Monday, May 5, 2014

A Joburger in Cape Town- My Top Picks in the Mother City

Cape Town photographed from Robben Island

There always seems to be a competition between Joburg and Cape Town. And as a passionate Joburger I obviously love my beautiful city a HUGE amount. But that doesn’t mean I don't love Cape Town too.

I have been doing my Masters at UCT in Cape Town so I have really fallen in love with the city, but haven’t really had time to enjoy it properly and really experience everything it has to offer. Recently Monkey (my other half Justin) and myself decided to spend a week in Cape Town experiencing the best that the city has to offer. We also wanted to visit a few friends who call the mother city home and end our Cape Town adventure by coming home on the train.

But we didn’t want to do it like tourists, we wanted to be travellers. Recently I have come to realise you can be a tourist..or a traveller. Travellers really experience a place like a local, not just on tour buses and through busy attractions. They get to know a place through meeting its people, experiencing its restaurants’, shops and of course walking its streets.  I think that the quote below from Eleanor Roosevelt sums up my travelling philosophy, .

The purpose of life is to live it, to taste it, to experience to the utmost,

 to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience

We ended up having the most amazing holiday in Cape Town so here is a shortish post on our little adventure and our top picks (in no particular order). Hopefully this will help anyone thinking of visiting Cape Town.

My Cape Town Top 10

1) Truth Coffee Shop

Truth coffee shop is INSANE. It’s more than a cup of coffee, it’s an experience!  Situated in District 6, this is the place to come for amazing service, yummy food (I had the Drambuie oats)…and the artisanal coffee is incredible! I also love the d├ęcor- steampunk has not really taken off in South Africa (yet..hopefully), so it’s really cool that Truth has gone with a steampunk feel, complete with staff wearing really top-notch top and bowler hats. This place is so epic; people are even calling it the “best coffee shop in the world”. We can’t wait to go back:

SteamPunk Coffee Roasting at Truth

2) A Walking Tour with Wanderlust Tours

I think that if you are going to do a tour in a new city, it has to be a walking tour. Since I run a company that does walking tours, I am sure I am a little biased but I do think that by walking the streets, you smell the smells, taste the food, meet locals, take the best photos and really “experience “ a place. I really wanted to do a walking tour in Cape Town, and Wanderlust Tours had some really great reviews on Tripadvisor so we booked for a 2 hour tour. Our guide was well known author Ursula Stevens who did the tour in both English and German. It was a fantastic tour focusing on the history, culture and architecture of the city and if you want to know more, Ursula's books are really great. For more details:

Cape Town Art Deco at Mullers Optometrist (seen on walking tour)

3) Local Friends

I know not everyone has friends in Cape Town (or for that matter, every place you visit) but If you do it can really make a holiday more awesome! Firstly no one knows a city like its locals, it is also great to have a comfy home base and of course (and definitely most important), you get to spend time with friends. We are lucky enough to have our awesome friends Raph, Ernst and Dr D (aka Jen) living in Cape Town so we spread our time between them. They also have pets,which is something I always miss when I travel- so in this post about Cape Town I have to mention Otie, Elmo and Cupcake. The cutest cats in Cape Town.



4) Bo-Kaap

I'm not going to go into to much detail about the Bo-kaap as you can do this yourself on the Internet or through some research. But the so called “Malay Quarter” is definitely one of my favourite places in Cape Town and I always make sure to spend some time in the area, every time I'm in Cape Town. Its colourful, a little edgy and gritty and home to a really interesting community (as long as gentrification doesn’t relocate them). My advice: spend a morning walking around the area, chatting to locals, taking photographs, visiting the Bo-Kaap Museum and Nurul Islam Mosque, tasting the food and generally experiencing the area.

Typical Bo-Kaap Streetscape

5) Robben Island

Yes….I Know, this is a super touristy choice but I still think it deserves a place on the list. We spent an awesome morning on the Island. The tour is divided into the boat ride across to the Island, a tour of the political side of the prison by an ex-political prisoner, a bus tour of the little village and then the boat ride back. It was super interesting and we wished that we had, had more time to explore the village. We all know the political history of the Island and some of its more famous prisoners but we loved the earlier history when it was a leper colony and how it functions as a village today.

Old Robben Island School

6) My Citi Bus

Cape Towns version of the Rea Vaya Bus, this is a great way to get around cheaply. You just need to register and buy a card, load some money on it and then you are set. I'm a huge fan of public transport and My Citi has some great routes, although it doesn’t reach the whole of the city yet. My advice: download a map or two of the routes beforehand as they don’t seem to have them at the stations. For more info:

Justin looking suave while waiting for the My City Bus

7) Milnerton Market

Every time I’m in Cape Town I have to spend a Sunday Morning at the Milnerton Market. It’s not for everyone: a little bit of junk, some antiques and a whole lot of car boot sale. I LOVE IT!!! I love anything from the 1930’s to 1970’s, particularly the mid-century modern period and Milnerton is the best place to pick up a few items. I bought some great plates and postcards and Justin bought some kick-ass tie pins. Set a few hours aside to potter around, shop and enjoy a coffee and sweet treat.

My Milnerton Finds

8) A Spa Treatment at the 12 Apostles Hotel

My wonderful better half treated us to a very luxurious couples spa treatment at the 12 Apostles Hotel Spa, which was a bit of a splurge but totally worth it. The Spa is in a cave like space and from the moment you enter, to the time you leave you are spoilt rotten. Our massage was insanely good, the healthy snacks are great and we ended our experience with a glass of champagne on the hotel patio overlooking the ocean:

Post-Spa Champagne


This seems pretty obvious, and maybe its covered in Number 2 but the best way to experience Cape Town (and most cities), is to walk. If we didn’t take the public bus on this holiday we walked. So Walk…you wont regret it. Its lets you explore, stumble across some awesome little finds and meet the locals.


10) Shosholoza Meyl- A Train Adventure from Cape Town to Joburg

Maybe I am leaving the best to last, but taking the Shosholoza Meyl train from Cape Town to Joburg was unbelievably fantastic. For those of you who are not familiar with it, this is the standard government train. We boarded at Cape Town Station on Friday Morning and arrived back in Jozi at Park Station on the following Saturday afternoon.  We had our own cabin in tourist class- pretty basic with seats that fold down into beds, place for your luggage and small sink. The train has communal bathrooms and a bar/ catering carriage and everything was super clean.  We took a picnic and our own bedding. Train travel was so relaxing, we chatted, read, watched movies on our i-pad and best of all, watched the scenery and small town life pass us by. Watching the African sun set and rise from your bed as you travel is unbeatable and being able to see the stars shinning brightly over the Karoo is just breath-taking. We cannot wait to do this trip again!

Justin relaxing on the train

Our Train Cabin



Small Town Life