Colorful Old Cape Quarter in Cape Town
Insiders Cape Town in South Africa by David Bristow
David Bristow is a Bushtracks' Specialist Guide based in Cape Town. For 13 years David edited Africa’s leading travel magazine Getaway, and his colleagues dubbed him “the walking enviropedia.” Now a freelance writer, he continues to share this knowledge, primarily through storytelling. He is an environmental scientist and has written some 20 books that focus on the natural environment, culture and history of the region. His specific focus is the history of the Cape, its peoples, cultures, politics and how the natural environment has influenced human development there. The geological (including paleontological) and archeological record are among his abiding interests.
From the time European settlers put their soft, stockinged feet on the beach at Table Bay around 350 years ago, things have gone steadily downhill. For one property prices have rocketed. And finding parking on the Foreshore is a pain. On the other hand the quality of the wine has improved greatly from that first agricultural vintage back in 1659, which records show was more medicinal than delightful.
The Dutch were beer drinkers and used wine only to cure “ship sickness” (what we now know is scurvy). We can thank the French Huguenots for improving things. They fled religious persecution in France and arrived here in 1688-1689, bringing with them new vine stock and some viticultural savoir faire.
Buitenverwachting Wine Farm, Constantia
You don’t have to venture far out to the Stellenbosch and Franschhoek valleys to enjoy great Cape Wines; the Constantia valley wineries a mere 10 miles from the city center have many fine wines to share, as well as some of the city’s best restaurants (among them La Colombe and Buitenverwaghting – and try pronouncing that one after your third glass). You could also enjoy a glass under the oldest vine in South Africa, at down-town Heritage Square Hotel, followed by a stroll through the adjacent, historic Old Cape Quarter precinct, or Bokaap.
Cape Heritage Hotel
Probably the best thing about Cape Town right now – other than that the New York Times voted it the number one place to visit this year – is that, with the plummeting rand, prices are ridiculous. The best meal, with the best wines in town (at The Roundhouse off winding Kloof Road), will set you back around US$100 a person.
This is the best time for surfing and False Bay is one of the best places in the world for longboarding and learning to surf. There are several surf shops at Surfer’s Corner in Muizenberg that hire and teach. Or, still thinking of wine, you could spend a half day or a full day if you are an aficionado, doing some serious wine tasting in Constantia.
Table Bay and Table Mountain
Another great thing to do around this time of the year is to explore Table Mountain National Park on foot or mountain bike. Taking time to smell the flowers is the only way to discover why the local “fynbos” is one of the world’s natural wonders and the only floral community to be acknowledged as a World Heritage Site.
There is much, much more to this city between mountain and sea, as all first time visitors discover. “Why didn’t anyone tell us …” is the usual refrain. That’s travel for you – broadens the mind (and sometimes the butt), and always holds adventure for the bold. There’s always something more to Cape Town and, apparently, always something new out of Africa.
More Photos by David Bristow
Beads at Greenmarket Square Colorful Old Cape Quarter Cable Car at Table Mountain