Having traveled as much as I have—not to mention, having lived in Tennessee, Arizona, New York, Scotland, Holland, Denmark and California in the last decade—I so rarely arrive in a city and think: I could live here. I’m to the point where I like being settled, as far as a nomadic spirit like me can, and where I don’t want to uproot my home every year or so in search of new adventure. And then, and then I arrived in Cape Town.
We got to Cape Town with a rough sketch of what we wanted to do but no set itinerary. And it was better that way, I think. We were always stumbling upon gems like Bo Kaap (where we took a Cape Malay cooking school…more on that another day) or hearing about places from locals that we just couldn’t miss.
(We did, however, take one of those big, red, tacky, open-top city sightseeing buses. Whatever, don’t judge. It was totally worth it.)
Speaking of locals, somehow I came to have quite a few friends in Cape Town, despite having never been there before. So the first night, my San Francisco confidante Trish, her boyfriend Brian, and their accommodating hosts Annie and Conor took us for a drink and to this amazing restaurant, the Africa Cafe, where you sample a little bit of everything by way of South African cuisine, all served family style (and you’re meant to eat with your hands, which…we didn’t, because we’re all germophobes like that).
The following afternoon, we met up with Alison, a South African friend who used to work on the red carpet with me in New York, as she’s found her way back to the motherland. She took us to the most precious lunch spot, Bird Cafe, on Bree Street, where we sat on empty milk crates and caught up on lost time.
That night, my Dutch pals Marthe and Serginho gave us a tour of the Obs (or the Observatory), which I would liken to San Francisco’s Mission district or maybe the East Village in NYC. It was there I became hooked on bobote, a South African type of meatloaf, at Cafe Ganesh and also tried springbok (sadly, the antelope-like mammal, not the rugby player of the same name) for the first time.
I thought six days in Cape Town was going to be more than enough. Not even close. Factor in a day to drive Cape Point and a day up in Stellenbosch, and there was so much more we wanted to do in Cape Town that will have to be left for next visit. We also couldn’t get enough of the V&A Waterfront, funny enough as I won’t step foot within 10 blocks of Fisherman’s Wharf in my own city. Sure, it was overpriced and weighed down with tourists, but still lively and oh-so-lovely.
Ditto to Long Street, with its blocks and blocks of cute shops and the bustling Green Market Square. (That said, whatever you do, DON’T go to the Purple Turtle, where my sister was mugged while sober on the dance floor and, after reporting it, was told smugly by the manager, “ha! Honey, we’re known for pickpocketing.”) Also worth a gander is the weekly Saturday market at the Old Biscuit Mill where you’ll find everything from Anthropologie-like clothing (at H&M-like prices) to home furnishings and knick-knacks galore.
And so much of the coastline that encased the city reminded me of California’s Big Sur area. Tell me the two aren’t strikingly similar.
I could just sing Cape Town’s praises for another 1,000 words. But I won’t. After all, I need to save enough content to set up in advance while I’m away on my three-week honeymoon!
The good news is that I’m pretty sure my mom and sister felt the same way about this marvelous city, and I have no doubt Scott would be on board…so when the time comes, we can deport and all be expats there together! Lord knows, it will be a helluva lot cheaper than San Francisco, that’s for sure.
This brought back so many memories (Bo Kaap! Africa Cafe! Stellenbosch!) – I’m so glad you enjoyed your trip so much. Maybe one day we’ll run into each other in the lovely South Africa.
I KNEW you’d love Cape Town!!!!!!!! I totally left my heart there. I would move there in a heartbeat if it wasn’t so damn far away from my family. How good was the Africa Cafe? I wish they would make a sister-restaurant in the USA.
i’ve heard so much of Cape Town. I have a friend who owns a safari booking company in Asia, and she loves Cape Town. It’s a place she said she’d love to retire in. Hey, wedding’s coming up…
It looks like such a beautiful city. I’d never really read much about Cape Town, but it seems so vibrant and interesting!
After my first time in Cape Town I was all ready to move there (from Australia), and I cried as I got on the plane that was taking me to visit my sisters in London (whom I hadn’t seen in months!) but I oh so badly didn’t want to leave!! Just as you likened it a lot to San Francisco (which I agree with) I likened it to my hometown of Melbourne so maybe all 3 cities have some magical qualities!?
So glad you had an amazing trip, can’t wait to hear more about it 🙂
It’s so cool you were able to meet up with old friends! I really want to go there.
Guess I blew it by not exploring Cape Town proper. Yet I only had three days there, not nearly enough, several weeks would be better. Next time for sure. Plus all the hiking opportunities. Hope you got a chance to go to the top of Table Mt. I totally agree it would be a very livable place.
Wow – everything there looks amazing – I’m so envious of your trip!
I’m considering spending a month in Cape Town at the turn of the year. Really helpful post, thanks!
We booked our tickets to South Africa and we are going to be there from August to October. Yay! This just makes me want to spend more time in Cape Town. I think we are going to love it.
oof. I havent been home in 11yrs, this definitely made me home sick! And such great photography!
I wanna go back! S Africa is the only place I’ve ever been to outside of the US that I would like to live in. It’s beautiful and the people are extraordinary! (Course, it helped to have a great tour guide in the guise of Kristin!!)
Totally agree – I LOVE Cape Town and would move there in an instant!
I felt the same way about Cape Town. When I wrote about it, I said it was one of my favorite cities in the world. I had two weeks in South Africa and my plan was to arrive in Cape Town, spend a few days there, then maybe take a little trip. I never left Cape Town the entire time. There is just so much to see! And eating at the Old Biscuit Mill on Saturday- I had to do that twice!
I stay in Cape Town, and I’ve been all over the rest of South Africa and truly there is no more beautiful place to be… From the mountains, to the sea… everything is wonderful here. Next time you visit, make sure you make a stop in Somerset West… Small town just outside of Stellenbosch. Come see out nature reserve!! It’s the most extraordinary in the land 🙂
Great stuff – Only saw this two years after you posted this now 🙂 I’m glad that you mentioned Obs (Observatory) too. Yes, Cape Town’s city centre is great, but there is a lot more to see and experience just a km or two / three away too. Obs has always been the most Bohemian part of Cape Town and probably will be for a long time to come.
Maybe I just didn’t get it but I thought Cape Town was so overrated and overhyped. I have been to San Francisco and it is so beautiful with many interesting and distinct areas.
I don’t find Table Mountain “beautiful”; it is just a flat barren rock and you get a view looking over a town and out to sea as you do when you are high up overlooking most coastlines with a settlement beneath them.
Rio De Janeiro has wonderful vistas which put cape Town in the shade. In truth I think South Africans make too much of Cape Town (and there are very unappealing parts) but when you haven’t got that many scenic parts I guess it is understandable. Also Hobart, Vancouver and places in Montenegro have mountains as backdrops. Unfortunately S Africa does not have a natural wonder like the Grand Canyon and so it hypes up Cape Town, They really need to sort the airport out too as it is falls far short of USA airports.