In the Beginning...

Trip Start Nov 21, 2008
Trip End Dec 07, 2008

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Flag of South Africa  , Western Cape,
Sunday, November 23, 2008

Our adventure started on a windy and cold platform at Brough station where we waited for the train to take us to Heathrow. We had been looking forward to this trip for over a year and I was elated that our departure day had finally arrived. Steve, being Steve, showed his excitement by going to the buffet car and getting us both a cup of tea! He still wasn't quite in the holiday frame of mind whereas I had been holiday a go go since the night before when all my packing was strewn across all 3 bedrooms in our house!

The trip to Heathrow went smoothly and 4 hours on from that windy platform, we had cleared security and had chosen to have dinner at "Giraffe" in Terminal One at Heathrow. Given we were going on a safari, "Giraffe" seemed an apt place to eat. And this is where Steve began to to get into the holiday spirit and relax with a couple of beers and I had a celebratory daiquiri.

Our flight was long and uneventful. The plane was full, as expected for a weekend flight and we ran out of water 1 hour before landing so no pre landing toilet trips allowed! We didn't have much luck with South African Airways as we had the water shortage on the way there and no in flight entertainment on the way back.

We landed at about 11am. Weather was infinitely warmer than the UK but disappointingly, grey and drizzly. We picked up the hire car and made our way to central Cape Town. The combination of journey fatigue, my map reading skills and Steve not being too sure of the roads meant we inevitably got lost. Our first insight into South African driving was interesting to say the least. We finally understood what the guide book meant by advising tourists to drive "defensively". We also encountered people stood by the side of the motorway in fluorescent  jackets waving a big flag at cars and this puzzled us no end. Steve didn't know if we had to stop for them or if they were telling us something but we decided to ignore and eventually realised that they only appeared where there were roadworks and in spite of signs telling us about roadworks, having people waving flags was another way of doing the same thing. Lesson in South African culture number 1!

By the time we found the hotel, I was desperately hoping that our room would be ready in spite of it being before check in time and the lovely receptionist sorted this out for us. I was so grateful and the subsequent shower and freshening up was blissfully received.

Given the weather we decided to get a ticket for the Hop On Hop Off bus to get our bearings. In spite of the drizzle we sat on the top deck as it drive round central Cape Town. As we made our way to Table Mountain, we could see the clouds begin to lift away and as waited at the stop there it got warmer and warmer. And as the temperature rose, so did our spirits! By the time we reached the Camps Bay area, the weather had done a complete turn around and we were caught short with no sun protection! We found a terrace on the strip in front of the beach and had a late lunch in the sunshine. The restaurant we were at had a special offer of 1kg (29 pieces) of assorted sushi for R99, the equivalent of 6.60! So we had that, some noodles and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. It was perfect and the whole bill came to 17.53. What a welcome to South Africa. Unfortunately the sun welcomed us a bit too vigorously and Steve got that pink, sun burnt look of a Brit abroad down to a tee!

We hopped back on the bus and returned to the hotel for a siesta and soon it was time for dinner. There are so many fantastic restaurants in Cape Town and we had such limited time. We had already booked a table at "Five Flies" prior to our arrival as we'd found some good reviews on it and it was close to the hotel so ideal for our first night. Our menu choices for the evening:

Starters: Carpaccio with rocket, Parmesan and marinated mushrooms
              Venison spring rolls with a quince dipping sauce
Mains: Rack of lamb with garlic potatoes and green beans in red wine jus
           Springbok fillet in port and peppercorn sauce with courgettes and chips

Desserts: Poached peach, passionfruit syrup and marscapone ice cream
               Strawberries and meringue with champagne sabayon

Naturally all washed down with a couple of G&Ts and a bottle of Pinotage. We expected the place to be quite French influenced and the portions to be refined and small. Reality was big portions with robust and rustic flavours. Service was excellent in spite of it being a very busy night. In fact, every meal we had in South Africa be it a beachside shack or somewhere more upmarket, we experienced excellent service that was personal and genuine every time.

We were too tired to experience the nightlife of Long Street so opted for a taxi back to the hotel. Our taxi driver had spent some time in UK and remembered when it was 2R to the pound and now it's 15R! Decided to have a night cap at the hotel bar amusingly named "Daddy Cool". We realised why when we were there. Bling bling, gold mosaic bar top, groups of people dressed in their gladrags drinking champagne...P Diddy would have fit right in!

It was a brilliant first day that set the tone for the subsequent days. In the 12 hours that we'd been in South Africa we saw some sights, felt the sunshine, felt welcome by the people, drank some wine and had some very tasty food. What a start to the trip!
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mindabarley on

Re: Looks good!
Hi there;

Nice to hear from you. The sushi place was called Wang Thai (I think) and it was on the beachfront in Camps Bay. We also enjoyed Five Flies in Capetown. If you make it to the False Bay area, Harbour House was AMAZING as was fish and chips at Kalky's. They are next door to each other but Harbour House is an upmarket restaurant and Kalky's effectively a shack. Also in that area is a place called Olympia Café which was very yummy.

Safari wise we actually travelled the Garden Route and went to Shamwari which is near Port Elizabeth. It was such and experience.

Enjoy your trip - you will have a wonderful time. I really want to return!

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