All posts dated between November 2004 and June 2005 were imported to Keith’s Amusing Musings on January 21, 2006 from my previous travel blog. I decided to delete that blog and move all its content here which some readers may find disruptive considering Keith’s Amusing Musings did not come online until October 2005. The good news there will be only one blog, Keith’s Amusing Musings, going forward. Enjoy these older stories.
CAPE TOWN – Day 1
We had two flights from Leopard Hills to Cape Town. The first flight was a 20-minute hop to Kruger/Nelspruit on a single engine prop plane. We shared the 5-passenger plane with another couple who happened to be on their honeymoon. From the accents, we gathered they were probably from Australia. Luckily I did ok on the flight and didn’t need the paper bag. In Kruger/Nelspruit, we boarded the Embraer 135 jet for our two hour flight to Cape Town on South African Airways. Upon arrival in Cape Town we were greeted by Emiline, our private driver/guide. Emiline is a licensed tour operator in South Africa. She provides personal, customized tours. Emiline was going to be at our disposal for the entire time we were in Cape Town. On the way to the hotel she gave us a mini tour of the area, as she also quickly kicked into planning mode for the days ahead. Emiline told us all about the things to do and see in Cape Town and the surrounding area. Of course there were a lot more things than we had time for. So we gave her the list of must sees/do, and told her we were flexible on which day we did what.
Once we reached the hotel, Emiline escorted us in to make sure we were checked in ok before she left. Once things seemed like they were ok, Emiline said goodbye and confirmed a pick up time of 9 am the following day. The check in process was pretty smooth. After collecting a few bits of info, the receptionist escorted us up to our room. I’ve never been to a hotel where the receptionist walks you to your room and gives you a tour/explanation of the room!
Within a half hour of being in the room, the doorbell rang at least four times! Our first visit was from the bellman bringing our luggage to the room. Shortly after he left, we received another ring with a delivery of welcome treats that included champagne (sparkling wine for those who want to be politically correct), a plate with the word ‘Congratulations’ written in chocolate, containing chocolate covered strawberries and a couple other treats. That was a welcome surprise since we were a bit hungry. After that we had two more deliveries, one with a power adapter and another with our spa attire for our 6:30pm massages. We ended up spending the next couple hours before our massages relaxing in the room, and eating room service for lunch.
Around 6 pm we got ready for our massages in the hotel spa. For some reason, the spa thought there were two ladies coming up for massages and sent down women’s robes and sandals. Of course Keith wasn’t amused by his ill-fitting attire, but I thought it was kind of comical. (When we got to the spa, they provided him with the correct items.) The massages were pretty good for a small spa. They definitely weren’t the soft, frou-frou massages. After the massages, we hung out in the spa relaxation lounge. Keith sat in a steam room for the first time. I even managed to get him to sit in the sauna!
After hanging out in the spa for an hour or so, we headed back to our room to get dressed for dinner in the award winning hotel restaurant, One.Waterfront. We ended up having dinner around 9:30, and it was really good considering we weren’t starving but knew we had to eat something. After dinner we relaxed in our hotel room before heading to bed at a reasonable hour so we could start our day early the next day.
CAPE TOWN – Day 2
Emiline was scheduled to pick us up at 9 am. So, we woke up early enough to get dressed and have breakfast in the hotel restaurant. (Breakfast was included in the room rate.) The breakfast spread was overwhelming. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to order a ‘hot’ breakfast because we got a slow start. So we had to stick with the ‘cold’ breakfast spread, which was still just as amazing. The cold spread included various meats like smoked salmon, yogurts, fruits, cereals, pastries, and a lot more.
After inhaling a few bites we met up with Emiline. She informed us that we would be hitting the Cape Winelands region today. In particular, we would be visiting the towns of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Before going to the winelands, Emiline suggested we try to visit Table Mountain since the weather looked a bit clear. However, by the time we reached Table Mountain visitor center the clouds had begun to accumulate around the top. So, we nixed the idea and decided to try the next day. After driving an hour or so outside of Cape Town, we arrived in Stellenbosch. Stellenbosch was the first wineland town to be established in 1679 by the Dutch. The area still has the historic Dutch architecture with gabled houses. We visited the Stellenbosch Village Museum. The museum allows visitors to see various historical articles as well as houses from different periods. We went through each of the four houses in about an hour, and then met back up with Emiline.
The next stop for the day was Franschhoek. The town of Franschhoek was established in 1694 by the French Huguenots. The town has the feel of a country town set in the valley. Emiline had scheduled for us to take a wine cellar tour at the Cabriere Estate. We had a private tour to learn the process for making sparkling wine at Haute Cabriere. I have been to wine tours before, but this one was different. One of the things that struck me was how small the operation was, and most importantly how hands on the process is. At the end of the tour we got an opportunity to see a technique known as sabrage. This involves opening a sparkling wine bottle by cleanly knocking off the neck of the bottle with a saber. A visitor to the cellar held the bottle while one of the employees used the saber. It was quite interesting. All the visitors at the cellar got to partake in the sparkling wine once the bottle was open. I was a little worried that there might be glass in the wine, but we were assured they were professionals and there wouldn’t be any floating in the bubbly. After that display, we went back indoors and had the wine tasting. Our tour host went through the various wines and my preferred tastes. We selected a few different items to try. As you know, Keith doesn’t drink. So he smelled the wines as I tried them. We learned everything about the wines from the grapes used to the corks purchased for the bottles. We were fortunate to come across a ‘corked’ wine. This is when a wine has been bottled with contaminated cork. (Apparently some wood used for corks can be bad, and cause the corks to contaminate the wine. This happens in 3-7% of all wines.) Our host smelled all the wine he opened before he allowed us to smell/taste it. When he came across the bottle, he quickly had one of his peers smell the wine. He came back and explained what was wrong with the bottle. Our tour guide/host allowed us to smell the corked bottle of wine compared to a good bottle so we would know what smells to look for in a corked wine. He informed us that most people who come across a corked wine just think the wine doesn’t taste good. That was very interesting since I had never heard of corked wine. I’m sure I’ve probably come across a bottle but thought it was a cheap bottle of wine. After sipping on several different wines, my head was beginning to spin. Emiline had made lunch reservations at the Haute Cabriere Cellar Restaurant. She reserved a table by the window so we could enjoy a view of the hills and valley below. We enjoyed a great lunch. (I had some of the largest mussels ever seen.) After lunch, we made our way back to the hotel going through different neighborhoods.
Once we arrived back at the hotel, we decided on the pick up time for the next day of touring. We went back to our room and relaxed before dinner. Within a half hour of being in our room our doorbell rang. It was another congratulations gift. This time we received a red box with the ‘ingredients’ for a rose petal milk bath. After a couple hours of relaxing in our hotel room, we met our hotel driver to take us to dinner. The Cape Grace hotel provides private transfers within a roughly 10k radius. The hotel has its own fleet of BMW 7-series cars to chauffer guests around. We had scheduled for our transfer to Five Flies for dinner. We enjoyed a private and intimate dinner in the wine cellar. The food was amazing. By the time our driver picked us up, we were stuffed.
CAPE TOWN – Day 3
We made sure we had enough time to sit down and have a proper breakfast. After breakfast we met up with Emiline at 9 am. Today’s outing would include a lot of driving as we made our way to the Cape of Good Hope and other areas around the Cape Peninsula. Emiline took us the scenic route along the coast to Cape Point. On the way we ran into a group of baboons hanging out on the road. There were about 20 or 30, some of them were sitting in the road and others were walking along the road. This was a great experience. I’m glad we got to enjoy it while sitting in the comfort of our minivan. Some poor hikers on the road had to keep walking through the baboons to keep from drawing too much attention to themselves. Once we got to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, we drove through the reserve to the southern most tip called Cape Point. Some people believe Cape Point is the location where the Indian Ocean and Atlantic Ocean meet. Visitors have the opportunity to enjoy the view from the top of the rocky cliffs. We had the option to take the funicular to the top or climb up the steep path. We decided we could us the exercise and made our way to the top. The view from the top was spectacular. We got a chance to see the original lighthouse and the surrounding beauty of the area. (There are pictures in our photo gallery.)
After leaving Cape Point, we made our way to our lunch. Emiline had reservations for us at a restaurant called the Black Marlin. We enjoyed a nice meal outdoors overlooking the water. After lunch We made our way to Boulders Beach to view the colony of African jackass penguins. The penguins were really small and cute, although for the most part they’re pretty boring to watch. After leaving Boulders Beach we made our way back to Cape Town. Our last stop for the day was Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. The garden covers 528 hectares (about 1,300 acres), although only about 40 hectares are fully cultivated. We had an opportunity to walk around the gardens for an hour or so. We pretty much sprinted through the parts of the garden we did see, and still barely put a dent in covering much ground. During the summer months, there are Sunday concerts in the garden. By the time we finished up at the gardens it was about 5 pm. We attempted to visit Table Mountain again, but the clouds were collected at the top. So we passed on going to the top.
We hung out in the room for a couple hours until dinner. When we arrived back in the room, the laundry we sent out for cleaning in the morning was there. All the clothes were nicely pressed and packaged. If we didn’t know better, we would have thought they were new clothes as some of the shirts had cardboard in them just like the department store. Again, within a half hour of being back in our room our doorbell rang. It was another small gift from the hotel. It was a rose quartz milk bubble bath kit in a pretty woven basket. After relaxing we headed for our 8 pm dinner reservations at Paranga. Our hotel driver took us through windy back roads with expensive homes. We arrived at the restaurant on the sunset strip of the Camps Bay beachfront. The area had a South Beach look and feel. (We’ve never been to Miami. We’re basing that on pictures on TV. 🙂 We were told by locals as well as our travel agent that Paranga is the restaurant to see and be seen. That was clearly the case. It was a young, hip crowd with people dressed to impress. We felt a little out of place in our convertible REI pants and sandals, but we tried to look like we belonged. We had an outdoor table that allowed us to be in the mix. Dinner was delicious. Afterwards, our driver picked us up and we enjoyed the remainder of the evening back at the hotel.
CAPE TOWN – Day 4
Our last full day in Cape Town was dedicated to historical and educational aspects of South Africa. Again, we woke up and had breakfast before our day began. Emiline got us over to the Victoria & Alfred waterfront where we picked up our tickets for the 10 am ferry over to Robben Island. While waiting on the ferry, we got an opportunity to walk around the museum and learn lot about the political struggles against apartheid. Around 9:50 am we began loading our ferry. The ferry transferred us over to Robben Island. Unfortunately because of the busy summer season, they pulled one of the old ferries back into rotation. So, what should have been a 30 minute ride over to the island ended up being about 45-50 minutes. Once we arrived at the island, our ferry was split into two groups. We decided to go with the group that went on a tour of the island first. We boarded a bus with a guide who would take us on a 45 minute trip to see some of the landmarks around island. We got to see the quarries where the political prisoners worked as well as the area where prisoners who couldn’t return to society were sent to live in exile. After the informative bus tour, we went for our 45 minute foot tour into the actual prison. The tours are given by political prisoners who spent time at Robben Island. Our tour guide was a political prisoner during the 80s. It definitely gave the tour a different perspective to hear directly from someone who spent time on the island. We went into the prison and saw the cells, including Mandela’s block B cell 5. We also learned about the typical day of a prisoner and learned about the racism that existed even within the prison. (White prisoners received more food rations than colored or black prisoners. Colored (mixed race, asians, etc.) prisoners received better rations and benefits than black prisoners. Black prisoners received the worst treatment in the prison. I can go into all the things we learned but I won’t be able to do justice to how it feels to see the cells that prisoners like Mandela lived in for years, and how emotional it was to learn the history. After leaving the tour, we rode the ferry back to Cape Town. We had just a few minutes to grab something to eat in the fast food court in the V&A waterfront mall before we had to meet Emiline.
After connecting back up with Emiline we made our way to Langa, the oldest formal township in Cape Town. We drove about 15 minutes from the waterfront to Lang. We met our tour guide, Njongo (not sure of the spelling of his name). He laid down the ground rules for walking through the area. The rules were pretty simple: don’t give candy or money to anyone, it’s ok to take pictures of kids, ask before taking pictures of adults, and ask as many questions as you’d like. We got an opportunity to see the inside of 3 different types of homes. We learned about the history of the settlement and the economics of the community. We got a chance to meet a few residents. Again, the tour was something that our explanation can’t really do justice. It’s one of those things that you have to experience for yourself. I will say that over the course of our time South Africa, we learned that South Africans (black and white) are very optimistic. Even in the poorest areas people speak of the improvements and the opportunities that now exist since the end of apartheid.
After the tour we made our way back to Cape Town. We made one last attempt to go to the top of Table Mountain. Things were looking hopeful since there were no clouds in the sky. However, when we arrived at the visitor center we discovered the cable cars were not running because it was too windy.
Upon our arrival back at the hotel, we had another ring at the doorbell. We received one last gift from the hotel. It was a Cape Grace picture frame and a note saying they hoped we enjoyed our stay. We were sad that it was our last night in Cape Town. We really enjoyed our time. For dinner we decided to pick up food and eat in the room. It was the first dinner we had that didn’t involve 3 or more courses. Believe it or not, it was actually quite refreshing.
CAPE TOWN – Day 5
On our last morning we packed our bags and went downstairs to checkout. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for breakfast. However, as we were checking out one of the servers from the restaurant caught a glimpse of me. She came out and asked if we were leaving. When she realized we were going, she came over to give me a big hug and said she’d miss us. That was an example of the kindness that we experienced throughout South Africa.
The ride to the airport was a bit sad. I haven’t spoken a lot about Emiline, but we developed a friendship with her. We spent many hours with her during our time in Cape Town. Her knowledge of South Africa was amazing. Her honesty and openness with us were greatly appreciated. We have never had a private driver or tour guide before. But, the experience was something that made our time in Cape Town even more memorable. You don’t realize how being on tours with groups of people impacts what you learn. By having Emiline to ourselves we were able to ask a range of questions from the simple to the more complex. Because of this we walked away knowing more about Cape Town than any other place we’ve visited.
At the airport, Emiline came in to make sure we got checked in ok. When Emiline picked us up from the airport on our arrival into Cape Town she told us that meeting for the first time was tough because she didn’t know who to look for and what to expect. But by the time we parted ways on our last day it was just as tough because she had developed a friendship. That ended up being the case. We hope to see Emiline on our next trip to Cape Town.
After checking in, we made our way to the gate for our flight. It was going to be about a 40 minute trip on South African Airways to George/Mossel Bay.