It feels like San Francisco but different. The sun is in the north, the faces black, white and every color inbetween and I have to remember to look right when crossing the street so I don't get run over because they drive on the left here.
We arrived safely after our 30 hour journey. We actually were able to sleep on several of the legs of our trip and so far minimal jet lag. Our first adventure occured in Jo'Burg. We had less than 2 hours to make the connection to Cape Town. But first we had to wait for our bags before going through customs. Of course, they were the last bags off the plane and the line was huge to get through customs. Needless to say, we were a little concerned that we wouldn't make our flight. We got through customs with 40 minutes to check our bags through, get our boarding passes and get to the domestic terminal on the other side of the airport. We mentioned this to another passenger in line and she said "Get a porter!" We hesitated and she got one for us. Then we ran! He carried our bags and we had a hard time keeping up with him. He took us through the business class line and on to security. We made it! We were on the plane with 15 minutes to spare.
After a quick taxi ride from the airport, we checked into the Metropole Hotel and crashed for a few hours. We went to an early dinner at the Veranda restaurant in the hotel. Early is 7pm! Not as late as Southern Europe but definitely later than the US. Dinner was very tasty and cheap. Restaurants are amazingly inexpensive here. Our three course dinner which would have probably cost at least 100US was half that. The only bad item is the bar. On the weekend, they have a DJ from 10pm until 1am. Fortunately, we mentioned that we had mentioned that we needed sleep when we checked in and they moved us to the quieter third floor. And the earplugs helped. Don't leave home without them.
The hotel is on Long Street in the Central Business District. During the day, it is busy but at night deserted. Especially on the sidewalks. There is a lot of activity in the clubs and restaurnts but few people strolling. Most people walk directly from their cars to the restaurant or club. The crime is notorious and walking around at night is not advisable.
The architecture is wonderful on Long Street; a cross between Art Deco, Cape Dutch and the wrought iron verandas of the New Orleans. The area has lots of ambiance but it is also very edgy and there is lots of new construction and renovation going on. They plan to turn the area into more residential to give life to the city at night.
By the way, the New Orleans disaster is big news here. Every taxi driver has mentioned it. The newspapers call it anarchy.
The weather has been mixed. It was sunny when we arrived but yesterday we couldn't even see the foothills of Table Mountain when we started out in the morning. Soon it was raining but it didn't stop us from touring the Company Gardens planted in the 1600's by the Dutch East Indies Company. Later that afternoon, Table Mountain came out and it was sunny for a bit.
We caught the on-and off Explorer bus to tour around the city. One of the stops on the tour was the cable car on Table Mountain which we had planned to take. The bus slowly climbed the steep road, Kloof Nek, up to the cable car which was not running due to the weather. Damn! But we got our first view of the fynbos. Proteas and heather covered the hillside. G disappeared up the trail immediately but we only had 15 minutes. It was so hard to drag ourselves away. We hope to ride the cable car when we return in a week.
The tour continued around to the beaches of Camps Bay and Clifton passing through million dollar homes climbing up the steep hillside from the beach. I can see why it is so popular in the summer. It is beautiful!
We finished the tour at the V&A Wharf, a large tourist center with shops and restaurants. It is one of the most popular places in the country to visit. We took in the wonderful Two Oceans Aquarium. We had a chance to see the local sealife and be amazed at the reef exhibit and shark tank. It was messmerizing.
We had a nice fish dinner at Willoughbys in the mall. We were able to try a local species of fish, the Klipking. It is sort of a cross between a fish and an eel - very tasty. We spent the rest of the evening walking around the waterfront before heading back to the hotel.
Today it is on to Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. Needless to say, G is chomping at the bit to go. Sun is out. Gotta go!