A Travellerspoint blog

Cape Town, South Africa: From A to Z, Part 1

Like most people, I love to travel but hate to fly. The crowds, the jostling, the lines, and, worst of all, the hours of unrelenting boredom relieved only by the occasional bag of pretzels (stale) or temper tantrum (mine). And so, when I learned that a trip to Cape Town would require a 14-hour nonstop to Johannesburg, followed by another 2-hour flight to Cape Town, I jokingly thought, "Man, this place better have literally everything. I want beaches and mountains and wineries! I want chi-chi restaurants and waterfront bars and postcard views! I want rolling vineyards and world-class wines and great food and a vibrant downtown and historic architecture and sweeping vistas and. . ."

Impossibly . . . Cape Town had all of it.

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In fact, Cape Town is the only city I've ever visited that's so scenic, drivers pull onto the shoulder of a busy highway, jump out of their car, and literally risk death just to take a selfie.

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I, of course, would never do something so silly just for a photo.

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And as if all that weren't nearly enough . . . they also have penguins.

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In the end, Cape Town was such an embarrassment of riches that in the time it would take you to read a day-by-day, chronological recounting of our trip, you could have just flown there yourself. And so, here's my (mostly) A to Z list of the most beautiful, breathtaking, and beguiling reasons to visit Cape Town. [NOTE: This trip was pre-Covid. I wouldn't spend 14 hours on a plane now unless, well, it was going to Cape Town.]

AZURE
We decided to have Christmas Eve dinner at Azure, the five-star restaurant at Cape Town's 12 Apostles Hotel. Twelve apostles, twelve days of Christmas, seemed appropriate.

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Azure overlooks both Camps Bay and Lions Head Mountain, and even though just one of those would constitute a spectacular view anywhere else in the world, this is Cape Town, where such views are the norm. It's like Malibu and Tuscany went on a wine-fueled bender, resulting in the world's most beautiful baby.

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And you know the food is good when it can distract you from the postcard views outside.

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Plus, the dessert was smokin'.

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BUITENVERWACHTING
One of the things I loved most about Cape Town was how far in advance they take restaurant reservations...that is, until September rolled around and I found that my first and second choices for Christmas lunch were already booked. That, however, turned out to be one of the best things that's ever happened to me, because otherwise I'd never have discovered Buitenverwaching [Bite-en-ver-VACHT-ing] and their delicious, decadent, top-five-meals-in-my-life Christmas spectacular.

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I originally thought we'd dine outside on the patio, but the gracious reservationist, Lanita, recommended the glass-enclosed terrace for a better view. She did not steer us wrong.

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Our seven-course lunch included mozzarella espuma; marinated tuna with pan-fried baby gem lettuce and black garlic; quail saltimbocca with curried popcorn jus, chorizo, and truffles; and braised beef with crispy morels and taro crema.

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All paired with Buitenverwachting's excellent wines, of course.

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So much wine, in fact, that I could have sworn they served my dessert in a little Santa sled.

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In fact, the only bad thing I have to say about Buitenverwachting is that they continue to torture me with emails regarding all of the other spectacular-sounding food and wine events they're hosting, so much so that we have considered moving halfway around the world to Cape Town just so we can become regulars here.

I mean, it's not the world's worst plan.

CHAPMAN'S PEAK
Chapman's Peak is located on the western side of the Cape Peninsula, between Hout Bay and Noordhoek. The western flank of the mountain drops precipitously into the Atlantic Ocean and a road, known as Chapman's Peak Drive, hugs the near-vertical face of the mountain. Obviously this is not dangerous at all.

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Part of the road is carved directly into the mountain, which handily combines acrophobia and claustrophobia for those who are short on time.

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DELAIRE GRAFF ESTATE
In the U.S., Graff is known for outsized diamonds and Oscar-night jewels. But in over-the-top Cape Town, Graff is known as a paradise for wine enthusiasts, foodies, spa-goers, and art collectors . . . and those inclined to pick up a $1.2 million diamond over lunch.

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Delaire means "from the sky," and it's a fitting name for a vineyard nestled on the Helshoogte Mountain Pass, which links two of South Africa's most famous wine-growing regions, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.

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Our day at Delaire began with lunch on the terrace, where we enjoyed excellent food, stellar views, and solicitous service.

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Breathtaking as they are, the mountains aren't the only African works of art around here.

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Though the day's weather was perfect, it was easy to see how cozy the indoor dining room would be in winter.

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After lunch, we retired to the wine lounge for a customized tasting.

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The wines were fantastic; so much so that we placed a very large order to be shipped home. Otherwise we'd definitely have picked up a 10-carat diamond on our way out.

ERNIE ELS
One of the highlights of the wine-country town of Stellenbosch is La Gratitude, a gorgeous 17th century Cape Dutch style mansion that houses apartments, offices, and a restaurant owned by South African pro golfer Ernie Els.

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Upstairs, the private Founder's Club is a chic, clubby spot to retire with a whiskey after dinner.

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But on this day, the warm, sunny weather dictated that we retire to the garden.

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Oh, look, it's my living room window.

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FETA CHEESE AND FANCY COCKTAILS
Trust me, I wasn't expecting feta to be on the list of reasons to visit Cape Town, either. But when you split your time between New York City and the Hamptons, where feta is stingily doled out with tweezers in pieces that are both the size and price of pearls, you know a world-class bargain when you see one.

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I was, however, expecting fancy cocktails from this cosmopolitan (heh-heh) city, and Cape Town did not disappoint. One of our favorite spots was The Bungalow, a chic beachfront spot in Clifton.

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Another was Ginja in the V&A Waterfront, a stylish spot with killer views of Table Mountain.

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And still more feta.

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GUARDIAN PEAK
Guardian Peak's philosophy, "Live with Wine," is built on the winery's belief that wine and food should be inseparable in our daily diet. Huh. Apparently I've been on a diet my entire adult life.

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Nestled under the towering peak on Stellenbosch Mountain for which it is named, Guardian Peak's stunning estate includes a winery, restaurants, expansive terrace, and well-stocked shop.

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After a customized tasting, we moved indoors to a window-side table for a multi-course lunch.

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Yes, "ladies"-sized cuts of beef. Obviously they haven't met this lady.

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HIKING LION'S HEAD MOUNTAIN
I usually prefer to do my hiking in ballet flats and white pants, or on a bike so I don't have to walk. But when I heard that Lion's Head rewarded a beginner-level hike with sweeping views of the entire city, I bought a pair of cute boots and decided to give it a go.

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As we drew nearer, the enormity of the mountain, and the stupidity of our task, became clear.

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But it was a beautiful day -- Christmas Day! -- and so we foolishly stumbled off into the bush with no water, no sunscreen, and no sense.

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Obviously I had no business being on a sheer vertical rock face with nothing but a flimsy chain between me and death by clumsiness...but the views made the risk worth it.

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And did I mention the ladders? I mean, if using one just to clean your gutters is dangerous, then using one to climb up a mountain is downright suicidal.

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Sure, it was an unconventional way to spend Christmas morning, but that was nothing compared to the penguin-palooza to come.
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Posted by TraceyG 16:05 Archived in South Africa Tagged twelve_apostles cape_town south_africa stellenbosch chapmans_peak azure buitenverwachting constantia delaire delaire_graff la_gratitude guardian_peak lions_head

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Greetings from Edinburgh. Well done on finding one of the great cities of the world. Your pictures (as usual) showcase the city and surrounding area superbly. What about the smell of those cute little penguins :) Looking forward to the next installment.

by Brian Rafferty

Absolutely stunning pictures! Going thru such travel withdrawal and really needed this rainy, damp day. I can’t believe that was a beginner hike! Holy Mack - there isn’t enough Xanax in the world to calm my fear of heights so I could walk along that ledge. 🤣. So much respect that you did it!!

by Mary Margaret Callahan

Several years ago, after experiencing crowded airports, cramped airplanes, and endless delays to reach my destinations, decided that I was never flying anywhere again. Now that I have seen your photos I realize realize that I may have been premature in that decision. One more fabulous destination may be needed after all.

by Kathleen

Thank you for a very welcome reprieve from the monotony of quarantine! I was delighted to find your post in my inbox and travel with you to Capetown! I can’t wait to read your next installment.

by Rebecca Magee

I agree with Mary, there isn't enough medication to calm my fear of heights. However, the pictures are absolutely beautiful! So glad to see another blog from you, I've been waiting to hear about more of your adventures. Love the traveling you do! Thanks for sharing.

by Naomi

Oh my word! What a joy - the food, the views, everything. After almost a year of travel restrictions this really brightened my Sunday evening!! And then - because it would be rude not to - I found a perfectly chilled bottle of South African Chenin Blanc at the back of our wine fridge to sip whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the second reading. Really looking forward to the next instalment and there will be penguins - sigh! I've put another bottle in to chill

by Jan Clydesdale

Tracey,
Talk about perfect timing! Travel withdrawal is real. You have brought me great joy!
I cannot believe you climbed that mountain. I almost cried just looking at the pictures.
The penguins are awesome! Thank you!

by ToniP

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