It’s great to be a tourist in your own city
Capetoniansdon’toftenfrequentwell-wornlandmarkssuch astheTwoOceansAquariumortheTableMountain CablewaybutNerineDormantakesadelightfultripdown memorylanewithherbestfriend
IT’S not every day I decide to play tourist in my own stomping ground. After all, how many more times could I visit Table Mountain or the V&A Waterfront? I work in the CBD. All I have to do is step outside into St George’s Mall and look up at the mountain.
It’s not going anywhere soon unless the Mayan calendar is something we have to be worried about. Granted, it’s not every day my best friend flies in from Namibia and when Carmen dropped by for a whirlwind visit, I decided to show her some of the city’s best attractions.
Whenever my foreign friends ask me about the best time of the year to explore Cape Town, I tell them it’s March to May or August to October, or thereabouts. Our winters are miserable when it rains for days on end and, hell, if you’ve spent the past three decades of your life enduring the prevailing southeaster during summer, you’d also be plain bats.
One of the Mother City’s treats that I never tire of indulging in is a stroll along Long Street. Despite recent yuppie-fying attempts that have resulted in many of its second-hand bookshops and other quaint stores vanishing, it still delivers a bohemian atmosphere. Yes, there are loads of über-trendy boutiques and cafés but where else can you get a tattoo, pierce your nose, browse for some funky gear and sip cappuccino, all during a leisurely morning or afternoon? Some of my favourite haunts include Cape t o Cuba f or mojit os, Baobab Books for more titles to add to my collection and Wildfire’s tattoo and body piercing parlour.
Carmen and I embarked on our adventure on a Monday, so I can’t guarantee what queues are like for the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway on a weekend. We also used Go Cape Town cards, so we didn’t have to stand in queues to buy tickets for the cableway or the Two Oceans Aquarium, and could have also timed our travels to coincide with those red topless buses.
This was the first time I’d been anywhere near the cableway since being a mousy pre-teen brat and I must admit I knew exactly what to expect, but Carmen really enjoyed the ride up and down. The cable car revolves nowadays, so it doesn’t matter where you stand, you’ll get a stomach-dropping view of the surrounding area.
Be warned, take a warm jacket or jersey when visiting Table Mountain. We were lucky, the mist closed in only as we were leaving and there wasn’t much wind. Carmen and I oohed and aahed at lichen-encrusted rocks contorted into fantastical goblin profiles, mused on future walks and took photos of the mist boiling over Signal Hill. We laughed at the fat dassies mooching for treats.
The restaurant at the top is expensive, but the offerings look yummy if you don’t mind paying five-star prices. We stuck to our overpriced soft drinks then whizzed down to our car again.
Some advice from a local: if you’re willing to walk, the parking garage diagonally across from the Two Oceans Aquarium is slightly less expensive than parking under t he V& A Water f r ont complex.
By the time Carmen and I wended our way from a quick bite of food, the sky was overcast and we were glad our little sortie to the aquarium had been scheduled for the latter part of the day.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve visited the aquarium but I’m always happy to return, as there’s always an exhibit that has changed or some new detail I’ve missed from a previous excursion. Here’s a tip: plan your visit to coincide with feeding times. We were lucky to catch the turtle-and rayfeeding slots, and found the sight of a diver with half his arm vanishing into a giant stingray’s maw vastly amusing.
Parents can happily stand back and let their sprogs investigate the touch pool, where aquarium volunteers facilitate informative tactile demonstrations involving sea stars, kelp, abalone, sea urchins and more. I loved the new frog exhibit, gaining my first glimpses of a giant bullfrog and the arum lily frogs hiding inside the flowers from which they draw their names.
Cape Town offers a lot more than can be experienced in only a handful of days. There was so much more that I wanted to show Carmen but time didn’t allow. I’m kind of stoked to know that I live in such a groovy city. I really
should get out more.
You can buy your Go Cape Town cards at the ticket offices for City Sightseeing Cape Town, the Two Oceans Aquarium, Table Mountain Aerial Cableway, Cape Town Tourism offices in the city or online at www.webtickets.co.za. Alternatively, visit www.gocapetown card.co.za for details. Other highlights:
Iziko SA National Gallery for an arty experience. See www.iziko.org.za/sang/
Roxy’s Café on Dunkley Square for Bohemian-style café fare and the best milkshakes.
Feeding squirrels in the Company’s Garden.
See www. c a petown. gov. z a / E N/ PARKS/ FACILITIES/ Pages/ CapeTown Gardens.aspx
Feeling bookish? Visit The Book Lounge to browse and buy, or attend one of its events (book launches). See www.booklounge.co.za/
Coffee, anyone? For simply the best coffee in town, drop by the Deluxe Coffee Workshop, situated off Church Street in Mandela Rhodes Place.