My Cape Town

Cape Town is without a doubt one of my all-time favorite cities in the world, and absolutely one of the most scenic. The world has been hearing the bad news, but I feel it’s necessary to share the good as well. With a new president in place and more water options available, I could barely feel the difference since the water crisis began in my last two visits there. I usually make my way to Cape Town two to three times a year, but my favorite time of the year is between Christmas and New Year’s, when my friends travel from all over the world and converge on this glorious, southern-most tip of Africa.

Cape Town seems to have it all: amazing restaurants, beautiful scenery and an incredibly complex history. Here are some of my favorite spots.

The Food

South Africa is known for its delectable seafood; here, a combination of prawns and langoustines. Photos courtesy of Colin Cowie

Cape Town was the watering hole of the spice route in the mid-17th century. All the boats would stop there for supplies, for repairs, to barter, to trade, to get clean water and to cure their diseases. As a result, Cape Town became known as the “rainbow kitchen” because of the incredible access it provided to products from all over the world.

There were the Dutch settlers, the French Huguenots, the German settlers, the British, the Portuguese from Mozambique and then, of course, almost a dozen different African tribes. Layer on top of that the largest population of Indians outside of India and it’s evident how the term “rainbow cuisine” came about.

Cape Town is the birthplace of Cape Malay, a unique cuisine that’s a combination of Malaysian Indonesian, Indian and local ingredients. When this cuisine began to surface, all the prime cuts of meat went to the wealthy landowners, and the less desirable cuts went to the workers and slaves. However, due to the access they had to amazing spices, they were able to create these wonderful, bubbling, delicious stews and curries that we have come to enjoy today.

The food scene has come a long way, and Cape Town now boasts some of the most recognized restaurants in the world. My personal favorite Cape Town chef is Liam Tomlin, who has received global recognition for his four restaurants. His signature spot, Chefs Warehouse, has an outpost at the stunning Beau Constantia vineyard and winery. In Sea Point he has an Indian fusion restaurant called Thali. If you’re looking for great seafood, Baia at the V&A Waterfront is nothing short of spectacular. The best prawns, the very best langoustines and the freshest crayfish come from those deep, cold South African waters.

The Wine

The gardens at Boschendal Vineyard

Cape Town is known for some of the most charming and reputable vineyards in the world. Trust me when I say they are an absolute must to go and visit. Make the trip to Babylonstoren, a wonderfully well-preserved historic Cape Dutch farm. Definitely have a lunch at the Werf Restaurant at the Boschendal farm, and if you have time, stop at Vergerlegen, the original home of the first governor of the Cape, for lunch on the patio overlooking the magnificent gardens. It is an enchanting sight that you’ll never forget. The view is almost as fabulous as dining on the terrace at Delaire Graff Vineyards, looking out at the Outeniqua Mountains. And yes— that is Graff, as in Graff Diamonds.

The Sights

Majestic views of the Atlantic, including popular Clifton and Camps Bay beaches

Set a day aside to drive to Cape Point and around the Cape Peninsula. Pass the scenic beaches of Llandudno and Hout Bay, and then travel along Chapman’s Peak to Noordhoek, stopping at Cape Point, the most southwestern tip of Africa. Have lunch at the famed Harbour House and make your way back through Simon’s Town with a visit to Boulders Beach and the penguin colony that lives there. Continue home via Muizenberg and enjoy the colorful white sand beaches that punctuate the coast, passing through the Constantia Wine Route before you’re back in Cape Town.

If you’re feeling energetic, the challenging hike up Lion’s Head mountain is well worth the panoramic view at the top. And if you are really ambitious, you could plan a hike up Table Mountain as well.

From a historical perspective, I highly recommend taking the trip to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of the 27 years he was incarcerated. It’s a truly humbling experience. It puts you in the middle of what was an extraordinary story that shaped Cape Town and the whole of South Africa and helps you understand how Mandela earned a Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for his contributions to ending the apartheid regime. You travel to Robben Island by boat from the hustle and bustle of the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. While there, make sure you visit the highly acclaimed Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, which was designed by the famed architect Thomas Heatherwick.

Where to Stay

To sum it up, if you are planning a vacation, make sure Cape Town is at the top of your list. Allow at least five nights to get to even a portion of the things on this list. But where should you stay while you’re there? Ellerman House, the Twelve Apostles and Cape Grace are all stunning properties. For something more traditional, there’s nothing like a beautiful suite at the Mount Nelson Hotel. If you are looking for something quieter and more remote, check out Tintswalo Atlantic, a beautiful spot on Hout Bay.

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