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Gavin Explores - South Africa (Part 2)

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After our little jaunt at the Vredenburg Manor House and the surrounding areas, we headed two hours from Cape Town up the Western Cape near to a place called Shelley Point, just off St Helena Bay. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect here, we were still with Andrew’s parents (his South African dad and Kiwi Mother) and their South African friends (who are approaching their 50th wedding anniversary but are like a pair of giggling loved-up teens), and we were staying in an amazing beachside house, next to a lighthouse. The only point on the agenda for the few days at Shelley Point was ‘RELAX’, something that all of us, especially the South African couple, who had hosted Christmas and New Years for 43 family members. FORTY THREE(!!!!!!).

Shelley Point/St Helena Bay

Shelley Point is a seaside residential development filled with beautiful white buildings, however for some reason, even though we were only 1 week out of the school holidays, the entire place was deserted. It was actually quite strange. There was a huge, lavish hotel, which was empty and had closed down, hundreds of beautiful huge houses, but nobody living in them. It was strange. Also, when we arrived the wind was howling, and I walking around this deserted area with the wind lent itself to some form of slasher film. The Western Cape is really exposed to the Atlantic Ocean, so the south easterly winds really whip up some speed before powering inland. Normally this would be fine, as I love a windy day to blow away the cobwebs, but when you’re on a beach, this meant the sand flies directly into your house, eyes, bed, mouth, pockets, thoughts, clothes, hopes and dreams. You can’t take solace in a sea either, as the currents from the Antartica bring the cold, glacial seawater straight up to this part of South Africa. So swimming is a real no. I managed to get in the sea for all of 3 minutes before taking salvage on dry land. Seriously, dunking my head under water left me short of breath and unable to talk for a few seconds, it was that cold.

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No prizes for guessing why it’s called Shelley Point.

Shelley Point and the surrounding areas are great if you enjoy walking and relaxing and mooching about looking at seals. I know for some, this wouldn’t be high on people’s priorities, but it has a lot of draws; solitude, peacefulness and it surrounded by very traditional farming or fishing South African towns. The nearby town of Paternoster is a beautful old fishing town, with stunning houses and b&bs. It is also home to the very famous The Noisy Oyster restaurant, where we ate one night. Although The Noisy Oyster is about 2 hours drive from Cape Town, it is such a popular eatery that people regularly drive up on Sundays to eat there.

After our few days in Shelley Beach, we waved goodbye to the family, friends, and seals and we headed back to Capital, still not over our bugs, but ready for CT.

Cape Town

Accommodation

The Grey - located in the Waterkant area. Waterkant is a big gay friendly part of Cape Town, which is filled with some of the beautifully colourful famous Cape Town houses, similar to those of the famous Bo-Kaap district, a few minutes away. The Grey is a new hotel, with only a handful of rooms, but it offers an amazing place to call home for your stay. Above The Grey is the Sky Bar, a rooftop bar with a small barside pool, which offers beautiful views over the local area and a breathtaking shot of Table Mountain. I cannot recommend this place enough, although it is on the pricier side, coming in at about £100 a night, but it is uber trendy, the staff were incredibly friendly and it’s location is brilliant for nearby cafes, bars and general accessibility to Cape Town centre.

There are of course many hotels and B&Bs around Cape Town covering all different styles and costs. Friends of ours stayed in the Rouge on Rose, in Bo-Kaap, which they recommended highly to us, but I know the next time we are back, we are going to try to get back into The Grey.

Things To Do

V&A Waterfront

Located next to the working docks, the V&A is a historic area that’s been redeveloped and kitted out with many shops, bars, restaurants and stalls. They have an indoor food market filled with a huge range of foods, drinks and snacks, and there is a range of street performers to keep you occupied outside.

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The Old Biscuit Mill

On Sunday morning, we met up with our friends James and Gemma, who were on the first day of their honeymoon and took them straight over to the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock. As you would guess, this is an old biscuit mill which has been turned into a hub of arts, crafts and delicacies in Cape Town. This was a beautiful start to the morning, with a huge variety of food and snacks to feast whilst we perused the stalls, like with the V&A Waterfront though, it lacked any authenticity as most of the things I found on the stalls could be found in any London Market. This is not to say it is not worth checking out, as it’s a lovely way to start your day in the capital.

If you are going there, be warned. We were ushered into a parking space by the car guard, yet found ourselves with an 800R parking ticket, as did every other car on the street. So do not park on red lines, even if you are told it will be fine.

Boulders Beach

This is pretty much a MUST for anyone visiting Cape Town. Boulders Beach is home to thousands of African Penguins. I know. I know.. Penguins like snow. Not these ones. They live in Africa, hence the name. Boulders beach costs 70R pp and is worth every cent. There are two entrances, one where you walk along a gangplank and see the hoards of penguins from above. The other entrance takes you onto the actual beach and with some navigating over and under rocks you find a wonderfully secluded beach with penguins quite literally everywhere. Just sat next to sunbathers, without a care in the world. Truly, a wonderful and bizarre experience.

AS3You are a penguin.

The Cape of Good Hope

Situated south of Cape Town, the Cape of Good Hope is a wonderful spot for anyone who likes hiking. We drove down all of it, which felt like cheating, but we were hard pressed for time. The Cape of Good Hope has a history linked into European trade ships which were travelling to India, this leg of their journey marked the halfway point of a 1-year trip. The cape has a lighthouse at the pinnacle, as well as beautiful cliffs and rock faces to admire. It involves a lot of steps for most, although a vernacular is available.

Bo-Kaap

As mentioned before, Cape Town has a famous area called Bo-Kaap, where the Cape Malay people moved to. The streets there are filled with beautiful colourful houses. I have no idea why they are colourful, but I am pleased that they are. This area is quite a poor area, with quite a lot of homeless people around, so be careful when exploring the area, but please make sure you do, if not just for the instagrams!

AS5Mornings in Bo-Kaap

Table Mountain & Lions Head

As mentioned in my previous post, Table Mountain is the world famous mountain that Cape Town surrounds. It is huge, really spectacularly huge. It takes about 2 hours to hike up it and 2 hours to hike down. Or you can get the cable car up, although queues for this can take a long time. We were not able to make it this time as we were hard pressed for time. On our last morning we made another break for Lions Head, a smaller, yet equally as impressive climb. It took us 49 minutes to climb up, taking the shortcut of the chains and bars (NOT FOR ANYONE AFRAID OF HEIGHTS) and 55 minutes to climb down. It is well worth a journey, but not for those who struggle with climbing, or hiking, or heights.

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Nearby Bays

Cape Town is surrounded by many beautiful bay towns which are well worth a visit if you are staying in the capital. Camps Bay, Llandudno (Bet you can’t guess where the settlers who established this town came from) and Houts Bay were three of them that Andy and myself stopped in on. All of them offer wonderful seaside views, beaches and pubs.

Eating & Drinking

I mean, Cape Town is the capital of a country which prides itself on good food, so I wouldn’t even dare to list of the places to eat.

The first night in Cape Town both Andy and I were quite ill so we ate in a small pleasant Italian restaurant, but were done after a pizza and a glass of wine.

The Duchess of Wisbeach - This small restaurant is in Sea Point, a residential are of Cape Town is a very trendy restaurant set in an old house. The Duchess of Wisbeach is worth a visit as the food was outstanding and the style of the restaurant, with it’s all white clad staff (although our waitress did have a bit of an attitude) and white tables, candles and white dog ornaments on each table, give it a really romantic setting.

Cape Town really is a breakfast and brunch city. We had a number of delicious breakfasts and snacky days. Checking out the Old Biscuit Mill mentioned earlier is a great spot, but also try out the local streetside cafes.

The Charles Cafe - Waterkant Street, sat outside in the shade of a sprawling tree. This is a perfect way to watch the city wake up. N.B. South Africans do a great breakfast. Try their variety of sausages; boerewors is a must!

Getting Around

I cannot stress the following word enough: UBER. If you don’t have UBER and are travelling to SA, get UBER. Get UBER and use your UBER account. Getting around in Cape Town is so horrifically cheap using UBER. A 10-minute journey from our hotel to cost about £2. Travelling around South African towns after dark can be dangerous, even in Cape Town, so Uber is your life long friend here.

Many people in Cape Town drive around. The traffic can get hectic, but it is a capital city. Hiring a car is cheap and easy in South Africa, so if you are traveling far out of the city, it is well worth picking one us. We hired our car from Bidvest for 11 days for about £200, and petrol is cheap as chips here.

Things To Know

Homelessness is quite high in Cape Town, as are crimes and pickpocketing. So please be careful. It’s not advisable to walk around parts of the city at night, so as mentioned use an Uber where possible, or ask someone to help arrange a taxi, although the Western Cape is one of the safest parts of SA because of its tourism.

Cape Town is very different to the rest of South Africa, it is very mixed and very well integrated. Many of the young successful black South Africans move to Cape Town, which lends itself to the rich diversity within the city. That’s not to say that the rest of the country isn’t integrated, but I feel Cape Town gives a very different impression to some of the other areas I’ve seen.

Plan in adavance, especially if you are driving around the city yourself. Load a journey onto Google Maps when you have wifi, it will save you getting lost around the streets.

ENJOY IT!

Finally, we were off to our Garden Route… tbc.

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