As you drive in to Cape Town you are presented with the beautiful Table Mountain. This gigantic mountain towers over the city at all times and when you first see it in all its glory, making the big city of Cape Town seem miniscule, it takes your breath away. I don’t think I have ever been to a city as beautiful as Cape Town. Yes, Paris has wonderful streets and rivers and great architecture, but Cape Town has a mix of tall city buildings and genuine natural beauty. From the Table Mountain overlooking the city to the beaches that surround it and the picturesque harbour, Cape Town feels like a place that really does have it all. It’s hard to imagine just how impressive a sight it must have been for the first sailors to sail into the bay hundreds of years ago.
During our time in Cape Town we stayed at a cool backpackers called Once In Cape Town. This four story hostel had hundreds of rooms and dormitories and was full of travellers from all over the world. It also had a bar that opened out onto the street and was always busy, giving the place a great atmosphere. We were going to be staying at Once In Cape Town for just a few days before heading to Stellenbosch, before coming back to the city for a week in an apartment we’d rented through Air BnB.
On our first full day in Cape Town, Claire and I wondered along down to the V&A Waterfront, a boat filled harbour populated with nice cafes, interesting shops and other lovely attractions. On our way around the harbour in the mid morning sunshine we stopped on a swing bridge to watch some seals gliding through the water. We then spent hours browsing a fantastic market situated inside an old disused warehouse, before making our way upstairs to the Body Worlds exhibition. This exhibition was showcasing the work of Dr Gunther von Hagen and saw lots of human bodies preserved using plasticisation. These bodies and organs and other bits and pieces were on display to show how the human body operates. There were full bodies stripped of skin, showing off how muscles worked. There were also others showing how our nervous systems worked, and there were plenty of organs on display to explain how we digest food, breathe and more. It was incredibly fascinating and very insightful. Claire had been to see an exhibition of his work a previous year in London, but for me, this was the first time I had ever come across anything like this.
Every first Thursday of the month, Cape Town puts on a mini festival of music, art and food. On Bree Street – a street not far from where we were staying – many bars and restaurants display work by local artists and everyone goes out for drinks and a good time. Luckily for us, Once In Cape Town were sending one of their staff members with whoever wanted to join him on a walk through the area to see what was on offer. Claire and I were planning on heading to Bree Street anyway, so decided to join the group. However, as soon as we set off we knew something wasn’t right. The young guy who was guiding us was looking at a map in order to know where to take us. He clearly didn’t know the way, which was weird considering we were about 10 minutes from the street where it was all happening. He kept glancing from a big A3 map, to his mobile phone. The group was about twenty strong, and you could tell the pressure of a large group’s fun relying solely on him was getting to him. Anyway, after standing around outside a hotel for twenty minutes, waiting for him to get his bearings and find somewhere to take us, Claire and I decided to go off on our own. We said our goodbyes and made our way to a gin bar we’d heard about. Turns out it was a good move, as the next day we found out they’d left that hotel to head to a gallery, walking for twenty minutes, just to discover it was shut. I felt bad for the guy. That must have been an awkward moment.
But anyway, Claire and I had a really great night trying out different gin and whiskey cocktails in a couple of bars and ended up chatting to two girls from Johannesburg who had both recently moved to Cape Town. We had a great time just drinking and talking with them and ended up getting their numbers to hang out the following week when we were back in town. After we left them we made our way to a Mexican place for some food and then went back to the backpackers. The whole area was brimming with people and the atmosphere in the streets was amazing. There was music playing from a number of locations that were all so full that people had spilled out into the street.
The next night we were lucky enough to see New Zealand reggae dub band Fat Freddy’s Drop. We’ve been fans of the band for years and sadly were missing Boomtown Festival this year where they were headlining. So when we saw that they had a show on in Cape Town during our stay we jumped at the chance to see them live. The show was taking place outdoors in a park, which normally would have been fine. However, on this particular day the wind was so strong that it felt like standing in a hurricane. In the build up to the show, whilst the crowd was still small, the howling wind was too much and we were freezing. People were being blown all over the place and every time someone put down a plastic cup of beer, it went flying. Never before have I wished that it was socially acceptable for human beings to huddle together for warmth in the same manner that penguins do. But at that point I was on the verge of gathering everyone together. In the end we stuck it out and by the time the band were on stage there was a crowd big enough to soak up all of the wind. It was almost warm. Fat Freddy’s Drop put on a fantastic show. It was really great. They played a nice mix of old and new songs, and we went away having had a brilliant evening, made all the more enjoyable by the fact that we didn’t get crushed by a falling tree or a piece of stage lighting that had been loosened by the gale force winds.
As well as the exhibition and the gig, Claire and I spent plenty of our time in Cape Town eating in lovely restaurants and drinking in cool bars. Our stay was very enjoyable and we left in order to head to Stellenbosch to drink some wine, looking forward to returning in a few days to see more of what Cape Town had to offer.