To Cape Town

The day after our wine tour we were scheduled to drive to Cape Town where we would spend four nights. We knew the drive wasn’t far and so we took our time getting packed up and breakfasting at The Coach House before leaving. It was Sunday morning and once again the sun was shining. After saying goodbye to Franschhoek we drove through the valley to Stellenbosch, one of the other wine towns. Stellenbosch, which is home to a University, is a good deal larger than Franschhoek, which is really more of a village. We found our way to the main center of town and parked so we could walk around. Not everything was open since it was Sunday, however we found plenty of shops to occupy us for a bit. Though Stellenbosch was pleasant, I was pleased I had chosen Franschhoek instead for our stay.

After our bit of shopping, we got back in the car and headed for Cape Town. As we got closer, the traffic and speeds increased steadily. As we merged onto the highway we saw a strange sight over in a field. It looked like a large sailing vessel but there was no water anywhere. Then we remembered that Aylmer had told us about a set from a pirate movie that had been filmed near Cape Town, and how you could still visit it. Here is what we saw.

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Michael drove and I navigated. I was happy that I had had the foresight to print out the directions to the hotel before we left the U.S., and that I could actually find them almost three weeks later! Between that and my iPad, it really wasn’t too bad, but it certainly was the most urban environment we had driven in yet. We found our hotel and a parking space in front at just about 3pm – perfect timing for check-in. An African Villa is a small boutique hotel with perhaps 16 or 18 rooms. It’s actually 3 townhouses that were connected, restored, and transformed into the hotel. It had funky, modern, artsy decor, comfortable common areas, and a small pool and terrace garden in back. Our room was on the second floor and had a nice balcony overlooking the street.

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Our room at An African Villa

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The balcony

The balcony

We enjoyed having a little extra space and the idea of not going anywhere for four nights. One of the first things we did was sort out how to get some laundry done. After unpacking and relaxing a bit, we went downstairs and sat down with Louis, one of the hotel managers, who guided us through an introduction to Cape Town and the most popular sights, restaurants, shopping, etc. He made a reservation for us for dinner that evening at a local asian place called Saigon. It was within walking distance which appealed to us and we were yearning for more ethnic variety in our food. One of the things we paid attention to were the recommendations on safety. Cape Town is a city and as such, presented a different ball of wax in terms of crime and personal security. We had emptied the car of absolutely everything as recommended.

That evening we went out and walked the ten minutes or so to our restaurant up and down some steep hills. Most of Cape Town is situated in a bowl ringed by mountains sloping down towards the harbor. Our hotel was in the Tamberskloof neighborhood which climbs up the side of Signal Hill. It was quite warm out and somewhat humid. When we got to the restaurant, we were told that the power had gone out and therefore they couldn’t serve us. This was a surprise as we hadn’t noticed it on the walk since it wasn’t dark yet. It also presented a bit of a pickle for us. We hadn’t researched other places to go nearby and weren’t sure what to do. I guess the power had gone out while we were walking from the hotel to the restaurant as it had been on when we left. They said it was out all over the city and they weren’t sure when it would come back on. Turned out into the street, we looked around and decided a bird in the hand was the best option. There was an italian restaurant below Saigon which was still serving pizza as they had a wood fired oven that did not require electricity. They allowed as how they could also drum up a salad, so we took a table and ordered some drinks while they were still cold. We have found most of the restaurants in South Africa to be dimly lit, so it was really no different to be trying to read the menu by candlelight! We had sensibly remembered to bring our little travel flashlights too, so that helped. As we waited for our pizza and salad we discussed a couple of issues that we hadn’t thought of before then. Would it be safe to walk back to the hotel with no street lights? Would the electric, keypad operated, outer gate still function? Fortunately for us, we never had to find out. The power came back on just before we left the restaurant. It was a relief to have the streets lit up for our walk back. We hadn’t been in the city long but were already well aware of the homeless population and the potential for unsavory characters. Both Michael and I have traveled plenty and spent time in cities, so we weren’t uncomfortable. However it never hurts to take sensible precautions. In the end we had a fine time that evening and flopped happily into bed with no major agenda for the next day.

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