Where: Cape Town, South Africa (I didn’t think you needed a map for this one, but you can go to the link and get a special view of the city. Go on.)
Plate of food: Cape Town cuisine has been influenced by Dutch, African, Indian, French, Malaysian, and British cooking. You often find more than one of those cultures on your plate at any given meal. How can one city hold so many flavours? I am willing to investigate thoroughly to uncover the answer to this delectable mystery. I do it for you.
When I think about my meals in Cape Town, 3 spring to mind: a sizzling pan of enormous prawns, a tender venison stew, and an outstandingly simple steak.
The prawns were enjoyed harbourside with live music and a cold beer. Is there another way to enjoy seafood? The music was essential; nothing better than shouting out the words to “Sweet Caroline” in between mouthfuls of succulent prawn.
The venison potjie (“poy-kee”, a reference to the three-legged cast iron pot these stews are cooked in) was rich and delicious, perhaps slightly less so because Matt was battling with a horrifically under-cooked ostrich steak, which then became a terribly OVER-cooked ostrich steak after the waitress took it back to the kitchen. It was all so unfortunate and made worse by the waitress clearly not subscribing to the belief that the customer is always (or even just sometimes) right. Ouch.
Wait, we were supposed to be talking about great food, right? Right! The steak I had was perfect in every way: cooked beautifully (I’m a medium kind of girl), dolloped with a blue cheese sauce, and accompanied by a South African Pinotage. (There may well have been some side dishes with my meal, but let’s be honest, the wine and the meat took precedence.)
If you are in the neighbourhood (you never know…), I had my prawns at Quay 4, my steak at Belthazar, and would also recommend Mint for lovely food and for stunning interiors of the attached Taj Hotel (take a peek at the formal dining rooms as you go to the restrooms – wowzer).
The best: Table Mountain. Everything you read about Cape Town talks about this mountain slap-bang in the centre of the city. You read about its folklore, its views, its omnipresence, its…flatness. Turns out, everything you read is wrong.
Table Mountain is more impressive, more looming, more stunning, more breathtaking than anyone can tell you. It is a pure delight to catch a glimpse of it from wherever you are in the city, like repeatedly catching the eye of a guy/girl who makes your heart skip a beat. It is invigorating and addictive.
We arrived at night and only first saw Table Mountain the following morning. Wow. Its profile is so unusual and distinct. A constant solid presence.
Then we decided to see how everything else looks from up on Table Mountain. Wow again. We went up in the new cable cars which are huge and snazzy, rotating 360 degrees as you ascend. That way everyone gets the sought after view, not just the man wearing socks with sandals who elbowed his way to the “prime” viewing spot. You sure weren’t expecting it to ROTATE, were you, Mr. Sandal Man.
Once at the top we gazed down on the city and the coast as the wind buffeted us and the clouds scooted up the mountainside. There is a path that winds along the top, over slabs of rock and through scruffy bush, but really you just need to pick your spot and sit down. Then watch as the clouds approach in the distance only to steal away your view and then return it with an added burst of sunshine.
I loved this view. The deep blue sea becoming turquoise as it meets the beach. The rural roads looking like thin brown snakes stretching across the land.
It seemed equally important to gaze at Table Mountain from the city as it was to peer down on the city from the top of the mountain. Two beautiful perspectives, one Cape Town.
Story that needs to be told: I have already regaled you with our horrific delay in getting to South Africa, thanks to a pesky yellow fever vaccination. Let me hit the highlights:
- We arrived for our connection in Sao Paulo with plenty of time, plenty of good spirits, and plenty of “we’re on holiday!” sparkle.
- Time, good spirits, and sparkle all vanished as soon as the man asked us for our yellow fever vaccination documents. Oof.
- Shortcut through the confusion, disbelief, panic, anger, etc and we find ourselves in a taxi hurtling through the streets of Sao Paulo to a medical clinic.
- The clinic had bars on the windows, chairs bolted to the floor, and was built following the Cinder-Blocks-Floor-to-Ceiling design manifesto.
- Quick pop-quiz in conjugating Portuguese verbs while distracted and stressed! Go!
- Four jabs of vaccine.
- Return to airport, only to miss connection. Oof.
- Spend 8 hours contemplating life in Sao Paulo airport. Not recommended. Nothing looks promising under those fluorescent lights.
- Arrive in Johannesburg.
- Bags do NOT.
- Arrive in Cape Town.
- Bags do NOT.
- Establish volatile relationship with lost baggage help desk.
- Bags join us after 3 days.
So it was a bumpy journey to Cape Town, but there is no better city to arrive in after being stretched to your maximum capacity of traveling woe. We were welcomed at our lovely hotel despite looking as bleary-eyed and bedraggled as you would imagine. We had wonderful food, wine, shopping (to stock up on everything that was packed in our bags…a continent away), and delights on our doorstep. Our troubles evaporated and we were left with a great joy at being in Cape Town, no matter how we got there.
Sometimes the journey is less than enjoyable, but it is still worth going. And when it comes to Cape Town, it’s ALWAYS worth going.