Table Mountain brought to you by Visa!

Trip Start Aug 15, 2011
Trip End Sep 02, 2011

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Flag of South Africa  , Western Cape,
Thursday, August 18, 2011

Greetings from Cape Town where your intrepid travel correspondent has already put in one full day of touring after two grueling days of travel to actually get here! Let me first start off by saying that Cape Town is just as vibrant, picturesque and exotic as the pictures make it appear which is good as MR and I had serious doubts about whether it was worth it given all it took to get here!

Let me quickly recap starting with when I left work on Monday night at 5 p.m. to head to DC National airport to fly to JFK airport in New York for our Tuesday am flight to South Africa. I am walking to my car to grab my bags when MR calls my cell to say our flight to JFK has been cancelled and we are getting rebooked on the 6 a.m. flight on Tuesday. She also informs me our flight to South Africa is already showing a 5 hour delay the next day. So we both head to our homes to enjoy one last night at home only to then get a call saying our 6 a.m. flight has been cancelled and they cannot get us to JFK in time to make our flight to SA. Bottom line we end up taking the train to Penn Station in NYC, ate lunch at a great pub near the station and cabbed out to JFK. By now our flight to SA is delayed until 5:30. We finally board and get to Johannesburg only to find out our Cape Town flight is now delayed which means we finally arrived at our hotel around 11:30 p.m. Cape Town time on Wednesday evening, nearly 36 hours after we began traveling!

So, on a whopping 5 hours of sleep, we hit the ground running this morning with a trip to the top of Table Mountain. We head out through Cape Town checking out the brightly colored buildings, gorgeous architecture and diverse citizenry along the way as we climb up several switchbacks to get about 1500 feet above Cape Town to catch a cable car to the summit of the mountain. The mountain itself is impressive -- it literally towers over the city with its massive stone slab of sheer sandstone which is 1640 ft at the summit and is over 31 miles long!

The first thing we notice upon arriving is not the majesty of the mountain itself, but the fact the Visa logo is everywhere! Seriously, whatever Visa paid for the advertising rights to the mountain is worth it as their logo is everywhere you turn around -- on the cable cars, on the umbrellas at the shops, on the signs and cannot escape the notice of the millions of passengers who go to the top each year. No wonder MR and I felt the urge to shop once we left the mountain! :-)

The mountain is the iconic landmark of Cape Town and of South Africa as it dominates the skyline from every direction. It is remarkably flat (hence the name) which because of the sandstone composition basks in the sunlight to literally glow when the sun peeks out and the almost constant clouds which shroud it are what locals refer to as the "tablecloth." We arrived to a very cloudy shroud, but then the sun peeked out with gorgeous shafts of light that made it appear magical! At over 1600 feet looking down on the majesty of the mountain and the incomparable views, it is hard not to feel overwhelmed by the beauty and wonder of it all. We just felt really lucky as it was just perfect weather which apparently is very rare here.

The cable car ride was unlike anything I have ever done and it is apparently one of the most frequently used cable cars in the world -- over 18 million people have ridden in them since they started in 1929! No wonder Visa bought the naming rights . . . . The floor of the cable car revolves while you are in it which is really freaky -- I thought the bottom was going to drop out and trust me when you look down that is not the feeling you want to have!! The views were incomparable though and it was an awesome experience as the pictures attest.

We then headed to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. It is named after Queen Victoria and her second son, Alfred, not her son or husband Albert as most people incorrectly assume. They dedicated it back in 1860 and it is now the most scenic harbor in the world. The sparkling waters of the Atlantic and the grandeur of Table Mountain provide a perfect backdrop for what is the most photographed place in Cape Town. It is one of the busiest cargo ports in the world and is the number one port for ship repairs -- there is even a Ship Repair Institute!! It includes an iconic piece of Victoriana, the Clock Tower, which dates back to 1882, South Africa's largest crafts markets, hundreds of other shops and restaurants, and a massive aquarium with over 3000 species from the Two Oceans it is named after -- the Indian and Atlantic. MR and I heeded the calling of our Visa subliminal inspiration and did some serious time in the shops! We loved the local crafts and learned a lot chatting with the various artisans all of whom were so proud of their town and eager to share that with us -- seriously some of the friendliest people either of us have ever encountered in our travels!

With that, I will close this missive as it is getting long and we have a very long day tomorrow heading to the Cape of Good Hope where we hope to see lots of wildlife and more scenic vistas! Until tomorrow, your Visa sponsored intrepid travel correspondent :-)
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