Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Cape Town Vacation!

View of Cape Town from Table Mountain
We decided to treat ourselves to a vacation in Cape Town before we got down to the serious job of teaching. On December 18th, we flew from Kruger International Airport to Johannesburg, then on to Cape Town. We booked accommodations at the Scalabrini Guest House, which is run by an Italian monastic order - all profits fund their social programs. We were given a very nice en suite room.

Pipe Organ in Cape Town's Oldest Church
Our first outing was a walking tour of the immediate area. Downtown Cape Town has a thriving outdoor market, and we spent many hours browsing artisan stalls. Also, Elizabeth found many old churches nearby she wanted to visit. That night we discovered that our guest house was two blocks away from "The Third Oldest Pub in Cape Town." Needless to say, we made a beeline for it. It turned out to be a tiny place on the ground floor of an old hotel, it was full of atmosphere and colorful characters. Just our sort of place. I had a local beer called Jack Black and heartily recommend it. We also got directions to the oldest pub in Cape Town and added it to our list of "Important Cultural Heritage Sites to Visit."

My thoughts exactly!
The next day we walked down to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront for a day of seriously touristy endeavors. There is a large mall there and we saw our first movie since arriving in South Africa, The Hobbit. Very good movie, but we kept comparing it to The Lord of the Rings, which was much better. After the movie, we stopped at one of the many lovely restaurants at the waterfront and enjoyed some nice local beers.

Groot Constantia Winery: Manor House Museum
The next couple days were devoted to seeing the sights on the Red and Blue Buses. These are lovely open top double-decker buses that take you through Cape Town and the surrounding area, with an audio description of the sights as you pass by them (We visited District 6 on this tour. Sadly, no aliens to be seen). The blue bus took us outside Cape Town to the beaches and some of the surrounding communities. We connected with the wine tour bus which took us on a side tour of the Constantia Valley wine-producing area. We took a winery tour and sampled the wines (you knew that was coming, didn't you?). They were nice, but didn't measure up to some of the excellent wines we've had since we got here (Saxenburg Pinotage, I'm looking at you). The red bus took us up Table Mountain where there's a gondola to the very top. We were going to ride it, but someone (Libby) started hyperventilating on the bus ride up, so that plan was nixed. We finished the day by visiting the aforementioned "Oldest Pub in Cape Town." Something of a disappointment. Unlike the "Third Oldest Pub in Cape Town," the "Oldest Pub in Cape Town" had had a facelift somewhere along the line and lacked all the charm of its lesser sibling. My advice: Stick to the third oldest pub.

View from One of the Wineries
Our private tour (a group tour, but we were the only two people to sign up that day) of the Stellenbosch and Paarl area wineries started early the next day. And when I say early, I mean we began tasting wines at 9:30AM. Our guide was a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic man who loved to talk about the wines and knew all the vintners personally. This meant they pulled out the good stuff just for us. When the people at the Backsberg Winery learned we were fans of the more full-bodied wines, they disappeared and returned with a limited-run red wine that was just incredible. We left with a bottle tucked under our arm. Things get rather hazy after that. We visited two or three more wineries before lunch, and by the time we sat down to eat, I was having trouble finding my face with my fork.

Canal Leading to the One and Only Hotel
For Christmas day dinner, we made reservations at one of the ritziest hotels in Cape Town, the One and Only. The hotel has a beautiful lobby, and when we arrived we were met by a waiter who presented us with complimentary champagne. The buffet itself was in Nobu restaurant, and offered traditional Christmas fare: Turkey with dressing and cranberry, roast beef and yorkshire pudding, roast pork...and all sorts of delicious appetizers, side dishes, and desserts. The food was fantastic and we had a lovely Christmas day. We even received gifts - African beaded keychains! One was a giraffe and the other a zebra.

Castle of Good Hope
Somewhere along the way, we also visited the Castle of Good Hope (a pretty cool place to visit, don't miss the Key Ceremony), the Jewish Museum and the Holocaust Memorial, and the Airsteam trailer accommodations on the roof of the Daddy Longlegs Hotel. We ate at many excellent restaurants, drank a lot of fantastic wine, rode the Wheel of Excellence (Thanks, Xanax! Love, Libby), and took a boat ride through the canals at the waterfront. It was a very fun trip!

On the Wheel of Excellence Ferris Wheel
Airsteam Trailer Accommodations. Maybe Someday!
- Perry

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