Incredible Cape Town: My SA Specialist Experience Part 2
Day 4: Arrival in Cape Town, Waterfront and a Little Surprise The Mount Grace County Hotel and Spa, Magaliesburg in the Gauteng Province had been our home for the past three days. We enjoyed our stay so much that we had become emotionally attached to the property and didn't want to leave. It wasn't our fault. South African Tourism had made our stay at Mount Grace memorable in more ways than we had imagined, but we had to leave as a matter of necessity. So as early as 5:00am on day 4 of our SA Specialist Experience, we were all in the bus for the drive to the O.R Tambo International Airport Johannesburg en route Cape Town in the Western Cape Province. Check-in at the South African Airways counter was seamless and soon enough, we were on board a South African Airways Airbus A319 on our way to Cape Town. The flight was on schedule and smooth, and 2 hours later, we touched down in Cape Town. Just like the OR Tambo International Airport Johannesburg, the Cape Town International Airport is another befitting gateway to South Africa especially the Western Cape Province. After observing arrival protocols, we boarded our tour bus and hit the road. Jerry was our Tour Guide. This was my first time in Cape Town and my first impression was that of astonishing beauty. Our adventure in this incredibly beautiful city began at the popular V&A Waterfront.
Located at the foot of the Signal Hill and situated on the Table Bay Harbour on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town is a melting point of some sort. The history of the V&A Waterfront is traced to Prince Alfred, the second son of Queen Victoria, who visited the Cape Colony harbour in 1860 as a sixteen-year-old on the Royal Navy Ship. Quantitatively, the V&A Waterfront is the biggest attraction in Cape Town where history, culture, tourism and commerce meet in one expansive, socially charged space. In fact, it is the attraction of attractions. There are many ways to spend quality time at the V&A Waterfront, with activities including helicopter tours, gastronomic experience, sightseeing and Big Wheel Ride. With an area of 123 hectares with both residential and commercial real estate, the complex is shoppers’ haven as it houses over 450 retail outlets, including fashion, homeware and electronics. The V&A Waterfront appeals to individuals as well as families and attracts more than 23 million visitors a year. If you plan to explore Cape Town, whether as an individual or as a group, this is a very ideal place to begin your adventure. It has everything for everybody.
After taking a visual tour of the V&A Waterfront and admiring this melting point of tourism, it was time to take an adventurous ride on the Cape Wheel. We took a 20-minute ride to the skies in one of 36 fully-enclosed cabins on this 50m high, giant observation wheel. The roller-coaster ride afforded us the opportunity to enjoy panoramic and breathtaking views of Cape Town including The Harbour, Table Mountain and Robben Island. Down from the Cape Wheel, it was time for lunch, and off we went to the Ocean Basket Restaurant at the Waterfront where we had an impressive gastronomic experience with a satisfying seafood lunch of fish and prawns. And to add a local flavour to the experience, the food was served in a frying pan. Oh yes, you heard me right.
After lunch at the V&A Waterfront, we drove to the Crystal Towers Marriott Hotels Cape Town. This modern luxury hotel in the heart of Cape Town would be our home for the next four days.
Located in the heart of the popular Century City, this modern and contemporary hotel provides accommodations with sophisticated decor and deluxe amenities.
Room facilities and features include electronic key cards, plush bedding, luxuriously outfitted bathrooms, LCD flat-screen TVs, complimentary Wi-Fi internet, ergonomic desks, restful chairs and scenic views of South Africa's Table Mountain and the Cape Town skyline. Check-in was seamless and hassle-free, we settled in, rested a little before the evening surprise. The first major surprise of the SA Specialist Experience came on this day, and it was a very pleasant one pulled by Sonto Mbonambi and Mohammed Tanko. When we left the hotel in the evening in a couple of taxis and headed to downtown Cape Town, we could only guess what the surprise was. But when our taxis began to pull over one after another at an African restaurant in Cape Town's Central Business District, it dawned on us that this was going to be a pleasant surprise and that it was!
Before now, it had always been from one intercontinental dish to another (not that we were complaining), but that 'gastronomic monotony' was about to be broken. Here, South African Tourism treated us to different Nigerian dishes including Pepper soup, Eba and Semo with a choice of Egwusi soup, Onugbu soup, Okro soup or Vegetable soup. I had Eba and Onugbu soup with fresh fish, it tasted so authentically Nigerian that I wished it didn't have to finish.
From the time we arrived Johannesburg from Lagos and Accra a few days earlier, we had been missing Naija/Ghana food and had been dying in silence to eat them, but here we were devouring them and they tasted just like mama's.
Indeed, this was a night of surprise and the beginning of more surprises. Why the excitement about finding an African restaurant in Cape Town, you may ask. Don't get it twisted, Cape Town is an African city, but is very eurocentric in almost everything including gastronomy. So finding an authentic African restaurant here is a big deal. If you're visiting Cape Town and you want to experience local West African cuisine, Aaron's African Restaurant, located on Loop Street, is a very good place to be. Day 5: Winelands Tour and Wine Tasting According to Salvador Dali, Great wine requires a mad man to grow the vine, a wise man to watch over it, a lucid poet to make it, and a lover to drink it. The day 5 of the SA Specialist Experience saw us do all of that (well, almost) in one single day. Our bus left the Crystal Towers Marriott Hotel in the morning and headed to Franschhoek Winelands where we toured and explored some of South Africa's oldest and most distinguished vineyards and wine estates. We also did some wine tasting while at it.
On our way to the Winelands, we stopped over at the Huguenot Monument in Franschhoek. Built in 1945, the Huguenot Monument is dedicated to the Huguenots who emigrated from France to escape religious persecution and settled in the area between the late 1600s and early 1700s. The Huguenot Monument as well as the nearby Huguenot Memorial Museum are deeply symbolic and are a good place for religious tourism.
The Winelands tour and wine tasting started proper with our first stop at the Pierre Jourdan wine estate where we were received by Takuan, a second-generation wine master. Takuan, who we were told, inherited the wine estate from his forefathers, even performed the Sabrage in our honour. Sabrage is a traditional technique for opening a wine bottle with a sword for ceremonial occasions.
Here, we tasted 3 different wines including Brut (60 % Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay), Belle Rose (100% Pinot Noir), and Ratafia (45% Chardonnay sweet wine) all from the portfolio of Pierre Jourdan. I'm not a sommelier, but the wines tasted great on my pallets. No, we didn't get drunk; there wasn't even enough wine to get us drunk, after all, it was wine tasting and not wine drinking.
After the first round of wine tasting, it was time to tour the Winelands on the Franschhoek Wine Tram which is one of the major two ways to tour the Winelands, the other being the multi-coach tractor carriage. Luckily, we used both. The Franschhoek Wine Tram is a unique way to tour the wine estates by means of a hop-on and hop-off tram system which runs on a railway line built in 1904. With glasses of welcome wine in our hands, we began our tour of the vineyards aboard the double-decker Franschhoek Wine Tram.
The tour took us through the length and breadth of the vast vineyards and even offered us the opportunity to view the beautiful Franschhoek valleys and mountains. Of course, this was my first time of seeing a vineyard and the Franschhoek vineyards were just like the ones the Bible talks about. The tour constantly reminded me of the parable of the vineyard.
After the first leg of the Winelands tour, we pitched our tents at the Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate for lunch and more wine tasting. Here, we tasted four more wines including Chenin, Rose, Moscato and Zinfandel, all from Grande Provence portfolio. The wines were expressive with a distinctive character. The history of this classic wine estate dates back to 1694 when a French man, Pierre Joubert, with a Bible hidden in a loaf of bread, fled from France due to religious persecution.
From the entrance, there are beautiful artworks scattered around this magnificent homestead. In fact, there's an art gallery here. This is one of the few places in Cape Town where there's a deliberate meeting of good wines, good food and good arts. If you love food, wine and art, then the Grande Provence should be on your list of places to visit while on the tour of the Cape Town Winelands.
The return leg of our Winelands tour was on the multi-coach tractor carriage which even gave us an opportunity to observe the vines more closely. Although the vines were still tender and hadn't matured for harvest, seeing them was a fulfilment of a long-time dream. I had always heard and read about them on the pages of the Bible, but here I was seeing and even touching them. Personally, this tour was very memorable and significant to me in more ways than one. And generally speaking, the Franschhoek Winelands tour was a life-changing 'wine & dine' experience. Having worked up appetite on the day's adventure, we ended the day 5 of our SA Specialist Experience with a superb dinner at the Southern Sun Waterfront Hotel. In a deliberate attempt to keep us happy, the hotel's Malaysian Chef had prepared a version of jollof rice that very much tasted like Nigerian and Ghanaian jollof rice. This was of course, in addition to the intercontinental regulars Southern Sun is known for. And we even got some gift packs!
Before the dinner, we had a tour of the hotel where the hotel staff basically showed of this 4-star property, and we liked what we saw. Whether you're visiting Cape Town for business or pleasure, Southern Sun Waterfront is perfectly situated for all activities.
With 537 elegantly furnished rooms and an exquisite restaurant, all your needs have been catered for even before you arrive. Room facilities and features include electronic key system, tea and coffee making devices, fridge, flat-screen television with satellite, electronic safe, en-suite bathroom with separate shower, hair dryer and fully equipped work station. Dining options here include South African inspired dishes at the hotel’s Yizani Restaurant and relaxed cocktails at the Southern Sun Waterfront Bar.
While a selection of rooms has views of the Table Mountain, others look out over Cape Town’s bustling foreshore and the vast Atlantic Ocean. The Southern Sun Waterfront is the perfect spot from where you can explore Cape Town. Day 6: City Tour, Another Surprise, and Beach Picnic Cape Town is known as the Mother City and we were about to find out why. The first half of the day 6 of our SA Specialist Experience was dedicated to a sightseeing tour of Cape Town. So after breakfast at the Crystal Towers Marriott Hotel, we drove in our bus to downtown Cape Town where we boarded the popular red bus for the city tour.
Operated by CitySightseeing Cape Town, the double-decker open-roof red bus is the best and the most convenient way to see Cape Town. Your visit to Cape Town is not complete without a CitySightseeing tour of the Mother City. There are loads of things to see, taste and do.
The tour bus featured audio guides via personal audio channels onboard the bus, which gave us some historical background of the city and its attractions as the tour progressed. The hop-on-hop-off bus service followed various loops around the city and made its way to the popular Table Mountain where we made our first stop. Unfortunately, the weather was windy and didn't permit Table Mountain adventure. However, we admired the incredible Table Mountain Cable Car Lower Station as well as a breathtaking view of the city from the hill.
The return journey on the red bus was more of a scenic drive along the city's coastline where you have some of the most beautiful real estates in Africa. With lush and visually appealing properties, this place is so stunningly beautiful that it, in fact, reminded me of Miami, Florida in the United States of America. Directly overlooking the beaches, the estates on this coastline of Cape Town are where affluence, style and luxury meet. Cape Town is not one of the most beautiful cities in Africa, it is THE most beautiful city in Africa. It's not just about aesthetics beauty. There's also the beauty of organisation, there's the beauty of the people and there's the beauty of architecture. The beauty in Cape Town is systemic. I've been to some of the world's most beautiful cities including Rome and Milan, but Cape Town stands tall in comparison to them. Not many cities of the world have the kind of stunning beauty Cape Town has. The beauty here is 'unAfrican' in more ways than one. Cape Town is truly the Mother City.
The second surprise of the SA Specialist Experience came hot on the heels of the city tour. Wow, we were going to ride on the popular Sidecars...to the beach. The Sidecars are chauffeured vintage Second World War motorbikes with an attached carriage for up to 2 passengers. We were very excited and couldn't wait for the fun ride on the side.
In addition to the chauffeur, each sidecar could carry 2 persons - one on the side and the other at the back. So we chose our partners, took a few pictures and off we went. Amanda was our ride and Eugene was our chauffeur.
Every eye in Cape Town was on us as we rode in a convoy through the city and painted the town red. We made a brief stop on the way and switched places before the fun continued to the beach. Of course, beaches are beaches, but the thrilling sensation of being in the open air on a vintage chariot made our journey to the beach much more memorable.
When we first heard we were going to the beach, our minds went to the usual 'beachy' things like swimming, but apparently, our hosts had more in mind. Our beach adventure turned out to be a fun picnic in an informal and casual, yet very beautiful setting.