Cape Town is chic, modern city with tons of sights to see. And was recently named the New York Times #1 place to visit for 2014. Do you know what's even better than Cape Town? Cape Town with a coupon! Well not really a coupon, but pretty close. Due to market dynamics that I don't understand but to get to appreciate, the South African Rand is down about 20% to the dollar. That means an already good value city is that much more affordable.
Before we get to the fun stuff, we must remember the brutal history of apartheid.
In Cape Town proper that means a visit to the District 6 Museum and the Bo Kaap neighborhood. District 6 was a immigrant, poor neighborhood that was eventually designated by the government to be for whites. The non whites were forced out and had to give up their businesses and homes. The area was eventually razed, and whites began settling the area.
The Bo Kaap neighborhood was designated for the Cape Malay people. It seemed to be a potpourri racial designation where you had some Asian ancestry, and a skin tone that didn't let you be black or white. They were at least allowed to live and stay there and the neighborhood has a funky, cool vibe to it. As someone from the US, it's hard to conceive that the government would both assign a legally binding race to a person, and then designate places where those races could live.
The neighborhood was also the start point for the New Years Eve and Carnival parades, where colored bands would wear colorful dress and play until they reached the other side of the city.
The other place to contemplate the reality of apartheid in Cape Town is Robben Island, a penal colony where both hardened criminal and political prisoners were kept. It seems to have picturesque views...
Until you find out more about the conditions here.
As a tourist, we still get to take the same boat used to ferry prisoners over to the island. Once there, a former prisoner details what life was like for the political prisoners on the island.
Oh yeah, It was also "home" to Nelson Mandela for over 15 years.
This is his cell on the island along with the limestone quarry he was forced to work in. The limestone dust created lifelong breathing problems for Mr. Mandela
Thankfully, we were allowed to leave Robben Island without too much trouble and enjoy next the beauty of the area. In Cape Town, that starts with Table Mountain.
Pretty obvious where the name comes from.
Luckily, we were renting a studio from a cool family just at the base of the mountain. We could start hiking after we rolled out of bed.
It wasn't the easiest hiking in the world, but after finishing Kili, it made for just a sweaty morning.
The views from here were unlike any others I've had from a natural point. It was like the mountain was built to show off the city down below.
It even gets a rolling cloud layer in the afternoon called its Table Cloth.
We did cheat and take the revolving (!) gondola down.
Cape Town has another natural attraction you amateur navigators might know about, the Cape of Good Hope.
Before the Suez Canal was built, anyone trading between Asia and Europe had to pass around it. It's a stunning place where you can see both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.
Lastly, we did enjoy the epicurean delights this city has to offer. Both a trip to wine country
which at the end of, Ashley was feeling pretty good. (As was my wallet, at 11 rand to the dollar some of those bottles are less than 5 bucks at the winery)
And we hit up the Saturday Market at the Old Biscuit Mill, which has a Farmers Market and local restaurants selling some excellent food as you stroll through.
This Saturday grocery run, let us pack an excellent picnic of local wine, olives, breads, and cheese to the Botanical Garden for a Sunday summer concert of (ironically) a USA band, Civil Twilight.
We loved Cape Town and dreamed of living there. But it wasn't all rosy; Luckily, I never found out what this is.