Two Days In To Cape Town

Cape Town Travel Blog

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We in Cape Town now and we have a temporary home in the Gardens neighborhood at the south end of the city, close to Table Mountain (Ashanti Lodge, great place �" I’ll review if after we checkout).  We did a city tour yesterday on a double-decker bus so that we could get a general feel for where everything is, so now we are sorted.  One of the stops on the bus route is at base of the cable car that runs to the top of Table Mountain, but the cable car wasn’t running because of high winds.  It’s all too familiar.  Over the past week we stayed in five different places that ranged from incredible to dingy.  Now we have a private room in a lovely backpackers with a small pool (that is much to cold to swim in) and close to most attractions.  We get to end the trip in some level of comfort.

     Cape Town itself is a lot like San Francisco.  Both are bay cities.  Both are very hilly.  Both have extensive winelands to the north.  The climates are similar - mild to warm days, cold nights (for now - during summer Cape Town will get much warmer).  Both cities are small enough such that a healthy walker could get to most locations on foot.  San Fran has an iconic walk along Haight-Ashbury, Cape Town has a similar walk along Long Street.  San Fran has Alcatraz, a historical island prison tourist attraction; Cape Town has Robben Island, a historical island prison tourist attraction (which we visit soon!).  Both have a slew of great restaurants from many different cultures, both are considered expensive in their given nations.  The major differences are that Cape Town has a lot more to offer in the beach department, and has a bigger natural attraction in Table Mountain and Lions Head.  The wine is also much cheaper here.  San Fran has more people I know living there, and the coolest science museum I have ever seen.  Overall, we’ll call it a draw.  We haven’t seen much in Cape Town as of yet, but here is a short run down of what we have seen.

     The ‘red route” on the hop-on hop-off bus takes you through the downtown section of the city.  You can catch it at any of its stops and purchase your ticket directly from the driver (R120 for a day pass).  It officially starts at the V&A waterfront, then goes around the city a bit, past St. Geroge’s Cathedral, over to District Six, then back down through the city to Table Mountain, then south to Camp’s bay, and then heads up back towards the waterfront, passing Clifton Beach and a few other beachy points along the way.  You can literally hop on and hop off at any of the stops all day long, but it doesn’t run very late into the day, so you have to make sure you know the time of the last bus or else you are stuck somewhere having to take a cab back to your place.  We boarded the bus near St. George’s around 9:30 (first stop at the Waterfront departs at 9am-ish) and the final pass through that area is just after 4pm.  We would have hopped off at a few places, but we wouldn’t have been able to explore in depth at any one area and still have gotten to ride around the whole loop.  It was a good intro to the city though, and now while we are walking around we can point up and say “I remember seeing that from the bus”.

      So far we’ve made it back to the Jewish Museum and the District Six Museum, both a very short walk from Ashanti.  The museums were both worth visiting, but be warned that if you are the type who likes to read every posting at every exhibit and watch every video, you are going to be exhausted by the end of the day.  The museums are so packed full of so much information, it is nearly impossible to absorb it all.  The level of detail is incredible.  The Jewish Museum basically covers the Jewish contribution to the history of South Africa, especially the Jewish involvement in the Anti-Apartheid movement.  The museum offers an audio tour for an extra R10, which I suggest doing, and even listening to all the audio information is overwhelming.  Neither this nor the District Six museum is extremely large, but they sure do make efficient use of the space.  If you visit the Jewish Museum, make sure to ask to watch the short Documentary on Nelson Mandela.  There is no extra charge for this, and they walk you over to the building next door and set you up in a private theatre where it will probably be just you and the film.  The film is very moving and very well done.  I walked out of there wondering how in the hell is it possible that people could be a party to such an obviously terrible policy as Apartheid. (I’ve also been reading a book about Desmond Tutu, and how he begged Ronald Reagan to take a strong anti-apartheid stance, but he wouldn’t because some American corporations were making good money in South Africa.  Absolutely Fucking Disgusting.) 

    The District Six Museum details the history of the area of Cape Town known as District Six.  It was a melting-pot type neighborhood that didn’t bode well with the Nationalist party and their desire to separate everyone by race.  In the 1960’s, people were forcibly removed from their homes in the district, and bulldozers tore everything down.  The area was declared a “whites only” area, and the plan was to build things on it that would make a bunch of white people some money.  For some reason, the building part never really happened, and today the are is largely covered with empty grass plots, partly as a memorial to the old neighborhood, and partly because the process of returning the land back to the original inhabitants has met with some bureaucratic snafus.  Some of the former residents have moved back in to newly constructed homes, but the whole thing is slow-going.  There is significant debate as to how to best rebuild the area.  It reminds me of the process of rebuilding the Twin Towers, with many groups wanting to memorialize the area in different ways, and not much getting done.  The women that run the museum are terribly nice, and have some fantastic and extremely cheap pastries for sale in the coffee shop inside.  The guy that was running the small bookshop inside is a former resident, and an author of one of the books for sale.  The books are interesting, and priced very affordably.

    A few buildings away, the District Six Museum has a really interesting side exhibit sponsored by FURD (Football Unites, Racism Divides).  Half the exhibit is about the way the destruction of District Six impacted the local sports scene.  The other half is about the racism that South African players, both black and white, experienced in the past (and sadly, the present) while playing abroad.  Strangely, fans in the UK back towards the beginning of the 20th century used to yell “Go back to Africa you black bastard!” to this white South African dude playing in the FA.  I guess that in addition to being stupidly racist, those fans also had terrible eyesight.  Don’t miss this exhibit!  It’s a great one.

     Tomorrow is Saturday, so we are heading to the market at the Old Biscuit Mill.  The market is supposed to have great food and clothing made by local labels.  If the weather holds, we’ll go back to the Waterfront and hit up Robben Island, or head over to Green Point stadium to see how it compares to the stadium in Durban.  I’m sure it will be almost but not quite as nice.  That stadium in Durban was incredible.     

williamsworld says:
I was there in 2008 when they were building the stadium. It is great as well. I like the way you compared it to San Francisco. Never really thought about that before. I did alot of the wineries there as well. Cheers
Posted on: Jul 27, 2010
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Cape Town
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