South Africa: Cape Town
In deepest, darkest February we escaped the cold and jetted off to Cape Town. It was blissful. We'd been lucky enough to go to Cape Town beforehand so had already ticked off the big sights like Table Mountain, Robben Island, the penguins at Boulders Beach and the District Six museum (my favourite in the world) and were in the market for lots of sun, not a lot of action and good food and wine.
After initially looking for accommodation in Camps Bay (all the £££) we found Pure Guesthouse in Hout Bay. It was absolutely perfect for what we wanted and we had a ginormous room that opened right out on to the pool area (The Pool Suite). It's owned by a German couple and only has six rooms so it's nice and cosy. The breakfast area was the prettiest I've ever seen with high bi-fold doors with stunning views out to the sea. And the interiors are dreamy. You need a car as it's not in the thick of things but you can also walk down to Llandudno beach (about 20 minutes)...albeit I have to admit we Ubered back up the mother of a hill. The owners were super relaxed and, one evening, after overindulging at lunch at Pot Luck club (more on that shortly) we had a little picnic by the pool. It was all the comfort of a home away from home with service that makes you feel like you're on holiday.
Our one and only major achievement from our time in Cape Town was walking up Lion's Head. When I say walking, it's more of a hike. We set off at 6.30am before the sun got too full on and got gorgeous views of the city and bay. I'd massively recommend it. I had a minor nervous breakdown when we did the 'ropes' section on the way down but provided excellent entertainment for both James and the other hikers. I felt slightly embarrassed when I saw a woman in her 70s nailing it (she looked like she does it every morning before breakfast). There is another route (for wimps like me) and it's a super accessible mini-adventure.
Other than this fit of activity, we basically walked along beaches, drank wine and ate a lot of (delish!) food. On the food front, I should give a special mention to The Pot Luck Club (http://thepotluckclub.co.za/). It's in a regenerated warehouse in Woodstock (amazing decor, I was too busy stuffing my face to take photos so look at the gallery on line) and the food knocked the socks off any London restaurant we've eaten in for a long time. It's all small, sharing-style tapas plates, set in an uber trendy top floor restaurant with views of Table Mountain. We sat up at the bar by the open kitchen and the theatre of it all was great. Plus, with the Rand as weak as it is at the moment, it really didn't work out as that expensive. Book it!
Our favourite restaurants:
- The Codfather, Camps Bay: possibly the best fish restaurant in the world. They have a counter where you go up to pick what you want (and how you want it cooked) and a sushi counter on the other side of the restaurant with one of those snazzy food travelators. It gets super booked up so call ahead.
- Paranga, Camps Bay: a wine bar right on the front with particularly yummy sushi. It's a bit of a 'place to be seen' place but it's got beautiful views and sometimes it's fun to be a bit of a poser!
- Harbour House Restaurant, Constantia Nek: simple but swanky setting and lots of good fish and meat options. We went on a Saturday night and it was really buzzy with locals both eating inside and glugging wine on the deck.
- La Parada, Constantia Nek: a fairly newly-opened tapas restaurant. We sat out in the sun with a bottle of wine and devoured plate after plate of really incredible food.
- Kalky's, Kalk Bay: a shack that's rammed full with locals and serves tip-top (and dirt cheap!) fish and chips. You queue up, order your food and take a seat by the harbour surrounded by squarking sea gulls. There's no glamour whatsoever but the food is immense and the atmosphere is cracking. Cash only.
Our favourite beaches and beachy places:
- Noordhoeck beach: it's long and rugged and beautiful and everything you want in a beach for walking. The sort of place you scroll back through your iPhone to look at photos on a cold and raining London winter day. Also amazing property porn - the houses overlooking the beach are I.N.S.A.N.E.
- Llandudno beach: a bit of a locals' secret, it's quieter than some of the other beaches and has great big rocks which make for great shelter against the (sometimes pretty brutal!) Cape Town wind.
- Chapman's Peak drive: just stunning. The Chapman's Peak Hotel is a great spot for a glass of wine in the sunshine.
- Camps Bay: it's a bit flashy and the one place that brings out the inner poser in me! I think that's down to drinking my first ever fish bowl cocktails there when I was about 16 and thinking I was oh so cool.
- Kalk Bay: home of Kalky's and lots of little home shops and other cute spots. There's also another Harbour House here. We had a drink right by the water in a restaurant/cafe/bar that I now can't find online to get the name. But it had super comfy outside sofas and James' milkshake was super yum.
- The District Six museum is absolutely fantastic. It brings Apartheid to life and is excellent in giving you an understanding of the horrors individuals experienced under the regime.
- Bo Kaap: the Malay quarter. Brightly coloured houses and another great museum. The Bo-Op is a fab little shop with high quality products made by local residents.
- Kloof Street: lots of bars and restaurants (the Kloof Street diner is meant to have killer cocktails but we never made it there).
- Robben Island: you just can't miss it!
- Penguins at Boulders Beach: they are gorgeous.
After three trips to Cape Town I've still not made it to Kirstenbosch gardens, but it's always good to have something to go back for...
As a side note, lots of people worry about security in Cape Town but, touch wood, we've never had any problems. We were also initially wary about using Uber but it was brilliant and we never felt at all uncomfortable.