On the 25th of November- 2nd December Me and Alex went on the holiday of a lifetime to Cape Town, South Africa!
For those of you who have been asking (thank you, I love knowing you look forward to my posts), those of you planning your own trips and for those who’re simply curious…here’s a run down of where we stayed, what we got up to, what we ate, what it cost us and what we thought of Cape Town!
Ok so… I’m gonna go ahead and address the elephant in the room before I get into all the fun stuff…
Safety in Cape Town:
I was met with a lot of worried/screwed up faces when I told people we’d decided to visit Cape Town (my Dad literally ask me not to go)…and although it felt like everyone was trying to burst my bubble, I can’t blame them for having concerns.
If you were to Google the most dangerous cities in the world right now, South Africa’s up there 11th in the ranks, based on the murder rating.
We’ve all heard the horror stories of how you can be “shot and robbed simply by stopping at the wrong set of traffic lights out there” and according to stats around 57 people are murdered each day in Cape Town…
(No wonder Dads wasn’t keen)
HOWEVER… not many people realise that Cape Town is kinda made up of two parts, Cape Town City Centre/Suburbs and The Cape Flats.
The poor community of the Cape Flats see 95% of Cape Town’s violent crimes, due to the poverty and gang culture… and despite the Governments’ request, the stats are combined instead of separate.
Don’t get me wrong there’s definitely reason behind why they warn you against walking the streets after dark, even during the day whilst walking around me and Alex both took a good few day’s to relax and stop feeling on edge due to all of the stories and warnings.
But as long as you have your wits about you and don’t go wandering down known trouble areas at night (just like any other major city in the world), you’re pretty safe.
So if the fear of this matter is the only thing holding you back from making the trip…hurry up and book a flight, because you’re missing out!
Let’s start at the very beginning- booking our flights:
We travelled with British Airways, paying around £680 each for economy seats including luggage. It was a non-stop flight from London Gatwick to Cape Town airport (flying back into Heathrow) and took just under 11 hours there and 12 hours back.
The flight itself:
We were on an evening flight and flying through the night worked out pretty perfectly since Cape town is only 2 hours ahead of England.
We had the whole morning and early afternoon to finish off packing, had time to use up as much of the food from the cupboards as possible on our breakfast and lunch so I felt very productive and organized…
THEN…made our way to Gatwick (where we tried out the BA Club Lounge) and chilled enjoying the buffet and our first “we’re on vacation” drinks of the holiday.
Around two/three hours later we boarded the plane, enjoyed the inflight entertainment for an hour or so…
… had our dinner (with another gin)
& planned to get some shut eye for the rest of the night
I had an empty seat next to me (thank you universe) so I actually managed to lay down and get a solid nights sleep, which is usually NOT the case for me when travelling!
Around an hour and a half before landing they served breakfast…
& before we knew it…touch down in Cape Town!
From here, we booked an Uber to our accommodation (Uber is one of the safest ways to travel in Cape Town)
Unlike London where your best bet is to go with a local taxi firm, according to my research- in Cape Town, it’s the other way around.
The local taxi’s have a bit of a reputation for being unsafe and driving dangerously, with some reports of passengers ending up in shady situations, in destinations they never asked to go.
Unlike Uber there’s no one on the other end of an app keeping tabs on them, so unless you prefer to rent a car of your own, I’d recommend Uber all the way!
Where we stayed:
Usually we’d find a charming AirBnB but due to Cape Towns bad wrap/crime rate we were a little apprehensive and wanted to feel a bit more secure this time, so we went for an apartment/hotel called The Onyx.
For 6 nights in a Deluxe One Bedroom Apartment with a view of Table Mountain and breakfast we paid £626 between us.
The hotel it’s self was lovely, modern, sparkling clean and quite obviously new in town.
Our apartment was a great size, nice and bright and the staff were super friendly and helpful.
Now don’t quote me on this but one of the locals told us that our Hotel was situated in what they refer to as “Down Town” and it was bizarrely quiet footfall wise.
This was part of the reason we felt on edge to begin with, it’s hard to relax and blend in when no ones really about. Plus our hotel had staff manning the doors 24/7 which (although was very reassuring) got you thinking “wow it really must be needed”.
However, out hotel staff told us we were fine walking about during the day but advised us to always get taxi’s at night.
As I was saying earlier, flying through the night worked out perfectly because we strolled right off of the plane, well rested and straight into DAY 1 of our holiday.
We filled up our reusable water bottles (the tap water in cape town is safe to drink) and on foot, we set off to check out the popular V&A Waterfront (which took roughly 20-25 minutes)
By this point it had been HOURS since breakfast so we were chuffed when the first part of the Waterfront we stumbled across was the Food Market
We shared some lunch from Africa Bites inside the food market, which was delicious!
Then walked through to The Watershed next door which had a very hipster feel and was filled with boutique shops, relaxation areas and coffee shops (as well as one of those self employed working spaces).
We grabbed dessert from a stand called Crumbs & Cream.
Then wandered round the main Waterfront where you can find the big wheel and hundreds more shops and restaurants.
Perfectly placed and with full bellies we made our way to catch a ferry to Robben Island, home to the former prison where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 incarcerated years.
The tour ticket cost around £28 each, departing near to The Waterfront and lasted about 4 hours (we pre-booked this before the holiday).
Disclaimer: the 3o minute boat ride over was pretty choppy and made me feel a little seasick
We got the last ferry back to the waterfront and decided to grab some quick dinner before heading back home for an early night!
CINNABON! We no longer have Cinnabon in London so I was especially happy to see those Tiffany blue boxes!
Moving on to something a little more substantial, we grabbed some fish and chips which cost us £12.20.
Although it felt like a bit of a cop out I didn’t mind too much as it was on my suggested “to eat list” while in Cape Town so I was happy we were still ticking something off!
With a successful first day under our belt it was time to head home…
We struggled to work out the Uber pick up points for a good 20 minutes before securing a lift back to our apartment.
6:45am – aka SAFARI TIME!
We booked our “Full Day Safari“ through the hotel which cost us £150 each.
Our friendly driver picked us up from The Onyx and drove us to Aquila Game Reserve 2 hour and 15 minutes away, through the beautiful South African countryside.
At 9am we arrived and were greeted with a welcome drink (prosecco or juice)
& first stop was breakfast…
…with a view!
We set off on a 2:30hr game drive at 10:15am and had one of the most amazing days of our life…
*Que Lion King Soundtrack*
We managed to spot 4 of the big 5 and the only one we sadly never saw was the leopard.
On return we had some lunch and were given the rest of the day as leisure time.
There was a pool, games room or spa to enjoy at Aquila but Alex wanted to get back out there, so we threw the risk of heat stroke to the wind and booked onto a quad bike tour– going back out with a tour guide to see the same areas as before (avoiding the lions) but from a different point of view!
This cost us an extra £143
After that it was time to head back to Cape Town.
Our lovely driver gave us lots of information and tips, one of which was to eat at a restaurant called Karibu when I asked for a good place to get some good old South African food.
So we got home, showered and booked an Uber back down to the Waterfront so we could grab a late table at Karibu.
We absolutely loved it here, we sat outside with a view of the beautiful waterfront all lit up and were served delicious food and wine by our amazing waitress all night.
Our whole meal was so yummy and although I found the koeksisters very underwhelming I’m glad we tried them.
The perfect end to an amazing day!
The whole meal cost around £66
The next monring was the first morning we weren’t rushing off so early that we couldn’t enjoy the hotel breakfast.
So that we did!
MRKT Cape Town was a charming, pro sustainability, Instagrammable cafe attached to the hotel.
We could have our fill of the buffet, order a main and coffee all included with our stay.
Not that they needed anything more than pretty neopolitan style coco pops and edible flowers to impress me!
First stop of the day- Kalk Bay a very pretty “hipster” fishing village on the coast of False Bay.
We had a little wander around the bay and shops before stopping for refreshments at The Courtyard Café
This little place looked so lovely we just had to stop for a smoothie and something sweet…
Our two smoothies and desserts cost us £10.27
Fuelled up, we booked an Uber to our second stop of the day…and a very special one at that!
Welcome to Boulders Beach
Home to thousands of African Penguins!
We paid to get onto the viewing deck with the rest of the tourists which cost us around £16 altogether and although it’s amazing…we knew of another way to get even closer to the magic!
We ventured down to the public beach…
Did a bit of crawling and climbing through the rocks …
Waded through some water with our backpacks on top of our heads… and before we knew it…we were chilling WITH the penguins!
It was completely surreal…
They were such funny little creatures and just went about their business (feet slapping the sand as they did so) while we sat and watched them
Although we respected their space, it was very hard resisting the urge to penguin-nap one!
Amazing amazing amazing! We didn’t want to leave!
Last stop of the day…
Part of Table Mountain National Park, our Uber driver kindly waited for us as we walked to the top soaking up the scenery…
It cost us around £30 to get into the reserve- you kind of get stopped at a toll further down the road to pay, we also had to pay a fee for our Uber driver to get through but to be completely honest I wasn’t really sure what was going on, we even panicked that he was pulling a fast one at one point but we hadn’t researched before hand so shame on us.
We spent an hour admiring the stunning views before making our way back down, so our driver could take us over to Cape of Good Hope (a short drive way)
It was such a beautiful spot to finish our day of exploring.
Tired, sweaty and burnt…we headed back home.
We were so beat that we just ended up eating at the hotel…in the amazing Asian restaurant YU.
Sushi was another thing on the “must eat foods in Cape Town” list, plus we love asian food so we didn’t need much convincing.
We loved this place, the food was delicious and the staff were so friendly and helpful!
Thank you and goodnight Cape Town!
We’re starting day 4 back at the breakfast buffet, for some pre-climbing energy!
Then it was back in an Uber and on our way to the starting point of Platteklip Gorge, ” the easiest, most direct hiking trail to the top of Table Mountain“
In our comfy/walking shoes and armed with plenty of water, we set off…
Two tough but rewarding hours later, we reached the summit!
Even with slightly poor visibility on one side of the mountain, the views were breath taking.
We spent around an hour walking the whole of the top, admiring the iconic views I’d seen so many times before when googling with excitement.
I tried to make friends with the Dassies
Then we grabbed a well deserved slice of pizza, before taking a more relaxed route back down the mountain….
For a one way ticket it cost us around £11 each
Next stop Camps Bay- following some research Alex said this bay was classed as the “posh” part of Cape Town.
Now I’m not so sure about that but what I was sure of was that it definitely felt a lot more like what we were used to on holiday, in terms of atmosphere etc…
For the first time in four days I felt completely at ease just walking down the street and apart from the stunning mountain views surrounds us, I could have easily believed we had been transported to one of the Canary Islands.
I guess what I’m trying to say is it felt a lot more “touristy” and safe, which we welcomed with open arms.
We had a walk up and down the promenade before stopping for a cocktail at Zenzero
This is where we planned to finish off our day in the same way we’d started it…hiking!
We’d been umming and arring as to whether we should do Lions Head while we were on a role or save it for another day.
Since we’d just tackled Table Mountain we figured it would be a nice way to see out our day, so after a nice rest in Camps Bay we booked an Uber to Lions Head.
Disclaimer: although I don’t WANT to speak negatively, the weather conditions and visibility were bad towards to end of our hike which caused our experience to be a very scary one for us. I was left feeling angry about the fact no one seems to warn you of just how extreme the drops and climbing conditions are towards the peak. According to the internet, Lions Head is a “must do” and less intense climb than Table Mountain, the internet also claims it’s suitable for children, I disagree! Granted we probably would have had a very different experience had the weather been dry BUT I would not suggest this climb for anyone with no climbing experience or tour guide. Should you be seeking a nice walk, turn back once you reach the climbing chains and ladders.
We set off in good time in order to reach the top by sunset.
The initial walk was lovely…
Eventually the track starts to narrow and although the drops were big, it was nothing we couldn’t handle (we had just climbed the monster Table Mountain after all).
The higher we got the bigger the drops (inevitably) and the path started to get rocky so it required a little more of our concentration.
The weather started to turn just in time for us to reach the climbing chains and ladders (little did we know we has just missed the path that would have allowed us to completely by-pass this section of the climb!)
Me and Alex both consider ourselves active people who enjoy a challenge but this was a case of one wrong slip and you could fall and die.
Ho-ly SH*T, that’s not what we signed up for!
I know what you’re thinking…Why didn’t we just turn back?
It was a combination of pride and lots of “oh we’re almost there now, last bit, come on” until before we knew it we were way out of our depth, with still a way to go!
You can call me dramatic but I don’t care, I was genuinely scared for my life.
I felt like my body was trying to shut me down, shaking from the sh*t tone of adrenaline pumping round me, exhausted from concentration, yet I just kept on climbing!
Eventually we made it to the summit and shock horror the panoramic views Lions Head is famous for was nowhere to be seen!
Example below (not my photo)
We hung around for as long as we could but we were itching to just get back down, so we began the decent back before it got dark! (because how the f’ing hell people do it in the dark is beyond me!)
I was so happy to be making my way back to earth and as we were all heading down talking about how we’d gone through all of that without even the reward of a beautiful sunset….
Suddenly, this happened…
The sunset we had been hoping for, found us.
And the power that sunset had on everyone was amazing…
After hours of major anxiety, I felt a sense of calm come over me.
It was so nice to just sit and admire the beauty of what had been such an insane day, disappear over the horizon.
And I was so grateful to that bloody sunset for lightening the mood…
Because boy did I need it!
The breath taking finish really helped to turn around what was almost a completely negative experience for us.
And I left that mountain with a re-found respect for mother nature and life itself!
We’d couldn’t have been happier to have our feet back on the ground and all of a sudden, I felt like I could handle all of the silly fears I’d been carrying around Cape Town with me until then!
Bring on the rest of our trip!
Shaken up and drained (mentally AND physically), we booked an Uber, went home and ate at YU again, going easy on our mains so we could enjoy dessert this time.
And I’ll tell you something, food never tasted so good!
Day 5 aka Saturday meant one thing, Saturday Market!
When I was doing my research for our itinerary the Old Biscuit Mill Saturday market was on every “to do” list.
So that was first on the agenda after breakfast!
Pulling up to the market was a bit surreal, we went from being very obviously in a different part of the world to suddenly being plonked in Cape Towns answer to Shoreditch.
Other than the glorious weather you would have honestly believed we were at some swanky, upmarket spot in London.
Boutique style shopping stalls…
A beautiful courtyard…
Food, drinks, wine tasting…
It had an amazing atmosphere and we loved just floating around taking it all in.
The Neighbourgoods Market was marvellous…
Everything was so colourful and vibrant…
The food, the flowers, the music, the smells, the street food.
It was a really special place.
Every stall, every corner we turned was just so attractive.
It was a true Instagrammers heaven!
After a good few hours of eating, drinking and soaking up everything the Old Biscuit Mill had to offer, we walked back round to the courtyard for an ice coffee from Espresso Lab (the best coffee in Cape Town apparently), booked an Uber…and reluctantly left.
We had places to be after all!
Again, another Cape Town must do, I knew I wanted to visit Kirstenosch to walk the tree canopy through the Jurassic Park-esque greenery!
It was a lovely way to spend our afternoon, walking around the grounds…however we hadn’t picked a very good time of year to visit as not much was in bloom.
Also for some reason I expected the tree canopy (tree snake) to be a lot longer than it was, but it was still a fun experience and all included in the entry price of around £8 for the both of us.
We stopped at the cafe for some refreshments.
After a lovely stroll around the gardens in the sunshine, it was time to make our way to the last stop of the day…
In the 1760’s these houses were built and leased to slaves (known as the Cape Malay people) and by rule, the houses had to be white in colour.
When the Cape Malays were finally allowed to buy their houses, the rule was lifted and as an expression of their freedom they painted them all different and brightly coloured.
To this day the neighbourhood remains, as do all of those wonderful colours, attracting tourists daily!
We were against the clock a bit because we were losing daylight and although Bo-Kaap is a popular destination for tourists in search of that Insta-worthy photo, it’s recommended not to hover after dark as it is still a neighbourhood and some of the nearby streets see drug related troubles.
We got there with literally enough time to get a couple of photos but the light just vanished before our eyes so we made our way to a local restaurant Biesmiellah for some dinner.
Concerned about how late we had decided to make our way to Bo-Kaap I planned ahead as this restaurant is recommended online.
It’s one of those “doesn’t look like much from the outside but serves amazing food” type of places…and even though I KNEW this going in, I still worried a little as we approached.
That didn’t last long however as the friendly staff welcomed us and took our order.
It was cheap as chips and so bloody good!
For a main and a cola each, we paid around £10! Tip included we paid about £13 for our whole meal.
Our star of a waitress also offered to let us hotspot off of her phone as they had no wifi for us to order an Uber home.
Adventured, fed and ready for bed!
Thank you day 5!
We kicked our last full day in Cape Town off the same way we started it, with a tour!
By this point (ignoring the fact we booked to go shark cage diving but it was cancelled) the only thing we were yet to do was get out into the Countryside for a taste of South Africa’s famous vineyards!
Again, going through the hotel we booked an all day wine tasting tour for around £100.
We were picked up bright and early and whisked off to our first vineyard of the day, for a cheese and wine tasting!
This was probably my favourite vineyard of the three, not only because of the on site goats but I just loved the whole, bakery/deli vibe it had going on and just preferred the character of the place.
I also loved that the tasting was paired with cheese as I’m much more a foodie then I am a wino.
This one was soooo pretty (as you can see) and had the most beautiful sculpture filled courtyard, where we sat for our second wine tasting.
We then headed to the nearby town Franscchoek for some well needed lunch to soak up all the alcohol!
Stopping at an iconic spot on the way!
Victor Vester Prison, famous for being where Nelson Mandela spent the last years of his imprisonment.
Due to the gates being so far away from the prison itself, Mandela was offered a lift on the day of his release. He declined the offer and instead went on to walk his “long road to freedom”.
Franscchoek itself was a very quaint little town…
We stopped for lunch at a restaurant chosen by the tour company.
We had to pay for our own lunch, it was not included in the price of the tour.
Me and Alex went for a sharing platter for £15, consisting of some South African favourites AND bagged seats on the right side of our table for the view!
Then we were allowed some time to have a little explore on our own, so me and Alex took a wander.
We popped into a few shops, picked up a magnet and then hit the road once again and made our way to the last vineyard of the tour.
The biggest of the three, Warwick was very picturesque and the grounds were being enjoyed by everyone from us to couples and families with children.
With stunning views for miles, we sat outside and enjoyed our last stop/tasting of the day.
We honestly had a lovely day and got on so well with our tour guide and the rest of the group.
Once our tasting was over we made our way back to Cape Town and made our way to The Waterfront for some dinner.
THEN, finally we grabbed ourselves some doughnuts for dessert.
(Pineapple, mango and strawberry milkshake. The mango filled was by far the best, YUM!)
OUR LAST DAY- boooooooo!
With our flight home looming over us, we set out to make the most of our last day!
Firstly though, Alex had booked us a 90 minute couples massage at the hotels Sanctuary Spa, which was perfectly planned after all of our city exploring and hiking!
I believe it cost around £55 each, our therapists were AMAZING, our massage was BEAUTIFUL and it felt so needed!
We were offered a glass of prosecco to enjoy by the pool while we continued to relax after our heavenly treatment.
Although we could have just plonked ourselves there all day, we still had things we were yet to tick off of our to do list…so we set off on foot to check out Green Market and find somewhere we could order and finally try a Gatsby!
Green Market was so colourful and vibrant
We had a little wander around the stalls then as we were close to Mariams Kitchen at St Georges Mall, we popped in and got a Gatsby to share (and believe me you need to share because they’re HUGE)!
The Gatsby sandwich is said to have originated in 1976 by Rashaad Pandy who created them as a way to feed groups of day labourers when food was spars.
It was basically a big chip butty and I love a chip butty so I was more than happy!
We then walked back down for one last lap of the food market and water front before heading back to our hotel.
Sadly it was time to say goodbye to Cape Town, call an Uber to the airport and get back to our lovely little London flat.
We kept the party going by enjoying a glass of “Jordan” at the airport.
Then before we knew it we were back on the central line and it was all over!
We got back to our tidy flat (which we tactfully planned) which felt lovely and popped the kettle on to enjoy some of our Cape Town biscuits finds, before it was time to settle into Christmas.
We both had the most amazing time in Cape Town and left very high on life.
During our visit to South Africa I kept finding myself having mindful moments, realising how lucky we are to be on such a once in a life time holiday, going on safari and sunbathing with penguins.
I couldn’t have felt further away from our every day routine/life.
I think when you travel and see just how big the world is, it makes you realise just how small we are and in turn, how small the things we let stress us out and hold in high importance really are too.
It puts things into perspective and that’s why travelling as much as I can is important to me.
Seeing the world and enjoying it with the people I love is such a special feeling and Cape Town will always be a part of that.
Thank you Cape Town!