Let me see

Trip Start May 12, 2009
Trip End May 24, 2009

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Flag of South Africa  , Western Cape,
Sunday, May 17, 2009

We slept in today since there was no plan due to the inclement weather.  The 2 big attractions in Cape Town are Robben Island and going to the top of Table Mountain.  Robben Island is their version of Alcatraz.  It is an island off the coast of Cape Town that includes, among other things, a prison that housed Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners in the 70s, 80s, and 90s.  Table Mountain is the flat mountain behind Cape Town which produces excellent views of the city.  The plan was to do these as soon as the weather permitted and then plan the rest of the trip afterward.  

Surprisingly the weather was a little cloudy, but no rain.  So we wanted to have a quick breakfast and see if we could go to either of the activities.  There were a couple of areas to have breakfast at the hotel.  Our air/hotel package came with free breakfast, so we asked which restaurant this was for, and found out it was in The Atlantic restaurant (the biggest restaurant in the hotel).  We are seated shortly after walking in we noticed perhaps the largest breakfast buffet in the city.  This thing rivaled what they produce in Vegas.  There was a whole table of just fruits, another of salads, one for cereals.  Then once you turned the corner, there was another long table of hot items and finally one more corner turned for breads, oysters, sushi, cheese, and whatever else you could think of (Amy took pictures of almost all the tables which you can see above if you show all thumbnails).  There was a made to order hot breakfast on top of this.  (In case you can't tell, I go into a lot of detail about food.  Guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree). We ask the waitress whether this is the Sunday brunch, or the every day breakfast.  She tells us it is just the typical breakfast buffet, and if we really want to see something special we should come back for lunchtime for the Sunday Jazz Buffet.

Fueled for the day, JB and I walked over to the clock tower to try to get tickets for Robben Island.  Unfortunately the waves were too large, so the boat will not be leaving for the entire day.  Disappointed, we came back to the hotel to find out that the ski lift to the top of Table Mountain was also closed.  Another option for the day would have been to drive down to the Cape of Good Hope, but it was too late to start that drive.  So we finally decided to just have a driving tour of the city since the weather was still somewhat nice out (just a bit windy).  

We start off by driving to the Castle of Good Hope which is right in the center of the city.  There was no changing of the guard since it is a Sunday, but the grounds are open.  We walked around checking out a few of the museums inside.  After the castle, we continued our driving tour by stopping in the Bo-Kaap area.  Bo-Kaap is a heavy Muslim area where all of the houses are s different color.  Plus it is at the top of the hill, so the views of the rest of the city are pretty nice.  We get up there and did a "drive by shooting" (Amy's favorite joke of the trip since we didn't really get out of the car to take our pictures).  

Following Bo-Kaap, we decided to go to the top of Signal Hill (which is the small mountain to the right of Table Mountain).  Once again we ended up making a wrong turn and next thing you know we are in Camps Bay, which is like the Malibu of Cape Town.  All these brand new houses on the side of a mountain.  We were told that a lot of Germans are scooping up these properties to spend their winter (Cape Town's summer) here.  The area is beautiful and we decided to stop on the side of the road to get some pictures of the Atlantic Ocean.  A few shady characters came up to us trying to sell us chotchkes (did you know that the spell checker suggestions for chotchkes is "crotchless") and even tried to take our picture for us.  We told them to scram, but one particularly persistent homeless lady asked to "let me see." I think the homeless have finally given up.  I mean I could respect them a little bit if she thinks of a creative way to steal my camera, but "let me see" just isn't cutting it.  We hopped back in the car and continued to another lookout point which had better views (and less homeless people, not that I have problems with homeless people, I do live in philly).  From here you could see part of the 12 apostles which are a few bumps on the other side of Table Mountain.  Continuing our driving tour, we made it back to Signal Hill for a few pics.  Using my 300mm lens, I looked towards Table Mountain from here and noticed that the ski lifts were moving.  There were still clouds covering the top, so we decided to wait for a more clear day.  This was quite frustrating as we had yet to see the top of the mountain.  I decided at this point to go on a hunger strike until the clouds lifted.

Back in the car we headed back to the V&A Waterfront area to stop at the 2 Oceans Aquarium to see the predator feeding.  Every Sunday at 3:00, scuba divers go into the predator tank to feed the sharks, the turtles, and the rays.  We got there in time to see the penguin feeding as well, but we decided to go right to the predators before little kids took over the entire room.  They started off by feeding the sharks.  I was hoping they would just throw in some live fish and let the sharks fight over it, but instead they took parts of fish and threw them into the shark's mouth as they swam by.  Next was the turtle feeding.  There were two large turtles, but they had to be fed separately.  The scuba divers were trying to train the turtles by holding up a colored paddles.  This would give the turtles a visual display to know when it was their turn to eat so they didn't become shark bait.  Finally the rays had to be fed since they are bottom feeders and when food is dropped into the tank daily, most of it doesn't fall all the way to the ground.  

Next door to the aquarium was a market.  If you read the Peru blog, you know how much Amy enjoys these markets.  So we stopped in to do a bit of shopping.  Meanwhile, JB and I remained outside and noticed that the clouds were lifting from Table Mountain (hunger strike was over).  It was now 4:00 and we knew the last lift back was at 6:00, so we quickly negotiated on an African mask for Amy and told the girls that we were going back to Table Mountain.  By the time we got to the bottom though, the clouds were back.  The lifts were still running, so we decide to go up anyway.  We were given the warning that visibility was low and the winds were high, but this might have been our only shot at making it to the top.  As expected, once we got up there, we couldn't see anything.  In fact, we couldn't see 25 feet in front of us.  Lindsey scared of heights and Amy scared of the cold, we try to fight through to stay up there as long as possible.  After walking around for 30 minutes, we make it to the end and the clouds are lifting off the back of the mountain.  There were great views of Camp's Bay where we were earlier in the day.  We then tried to walk back to the front to get the "money shot" of Cape Town, but right when we got there, the hooter went off (see picture for details).  We went back down the mountain and back to the hotel.  

Although breakfast was enormous, we had not eaten lunch, so we decided to have an early dinner at Belthazar, which was also in the mall (haven't eaten this many consecutive nights in a mall since I was in middle school).  Since we pulled Amy and Lindsey out of the market early, they made us stop at the African Post, a souvenir store right at the entrance of the mall.  JB and I noticed a cigar store across the way, so we tell them to go to town.  We decided to pick up a couple of Cuban cigars for after dinner to enjoy in the hotel bar.  While shopping, JB poses the question of how easy is it to bring back a case of cigars.  The lady in the store starts off by telling us no problem, she will wrap the box and it goes into the luggage and...  Then she looks at us and says, "Oh, you are from the states?"  She then goes on to explain how she removes the wrappers, throws them into a Dominican cigar box, puts the rings in between 2 business cards that are tape together for later, how to claim back our taxes, how to lie to the customs agent, and how to either beat up someone the first night of prison, or just become someone's bitch.  Of course we are law abiding citizens, so we would never actually think about bringing back Cuban cigars even though they were banned because of what happened 50 years ago.  

We go back to check up on the girls and next thing I know we are purchasing African mask #2.  We then proceed to dinner an hour after we first expected to.  Belthazar is considered the best steakhouse on the V&A Waterfront according to, well, Belthazar.  This worked out well since Amy was in the mood for their game kebab which consisted of gembok, impala, elon, and springbok.  I decided to go a little lighter this evening since I ate my face off for the last 4 days and go with kingklip.  Never had kingklip before, but it is a very meaty fish that was quite delicious.  We noticed that Bellevue was on the very extensive wine list, so we ordered a bottle excited to finally try it.  Just our luck, but they were sold out as well.  The sommelier recommended a merlot to go with our wide variety of dinners, and it was quite tasty in its own right.  Dinner was pretty good overall and was even better with the 20 year old blond waitress wearing a belly shirt.  

We went back to the hotel, girls to the room, boys to the bar to enjoy some cigars.  We watched cricket and rugby on the TV while talking to the bar tender.  We found out that the entire cricket league was moved from India to South Africa because of the bombings that happened earlier in the year.  This was great practice for the upcoming World Cup to make sure South Africa can handle all the tourists.  We also found out that the bartender gets 3 hours of sleep a day.  Turns out the hotel provides free transportation for employees, but he is the first to be picked up since he lives the furthest.  He is also the last to be dropped off.  So with the 12 hour days, and the 5 hours of commuting, he doesn't have much time to himself.  After a few more stories, JB and I call it a night.

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