June 16, 2015

Out & About in Central Cape Town

Day 1: We touched down in Cape Town late at night after roughly 34 hours of travel (Orange County -> Seattle -> Amsterdam -> Cape Town) and headed straight to our charming bed & breakfast, Blackheath Lodge in Sea Point, for a hot shower and long sleep. The next morning was cold and rainy so after a warm breakfast, we Ubered to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town's lovely main harbor. We quickly learned that the ferry to Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 22 years) was cancelled for the day due to rough water so we walked through the memorial museum at the dock while brainstorming a backup plan. 

As we wandered around the harbor we found the V&A Wharf Market, a fabulous modern co-op filled with local food and craft vendors. I had an amazing bubble tea from The Bubble Tea Company and Dan tried his first bit of biltong (Basically African jerky, but don't tell them I said that) from Stokkiesdraii Biltong, as we checked out all of the goodies at the various the booths. Since we had a feeling that our shark-dive trip planned the next day would be cancelled due to weather (it was, sad day.) we decided to go to the Two Oceans Aquarium, named for the Atlantic and Indian oceans that meet along South Africa's coastline, just a short walk away. 

The weather was pretty patchy, and while we would have welcomed a quick walk in the rain, we were excited to find the Water Shed, a brand new covered market in a renovated hangar featuring about 150 African craft vendors and boutiques. I was in absolute heaven and could have easily spent a full day exploring every corner of that place. I had hoped to have more time on the tail-end of our trip to go back to shop but it didn't work out this time. If you're a lover of unique, independent, and beautifully designed shops, don't miss the Watershed or the Wharf Market while in Cape Town. 

I was pleasantly surprised by the Aquarium- honestly something I probably never would have done under other circumstances... because, ya know, zoos and stuff- but the exhibits were beautiful and I loved how much they promote conservation and eco-friendly practices. I am currently cracking up because I just realized that the photo from our lunch stop that day is horribly ironic. Whoops.  I promise that no Nemos were harmed. After lunch at highly recommended Willoughby & Co., we took advantage of the sun peeking through the clouds and walked to the city center to check out the Bo Kaap district about 40 minutes away. There's a hop-on-hop-off bus that will take you there easily but we were wanting to move our legs after the long hours of sitting the day before. 

We spent about an hour walking up and down the streets of colorful houses, and stopping in the little Bo Kaap museum, before heading back to Long Street for happy hour and people-watching at Cafe Mojito. Long Street is lined with boutique backpacker hostels and is known for it's artsy vibe, vintage shops, and nightlife though at 6pm, it was still very tame. We had an easy dinner of tapas and wine at FORK and despite fear of not being able to get a table (we heard it's always packed), we practically had the whole place to ourselves. It was lovely, and if we could have rallied better, we would have easily spent several hours there. We ended up taking a cab back to our hotel, but in hindsight we would have stuck with Uber. Our trip from the hotel to the waterfront was under $3 while the cab back was over twice as much. Obviously not breaking the bank, but just a good tip if you're thinking of getting around Cape Town without a car. 

Overall, the day was a perfect start to our South Africa trip and a great way to see what central Cape Town has to offer (hint: a lot. I could have happily spent a whole week there!), but by the time it was dark, we were ready to crawl back into the fluffy bed at our hotel and dream about the next day. 

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