Ahhhhhh, Cape Town

Trip Start Aug 01, 2008
Trip End Jun 30, 2010

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Where I stayed
Rosedene Guest House

Flag of South Africa  ,
Tuesday, March 10, 2009

We got off to a really late start and a long flight with Trans Air Congo, a subsidiary of Gabon Air, no surprises there.  So we missed our connecting flight out of Jo'burg, but luckily were able to re-book for another flight leaving almost immediately.  Jo'berg airport is an amazing structure, more mall than airport.  There is actual food to eat and tons of shopping.  You can rent a phone for your stay for about R200, $20 American.  The Rand is about 10:1 with the US Dollar, so to convert all prices, you just move the decimal point on space to the left.  Remember to save all your receipts because on leaving the country you can get all of your tax back, but only on goods, not services.  That means that your big spending like on your car and hotel will be taxed, but you can't get it back.  We books our domestic flight and car hire through kulula.com, which turned out to be a great deal, the car hire only cost us about R2000 for the week, but be warned, they will not double check any of your booking stuff, so insist on insurance.  (Driving on the left is harder than it looks, especially because all the cars are manual transmission and you'll need to shift with your left hand) 
Cape Town itself is amazing, small enough to get around without a problem, but big enough to serve all your cultural needs.  The people are incredibly friendly, tons of free or cheap parking, and all shopping is really really inexpensive.  Beautiful art for about a tenth of the price, no kidding, jewelry, clothes, etc.  You money goes really far.  For example, we had dinner at a really elegant outdoor restaurant which had the most delicious mojitos, I had 5, yes, five, all for R150 total.  Yipee!  We stayed at a place called Rosedene for our first four nights which was an adorable little guesthouse slightly on the cliff of Table Mountain.  Rosedene was quiet and peaceful with a little pool and a great breakfast every morning.  The staff was extremely helpful with everything from directions, phoning restaurants for bookings, or handing out a bag a beach towels for a day at Boulder's Beach.  They have a main house with guest rooms, and also a small stand-alone cottage which was our room.  It was perfect, we could sit out by the pool and relax after we'd put the kids to sleep, and not worry about their noise level during the day. The other rooms were taken by a tour group of Norwegian couples who were charmed by our little men.
Our first day we headed to the Two Oceans Aquarium on the V&A Waterfront.  Great exhibits of frogs, sharks, giant crabs, and lots of other little fishies.  They have a viewing area for Penguins which is also a staffed kid's area.  There are people at art tables to guide kids through craft activities; there is also a climbing structure as well as books and toys.  We spent a couple of hours there and then headed for lunch and a stroll down the wharf.  The shopping is at its most expensive here, but fun to look.  We got great house brew and a fine lunch for a ridiculous price.  Tipping happens in South Africa, and 10-15% is standard.  The people are friendly, no attitude at all in any restaurants, be aware that if you are going out for dinner, it is best to have a reservation, called a booking, or you may not get in, even on a Tuesday, even early.  South Africans go out to eat a LOT, at these prices, why wouldn't they?
We headed up Lion's Head on a cable car which was really cool, takes four minutes, and although the cue is formidable, it actually moves along pretty quickly.  We also checked out a place called Simon's Town and a beach called Boulders, which has real live penguins running around and swimming with you and they are the cutest things in the world.  Penguins in Africa?  You say?  Well the reason that they are there is because the water is freezing cold.  Boulders is especially nice because the beach is surrounded by large boulders, natch, which protect it from sharks.  Simon's Town itself is a cute little town with lots of tourist-friendly shops selling lots of cute African knick-knacks.  But again, even shopping in these boutiques, the prices are remarkable; you can get handmade silver jewelry for R180. 
We also visited the Spier Vineyard and tasted and then bought some really yummy wines.  They have play structures, a cute deli where they will pack you and adorable and appetizing picnic, lots of African art and a big bird and cheetah rehabilitation program.  Our kids got to pet a cheetah and have their picture taken with him.  His name was Josef and looked as if he couldn't have cared less about eating our kids, so that was good.  With two preschoolers, it's not the easiest  thing in the world to roll along wine tasting here and there and the only other vineyard that we checked out was Groot Costansia had no electricity the day we visited and shooed us off pretty quickly.  Speir was the only winery that we actually got to, but we were more than happy with the wines we bought and brought home six bottles which they were kind enough to pack properly for us.  We checked the box at the airport and came home with all six bottles intact.
Mostly our trip provided us with the ability to eat and eat and eat.  We swam in the pools and felt relaxed in a way that Pointe-Noire doesn't provide for.  We drank iced coffee and crank cocktails and felt content.  There wasn't any point where I felt overwhelmed or ready to go home, in fact, I could've stayed another two weeks.
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