips at the Mariner’s Wharf.  Must order is the Hake fish and oh my, the Prawns!!!  Next time we are ordering the Prawn Combo! 

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!

Update:  Same as last year, we returned to Rumbullion for another sundowner! 

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?

Update:  This is by far my most favorite place for a relaxing long lunch!  It has a delicious menu full of surprises – I can still taste the Pulled Pork Ravioli with its honey soy creamy sauce and the tender Springbok loin.  Yum!  We enjoyed our sumptuous 3 course lunch with matching Constantia Uitsig’s white wines while the boys had the time of their life in the playground right next door. 

In Constantia, our friend introduced us to the understated gem, Chardonnay Deli.  It’s an upmarket farm stall selling local produce, cakes, condiments, pre-cook meals as well as being a local popular cafe.  img_1843We returned 3 times on our trip for homebaked pies, pastries and quiches, amazing cakes and homemade hearty soups.  If only we can bring the whole store back with us! 

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.

Update:  This time, we decided to try tastings at Steenberg Vineyards which we haven’t visited in the past.  Perhaps because we went on a weekend, it was packed full of people and there were no sitting tables left.  The amount of people also made it really rowdy and the staff really struggled to serve and spend time with each group explaining all their wines.   To top it off, we didn’t find their wines that extraordinary – we left quite disappointed. 

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.

Update: On our visit last year, we saw this strange building being renovated on the fringe of the V&A Waterfront.  Now, the boutique Silo Hotel is being hailed as one of the most unique and expensive luxury hotel around.  We can’t afford to stay, but still, we wanted to try out the experience by dining at its Granary Cafe.  In summary, it simply was flawless – from the service, to the cuisine, to the wines and the views and ambiance of it all.   Granary Cafe is now one of our must come back place in Cape Town!

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.

img_1905

Update:  When visiting Camps Bay Beach, there’s a tendency to want to find a restaurant along the promenade to soak in the views and the laid-back atmosphere.  That is why, I believe, we overlooked the Codfather on our first visit.

The place was packed on a weeknight, and we were lucky to score 5 seats on its Sushi bar (good thing we didn’t have to order Sushi).  There is no written menu – instead, the waiter brought us out to the fresh seafood smorgasbord for us to choose our platter to share.  All seafood is grilled to perfection including the giant prawns, langoustines, crayfish, calamari and the freshest linefish of the day!  What a feast!  We are sure to make a booking for our next visit!   

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

Update:  Last year, the Chapman’s Peak Drive was closed due to high winds so we had to drive the long way down to Cape Point.  Not to miss out again, we took to the drive as soon as finding out it was opened!  

The drive, between Hout Bay and Noordhoek in the Cape Peninsula, is one of the most spectacular coastal drives in the world.  It should not be missed on any Cape Town itinerary.   We drove from Hout Bay, and towards the end, were rewarded with the magnificent views of the span of the sandy white beach of Noordhoek!  It’s an incredible beach with the softest, silkiest white sand.  The boys had a blast and as one can imagine, they did not want to leave!  

As part of this adventure, we uncovered a local institution at the foot of the Drive – the restaurant at the Chapman Peak Hotel.  Feasting on their seafood specialties (including the Peri Peri prawns!) while sitting on their open terrace overlooking the sea beyond the Bay and the beach is one of the many joys of life.  No wonder it is such a popular spot – we are bound to return! 

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!!

Update:  My mom’s first request upon arrival into Cape Town was to sample Knysna Oyster Company‘s oysters inside the V&A Food Market without delay!  We missed the delicious sweetness of these morsels!  At least a dozen each would satisfy our cravings!

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!

Update: We definitely returned to Shortmarket Club – especially for the duck fat roasted potatoes – this time the whole family got to enjoy it.  The entire menu has changed after one year, but luckily, these decadent roasted potatoes were the only item left on the menu!   

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!

Update:  Guess what?  We kept those Styrofoam carton boxes for a year and carried them back to Cape Town with the intention of returning home with another 2 dozens of wines!img_1983

The Vredenheim Wine Farm also has a Cats Park within its grounds.  Since we didn’t see any lions, leopards or other cats during our Zambian safari, we thought it would be a good outing for the boys.  The Cats definitely drew more of our attention than the wines in this farm.  Joshua got the scare of his life when one of the white female lions tried to pounce on him on the other side of the electric fence – perhaps an energetic 5 year old makes a good meal!  At 11am each day, the cats are fed with their daily chicken, except the poor tiger who only gets 1/2 a chicken due to being on a diet!! 

Through a friend’s recommendation, we found our favorite vineyard in Stellenbosch so far – Waterford Wine Estate.  The wine tasting is located in a large sophisticated hall of a very elegant manor.  The surroundings and ambiance were stylish and classy.  The main surprise during our tasting was that we enjoyed every wine offered on the tasting menu – that is a first for us!  Needless to say, we filled our carton boxes with all Waterford wines to bring home!

Our third stop was the Vergelegen Wine Estate where its famed Stables Restaurant has been on many lists for having a family friendly environment.  Nearby, there’s a children’s playground and a large manicured-garden maze to amuse the little ones.  However, they are not quite close enough to the restaurant for us to leave the boys there and watch them from afar.  In terms of the restaurant, Stables was a very casual affair so personally, I prefer Pierneef a La Motte in Franschhoek and the Open Door Restaurant at Constantia Uitsig more for the tastes, their quality of ingredients and service.  

For dinner, we stumbled into this little cozy restaurant, Spek & Bone, for dinner before heading back to Cape Town.  It’s curious name is connected to the owner’s pet pig and dog – the boys were fascinated by all the photos of a pig and dog playing together!  It was a quaint little hidden bistro wine bar offering hearty small plates for sharing.  What a pleasant surprise it was!

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!

Update:   We couldn’t come back to Cape Town without capturing our moments with Nikki for a family shoot.  As we wanted a mix of city and countryside / vineyard photos, we started off at the new funky Silo Hotel at V&A Waterfront and then drove to Stellenbosch’s Eden Forest and surrounding vineyards for the breathtaking scenery.  We now have another set of amazing family photos courtesy of Nikki’s remarkable eye!

♠♣♥♦

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.

Update:  We flew with Cathay Pacific this time round.  The good news is that Cathay will be offering a seasonal direct service from Hong Kong to Cape Town at the end of 2018.  It looks like that for the summer months of November to February at least, there will be direct flights to our favorite South African city!

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.

Update: This time, we wanted to stay near to the Clifton Beaches so we booked the Clifton Palms house via Airbnb:  https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/5461204.  It was an excellent location and the Clifton Beaches (1 to 4) were right at our doorstep!  Safety was not an issue around the Clifton beaches – we parked the car on the side walk and the House had its own alarm system. 

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!

Update: We booked with Avis this time round.  There’s no rhyme or reason – just that Bidvest whom we rented from last time offered a much more expensive package than Avis!  It goes to show that it’s good to shop around to get the best prices! 

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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