Friday, April 13, 2012

Cape Town: Love at first sight

A panoramic view of the city from Table Mountain.
Since arriving in South Africa in January, one of the most frequently asked questions, aside from “where are you from?” is “Have you been to Cape Town?”. When I would reply with “Not yet” people would be overcome with excitement and say “You have to! You are going to LOVE it!” I thought to myself, wow, is the city that amazing? Or am I that predictable?

Lion's Head
            It’s safe to say that the answer is yes to both. Cape Town is unlike any city I have ever had the chance to visit. The reason for such a bold and loaded statement is simple: it has everything. I’ve always told my mom that I wanted to take her to all the places I have been and show her around, and when I get the chance to do this I will take her to Cape Town first. You have the best of both worlds with this gem on the coast of South Africa. The topography of the city is, in itself, one of the most unique features. Table Mountain is a massive plateau that seems to come up out of no where. Then there is the distinct Lion’s Head right next to it that glides into Signal Hill or Lion’s Rump. The names are not code for anything. If you look at the silhouette, the hills look like a lion’s head with an arching line, like that of a lion’s back that forms into the rump of the lion. You can do many hikes and have spectacular views of the city and Atlantic Ocean from both of these places. When you finish enjoying your day of hiking you can come down the mountain and enjoy the nightlife and cuisine of Cape Town. There are plenty of art galleries, museums, shopping areas, and activities for any and everybody.  It’s a stimulating city but not over stimulating like New York or London. It has a relaxed mellow vibe that makes you feel at ease and not rushed.

            I was fortunate enough to spend ten days in Cape Town during our Easter break from March 31st until April 9th. I was even more fortunate to stay with a Capetonian (the name for the locals) who I study with at the Free State. We embarked on a 12 hour journey by bus to the city. The bus ride was a pleasure because of the chance it offered to see the other landscapes of the country, which are many. The first day that I ventured out into the city I did one of those big red bus tours. I highly recommend this to help get you acquainted with any major city. It gave me a vast overview of the different areas and I familiarized myself with the general layout of Cape Town.   
The V&A waterfront with lots of shops and restaurants as
well as the Two Oceans Aquarium.
 During my ten days I went to different restaurants, shopped in Green Market Square, visited Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprsinoned for 27 years, and did wine tasting in Stellenbosch. There is so much to do in the city, but even with only doing a fraction of it I really felt like I was able to experience it. The atmosphere is different than Bloemfontein. Notably that it is much more relaxed and open. There are obviously significant factors that contribute to this like the fact that Cape Town is on the coast, is more culturally diverse, and has more to offer to tourist and businesses. I felt at ease and instantly connected with the energy of the city. From the first day I arrived I said that Cape Town is a place I could live in. The Capetonians are such a friendly group of people. I did some exploring with my friend, and some on my own and had  pleasant interactions regardless. 
Robben Island is about a 25 minute ride off the coast of Cape
Town.  This is where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned
 for 27 years. It is now a museum and major tourist attraction. 

A view from Delheim Winery in the town of Stellenbosch
which is about 40 minutes outside of Cape Town.
 Even on an overcast day it was still beautiful.
This region is known for its wineries and vineyards.

The natural beauty, the warmth of the people, and the endless list of things to do will keep Cape Town at the top of my “Favorite Cities” list for the foreseeable future. I still have many other countries and cities to visit but until then #1CAPE TOWN!

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