CAPE TOWN CAPERS
There’s such an upbeat energy in Cape Town. Every single time I go I never know what I’m going to find – it’s always changing. There are pop-ups, new restaurants, musicians playing on corners. It’s just buzzing. The first place I go when I get home is Woodstock, which is a kind of freshly transformed, hipster area. Once run-down buildings are now filled with creatives, and The Old Biscuit Mill is the place to go for local crafts, while the city’s busiest food market is housed in tents nearby (be sure to try koeksisters, plaited doughnuts soaked in cinnamon syrup). For a long lunch, I love the gastronomical menu at The Test Kitchen; for night, I reserve a table at Salsify at The Roundhouse. I love visiting galleries here too, which have some of the biggest names in the South African art world within a few blocks, including my favourite spot What If The World. And when you’ve had your fill of great food and shopping, this is also a city surrounded by so much natural beauty.
There are many stretches of beautiful beach around Cape Town, with white sand and gentle surf. Although I have to be honest: the water is chilly. In fact, you won’t look strange taking a dip in a wetsuit – even in summer. However, I love swimming in the ocean, so I just tell myself that freezing water has a toning effect and march right in. As for where to go, there are so many options: I’ve always gone to the beach in Onrus with my family, which is very quiet and peaceful; Clifton is the beach to be seen at, with a cool, hip crowd; if you want to learn to surf, head to Muizenberg, considered to be the birthplace of surfing in South Africa; and if you want a little more action, Camps Bay has a reputation for being the party beach (which is delivers on), but is also a great spot to take the kids, as it has a long stretch of white sand bordered by a promenade of restaurants and hotels.
One of the reasons the food is so good in Cape Town is that most of the produce comes from the sea and farms surrounding the city, so everything is fresh and delicious. And many of the farms have garden kitchens, which are foodie heaven. One of my favourite day trips, just an hour from Cape Town, is lunch at Babylonstoren in Franschhoek, a historic farm with a beautifully laid-out garden, deli, bakery, cheese room, fragrance shop and wine centre, which is actually a world-class tasting spot. And, of course, an incredible restaurant. Take a guided tour of of the gardens and, if you can swing it, stay the night in one of their lovely rooms. I also highly recommend a treatment or two at the spa.
A farm that’s been in our family for hundreds of years was recently transformed into a wedding venue called Bosjes. And you don’t need to be getting hitched to visit. There’s an amazing chapel with breathtaking views; a restaurant that serves simple and delicious local cuisine; we have maps for day hikes around the farm; and a few friendly giraffes and zebras too. There are also simple guest rooms if you want to stay the night. Every single time I drive out to the farm, which is at the foot of the Waaihoek Mountains in the Breede Valley, I am taken aback by the vast beauty of the landscape. It simply takes your breath away.
If you love nothing more than a day spent wine-tasting (uh, that would be me), then you’ve come to the right place. The vineyards surrounding Cape Town produce some of the country’s best vino, and even better, testing them is so much more than a cellar-door visit. The Cape’s wine routes deliver amazing countryside, stunning architecture and farm-to-table dining, and some even have luxury spas and guest houses. Some fab spots include: Waterford Wine Estate outside Stellenbosch, an unpretentious winery surrounded by Cape fynbos vegetation and mountains; Rust En Vrede, a modern winery just as well-known for its award-winning restaurant; and Vergenoegd, with their famous running Indian ducks that keep the vineyards pest-free (so no pesticides!), amazing picnics and the ability to blend your own wine to take home.
OH THE SIGHTS YOU’LL SEE
The one thing everyone who visits Cape Town has to do is visit iconic Table Mountain. If you’re a keen hiker, climb to the top; everyone else will catch the cable car up and meet you there for sweeping views over the peninsula. Other spots I would urge you to see: the penguin colony at Boulders Beach (you can swim quite close to them!); take a half-day Cape Peninsula drive, heading for the southwestern-most point of the African continent, which is now a nature reserve where you can hike, climb up to the lighthouse at Cape Point, and pose with a sign at the Cape of Good Hope. Finally, visit the Zeitz MOCAA, the first-ever major institution dedicated exclusively to artists from across Africa. It’s a must-see for architecture buffs too; housed in an abandoned silo, the building was designed by UK architect Thomas Heatherwick. The result is a sculptural marvel.
One of the most important things to know if you’re travelling with kids is that you’ll need a certified copy of their birth certificate to gain entry to the country. It’s important – you’ll be sent home without it. And if you’re worried about the flight time, my top tip is to break it up with a stop-over somewhere, like Dubai (although I always fly direct because I can’t wait to get there). Once you get to Cape Town, I recommend hiring a car to really make the most of all the amazing things to do. As for where to stay, there are loads of fab places, from the luxurious One&Only Cape Town, which feels like an island escape (with a kids’ club); to The Marly, a buzzy spot on Camps Bay; to a super-relaxing and restorative stay at Babylonstoren.
Cape Town is close to my heart. I was born there and, as the saying goes, “Africa is not just a place, it’s a feeling”. I don’t live there any more, but I frequently return with my family. And for me, there’s simply no better place to beat the January blues. First, there is zero jet lag (if you’re coming from the UK). Board an overnight flight and 12 hours later, wake up to winter sun. Here are a few more reasons why you should visit Cape Town this (or next) winter.
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