All I wanted for my 30th birthday was to swim with Penguins. Is that too much to ask for? Naah. You can do that in South Africa!
I solo-traveled from Washington, D.C. to Cape Town, but once I arrived I was surrounded by friends. I am fortunate to have such a generous friend in Tiffany, my host whom I met whilst living in NYC.
As a birthday present to myself, I redeemed 130,000 Delta SkyMiles for IAD-LHR-CPT & CPT-AMS-IAD including a First Class ticket. I have always been an extremely loyal Delta flyer but the company has recently devalued its mileage acquisition (you now receive one mile per one dollar spent on the flight, rather than one mile per mile flown). For example, instead of receiving 5000 miles for a cross-country round trip flight New York to L.A., if you pay $400 for the round trip, you only receive 400 miles. That’s quite a steep devaluation… BYE DELTA. In light of this, I’ve broken up with my ex-beloved airline and decided to cash in my SkyMiles for some trips to Africa. Currently seeking a new airline to go steady with… American Air??
So there I found myself, turning the page into my third decade of life, on the southern most edge of the world.
My first stop after arriving at the CPT airport (print out your return itinerary so the customs agent doesn’t yell at you on your birthday) was Sotano, overlooking the beach at Greenpoint. Tiffany was still at work, so her bestie Lou picked me up (this was our first time meeting) and we immediately toasted to 30 with a round of flat whites followed by a bottle of local Graham Beck rosé.
Cape Town has great seafood, the best squid I’ve ever had was here and my favorite fish dish was discovered at Grand Cafe, in Camps Bay.
The next morning, we drove an hour south to Simon’s Town for the penguin colony at Boulder’s Beach. The refuge began with two African Penguins and within the last 30 years, have multiplied to about 3000 penguins. These guys live in a protected zone but are free to roam without cages and feed naturally in the ocean.
Our next day was spent in the Winelands, about an hour northeast of Cape Town. People always think of France or California for world-class wine, but my new favorite wines are from the Wine Farms in the Cape Town region.
Cape Town has magnificent mountain views from almost every spot within the city. Table Mountain National Park dominates the city as a spectacular backdrop and countless outdoor adventures and activities. We woke up early one morning and hiked Lion’s Head.
Lion’s Head mountain peak is at 2195 feet above sea level and is such a fun hike! It takes about 2-3 hours for a round trip hike with a short section of mild rock climbing:
Most of the hike is steep, so be prepared for an amazing quad workout! It was a beautiful clear day, so the views of Cape Town were incredible.
If you are a yoga enthusiast like me, head on over to Hot Dog Yoga in Seapoint. The 6:30 am Ashtanga class was the hardest/ best yoga class I’ve ever taken.
Afterwards, head on over to Victoria and Alfred Waterfront mall for the best sushi in Cape Town: Willoughby & Co. I was a bit hesitant by a mall sushi restaurant… but y’all it was delicious! There’s usually a wait, but it goes by pretty quick.
Wash down your lunch with some seaside cocktails at Mondiall, a restaurant with spectacular views.
One place I always visit in every country and city is… The grocery store. It’s my favorite ‘tourist’ destination. I browse each aisle, usually impressed by the prices and intrigued by the foods unbeknownst to me. If I find something weird, I buy it. I love asking locals what the weirdest food dish their culture has to offer. It typically turns out to become my new favorite food. Adventure- eating is quite a hobby of mine.
Woolworth’s is THE grocery destination in Cape Town. I see it as a food-centric Target. The branding is clean, the generic store brand foods are great and it is truly a fun experience just walking up and down the aisles. I had quite a few meals from Woolworth’s, including a fun dessert night at Oona’s house full of all the local South African dessert foods.
It was a good thing that Tiffany is as much of a foodie as I am, because the next morning we woke up and went to The Old Biscuit Mill for Saturday morning Neighbourgoods Market in Woodstock. It’s like Smorgasbord but in a large barn- hipsters, craft beer and artisanal food galore. I loved it. The market is pretty hectic on Saturday’s but the lekker food more than makes up for it. (Like my South African slang?)
The beaches of Cape Town are all scenic, thanks to the Twelve Apostles (mountain line). Each beach in Clifton is named numerically- Clifton 1st Beach, Clifton 2nd Beach, etc from north to south. Each beach is separated by boulders. Clifton 1st is the preferred locals beach, so there we spent one fine afternoon.
The South African culture is truly a mixing pot of different ethnicities, resulting in multiple languages used by the locals as well as a unique slang. I really enjoyed dropping “lekker”, “ag shame”,”howzit” and “hectic” with my American accent. When Tiffany and I were living in New York, she would always teach me fun slang terms from South Africa. I remember learning “amazeballs” right at the beginning of the whole “amazing” word craze. Nowadays, we use the word “amazing” for everything, not necessarily for that which truly “amazes” us. However, not everything can be “amazeballs” and for this, I will be forever thankful for Tiffany’s introduction to this word.
The next morning I took the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway to the summit. I purchased the ticket online so I could skip the line and be eco-friendly with my digital phone ticket (R225 or $17 USD). The cable car is round and rotates during ascension. It is quick and nothing to be afraid of. Once at the top, there are multiple trails and a restaurant.
I literally ate my way all across Cape Town and digested the food on some major nature ventures, be it the mountainside or beachside. It was a wonderful birthday holiday.
To wrap it up true Melllypoo style, I spent my last day in town visiting the townships an hour outside of town. The townships are the urban living areas that were reserved for non-whites during Apartheid. I spent the day with Dental Wellness Trust, a dental nonprofit, visiting 6 primary schools giving out toothbrushes, toothpaste and teaching children how to wash their hands and properly brush their teeth. A separate #ngoborders blog post will be shared with this experience!
The Mother City is truly a gem. I cannot wait to return in the near future, it would be “ag shame” if not!
Anyone interested in planning a trip to Cape Town? Send me a message via the Contacts page and I will be happy to consult.
Thank you for allowing me to share my birthday adventure,
All photos taken by Melllypoo.