Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Cape Town Birthday Trip

Alex and I had booked our Easter weekend trip to Cape Town a few months ago, as my 30th birthday would fall on Easter Monday and we wanted to do something fun. Alex had already visited Cape Town, 10 years ago with his parents, but I'd never been and really wanted to see the place. Plus, it seemed like it would be a good opportunity to relax after a hectic couple of months.

We got up veeeeery early on Good Friday morning, and drove to the airport. Settling the car in the long -term parking lot, we checked in and got a much-needed coffee as we waited for the plane. Pleasantly surprised by the range of alcohol available in duty free at Windhoek airport, we noted the Ruski Standard Vodka for our next trip, and boarded the flight.

I'm not the best of flyers. Alex has, on countless trips, laughed himself silly while I've cowered in his armpit at the smallest of noises. Our flight to Cape Town was no exception, exacerbated by the turbulence brought on by the cold front coming in from the South.
"Maybe the Ruski Standard would've been a good option" Alex said as he offered his shoulder.

We landed in Cape Town, and Alex whistled. "The airport's changed a lot since I was here last," he commented, "it was basically a hut in a field then." Having undergone a huge make-over since the World Cup in 2010, Cape Town airport now boasts every kind of shop and fast-food outlet you can imagine. Happily picking up a couple of mango smoothies, we got a taxi into town and settled into the hotel.

The next few hours passed by walking along the beach and sea front, eating French food (the first for nine months!), drinking good wine and enjoying several varieties of cheese (cheese is too expensive to be bought regularly in Namibia). We wandered around town to get a feel for the place, before settling down in another restaurant and deciding 'oh, what the heck, champagne it is' and whiling away the evening with a stunning view over the sea, candle light and more good food. Then bed and a movie - perfect start to a weekend away.

The next day had been eagerly anticipated for a long time. My sister, Ruth, and her boyfriend, Ramzi, had landed in Cape Town and made their way to the hotel where we met them after breakfast. It was fantastic to see Ruth after so many months - she'd visited Namibia in November, and I hadn't seen her since then - and I'd missed her a lot. As she and Ramzi tried to check into the hotel, they told us that they'd overbooked and they would have to stay elsewhere that night (note to self: never, ever, ever book at Protea again). After arguing it out with the staff, they moved us to the 4* hotel up the road for no extra cost, and bought us dinner one evening. We were pretty pleased with the upgrade, even though the customer service had been appalling.

We then spent the day wandering around the city, taking in the Company Gardens and town centre.  Popping into a vintage store at one point to shelter from the sudden rain, we took the opportunity to smell the incense, listen to South African music, and pick up some unique necklaces and shawls.

A nice view of Table Mountain from the Gardens

The evening was spent enjoying delicious food in a restaurant overlooking the water, washed down with a robust South African wine. 

The next day - Easter Sunday - was the day planned to go to Robben Island, where Mandela had been held prisoner for many years. The boat ride over was so bumpy that several passengers threw up along the way and had to be laid down on the quay upon arrival for ten minutes to recover. 

The entrance to Robben Island

The lime quarry mined by prisoners.  The cave on the left was used as a school, a meal room, and toilet.  The pile of rocks in the middle was created by Mandela and other ex-prisoners when they revisited the island.

View of the mainland from Robben Island.

Ruth and Ramzi

An ex-prisoner guided us around the island and former prison.

Nelson Mandela's cell

The prison courtyard

The outside of the prison

It was an impressive visit, and the ride back to the mainland just as traumatic as the ride over.  Over lunch, we mulled over the legacy of apartheid in South Africa and Namibia, and current politics, before wandering along the seafront back to the hotel. Dinner was on the hotel that night, and we made good use of it!

The following day was my 30th birthday: Ruth and Ramzi popped into our room to pass over cards and gifts from family back home (A Kindle - thank you!!). We were going to celebrate in true British style, and so had booked a wine tour for the whole day.

The first vineyard - Fairview

Goats Do Roam

Ruth and Ramzi enjoy the white wine - unfortunately, not having had breakfast first.

The second vineyard - Ruth announces my birthday to the group and I'm presented with free champagne!

It was at the second vineyard that we discovered that one of the gentlemen on the tour with us was also from Wenvoe, our village in Wales, and had gone to the same primary and high schools as Ruth and I.  Speaking to my Mum on the phone - she'd called to say happy birthday - it turned out that she knew his mother well! 

Our guide explaining the wine's qualities.

Lunch time relaxing in the vineyard

The vineyard

The third vineyard

Gorgeous interiors

At the fourth vineyard, by now very merry

A fantastic wine!

Another free bottle of champagne to celebrate my birthday - after opening the bottle with a sword, everyone sang happy birthday

A beautiful view of Table Mountain on our way back into town

After jogging along the seafront to watch the sunset, we went into town. Alex had booked a table at Baya restaurant, which overlooked the water and the lights of Cape Town.  The service was impeccable ("Excellent choice, Madam"), the wine wonderful and the food amazing.  We chatted endlessly over the meal before wrapping up for the night and sleeping very soundly.

Alex and Ramzi at the restaurant 

Our last morning in Cape Town, we decided to take the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain.  even though it was cloudy, we thought we shouldn't miss it. The views were still stunning, even through the mist.

In the cable car
Cape Town

Random London post box at the top

Enjoying the view

The visit had, of course, been too short, but had provided a much needed break and given us the opportunity of grabbing more Winter clothing off my sister and sending some small gifts back to the UK with her.  On the way back to Namibia, we took photos of the scenery out of the window - Southern Africa has a really spectacular landscape.


  1. (Very) belated happy birthday! I dig the post - I run South Africa Travel Online and we're busy with a project to identify the best blog post on various routes, and I'm very happy to say that this is one of them. No prizes, just a bit of glory, we've linked to this post from our flights to Cape Town page. Keep up the adventures! Rob

    1. Hey Rob, thanks! we really enjoyed our trip and your website looks great. Enjoy Cape Town!

  2. First of I thanks to you for sharing your trip experience of Cape Town with us.Belated happy Birthday! I believe your trip awesome.Cape Town is a very adventures place.Please visit the link: http://invitationtomycity.blogspot.com/