End of a decade travels (part 3: exploring Cape Town)

Friday

We managed to get a decent night’s sleep on the train but were nonetheless up early for breakfast. We were treated to back bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, muesli and yogurt, along with Nescafé and tea. During the meal, we were told that the train was now five hours behind, which meant they’d feed us lunch later on.

We all stuck to our books through the morning and reconnected for lunch (fried fish and steamed vegetables). While the delay meant we had a little less time in Cape Town, we were relaxed about getting there in time for dinner. So we alternately read and played games through the afternoon. They provided afternoon refreshments (cake and Nescafé/tea); however they didn’t have another meal to serve. This was especially unfortunate as our arrival time slipped from 5pm to 8pm and ultimately to 10pm. Needless to say, everyone was very happy (and a little hangry) when we arrived at the Cape Town train station.

We were advised to take a car to our Airbnb even though it was about 15 minutes’ walk away. Once we got there, we were shown to our apartment, which was simply beautiful. It had an open layout for kitchen, dining, and living areas, and then two bedrooms, two full bathrooms, and full-size laundry services. Our friends graciously allowed us the master bedroom with en-suite bathroom; we parked our bags and immediately left in search of food.

The view from our Airbnb.

Unfortunately, most places close their kitchens at 10pm. We found ourselves at Cubaña, a restaurant and nightclub a block away. We ordered food for takeaway and a bottle of sparkling wine to enjoy while we waited. We watched the club’s customers, mostly black Africans, as they talked, drank, and danced. Younger folks were more carefree while older folks were a little more subdued, but everyone was having a good time. We ultimately got our food and headed back to the Airbnb to eat and go to bed.

Saturday 

Ah, to sleep in a comfortable bed! We finally slept fully and well and enjoyed a slow morning recovering from the late arrival the previous night. We walked about 30 minutes to the Oranjezicht City Farm Market at the waterfront, which was an excellent way to pick up groceries for our stay. It was noticeably populated by white people in contrast to our experience at Cubaña the previous night. (We were generally looking at the population makeup wherever we went as part of trying to understand the country and its ongoing evolution in the wake of apartheid’s end.) We picked up meat, fish, and vegetables and took a car back to the Airbnb to drop it all off.

Next order of business: wine for the evening. We found a place called Caroline’s Fine Wine Cellar about 10 minutes’ walk away, and it was excellent! Simone, the person running the shop, helped us find two bottles for dinner in the few minutes before they closed for the day. From there, we walked around Greenmarket Square; alas, there was no greens market but rather only clothes and other sundries. We decided to have lunch at a tapas restaurant nearby called Fork. We very much enjoyed calamari with eggplant and olive, ostrich Wellington, tiger shrimp, cured meats, duck confit and waffle, braised lamb, and asparagus with pickled mushrooms, all with their house red wine.

We walked back to our neighborhood. Virginia decided to rest in the Airbnb while the rest of us took a car to the beachfront and walked along the promenade. The population there was more mixed, which was our first time seeing that since arriving in Cape Town. It was a little chilly from the breeze but sunny and pleasant overall. We walked for about an hour before taking a car back, making dinner, and having a quiet evening.

Sunday

Winery day! We were up early to have breakfast before getting picked up for our day in Franschhoek. It was about an hour from our apartment to the middle of town where we checked in for the Franschhoek Wine Tram. Virginia had read about this in advance and was very excited about the idea of taking a tram around wineries.

We got started around 9:30am, and I have to admit the tram is excellent. The staff are particularly great — welcoming, friendly, knowledgeable, and funny. We started at Rickety Bridge, which was a nice facility and decent wines. We hadn’t intended to spend a lot of time there but they moved more slowly than we’d hoped and we ended up there for a full hour. That hurt us at Môreson, our next stop. We enjoyed their wines a lot more but need to leave after 30 minutes to stay on track. Our server was fast and savvy, giving us a taste of their upper end wine, which we immediately bought. (Another benefit of the wine tram: they’ll hold your wine until you pick up at the end of the day.)

We continued to Eikehof, a where we got to speak with the owner about their small holdings and boutique production. We especially liked the Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. We ended at Haute Cabriére, a sparkling winemaker with a well-known restaurant overlooking the valley. Fortunately, I’d been able to book our lunch there and we spent a couple of hours enjoying both food and wine.

After lunch, we were simply exhausted! We went back to the tram station, picked up our wine, and met our driver to go back to the Airbnb. We all collapsed for a while before making dinner; even then, it was a quick meal and early bedtime.

Monday

Walking through Bo-Kaap.

We all needed a bit of a recovery day after all the wine tasting. So we walked around the nearby Bo-Kaap neighborhood and visited the Bo-Kaap Museum. There we learned more about the heritage of the neighborhood and how it was devastated by later apartheid laws that stripped people of color of their property. For example, the museum had been a family home for generations before they were forced to leave in the 1970s.

We walked into the adjoining Central Business District and had lunch at Addis in Cape, an Ethiopian restaurant that had been recommended by a friend. It worked out perfectly as we ordered a mix of dishes and ate everything in front of us. We split up from there for the afternoon, and Virginia and I returned to Caroline’s Fine Wine Cellar. Simone remembered us from two days prior and spent at least an hour with us as we learned about and selected wines to bring back to the United States. We learned that South Africa had allowed grape growers and winemakers (predominantly white) to pay laborers (mostly black) in the product they made (i.e. wine) rather than in cash, which both perpetuated poverty and led to high levels of alcoholism and fetal alcohol syndrome. Simone pointed our winemakers who were leading a “fair trade” movement and we focused our attention on purchasing those. Everything was boxed up and wrapped with twine to give us handles. We thanked Simone and her associate who handled the boxing/wrapping, and took everything back to the Airbnb.

Shopping done, we took a car to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, which is basically a large mall and entertainment hub. We wandered around the various shops, including a craft and tech incubator space, before walking back through the De Waterkant neighborhood to our Airbnb. We had roast venison for dinner and played games until bedtime.

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