Capetown! February 2019
Capetown- so beautiful, and so cheap! 2 of my favorite things for a vacation spot to be!
Seriously, it's gorgeous here. So many mountains, so much natural wildlife, a ton of different landscapes, the ocean, the vineyards, you will never get bored here when it comes to terrain.
I saw alot here, we packed a ton into just a week, but unfortunately not as much as I planned. South Africa half way through the week absolutely crushed me with the norovirus. It runs rampant apparently in the summers here, and it put me out for 2 days. I literally slept for about 36 hours, and the other 12 I was vomiting. But as hard as it hit me, I was able to bounce back pretty quick, so there's that silver lining.
Being that Capetown is at least a 16+ hour flight from the US, with most of the time connections in Johannesburg, my friends and I did a long layover in Paris at the beginning and end of the week. Looking back I would 100% do that again- it really helped make the flights not seem too long and more bearable.
So what did we do in Capetown???
Stayed at the Derwatt House hotel- the cutest boutique hotel in a great location with both Table Mountain and Lion's head in it's backyard, and just over the hill from Camp's Bay (see picture to the right...?!?!!) The service here, albeit a little slow at times, was over the top in terms of accommodating guests. They arranged a driver to pick us up at the airport when we arrived, breakfast both buffet and made to order every morning (no additional cost), provided a honor fridge stocked with beer, wine, and had snacks every night, arranged for a driver to take us sightseeing one day, bought tickets to things for us like the cable car down from Table Mountain, made us some dinner suggestions and reservations, really above and beyond. The rooms were super cute, and the pool and hot tub were so nice for relaxing (which we actually did!) Loved this place.
The first night we arrived at night after flying all day from Paris. Just enough time to check in, grab a glass of wine and hang out in the hot tub.
Attempted a run through downtown Capetown. It was just terrible. All downhill to start, all uphill in the hotness back. Unless you are by the water, you are running through a busy city. Not ideal at all. Also did I mention it was hot? So hot. So that ended up being my only run in Capetown. After that terrible decision, we soaked up some sun at the pool, and then ubered (yes they have ubers in Capetown- they are safer than cabs and cheap) to Camps Bay for lunch at Mantra Cafe overlooking the beach. Grilled calamari, prawns, burrata salads- delish. After lunch we took a stroll on the beach to take photos because the views were ridiculous. After our beach exploring we ubered over the Bo Kaap- a historical neighborhood with brightly painted houses. Great gram spot to be honest, just took photos here, but there is a museum if you want to learn about township history in Capetown. From there, quick change and dinner at Black Sheep on Kloof st (literally a 3 min walk from the hotel). Kloof St in the main strip of bars and restaurants downtown- you can't go wrong here. Tons of options. The hotel did recommend this restaurant as their fave and it lived up to the talk- amazing meal and really good drinks.
Original plan- hike Lion's head. However- it was closed! A big fire a few weeks ago had devastated the area, so it was still closed for path maintenance. Not knowing this until we arrived, we hiked Signal Hill right down the road instead. It was fine but I was super bummed we didn't get to hike iconic Lion's head for sure. This was a decent alternative though- and we went before the sun was all the way up over the mountain. Pro tip- do your hiking in Capetown before 10am if you go in the summer. It just gets brutally hot. After the hike we had a driver take us to some touristy spots about an hour away. We started at St. James Beach (really nice beach with colorful huts- another gram spot), then to a marina to see some seals, then to Boulder Beach which is the Penguin spot!!! Boulder beach was truly the highlight- the Penguins were amazing! They were everywhere, and they were all giving birth which was crazy to watch. There is a walkway that is free where you will see some penguins, but if you pay a very cheap entrance fee you can literally hang out on the beach and swim with the penguins. Then - walk a little further to another part where the walkway goes above the sand and they are just all over the place. All the penguins!!! Unfortunately this was about the time I started throwing up, so after hanging with the Penguins we drove back to the hotel- the drive on the coast was so beautiful. If I could go back I would definitely do that again, and work in the Cape of good hope. But unfortunately my stomach had other plans.
This is where I lose a day and pick back up Thursday.
We booked a tour of the wine country of Stellenbosch through Tripadvisor. It was a really nice tour, transportation provided, lunch included, and took us to 4 wineries. The Stellenbosh wine area is about 45mins-1hr drive from Capetown, perfect for a day trip. We started at the one of the oldest wineries in the area- Muratie. Then to Remhoogte, Backsberg for lunch outdoors (this visit included a brandy and MCC tasting), and ended at Fairview which featured live goats and a cheese pairing. All in all we tasted about 20 wines- pretty good showing! We kept the wine theme going for dinner too- we had made reservations in advance at the recommendation of the hotel at Chef's Warehouse at Beau Constantine (another winery but in the Constantia area- about 30mins from the hotel). This was awesome- amazing 9 course pre-fixed menu with ridiculous views of the vineyard. So damn good. Loved this dinner.
Hiking Day! We started out early and ubered to Gordon's Bay (about an hour away) to do the Crystal Pools hike in the Kogelberg Nature Reserve. This was harder than it sounds in all aspects. They only let in 50 people a day, so I had to buy passes online ahead of time- and they only accept wire transfers- so again Derwatt house to the rescue paid for the passes and charged us at checkout. This hike had alot of nature hype around it- many warnings of baboons and snakes. Luckily we encountered neither. It was a great hike, but challenging because it wasn't marked extremely well, we did end up a little lost a couple times which is never fun. But ended up seeing the pools (we didn't swim) and getting in a good workout. Also- our uber driver actually ended up waiting for us- which was so nice of him. Make sure you tip these guys- the majority of them were extremely nice and accommodating. Back to the hotel for pool time, and happy hour at the Bungalow for Sunset in Camp's Bay. Spend as much time as you can in Camp's Bay- its just so beautiful. Ubered back to our neighborhood and had our final dinner at Kloof St Tavern. This place was gorgeous- an old building decorated so beautifully, great patio, felt like a classy version of Pump from Vanderpump Rules (don't judge me for this comparison). The food and drinks were incredible too.
We had planes to catch, but we couldn't let that huge mountain we had been staring at all week go unconquered. We all woke up early, and absolutely dominated Table Mountain. This climb was intense AF- basically stairs, switching back, up the side of this ridiculous mountain- and we killed it in 1 hr 5mins. Incredible. The views at the top were obstructed by the friggin clouds we were above, but still so cool and amazing. Due to time (I'll say that sure) we took the cable car down back down, and ubered the 7 mins back to the hotel. This was the absolute perfect way to end this amazing week in South Africa. What a hike, what a view, what a place. Our friends left to catch their flight- Joe and I had a couple hours to kill, so we took a quick walk around the downtown- checking out the Company Garden (great park in the city) as well as some of the shops.
Takeaways from Capetown:
- Absolutely loved you get everything- 1 hr to vineyards, huge mountains, beaches, coastal drives, nature, animals, it lacks nothing!
- As beautiful as it is, you are often reminded by the locals just how much poverty there is right outside the beauty. Don't go in the townships, don't walk around anywhere at night (even places that look safe), don't hail cabs (take ubers), if you are being harassed by someone on the street don't make eye contact and keep in moving. Be alert and smart and you'll be fine.
-The ocean is super cold so you won't be swimming. Also there are alot of sharks- so again you won't be swimming.
-They have traffic, so just be prepared you may sit in a car for awhile in your way in and out of the city.
- Did I mention it is so so so cheap! This is the place to treat yourself- get that fancy dinner, hire that driver, live like a king but not for a king's ransom if you know what I mean.
-I was sick, but my friends did a safari (safari "light" as the locals refer to it) at the Aquilla game reserve. They really loved it. We bought tickets online on their website ahead of time. It was about a 2hr ride each way from Capetown, and they got to see a ton of animals- Elephants, rhinos, zebras, etc. It provided a tour of the grounds to see the animals, lunch, a horseback ride, some drinks. I hated missing this.