Friday, August 8, 2014

South African Sojourn, Day 1: Long Street and V&A Waterfront (Part II)

Happy Friday! Rainy season has officially begun in Senegal. After a cool rain and breeze the past couple of days, the sweltering humidity is back in action today. Lovely ;)

So indulge me as I travel back to one of the most picture-perfect (weather and scenery!) trips of my life... Cape Town, South Africa. If you missed Part I, catch up here! I was going to cover our first three days in one post, but brevity is not my strong point, so instead I'll start with our hotel and first day in Cape Town. The other posts are ready too, coming soon :)

As I mentioned in my first post, my mom and I decided to spend our first two days in the very central City Bowl district of Cape Town, acclimating to the urban center without a car and taking in the sites for a couple days before continuing on our mini-safari. Please recall that I was coming from Dakar, Senegal... let's just say the urban beauty was overwhelming!

++ ACCOMMODATION: THE FRITZ HOTEL

But first things first: our hotel. We stayed at The Fritz Hotel in the Gardens neighborhood of downtown Cape Town, a small boutique hotel in an ideal location. We both loved this hotel! Our room was super spacious with a very homey, vintage vibe and a lovely shared balcony overlooking Table Mountain. I spent hours on Trip Advisor comparing the multitude of relatively affordable bed and breakfasts in Cape Town. The Fritz didn’t have the absolute highest ratings, but the price was right and the easy walking distance to Kloof and Long Street sealed the deal. My mom was also intent on views, and though far off in the distance, we did have them!

I’m so glad we landed on the The Fritz! The rooms weren't fancy, but incredibly comfortable and full of character and the breakfast was fabulous—plentiful, delicious, and set in a flowery courtyard. We were also minutes away from the  Hop-on-Hop Off bus, which made it very easy to visit the city without a car. Highly recommend!




++ LONG STREET AND BO KAAMP

On our first day (literally a couple hours after my mom landed from Dubai), we walked down Kloof Street to Long Street, taking in the shops, restaurants, and the general scene. It was a holiday weekend (Easter) so the notoriously hip and happening street was pretty mellow, but still very fun to take in! And suchhhh a different vibe compared to Dakar and other West African capitals with which I'm familiar... I mean, you might as well be in Europe. Greenmarket Square, a craft market right off Long Street, did offer a slight reminder we were still in Africa, and I was excited at my first glimpse of South African crafts!





We also wandered up to Bo Kaap, but couldn’t quite find the right block to explore. It honestly felt slightly sketchy (more to my mom than me) but I did enjoy our quick glimpse! This neighborhood is known for its brightly painted buildings, and I also noticed a distinct South East Asian/Muslim influence. Later in our trip, we returned briefly to the area and ate some delicious Indian food. I'd suggest researching this area with a specific destination in mind as the surrounding neighborhood is kind of meh.




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Not to be a fearmonger (trust me, I am quite the opposite), but... this wasn't exactly reassuring:




++ V&A WATERFRONT

Back to the beauty! (P.S. The topic of extremes in Cape Town is a subject for a whole other blog post. I'll get there.) We then hopped in a cab to the picturesque albeit crowded V&AWaterfront and grabbed drinks on the water followed by a decadent dinner at a steak restaurant actually in the mall, Belthazar’s. The restaurants along this strip were packed and the ambiance was awesome! We chose Belthazar's by chance and it was delicious (but skip the cheese plate - cheese is not South Africa's strong point ;). In general, the area reminded me a bit of Faneuil Hall in Boston... touristy, very gentrified, tons of shopping, street artists, all amidst stunning scenery. A must see.

We also did a little shopping in the impressive Victoria's Wharf mall (both local and not... the prices were great!), and vowed to return with more time. My favorite shop was Carole Nevin Designs - be sure to check out the online shop! We also road the ferris wheel by night - not that awesome - and finally returned to our hotel to crash.










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A Few More Tips & Tricks:
The dollar was very strong compared to the rand at the time of this trip (Spring 2014), so it might behoove you to do some shopping at V&A Waterfront. I mean, why not?!
Long Street is a must see, but grungier than I imagined, especially as compared to other parts of the city that are downright luxurious.
Don't stress too much over restaurant recommendations... our meals were pretty amazing (and affordable) everywhere we went, planned or not!
+ We waited to visit Robben Island on the second half of our tip (coming later), but in retrospect, it would have been better to do this tour in our first few days. The ferry departs from the V&A Waterfront and the tour and ride lasts four hours total.

All in all, a completely packed and fabulous introduction to Cape Town. Up next: Table Mountain, Camps Bay, and the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens!

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