It’s great to be a tourist in your own city

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Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - TRAVEL 2010 -

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.

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