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Cape Town on Foot, Pt I

Waterfront

Image via Wikipedia

Originally, we had set aside the second day for  Table Mountain but our guide, Ian Reinders, insisted we go that first day following our visit to Robben Island. His reasoning was simple: the weather was good and if we waited, it might change and we wouldn’t get to see the mountain. Since we had only 5 days in Cape Town, we didn’t want to take any chances so we agreed.

When we woke that morning, we were both happy and relieved that we had been flexible and listened to Ian. Clouds covered the city and a light rain fell intermittently.

Even on a cloudy day, it’s hard to escape the almost sterile beauty of Cape Town. Some places look so new, so clean, they feel as if they were just built.

After a late breakfast, we decided to head out and explore the city on our own. Tony, a friend in Cape Town, had sent us a list of places to see and eat and our friend, Lorraine Klaasen had recommended Mzoli’s Place, so food was covered.

We wanted to visit the Slave Lodge, a museum, and go to the Green Market Square, a shopping area we had heard good things about. Everything, it seemed was on or near Long Street – the heart of the city – so we asked directions and headed out on foot.

Cape Town walkway

The streets around the V&A were almost empty, as if everyone had left town. I wondered where they could be, where the residential areas were and how far away the townships – and the action — would be.

Don’t get me wrong: we saw people – at the V&A Waterfront, at Table Mountain and Robben Island, and on the streets. But even during the week, I never saw anything that rivaled the hustle and bustle of Johannesburg.

News of the day

Nevertheless, Ian kept reminding us to be careful and we’d remind him that we live in New York and also get the same warnings each time we visit Jamaica so we knew how to keep our guards up. The evening before, Judith and I wanted to use an ATM that was inside the mall at the V&A. Ian insisted on accompanying us and warned that we stand guard behind whoever was using the machine. I felt he was being overly protective but I figured it’s his city, he’d know it better.

But apart from a woman with a child who approached us in the mall asking for money — unfortunately, living in a large city like New York, we’ve become inured to people like her and spotted her a mile away — no one bothered us and we felt completely safe.

Along the way, we noticed a cab driver and asked him to take us to Long Street. He told us we were only 10 minutes’ away so if we wanted to, we could walk. He even gave us directions to get there! Okay, we’re definitely not in New York!

Sure enough, after a leisurely walk, we noticed the sign for Long Street. Right away, the energy felt different – still not as bustling as Johannesburg or New York but definitely livelier than before. People were hustling about and there were lots more cars, buses and noise.

It was hard not to miss the first shop we stumbled on. Life sized African figures, wooden carvings and furniture marked the entrance to the small store that was chock full of stuff: jewelry, fabric, sandals, carvings and more decorated the walls and sprouted from either side of the narrow walkway. We had to be careful not to knock anything over but despite that, we ended up spending nearly 2 hours browsing, haggling, and socializing with the Nigerian owner, who told us he was a prince back home (aren’t all Nigerians princes back home, a friend asked me when I related the story) before hunger pushed us to look for lunch.

With the Nigerian Prince

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Cape Town: Kissing Table Mountain

Ian was right. Under a dazzling sunshine and with hardly a cloud in the sky when we arrived, Table Mountain was spectacularly alluring.

It seemed to rise straight up out of the ground, then stop abruptly as if something, or someone, had blunted its ascent.

We got our tickets and boarded the funicular that would take us the nearly 3,600 feet to the top of the mountain. Watching the buildings and cars below as they got smaller and smaller, I felt my ears pop in reaction to the change in altitude.

Climbing the mountain

Cable car

Table Mountain welcome

Mapping the mountain

View from the Table

We’re far from home!

Table Mountain flower

More Table Mountain flowers

City view

Mountain view

More views

More mountain views

Cape coastline

Robben Island seen from Table Mountain

Cape Town Stadium seen from the Mountain

Mountain dassie (rodent)

Enjoying the mountain

About the table cloth

Stone monument

Kissing the mountain

I spoke with my Aunt Connie, before I left for South Africa. It had been her dream, she told me, to visit Table Mountain. She was so thrilled I was going, she asked that I kiss it for her. After I laid this stone, I remembered the promise I made Aunt Connie. I’m glad I was able to “kiss the mountain” for her. It was a great way to end our first day in Cape Town.

 

Robben Island – “We’re all on this journey together”

We knew from the outset that one of our Cape Town ‘must-sees’ would be Robben Island so we purchased our tickets before we even left the U.S.

Despite being walking distance from our accommodations at the V&A Waterfront to the Nelson Mandela Gateway, if our guide, Ian, hadn’t shown up when he did, we would have missed the boat – we were so late getting ready!

Seeing Cape Town on our first morning, bathed in the sparkling golden sunlight, was breathtaking. But shortly after leaving our temporary apartment, we were at the ferry terminal.

Getting on the ferry

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Cape Town in Photographs

Since I began the postaday2011 challenge, I’ve not missed a day. But writing about our visit to Robben Island took a lot longer than I imagined.

So, enjoy these photos of Cape Town.

Cape Town Coke Man

I know these look like Lego blocks but they are actually empty Coca Cola crates.

Nobel Square

South Africa’s four Nobel Peace prize winners: Alfred Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, F. W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela.

Nobel Square – Statues

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