Our second day in Cape Town started at 8:00am. We were met by our guide, Peter, on the street outside our apartment. Peter introduced himself and gave us an overview of his experience as a guide and his background growing up in the Cape area. After our brief orientation, we drove through the town towards the western coastal road for the scenic trip to Cape Point. The two lane road winds between the coastline on one side and the ragged mountains on the other. There was light to moderate rain for the first hour or so of the trip which obscured some of the view, but even so, the land and waterscape were amazing.
We travelled southwards about 30 kilometers and then stopped to take photos at Hout's Bay and then again at Chapman's Peak a little further down the road. Even through the mist and low lying cloud, the view across the bay to Chapman’s Peak was spectacular. We stopped one more time to take photos of the beach and thatched roof houses at Noordboek before heading towards the naval base at Simon's Town.
This area was first settled by the Porteugese and then the Dutch in late 1400's and then eventually, the British. It was initially set up as a stop along the spice route to India to give the sailors a break from the long journey and to re-supply the ships. As we drove through Simon's Town we caught sight of the new German Corvairs that have been purchased to protect the coastal fishing routes. While the ships are new, Peter informed us that the Navy is not as discipliined as it once was as a result of the dire economic situation that has impacted South Africa.
A short 5 minute drive past Simon's Town we arrived at one of our “must see” stops in the Cape - Boulders Beach and the renowned African penguin colony. Aftrican penguins are only found along the coastal waters of Southern Africa and while it is estimated that in the early 1900’s there were approximately 1.5 million of the frolicking birds, today they are an endangered species with their main predators being sharks, seals, seagulls and humans. Oil slicks along the shoreline covers them in oil and is a further source of endangerment. In 1982 two breeding pair of penguins were brought to the Boulders from Dyer Island (about 3 hours down the coast from Simon’s Town). Today, through intensive conservation efforts, there are over 3000 penguins that make their home in the waters around Boulders Beach.
After parking our car we walked through the parking lot to a boardwalk that leads to the beach entrance and a conservation office where there is a 75 Rand (approximately $7 USD) conservation fee to visit the penguins. The raised boardwalk continues toward the water and serves to keep human traffic off of the beach while still allowing unobstructed and close-up views of the penguins. African penguins used be called Jack-Ass penguins because of the donkey-like braying sound that they make. We could hear the penguins well before we could see them as we approached the beach, and can attest that they truly deserve their monicker.
The penguins were scattered around the expansive beach which had shrubby vegetation and granite rocks (hence the name “Boulders”) from the shoreline to the water. The beach was about 100 meters in depth and there was a small protected inlet at the water where most of the penguins were gathered. About a dozen or so were sitting on nests protecting their 1 or 2 chicks from the seagulls that were lingering around the beach. Dozens more were waddling on the sand and countless others were fishing and swimming in the shallow water just offshore.
One abandoned chick was struggling on the sand near a mother and her nest. The handful of tourists on the boardwalk were trying to keep a hungry seagull from attacking the chick. Every time the seagull approached the chick, someone would wave an umbrella or make a loud sound to keep the seagull away. We waited for someone from the park to remove the chick (there is a volunteer association that makes sure all of the birds are protected) and finally someone arrived.
After spending about an hour with the penguins, we reluctantly left as we had so much more to see along the coast of the Cape. From the Boulders, we continued to travel south past Miller's Point where we spotted a whale about 150 meters from shore. We continued to see it breach several more times in the span of about 5 minutes.
As we arrived at the Cape of Good Hope National Park the sun began to break through the parting clouds. We entered the park and drove through the desert like terrain which is the said to be richest floral kingdom in the world. There are hundreds of species of flowers and succulents - some only found in this area. We spotted vibrant green sunbirds feeding on the Pin Cushion Protreas which have a spiky yellow flower that provides nectar to birds and bees.
We continued along the narrow road downwards toward the cape, and spotted a pair of ostrich, a male and a female that were looking for food at the side of the road. As we approached the beach we marvelled at the turquoise water and the rich marine food source of seaweed along the shore. An outcropping of rocks in the water made a perfect sunning deck for a group of seals and waterbirds. We marvelled that we were at the southernmost part of Africa and the only thing between us and Antarctica was the Ocean.
After walking around the beach, we got back in the car and drove around to Cape Point at the very tip of the Peninsula. We took the cable car up to the top and walked the rest of the way to the lighthouse where we had spectacular 360 degree views of the surrounding area. The water from this vantage point was deep green and turquoise cast against a bright blue sky dotted by wispy clouds. It was breathtaking!
We spent nearly an hour taking it all in, then walked back down the stairs to the parking area and met our guide for lunch. He had booked us a table in the Two Oceans restaurant overlooking the bay. We ordered a bottle of South African Chenin Blanc to go with our lunch which consisted of an appetizer of Springbok carpaccio along with calamari and a main course of King Klib which was the line fish of the day.
After lunch we drove back to Cape Town stopping at the sign for Scarborough along the way, so Kim could visit her relatives (ha ha). Back in Cape Town, we went to the Kristenbosch Botanical Gardens ($7/person). These are beautiful gardens with treed canopy paths, large sloping lawns, concert stages and quiet natural picnic areas. The backdrop is Table Mountain with wonderful views of Cape Town and surrounding area looking out to sea. The skies had darkened on our return to Cape Town and a light mist and rain added a tropical feel to the whole area.
After an hour of leisurely walking around the garden we left for the apartment arriving just after 4:30pm.
Following our long day of driving around the Cape, we took some time to relax, rest our eyes, and then got changed and walked down to the waterfront for dinner. We chose to eat at the Belthazar as it had been recommended by our guide Peter who frequents it quite often. It is an upscale but casual restaurant that overlooks the harbour on the upper level in front of the Shopping Complex. Even though it was cool, we decided to eat on the patio where they had heaters, but still wore our jackets. This restaurant boasts the largest wine by the glass menu in the world so rather than become completely overwhelmed we took the recommendations by the Somelier. I ordered a very nice Pinotage (King Belthazar) which was a wine from a local winery that had been commissioned by the restaurant. Kim had a Sauvignon Blanc - both were excellent. We both chose the Rib Eye steak as this was one of the specialties of the restaurant. I had sauted spinach and mushrooms as sides. We reminisced about our day over dinner and then took an Uber to the apartment ($2.50).
We started from Toronto on Thursday August 30th travelling on an Air France Boeing 777. The seats were quite close to each other and made for a difficult night of sleep on our way to Paris. Upon arrival in Paris at 8:00am, we cleared security and after only another hour, had already boarded our second flight to Cape Town on an AirBus 340. Due to the length of the journey we opted to pay extra for exit row seats and found the investment to be well worth it. The extra room to spread out in the bulk head for the 11 hour flight made it a far more pleasant trip. We arrived in Cape Town around 9:00pm and found the gentleman waiting to transfer us to our apartment in the city. We settled in and went to bed fairly quickly after such a long transit time.
Our first morning looked clear so we decided to visit Table Mountain first thing since we had heard it can pose problems for sight visibility on certain days. We saw it was clear so we went straight there. We took an Uber through downtown and observed Colonial style architecture as we were driven up the winding roads to the parking level of the attraction. This took approximately 20 minutes from our apartment to the cablecar entrance. Arrived just before 8:30am and waited about 15 minutes for cablecar. Cablecar to top is only about 2 minutes - so you have to be quick with your picture taking. The floor rotates around in a circle so everyone will have a 360 degree view on the way up.
The Mountain top is relatively flat but rocky with various walking paths to access multiple views on both sides of the mountain. We walked the entire perimeter, admiring the interesting landscape and enjoying spectacular views of Cape Town, and the Atlantic.
After about 30 minutes, clouds began to settle in and the views on the Cape Town side became totally obscured. Views on the Atlantic side were partially obscured. We were fortunate to have seen just about the entire area before it became impossible to see anything.
We visited the gift shop that had lovely African handicrafts and then the Wireless lounge with free wi-fi with coffee shop and comfortable benches and chairs. There were handy charging stations for phones distributed throughout the coffee shop on the front of the benches. We were a little early to leave for our paragliding so we sat and had a coffee and herbal tea and posted some pictures of the beautiful vistas we had briefly seen.
Once we took the cable car back down, as soon as we cleared the clouds, it was beautiful and blue over Cape Town once again.
We took a taxi from bottom of cablecar entrance to Signal Hill (7.5 kms) - $12.
We arrived at Signal Hill just after 11:00am. Signal Hill overlooks Cape Town and the waterfront. Registered for paragliding ($120/person) - we had a reservation, but they do also take walk-ups. The weather was perfect with clear, sunny skies and a light breeze. We met our tandem paragliders - Roland for Denis and Wendall for Kim - Wendall was the owner. We were suited up in harnesses and before we knew it, we walked, then ran down the hillside until the parachute filed wiith wind and lifted us up and off the ground. It was a very smooth, gentle, quiet glide over and around the downtown - spectacular sensation - did a couple of cuts, dives and then glided gracefully over the water and back to shore, landing softly in the landing area on the sandy beach.
After saying a quick goodbye to our pilots, we headed for breakfast at the Winchester Mansions hotel, just across the street from the beach where we landed. Nice colonial style old hotel with porch/patio facing the street. Got a table on the porch and ordered Eggs Benedict, sparking wine and the S.A. breakfast - bacon, sausage, eggs, tomato, beans.
With our bellies full, we proceeded to walk down the palm tree lined street with art deco style hotels and shops on one side and the beach on the other. This beachfront area has a South Beach feel.
We leisurely walked towards Main Road for about 20 minutes to get to a clinic to look after Kim's cold. Walk-in clinic was not busy - Kim waited about 10 minutes to see a doctor at a low cost of $65. While waiting Denis went to a Woolworths Foods a block away and pick up some food. Came back to the clinic and Kim was already done and in the pharmacy next door to get her prescription of antibiotics and anti-flu meds filled ($30).
We were on the same street as our apartment so walked the 1.7 kms back in about 25 minutes arriving at around 2:30pm. After a bit of relaxation we headed to the Victoria Waterfront around 3:30pm. We walked straight down from our apartment - narrow street with a colonial style teaching hospital on one side and similar architiecture boutique hotels on the other. Arrived at the bustling waterfront in about 15 minutes.
The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is a mixture of older marine warehouses and a modern shopping complex. Shopping complex was a large mall surrounding one side of the wharf. Along the length of the mall on the outside, and facing the marina/harbour are dozens of restaurants - apparently there are more than 60 in this area alone. We walked down the wharf and got our boarding passes at Waterfront Cruises for our sunset cruise. We had about half an hour before the boat sailed so we walked around the waterfront. Buskers and live bands were scattered along the piers. A large african trading market was on the pierside of the main whart. The older buildings had been renovated and are now high end restaurants and boutiques.
At 5:00pm we walked back to the water along one of the piers to where our boat, where a sailing catamaran was docked. We were the first ones to board so we got the premium seats on the bow. The sun was bright and the weather warm. About a dozen other people boarded and we began our journey out of the harbour and into the Atlantic. As we made the turn out of the harbour past the point, the crew passed us glasses and filled them with champagne.
The waters were calm and the views of the harbour and town with Table Mountain and Lion's Head were spectacular. The captain turned off the engines and hoisted the sails in moderate winds which made for a smooth, quiet ride into the sunset. Once the sun fell below the horizon, we made the turn back towards shore. On the return we spotted a whale breaching near the boat. We arrived back to shore just before 7:00pm. We hailed an Uber and were taken to our restaurant about 7 kms and 20 minutes away.
What can we say about our dinner at the Reverie Social Table? This was such a unique dining experience in the Observatory district on a quiet street. There is only one table that seats 18 people. The concept is based on a having a dinner party in someone's home and it was a truly magical experience. Two other couples: Max and Mika from Cape Town and Peter and Elizabeth from Virginia joined us at the table. Upon arrival we were served a gin cocktail by Innocent, one of the 5 staff serving and preparing our dinner. Julia, the chef and owner joined us for dinner and Melissa, the sous-chef, served us our meal and explained the pairings. All of the wines were from the Zandvliet Estate in the Robertson wine valley. This particular winery specialized in Shiraz however we tasted several different varietals and styles of wine during the course of the evening.
Below is our tasting menu in detail. We had enlightening conversation and couldn't get over how each course was so flavourful and made with local, fresh ingredients based on what is in season at the moment. Impeccable care is taken to create and prepare each and every course. The meal was exquisite and we were so fortunate to have the owner sit with us to discuss the food and wine in even more detail. An amazing night!
Dinner lasted until 10:30pm and finished with whiskey for Denis and hot chocolate for Kim. Our meal had been pre-paid so we just paid for the whiskey and gratuity. ($26). We called a trusty Uber and arrived back at the apartment at 11:30pm.
It had been an incredible day experiencing Cape Town to the fullest.
Tasting Menu at Reverie Social Table
1st Course: Vegetable pressé, key apple chutney, fennel & sultana slaw with crispy onions - served with muscat
2nd Course: Baked line fish, crisply fried garlic & almonds, leek & Swiss chard soup, roasted garlic hummus served with Chardonnay
3rd Course: Roasted duck breast, confit duck croquette, grilled spring onion, carrot puree, plu/anise jus, shiraz braised cashews served with Zandvliet Shiraz
4th Course: Gorgonzola cheesecake with hazelnut/pretzel base, cocoa nibs, fruit cake koeksisters served with Cape Vintage
5th Course: Caramel flan with warm chocolate mousse, sesame, pink pepper and rosemary glass, rosemary frozen yogourt served with Kalkveld Shiraz.
Sharing Our Travel Dreams
Sharing our personal experiences onboard and on the road, along with tips and insight for creating memorable vacations.