Friday, August 2, 2013

R&R in Cape Town, South Africa

Famous changing houses at Muizenberg beach

Hi, I'm back!  We just returned to Addis Ababa after spending three and a half weeks in Cape Town, South Africa.  It was my favorite family vacation yet.  I had very few expectations about what Cape Town would be like.  In fact, I had very low expectations that needed to be met for me to have a great holiday.  I was at the point in our tour in Ethiopia where all I needed to see was a decent grocery store, clean streets, and a playground to make my day.  Needless to say, Cape Town completely met and exceeded my expectations.  It was extremely family friendly and there was so much to do.  Here are some of the highlights broken down in categories.
Fishing boats at Kalk Bay

View of Cape Town from Kirstenbosch Botanical gardens
Weather:  Everyone kept reminding us that we were arriving in Cape Town during their winter/rainy season.  We packed our rain gear and planned on spending rainy days in the science center or at the movies with the kids.  In the end we had gorgeous weather with very little rain.   Most days were sunny with blue skies and around 65-75 degrees.  The evenings and nights were cold and a few days we had rain that required our rain coats but overall the weather was glorious.
Bolder Beach in Simon's Town

Hiking at Cape Point National Park

Landscape:  Cape Town is situated at the bottom tip of South Africa.  It's surrounded by the ocean with gorgeous bays and inlets and Table Mountain sits inland.  the city is built along the coast but the city creeps up to the base of the mountain.  Every view is gorgeous and worthy of a photograph.
The penguins at Bolder Beach

Cape Point National Park

Activities: There is an endless amount of fun in Cape Town.  We spent almost every day from mid-morning until dinner exploring and stopping to play, eat, and explore.  The V&A waterfront area has an aquarium, craft and food market, Ferris wheel, playground, shopping mall, waterfront restaurants, brew pubs, wine shops, live music, face painting, ponds, and docks to walk along.  We took the girls to two movies, spent an afternoon at the Scratch Patch at the precious stone polishing facility, found every ice cream parlor in the greater Cape Town area and more. We hiked at Cape Point National Park, visited the ostrich farm, and saw the penguins at Bolder Beach.  The day trips around Cape Town are wonderful as well.  We spent a day in Nordhoek fishing village on the Western Cape.

Wine country:  We were constantly surprised by the proximity of everything in the area.  We stayed in Muizenberg and it only took us a 45 minute drive from the coast to wine country in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek   We spent two nights in Franschhoek at the Lekkerwijn historic country house.  The house is stately and gorgeous but still very family friendly.  The wineries are close and plentiful and the wine is delicious.  Wine tasting at Solms Delta might go down as one of my favorite moments with my husband ever! More on wine country in later posts.
Paternoster Beach
Day trip to Paternoster, a small Western Coast fishing village

The coast:  We are beach people. Any type of beach, hot with white sands, rocky with crashing waves, it doesn't matter.  Being close to the ocean, seagulls and salt air makes me happy.  Cape Town has so many types of beaches to explore.  None of them were hot while we were there, but the sun was out enough that the kids could get their feet wet. There are lots of coastal scenic drives to inspire you as well.  The winding drives on the rocky coast to Cape Point National Park was spectacular.
Muizenberg beach in the "winter" weather

Two Oceans Aquarium on the waterfront

Kid friendly:  Not only is it family friendly, many activities are actually kid encouraging.  We were thrilled with some of the foodie markets we frequented because there was a designated kids play area.  Lots of small restaurants welcomed our brood with smiles and didn't flinch at the mashed french fries under the table.  Other patrons didn't seem bothered by our kid heavy family sitting next to them for a meal.  We actually ran into an older gentlemen that told us that everyone should remember they once were children themselves and just accept that kids will be kids.  My kind of people!  Granted, our kids are pretty well behaved and are frequent restaurant diners. That, combined with the fact that we take meals on the early bird schedule-we did just fine eating out with our kids, even at some of the nicer spots.
Groot Constantia wine estate

Ice cream by The Creamery 

Local cheese

Micro brew is slowly growing a following in Cape Town, my husband would lead the pack

The food:  Cape Town and it's surrounding areas were a food haven for Justin and I. Every new neighborhood we explored housed a new gem cafe or food barn.  Some with bakeries, gourmet spice shelves and local wine for sale.  Everywhere we went South African wine was being paired with seafood, cheese, ostrich, and organic vegetables, pizza, burgers, wraps, quiche, eggs...the list of good food goes on.  It wasn't all European or Western influenced either.  We had sushi, Thai, Cape Malay, Cuban, Chinese, and almost any other type of ethnic food you could think of.  It was all available and quite delicious.  There were a number of weekend markets that brought together small food cart style vendors that sold everything from potato latki eggs benedict to giant flat bread pizzas piled high with rocket.  The craft beer flowed from the tap and hipsters carried glasses of wine through the crowds in one hand and an ostrich burger in the other.   Cape Town is a food destination for sure.  I also have to comment on the grocery stores.  I was amazed at the huge well stocked grocery stores.  The local yogurt and dairy products were top notch, aisles of gourmet vinegar, salt, and oil, jarred sauces, boxed broths, and pastas were reminiscent of Trader Joe's in the US.  Woolworths brings to mind Whole Foods and Marks and Spencer.  For a food lover, cook/baker like me, grocery shopping in Cape Town and carefully curating a selection of items to bring home with me to Addis, was even more than browsing the local Zara (and Zara is my jam).
Blue Bird Garage Friday market for families.  Beer, wine and food cart style food.

Hot chocolate with a scoop of ice cream at the Neighborgoods Market on Saturdays at the Old Biscuit Factory

Cape Town is a wonderful destination because the entire area is gorgeous and unpretentious.  The award winning vineyards with worn picnic tables and handmade tree swings.  The ancient playgrounds and new kid friendly markets.  Every single bit of this place was welcoming to us as a family and easy to navigate as tourists.  \
Street entertainers at the V&A Waterfront
Cape to Cuba restaurant in Kalk Bay.  The kids were entertained by the frequent trains that went by.
Good food everywhere!


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