SOUTH AFRICA’S LEGISLATIVE CAPITAL AND ONE OF THE MOST NATURALLY GLORIOUS URBAN COMMUNITIES IN THE WORLD, CAPE TOWN IS A WONDER OF STYLE, SIZZLE, AND SOPHISTICATION
BY MATT SCANLON, WITH REPORTING BY SUSAN HORNIK
Known among locals as the “Mother City,” Cape Town is the oldest urban center in South Africa, its legislative capital (the seat of Parliament, while the Presidential seat is in Pretoria), and one of the most multicultural communities on the planet. Its vibrant energy, thriving art scene, and world famous nearby vineyards will invigorate a broad diversity of imaginations and tastes.
Indigenous people have had a presence in what’s known as the Cape Floristic Region since at least 12,000 B.C. Beginning in 1652 with the arrival of the Dutch East India Company, there has been a Dutch presence in what over time became a colony of both that nation and Great Britain, then in 1910 an independent nation: the Afrikaners controlled Union of South Africa. Marginalization of native South Africans of color evolved into institutionalized Apartheid segregation, which ended in 1991. Since then, though this urban home to 430,000 people has seen its growing pains, the process of healing has been remarkable, resulting in a blaze of flavors, traditions, religions, and aesthetics.
October and November’s spring climate (remember that seasons are largely reversed in the Southern Hemisphere) is simply perfection, with average temperatures hovering between 70°F and 74°F, and with modest rainfall.
The city boasts one of the highest biodiversity levels of any urban inclusive area on Earth; a World Heritage Site, it features 2,200 species of plants in the Table Mountain area alone (more than in the entire United Kingdom). So, if you are up for adventure, take in this natural beauty via Jeep safari, admiring the wild animals and stunning waterfalls along the way. There’s also, of course, the majestic South Atlantic Ocean to be in awe of, and Surfer magazine voted Cape Town one of the “Top 10 Surf Cities In The World.”
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Don’t forget to pack comfortable walking shoes, as a remarkable number of must sees are within a twomile radius of the City Centre’s best hotels neighborhoods such as the Silo District at the V&A Waterfront (near the extraordinary Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa and Two Oceans Aquarium) and free Anchor Bay and its charming Dutch Colonial architecture. Not a walker? Unless you are used to driving on the left side of the road, take a taxi, bus, or Uber. Better yet, hire a tour guide with a car.
With LGBTQ travel generating more revenue than ever, we recently attended Africa’s Travel Indaba conference. There, Justin Barnette, who heads marketing and communications for South Africa Tourism’s USA and Canada Hub, pointed out that the country is making even greater efforts at welcoming LGBTQ travelers.
“As the first nation in the world to include a sexual orientation protection clause in our Constitution, and the fifth to legalize same sex marriage, South Africans can take immense pride that our LGBTQ citizens are full and equal members of our society, ” he said. Currency is the South African rand (ZAR), which was worth 7¢ at time of press.
Even seasoned world travelers will be awed by this 3,558 foot high and 260 million year old flat topped peak, the country’s most iconic natural landmark and home to the aforementioned blaze of flora, but also unique species of porcupines, snakes, lizards, mongooses, tortoises, and other fauna, including the rare rooikat (caracal), a medium sized wild cat. Older than the Andes, Alps, Rocky Mountains, and Himalayas, the mountain offers vistas that quite literally have to be seen to be believed. Hike to the top if you’re up for it, but there’s also a cableway.
KIRSTENBOSCH NATIONAL BOTANICAL GARDEN
Named “Garden of the Year” by the International Garden Tourism Awards Body and at the eastern foot of Table Mountain, this extraordinary institution preserves plant species from five of South Africa’s six biomes, and was one of the first national gardens (founded in 1913) to make its principal focus the preservation of native species. There’s a beautiful treetop canopy walkway called The Boomslang that is beyond lovely, along with a manor house, restaurant, and educational center. sanbi.org/gardens/kirstenbosch
While it’s been 25 years since Nelson Mandela the hero of anti-Apartheid activism and President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999 passed away, his life and legacy seem to be everywhere. A trip to this former island prison, one that housed many political prisoners, and Mandela from 1964 to 1982, makes for a fascinating and thought provoking experience. A South African National Heritage Site and UNESCO World Heritage Site, its places of interest include army and navy bunkers, the maximum security prison, and the Bluestone quarry (each part of the Robben Island Museum), and all can be taken in via a 3.5 hour tour. robben island.org.za
WHERE TO STAY
THE SILO CAPE TOWN
Towering above the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront and occupying six floors above Zeitz Museum, this thoroughly unique hotel was built in the grain elevator portion of a historic silo complex (once the city’s tallest building), the exterior designed by Heatherwick Studio to include rows of pillowed and textured glass windows inserted into the existing concrete frame. This makes for a multifaceted structure that glistens during the day and ornaments Table Bay harbor at night. Part of The Royal Portfolio collection, the hotel features 28 rooms (all designed and decorated by Liz Biden), among the more wonderful the 2,012 square foot one bedroom penthouse, which faces Table Mountain and features triple compass point views of the city and a 258 square foot balcony. Silo Square, V&A Waterfront 800, theroyalportfolio.com/the silo
A five star boutique hotel consisting of 17 luxurious rooms and suites, Leeu is just a few miles northeast of the city and sited on part of a 247 acre stretch of Swartland region vineyards (that includes Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines), and is further highlighted by landscaped gardens and indigenous Franschhoek Valley vegetation. It’s an ideal setting for an elegant private hideaway offering five star dining and platinum service. All rooms sport bespoke furniture and fine linens, plus horsehair, leather, wood and stone accents, radiant floor heating, and marble clad baths with rain showers. The uppermost end is the Max House Cottage ($2,250, the terrace of which is seen above) at a sprawling 4,500 square feet and in an original Cape Dutch gabled building. It includes a living room with fireplace, a dining room, pantry, and a kitchen in which a private chef can be engaged. Dassenberg Road, Franschhoek, leeucollection.com/SA/leeu estates
RADISSON BLU WATERFRONT
Just off Grange Bay Harbor and with Table Mountain soaring behind, the Radisson is a brief stroll from the pulsing business center and the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront’s world class shops, restaurants, cinemas, and working port. It’s also a short shuttle or cab ride to beautiful beaches and wineries. On site is a heated rim flow Atlantic view pool, which you can combine with a beverage at Tobago’s Bar & Terrace, then perhaps a massage at the Amani Spa. 100 Beach Road, radissonhotels.com/en us/hotels/radissonblu Cape Town waterfront
DINE AND DRINK
ALBA RESTAURANT BOAT
Fine dining on Cape Town’s indigo waters is a peak experience, and the 66 foot Alba (see photo on next page) can accommodate 72 guests for sit down dinner or 100 for cocktails. Floor to ceiling windows and air conditioning keep things visually majestic and comfy. Two hour Dinner Cruises (Monday through Sunday) depart at 7:00 p.m., are a remarkable bargain at $50 per person, and include a glass of bubbly on arrival, a three course menu with wine pairings, and coffee and tea. thealba.co.za
The latest from The Kove Collection and designed as a lovely combination of easygoing bistro (note the plentiful bookshelves) and vibrant ocean themed eatery, Bobo’s offers innovative takes on low key French classics such as gorgeous local oysters with lemon, black pepper, and mignonette; vegetarian Parisian Dumplings with ricotta and Parmigiano Reggiano, asparagus, leeks, chives, and lemon; and Beef Tartare (seen here) dry aged beef, capers, cornichons, “gentleman’s relish,” and confit egg yolk. Our obsession is the Chef Signature Bouillabaisse entrée, with fennel, celery, garlic, mussels, prawns, white fish, rouille, and toasted sourdough. 1 Two Oceans Beach, Beach Road, bobosbrasserie.co.za
SEVEN SISTERS WINERY
With over 2,000 vineyards and wine estates in the Western Cape, you’ll struggle to decide which bottles to ship home. Located east of the Drakenstein Mountains, Seven Sisters is 15 miles southeast of the city and owned by the Brutus sisters and their brother. The clan grew up in the fishing village of Paternoster on the outskirts of Cape Town, and struggled for years to survive financially before founding this extraordinary operation that creates wines to suit the style and personality of each sister. Tastings for visitors includes all six of the house wines, including the remarkable 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, with its flavors of blackcurrant, black cherry, and plum, with hints of dark chocolate and spice. 468/132 Welmoed Road (off Annandale Road), Lynedoch, sevensisters.co.za