Monday, April 28, 2014

Motherlands: Celebrating 70 in South Africa - Cape Town Edition

I feel bad for making my mom take this picture. She said she was freaking out as I stood out there.


Ten years ago, my mom, sister and I traveled to my motherland, China, for my mother's 60th birthday. For my mom's 70th, we went to the motherland of humankind - Africa. We planned a week-long trip through smarTours (I'm not a tour group fan but had some great deals) to Cape Town and Kruger National Park in South Africa. Having been to Cape Town before, my sister decided to forgo this jaunt, but not before describing Cape Town to me as San Diego mixed with San Francisco; one of the best combinations since pumpkin and cheesecake.

The view of the western part of Cape Town from Table Mountain.
It's around a 15-hour flight from NYC to Johannesburg. We had a 3-hour layover in J-burg where I ordered a breakfast sandwich and was asked if I wanted a soft, medium, or hard egg (WTF?). I digress. We had four nights and three days in Cape Town, and there were four main things I planned on doing: cage diving with great white sharks, surfing, sandboarding (like snowboarding on sand dunes), and visiting Robben Island, where of course Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for the vast majority of his 27-year sentence.

The view of the eastern part of Cape Town.


Immediately after we checked into our hotel, the Protea President on the border of Sea Point and Bantry Bay, roughly a 10-minute drive from the City Centre (downtown), I rushed my mom into a taxi so we could catch one of the last cable rides to the top of Table Mountain, which overlooks the entire city. 

View from the hotel. The hotel is not as nice as the view.

The cable car to the top.
They really like American Express here.

At the risk of sounding like a tool, Table Mountain reminded me of Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro. Both are located centrally within city limits, and feature gorgeous views that overlook large coastal cities. The biggest difference is that Table Mountain has far more room to roam at the top. Apparently you can hike up there for days, quite literally. Table Mountain's highest point is around 1,085 meters, whatever that is! The cable car ride to the top rotates 360 degrees, so everyone can get a good look of what Cape Town has to offer. The mountains to the east look like the cliffs of Great Britain, or so I imagine from watching "Robin Hood" movies, I've actually never been to GB.

You telling me this doesn't look like something from "Robin Hood"? "Braveheart"? "Give me "Rob Roy" at least!
Sunset selfie with mom.

That's Lion's Head. Sounded cool but didn't have enough time to visit.


The main tourist spot in Cape Town is the V&A Waterfront (V and A stands for Victoria and Alfred), which is a working harbor that features shops, restaurants, bars, ferris wheel, and the ferry to Robben Island. We got dinner at Karibu, which advertised traditional South African cuisine.
Those trees make me think of Africa. I blame "The Lion King." Or "Ace Ventura 2."

Table Mountain from the waterfront.
V&A Waterfront. Shades of Miami's waterfront. And Sydney's. And...

Here's the deal when I travel, and I may have written this before, but I'm such a gullible fool when it comes to dining. If a restaurant advertises it has fantastic, local [insert country here] food - I'll eat there and order the most traditional of dishes (as long as it doesn't have any sharp cheeses). Then when it's served, I discover it tastes the same as Swanson's salisbury steak. Happens to me at least once a trip where I'll bypass something I would normally order in favor of some rare traditional find. And it happened at Karibu. As an appetizer, I ordered some ostrich carpaccio, which actually is more specialized to the area, but it tasted kind of spoiled. Or maybe that's what ostrich tastes like. I don't know. 

Ostrich carpaccio. The veggies in the middle were good.
We then ordered crayfish and "weskus snoek" - I don't know if that's supposed to be capitalized, in fact, I still don't know what the hell it is. I do know it has a ton of bones that make for a miserable eating experience. The menu described it as: "a famous Cape delicacy. Basted with apricot mayonnaise and grilled over hot coals - the ultimate Cape Town experience." The ultimate Cape Town experience? Well, I have to do that! Evidently Karibu's idea of the ultimate Cape Town experience involves spitting out tiny bones every 5 seconds and cursing yourself for ordering such a sadistic meal. Imagine eating that skeletal fish with a light on his head that chased around Dory and Marlin in "Finding Nemo." 42 Wallaby Way gone done us wrong.

Crayfish. This was legit.


Clifton Beach #4. View of Table Mountain.

View of Clifton Beaches


Clifton Beach #3

Clifton Beaches, Bantry Bay. Apparently Sean Penn and Charlize Theron  hang out around here.

Bantry Bay sunset.

Colorful Malay Quarter. #CrayolaPastelsLikeWhoa

Cape Town Stadium, site of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Soccer in front of the stadium. Messi not present.
Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.


Karibu: As mentioned above, the food left much to be desired, but the atmosphere is great and you can enjoy a nice outdoor experience near the water. 

Brewers & Union - tasty microbrew in City Centre; ordered the Steph Weiss - the baby of Steph Curry and Walt Weiss (NorCal representation) - it's a craft wheat beer with hints of vanilla and stuff. Solid beer. Solid chorizo burger to accommodate. This was my mom's first venture into a microbrew. Outdoor stage and shared park-style benches for viewing/eating. Yuppies and hipsters dominated the scene.

There's a glass of bitong there. It's identical to jerky.

Cafe Alfredo - quaint little restaurant with outdoor seating at the V&A Waterfront; enjoyed bee sting cake, which is apparently German. I don't really know if this was cake or pie, but there's a custard pudding filling and its topped with almonds and caramel. Delicious.

View from Cafe Alfredo.

Sgt. Pepper - pizza bar and lounge on Long Street, the young party area in CT and which seems like a tamer mini-version of Bourbon Street. This place turns into a straight-up club late night, didn't realize that was where I was taking mom! Nice 2nd story balcony eating. Surprisingly good food for a place that turns into a club. Started off with grilled prawns, then ordered a tasty pizza with bacon, rocket (like arugula), avocado, tomato, and mushrooms. Mom ordered a pizza with fried egg, bacon, and mushrooms. I topped it off with a Carling Black Label beer, which I thought was South African as that's what the waitress told me, but I just googled it and Wiki says it's Canadian! There's actually a cool story behind Black Label's popularity in South Africa. The beer became known as an anti-apartheid beer because it had "black" in the title and became a drink of pride for native Africans. Cool, huh?! Well I read that on Wikipedia so it might be full of shit. Lame. I'm going to choose to believe it's true and no one's going to call me out on it, so whatever.

Fancy pizzas and not so fancy pint.

Prawns. At least I think. It's pretty f'n dark!

View of Long Street from Sgt. Pepper. Not crazy yet. Beggars not pictured. #IAssureYouTheyAreThere

The sun has set on this long ass blog.

NEXT: Cage diving with great white sharks, sandboarding, and transforming into the worst surfer ever. 

Here's my trip video:

1 comment:

  1. I am so sad there is no photo of Bee Sting Cake. HOW COULD YOU.