Despite exploring boutique hotels in Cape Town, South Africa for two weeks, and even having shared an intimate meal with a former South African president, somehow I never felt like I gained a full understanding of the city.
I blame part of my discombobulation on the country’s ever-changing political and socioeconomic scene. After all, apartheid came to an end within my lifetime, so there’s still a great deal of upheaval just below the surface. The feeling of change is palpable to even the traveler just passing through.
I also think the fact that iconic Table Mountain stayed hidden in thick fog for most of my visit distorted my initial perceptions.
I never did get the chance to ascend Table Mountain. It was either too windy, or else I had other engagements when the weather cleared just long enough. There’s nothing better for understanding the big picture of a new city than to get up as high as you can to take it all in, so I think Cape Town likely would’ve clicked for me if I’d made it to the top.
I don’t mind though; it just gives me a good reason to return.
Though I don’t feel like Cape Town and I know each other well enough to be true friends just yet, I did manage to experience quite a bit on the ground, even without renting a car. My wanderings took me from the seaside and posh neighborhoods to museums and historic buildings.
First stop? The Victoria & Albert Waterfront.
The Clock Tower is one of the most recognizable and historic landmarks in the V&A Waterfront area, featuring an old tidal-gauge mechanism on the bottom floor and a decorative mirror room on the top, which enabled the Port Captain a full view of all harbor activities.
Remember when the World Cup was in South Africa a few years ago? This red giant was built to celebrate the event, and is made from 4,200 Coca-Cola crates. His name is Elliott.
About 15 minutes walking distance from the waterfront is St. George’s mall, a formerly congested city street that’s been transformed into a pedestrian shopping mecca and a choice people-watching spot. Aside from shops, buskers and restaurants, you can’t miss Brett Murray’s famous Africa statue… Ay caramba?
St. George’s is also a great spot to stop for coffee or something a little less practical. Like a triple chocolate milkshake.
Toward the end of my South Africa visit, I spent a few days down at Camps Bay, a trendy suburb of Cape Town just around the corner. The long stretch of beach became my spot for many hours of retrospection following my first year of solo travel.
My main takeaway from two weeks in Cape Town? I’ve just got to go back. There’s just too much to see and too much history to absorb in one visit.
What did I miss? What should I add to my list for next time?