One year. We’ve been married for one year. Raquel and I looked at each other on our flight down to Cape Town and we both thought the same thing: Time has flown by without us noticing it, but that’s another post on its own, but for now I want to share our trip to Cape Town.
I decided that I would plan a surprise trip to Cape Town for our anniversary. Both Raquel and I had never been to Cape Town (I know shocking! I lived in the country for 18 years and not one single visit!), so a weekend trip would be a good introduction to the city.
As we could not take time off for the trip, it needed to be one of those leave Friday after work and get back on Sunday evening trips which are always exhausting as you try and squeeze a lot into two days. However, by chance we managed to book a another weekend in Cape Town later this month, which left us at ease so as not to rush everything into the two days we had.
As soon as both of us got out of work on Friday we made our way to the airport for our evening flight. It was the last flight out of Joburg which meant we would arrive in Cape Town past 11pm and only to our hotel by midnight. We had the good fortune of not being delayed for our arrival into Cape Town and also managed to get our rental car quickly to make our way to Sea Point where our Hotel the Winchester Mansions was located. It finally past midnight when exhaustion took its toll and we collapsed.
The next morning we slept in (only until about 9am) in order to feel fresh for the day’s activities. The backpacker in us made sure we took full advantage of breakfast and filled up our “tanks” so that our next meal only needed to be dinner.
Once breakfast was done, we headed out to the red bus tour stop just outside our hotel. This was pure luck as I had not planned this bit out and assumed I would be driving us around for the day, but when I looked at the red bus tour site, I realized the convenience of our hotel choice as it meant we could leave the car at the hotel and take a ride around on the bus which we enjoyed in Johannesburg.
It was from the bus stop that we could see the hotel in its glory: a traditional Cape Dutch façade structure beautifully kept and maintained overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Both Raquel and I love these traditional Cape Dutch style houses and it was one of the reasons I chose this hotel for our stay.
Our idea was stay on the bus for a full circuit and then get off in city center on the second circuit. Which turned to be very fortunate as it started raining when we got on the bus and stopped towards the end of the first circuit which meant we could get off the bus and explore on the second circuit without getting wet.
From the Winchester Mansions, the bus headed past Green Point Stadium built for the 2010 Football World Cup towards Green Point Lighthouse, affectionately known as Moaning Minnie for its low-pitched fog horn warning seafarers of mist resulting from the sometimes unpredictable Cape Town weather.
The bus then goes to the two oceans aquarium by the V&A Waterfront, which tends to be the first stop on the bus tour, followed by stops at the Clock Tower close to where you can catch the ferries to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 20 years and the Cape Town International Convention Centre.
The Cape Town Tourism centre stop on the tour is a good point to get off the bus and explore the city centre including the bar filled Long Street which reminded me very much of the hostel district in Sultanahmet in Istanbul (Not the architecture, but the bar culture). The surrounding area includes other stops on route like St George’s Cathedral, the South African Museum, Mount Nelson Hotel and the South African Jewish Museum.
Following this central area you head towards the District Six Museum which tells the story of a mixed community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans, labourers and immigrants, District Six was a vibrant centre with close links to the city and the port, which was torn to the community to shreds and separated mixed couples who were forced apart due to the Apartheid’s segregation policies.
The tour moves on to the Castle of Good Hope which is really a fort and not a castle, before heading towards the Gold Museum and Jewel Africa, which borders the colourful Bo-Kaap district, of which I’ll write about later in this post.
From the Bo-Kaap the bus heads towards the base of one of South Africa’s most identifiable landmarks, Table mountain, however the weather meant that it was completed obscured by clouds, which meant a trip up with the cable car was completely pointless so we stayed on the bus as we headed towards the upmarket Camps Bay area of Cape Town with its great beaches.
The tour swings back towards Sea Point and our hotel where we started the tour. We stayed on the bus and made our way to the City Centre where we got off and walked around taking in the interesting mix of old and new. We also spent some time walking around the Company Gardens which is abutted by numerous important landmarks, including the lodge house for the slaves who built large parts of the historic city, the present day Houses of Parliament, the Iziko South African Museum and Planetarium, St George’s Cathedral (which is the seat of the Anglican church in South Africa), the National Library of South Africa, the South African National Gallery, the Great Synagogue and Holocaust Centre as well as Tuynhuys, which is used by the President on state occasions.
I had prepared a surprise for Raquel in the afternoon and we decided it might be a nice idea to walk back to the hotel. It took us over an hour to get back, but the walk was interesting if not a little tiring, however considering I knew what was waiting for us back at the hotel, I didn’t mind.
I had prepared a session of massages and some well deserved pampering at the hotel spa. We spent two hours being massaged and Raquel got a manicure, which she really loves. After the afternoon of pampering we had dinner at the hotel, which entailed a few surprises Raquel and I were not prepared for. Find out more in this previous post.
After our lovely dinner and surprise we made our way to V&A Waterfront for a quick walk around before heading back to the hotel to catch up on some beauty sleep as we started to feel the tiredness setting in having arrived late the previous night.
The next day after breakfast we checked out and tried to see whether we could get into some of the museums we had missed out on the previous day, but unfortunately, the museums were closed. So we tried to go to one of the other places on our list of destinations, the Bo-Kaap neighbourhood of Cape Town.
The Bo-Kaap neighbourhood is known for its brightly coloured houses, however it’s the history behind this colourful neighbourhood, which makes it interesting. Bo-Kaap is the spiritual home of the Cape’s Muslim community as many of the residents are descendants of slaves from Malaysia, Indonesia and various other African Countries who were imported to the Cape by the Dutch during the 16th and 17th centuries.
The reason behind the colourful houses is actually quite interesting. During the period where slavery was prominent, the slaves were not allowed to paint their houses in colours other than white and wear bland clothing, so when slavery was abolished former slaves painted their houses in bright colours as a form of freedom of expression.
After checking out this colourful neighbourhood we decided that we had quite some time to kill so we decided to venture out of Cape Town and head to some of the other sights and attractions around Cape Town, one of which has special meaning for Raquel and I. It was the Cape of Good Hope, a milestone for the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias, who was the first man to navigate past this point in his mission to find the spice trade route to India.
The route to the Cape of Good Hope was very picturesque and the hour-long drive simply flew past as we drove to this stunning location. After stopping to take in the beautiful scene we took a photo at the marker and made our way towards Cape Point to take in some beautiful views.
From here we went to Simon’s Town to check out the penguin sanctuary, which was a lot of fun because, well, penguins are funny little things. The way they walk, the way they kind of surf when swimming in form the sea to the beach. It was such a nice experience until some very loud Italian tour group arrived who had no problem taking dozens of photos over your shoulder with the shutter going off constantly in your ears.
By this time we were hungry and had some lunch in Simon’s Town and made our way back to Cape Town and the airport to head back to Joburg. Having spent 29 years trying to visit this picturesque city, I finally made it and more importantly, I made it for such special occasion with the person I’m still madly in love with.
Best of all, due to a series of very fortunate events, we have managed to book tickets to Cape Town again later this month for a long weekend which we will use to check out more things around Cape Town, especially the famed wine route!