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Just returned from another dream trip to South Africa. warning! Superlatives ahead.

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Mar 17th, 2003, 04:20 AM
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Just returned from another dream trip to South Africa. warning! Superlatives ahead.


Part 1
This was a short trip. Just 10 days including travel time (which as you all know is substantial) but we packed so much in and it was such a glorious combination of relaxing, shopping, sightseeing and family visiting that it felt like so much longer.

The premise for the trip was a family wedding in Johannesburg and this is one of the few times I could not travel with my family as I could not take my children out of school. Instead, I took my sister-in-law. As I don’t usually get the opportunity to travel in SA in their summer unless I am spending time with sick relatives, we spent most of the time in Paradise. Otherwise known as Cape Town. This was also one of the few times we did not visit a game reserve as that is my children’s idea of Nirvana and I would feel too guilty going on safari without them.

Okay, enough background. We spent 6 days in Cape Town and flew via Atlanta as this would give us an extra day rather than flying NY-Jhb- Cape Town. We stayed at the Sir Francis, a self catering hotel with a fabulous view of the city and Waterfront and at the Ambassador Hotel which has an incredible location in Bantry Bay, between Sea Point and Clifton. The Ambassador has a hotel section set just above the rocks and goes down to the sea and an apartment section with different sized apartments across the road and set into the hillside.

No matter how many times I go to Cape Town, I am literally rendered breathless each time I go by the incredible beauty of the place.We had the most wonderful weather, and loved having the heat without the humidity which we usually endure on the East coast USA. We spent the majority of our time on the many beaches and did not do as much sightseeing as on other trips. I hesitate to say we did not much do much “sightseeing” as no matter where you are, where you turn, where you drive in Cape Town, you are sightseeing. Every turn brings you a different panoramic vista and the combination of mountains and sea, bays and beaches is, in my opinion, unequalled anywhere in the world.

The shopping and the food are also tremendous. I love browsing the shops at the waterfront as well as the many craft markets such as Greenmarket Square in the city bowl, Greenpoint Stadium on a Sunday and the Hout bay Market, also on a Sunday. There are many beautiful galleries and I regret not getting to the ones in Simonstown, Fish Hoek and de Waterkant. I love seeing the explosion of art and the creativity that brings fresh ideas each time I come. I am impressed at how the art and craft movement has given great opportunities for employment to sections of the population and also how they are using different resources to create unusual artwork. I buy a lot of art when I am there and regret only that I don’t have the luggage capabilities to buy more or the diplay area in my home which has already a large selection.



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Mar 17th, 2003, 08:19 AM
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Sigh...
Thanks and looking forward to more.
I sooo want to go to Cape Town but this year is not an Africa year in terms of destinations - we have a wish list of places and experiences the world over and have to remind ourselves not to focus on Africa alone if we want to do the rest of them!

THANKS for sharing!
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Mar 17th, 2003, 12:46 PM
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Lisa, Thank you so much for that report. I can't tell you how excited we are about our trip in Sept./Oct. and your comments have just added to that. Any favorite galleries or other shops?
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Mar 17th, 2003, 02:13 PM
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Lisa,

VERY FAIR and HONEST review of my beloved city. Love it all. ) Now you can see why I have named my tour operation as I have. )

Part 2 please. Cant wait!!!

Selwyn Davidowitz
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Mar 17th, 2003, 03:35 PM
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Thanks KT, Kavey and Selwyn. If I don't answer your questions and comments in my "report" I will address them at the end.

Part 2:
Even though the Rand has strengthened against the dollar, it is still cheap for Americans to vacation in South Africa and for those who are using pounds.. well, they are in the catbird seat.

I was amazed at the number of tourists in Cape Town. Actually I should not be amazed as Cape Town has been a well-kept secret until now and it is great that it is becoming such a popular destination.

We spent a lot of time on the beach. We got up early every day to make the most of our time and would usually hit the shops or the waterfront first and then the beach or if we were going to the False Bay side, would start off early there to avoid the wind which usually picks up in the late afternoons. However, the weather was just perfect and there was no wind. One day, we arrived at Boulders Beach by 9:15 and reluctantly tore ourselves away at 4:15 after spending the day swimming with the penguins in a warm, calm sea. We relaxed at Clifton, Camps Bay Beach, Muizenberg and the pool at the Ambassador which has the most marvelous setting. Actually the setting of all these beaches is enough to make you weep. Clifton was even warm enough to swim!!!!!

We were also impressed at the level of cheerful service by the gentlemen renting lounge chairs and umbrellas. But the highlight was definitely the ice cream vendors who whose patter of “ A lolly makes you jolly” and “ A sucker makes you wakker” has not changed in 30 years.(Lollies and suckers are ice Popsicles and a Gatti brand grenadilla lolly is hard to beat”) I even had to call my husband on the cell phone for him to hear this and he laughed as it brought back memories.


Another highlight was our visit to “town” and arriving in the middle of UCT’s Rag parade. (the University of Cape Town’s fundraising Parade through the streets). Town still has a lot of atmosphere and we felt very safe. The flower sellers on Adderley Street are intriguing and there are many interesting stores around.

I also made sure not to miss the Jewish Museum and the Holocaust Museum which is located next to the Great Synagogue/ Gardens Shul and Cape Town High, a big part of our family history. The museums are beautiful buildings and the exhibits are really well done.

We spent part of every day at the V and A Waterfront which continues to grow and develop. This is the most incredible success story and I have not seen a development like this anywhere in the world. It is frequented by tourists and locals alike and the shopping and the entertainment there are first class. We had breakfast one day at the V and A Hotel and the thought of their fresh squeezed strawberry juice (just one of their many choices) is making my mouth water right now. The setting there is also wonderful.



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Mar 18th, 2003, 12:18 AM
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Thanks for posting! I can picture it all
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Mar 18th, 2003, 02:29 AM
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Am enjoying this very much, Thanks Lisa!
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Mar 18th, 2003, 10:40 AM
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Part 3
I will try to get this finished off today.
With respect to restaurant recommendations. We ate at the Ambassador, one night. Setting superb, food fair. We ate at Willoughby’s in The Waterfront mall, setting ordinary, food superb. We always eat at least twice there as I believe they have the best calamari in the world. Their chips/fries rank up there too. Their seafood platters or their combination platters are also outstanding. The prices are quite reasonable. For a large portion of calamari and fries which I struggled to finish, the price was R59, less than $7.

We ate twice at Baia, also in the Mall. This was outstanding and the setting was also superb. The service on the first occasion was extraordinary but on the second night was way under par with a very arrogant and slow waiter who demonstrated a very unconcerned attitude. The food was excellent and it is definitely worth a visit. When you make a booking, request an outside table for a great view.

On our sixth night, we had a snoek braai with relatives. This definitely cannot be beat. Wish we could import snoek to the states. Just gotta watch out for those bones.

Of course, we also had to stop at Kalkies (a dive in Kalk bay harbor)one day for a late lunch.

Somebody asked about shopping. There are excellent stores selling all types of souvenirs, crafts and artwork in the mall at the waterfront as well as the Blue and Red sheds at the Waterfront. There are other locations sprinkled throughout the waterfront. As I mentioned earlier, there is a daily market at Greenmarket Square in town and one on Sundays at Greenpoint stadium. (I’m trying to remember if Greenpoint has a market one day during the week as well?)Prices are generally cheaper there. I like the Kraal Hut/gallery(?) at Hout Bay as well. They have a great selection.

I got a wonderful brochure at the hotel which lists many galleries and their locations for art and craftwork so look out for it.

Woolworth’s has some interesting things too in their home section. Of course no visit to SA would be complete without a total raid on their underwear or their food section. (Woolworth’s is the SA counterpart to Mark’s and Spensers.)

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Mar 18th, 2003, 10:46 AM
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Part 5
After our 6 days in Paradise I went to Jo’burg . I was pleasantly surprised to find that the general atmosphere seems to have improved. I also found Jo’burg to be really attractive in summer. (remember , lately I have been there in winter). I finished off my grocery shopping there and enjoyed my visits with old friends and family.

This time, I left for the airport about 4 and a half hours ahead of time in order to avoid the general chaos there as all the international jumbos depart at the same time. It was really worth it as there were no lines anywhere, not even at VAT!

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Mar 18th, 2003, 05:34 PM
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Hello Lisa,

Reading your marvellous description of Cape Town made me feel like hopping on a plane. Wish I had family there! I was in South Africa from oct-nov and spent 6 days in CT. What a lovely city. Unfortunately, I did not visit the jewish museum. Bantry Bay is gorgeous. I wish I could have had that restaurant list before I went. I loved reading what you had to say.
Patricia
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