According to most travel pundits, Cape Town is South Africa’s most beautiful, most romantic, and most visited city. It is located on the mountainous Cape Peninsula spine, which slides into the Atlantic Ocean. One of its most striking sites is Table Mountain. Standing on the tabletop, each district of the city is visible. To the north are the docks, lined with ships. To the west, it is a sheer drop across pricey real estate. To the south, the mountains are forested, along with several vineyards. To the east, it is the grim industrial area, also home to coloured townships and Black ghettos.
Capetowners love the outdoors, and prefer mountain bikes to autos. But the urban environment is rich with the indigenous Cape Dutch style of architecture. Muslim slaves, freed in the nineteenth century, added their minarets to the skyline. And the English, who invaded and freed the slaves, added their Georgian and Victorian buildings. Sprinkle in some vineyards and wine estates for some Napa Valley ambience.
CT is the second most populous city in South Africa. The city is known for its harbour and well-known landmarks like Table Mountain, and Cape Point. National Geographic magazine lists Cape Town as one of the most iconic cities on the planet. The city of Cape Town was first developed by the Dutch East India Company as a supply station for Dutch ships sailing to East Africa, India, and the Far East. It quickly outgrew its original purpose as the first European outpost and became the hub of economic and cultural activity in the Cape. Until the Witwatersrand Gold Rush and resulting development of Johannesburg, Cape Town was the largest city in South Africa.
The population of Cape Town is now pushing 4 million residents. Cape Town was also the home to many of the leaders of the anti-apartheid movement. Robben Island, about 10 km from the city, is the former penitentiary for many famous political prisoners. On February 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela made his first public speech in decades from the balcony of the Cape Town City Hall. The Nobel Square features four South African Peace Prize winners: Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, F. W. deKlerk, and Nelson Mandela. But HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis plague the city now, while the economy has surged due to the boom in tourism and real estate.
Tourism is booming due to good climate, natural setting, and well-developed infrastructure. The most notable attraction is Table Mountain National Park. Many tourists and locals love the beaches, each with different settings and atmosphere. The two sides of the city offer dramatically different water temperatures. The Atlantic side is reminiscent of the California coast (55 degrees) due to the Benuela current. But the False Bay side is considerably warmer (61 to 62 degrees) due to the warmer Agulhas current. But both coasts are equally popular.
The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is the most visited tourist attraction. It contains one of the city’s most popular shopping venues and the Two Oceans Aquarium. Cape Town is also known for its Dutch heritage with a high density of Cape Dutch style buildings. The city also encloses the 36 hectare Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, with 7000 species under cultivation. And for us, the Cape Winelands are among the most popular day trips out of the city proper.
But the real question is, “Why Cape Town?” We are here to visit our friend, Barry who we met two years ago in Santiago, Chile. We were staying at the same hotel. We struck up a lively conversation in the internet room. Mike and I invited him to join us for dinner, a rather long dinner. After cruising for drinks, we ended up at a Chilean place next door to the hotel. As luck would have it, we could stumble back to our rooms with no risk.
Dinner started out around 6pm and did not end until well after midnight. Several drinks, two bottles of wines, some Chilean beef, lots of funny stories, a smoke-filled dining room, it was evening to remember. Barry invited us to visit in Cape Town, where he formerly had a law practice. He sold it all to travel the world. Back in Cape Town, he has been a copy writer, and a stand up comic. Maybe the jobs are interchangeable? I meant the lawyer and comedy jobs.
So, we are using his place in Cape Town as our base, and the perfect conclusion to our trip to the Dark Continent. Our first stops were Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls, Botswana, Tanzania, Washington Dulles, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Johannesburg. And who knows where we might end up upon our arrival here in C.T. on Monday.