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Report 2042: Early Summer in the Western Cape, South Africa

By Panda from UK, Summer 2012

Trip Description: Driving around Cape Town, the Cape Peninsula, the Winelands and the 'Whale Watching' coast in November 2012

Destinations: Countries - Africa

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Foodie Trip; Garden Visits; Sightseeing; Wine Trip; Independent Travel; 2 People

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Page 1 of 12: Arriving and Beginning to Explore Cape Town

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The Bo Kaap District from hotel

We arrived at Cape Town International Airport after a good overnight flight and picked up an automatic Nissan Tiida from the well staffed and efficient Avis rental desk. The Tiida, classed as compact, was a good choice for two, with sufficient luggage space. The main roads in the Western Cape that we encountered were a pleasure to drive – in excellent condition (with ongoing maintenance visible many places) and well sign posted. Drivers are courteous and safe, at least those we encountered in our mainly daytime driving - on two lane roads it is a convention to pull over towards the side of the road to let faster traffic pass. South Africa has historically had a bad traffic accident record but there is now an enforcement of drink-driving and speed laws, with multiple speed cameras on main routes.

We arrived at the Hilton Central Cape Town on Buitengracht Street quite quickly and parked in the underground car park. Parking on the street in Cape Town (and in other areas of the Western Cape ) is relatively easily available, overseen by either official parking marshals (who issue tickets) or by semi-official ‘minders’ who are tipped about 5R , but we were happy not to have to worry about the fate of the car overnight. There are concerns about safety in South Africa ; razor wire on fences, gated communities , security guards and TV ads for insurance against car hijacking are everywhere, but we felt safe in Cape Town and the other parts we visited. We walked around a lot in Cape Town in the daytime and had the occasional approach by panhandlers, but a polite refusal was politely accepted.

After we had settled in to our comfortable room on the eighth floor, with a view over Table Mountain and the pretty Bo Kaap Muslim Quarter, we took a stroll in the comfortable (26 C) temperature to the sights in the central historical district. We went to Greenmarket Square, noted in guide books for its craft market (not impressive, in my opinion, and full of the same tourist articles we later saw everywhere else). The Old Town House (1761) on the square was worth a quick look, because of the Michaelis collection containing paintings from the early Flemish school, which are a particular interest of mine. A further 10 minutes stroll along the shopping streets took us past St George’s Cathedral to the lovely Company’s Garden, which was originally the source of fresh vegetables for the early European settlers and which now provides a green and shady reprieve from the city sun. There were families picnicking on the grass, couples strolling and office workers enjoying their lunch on the plentiful seating. The South African Museum (including the Planetarium), the South African Jewish Museum, the South African National Gallery and the Parliament Buildings are all to be found on the edges of the Garden.

Returning to the hotel, we enjoyed a snack on the quiet swimming pool terrace – this Hilton appeals to a mainly business clientele, and most fellow guests were equipped with briefcases rather than sunscreen! We dined on the complimentary hot and cold snacks in the Executive Lounge and then to bed - with only a two hour UK/South Africa time difference we weren’t jet lagged. We enjoyed a peaceful sleep on very comfortable beds until jolted awake at 4am by the call to prayer from one of the many mosques in the Bo Kaap quarter. It got better over the rest of our stay as, although we woke, it only took a quick thought of, “ah, that’s what it is” before we went back to sleep.

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