Day 267: Finishing Up Cape Town

Tue. 7th May 2013

What a wonderful place to be doing the blogAs usual, we are two days behind in writing up our blog posts – so it is actually Thursday as I’m writing this (about Tuesday) and I’m sat out in front of our cabaña looking out at the sunset over the Orange River in Namibia. What an incredible view as the red-golden light fades over the distant mountains and the river rumbles past. That is, however, getting ahead of ourselves and what we need to focus on is Tuesday and our last day in Cape Town…

City Hall with Table Mountain behindThe car was returned to Avis yesterday and so now we are left with the parts of Cape Town that we can explore on foot. Our hotel (the Grand Daddy) is quite centrally located and we are able to strike out from there and head for the historical centre. Our plan is more or less to ‘make it up as we go along’ – that is a strategy what has worked well in the past (not just on this trip, but for most of my career) – and seeing signs for the railway station, we head for that. Cape Town’s railway station is disappointingly modern, clean and efficient looking. It doesn’t even provide decent views out to the platforms and the trains waiting there. It does, however, have a roof over the platforms upon which there is some sort of local market and as we follow this along and above the train tracks we spot the City Hall and the old castle – with, of course, Table Mountain sitting in the background.

Moat, City Hall and Lion's HeadThere is a square in front of City Hall with a couple of statues one of which, we are surprised (rightly or wrongly) is of Edward VII. Otherwise the building and the square are unremarkable and, try as we might, we couldn’t get mountain and building in the frame together. The 17th century Castle of Good Hope is the city’s (and hence South Africa’s??) oldest building and on another day we might have been tempted to go into but today we were content with a walk around the outside. It is pentagonal in shape and the stone walls are partially surrounded by a moat. It also seems to be in use as some sort of military base too – in addition to the tourist entrance there were a couple of other entrances guarded by soldiers.

Looking around the Castle to Table MountainQueen WossernameNext up for us is the Houses of Parliament. We are surprised to learn that Pretoria is only the Administrative Capital of South Africa and that what we assume to be the parliament building for the state is actually the national parliament. Entry into the buildings is free but, sadly, only by appointment and so once again we have to content ourselves with the outside with the statue of Queen Victoria, in familiar pose, keeping guard in front. It is interesting to reflect that the new republic has retained the old parliament building even though it was here that the apartheid laws were enacted.

Flowers in Company's GardenRight beside Parliament are the Company’s Gardens. The company in question, is of course the VOC, the Dutch East India Company, and they did used to use this as a vegetable garden. Now it is a park with paths and shady patches of lawn underneath trees large and small. We enjoy the stroll and the shade but are starting to get hungry and so head off into the Greenmarket area, through some of the old squares, in search of a cafe for lunch.

Classical front to the Houses of ParliamentTomorrow we join our tour group and head up north and east through Africa. We feel that we are tour veterans now and we know that we have all of the kit that we need. However, some of the countries that we will be going through are going to charge for visas in US dollars when we arrive at their border. As dollars will also be useful as emergency funds, we decide we ought to get some here and that the double currency exchange costs (pounds to rands to dollars) is something we’ll have to live with. This proves to be harder than we expected but we get there in the end before heading back to our hotel for a bit of a siesta.

Not a Hop On, Hop Off bus but a boatI suspect that Cape Town will be our last ‘modern’ city before we return to the UK – we’ll find out over the next couple of months whether or not that is accurate or just prejudice – and I’d like to go to the cinema (an evening off blog writing!) before our tour starts. The receptionists at the hotel have been really friendly and helpful (the Grand Daddy has been a great hotel apart from its ridiculous Internet voucher system) and they recommend we go back to the V&A Waterfront to the cinema there. Further, they suggest that we take the sightseeing boat on the canal to get there.

The 'its all right for some' One & Only Hotel in the marina complexSo, our final piece in Cape Town is along the canal that runs along the waterfront and to the harbour. The canal itself is old but it has all been modernised as part of the V&A Waterfront development. It now runs from the convention centre through to the marina with its luxury apartments and hotels. It drops us off in the docks which we walk round and admire some of the yachts that are moored up. It was a good way to end our time in Cape Town – a beer overlooking the sea front; a trashy but enjoyable film (Iron Man 3); a bite to eat afterwards and then a taxi back to the hotel to catch up with our folks at home.

For a country that we weren’t going to visit at all, we have really enjoyed South Africa. The scenery along the Garden Route, in particular, has been consistently as good as any we have seen. We will come back at some point, though next time it will be with golf clubs rather than backpacks!

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One Response to Day 267: Finishing Up Cape Town

  1. Sara Mayes (Churchman) says:

    I have loved this part of your Blog. You did pretty much the same trip as we did so its been great reliving our memories of it on here. We had the luxury of a bit more time than you (always next time though!) and did a little bit of the Otter Trail which was stunning. Also Hermanus and Mossel Bay. Likewise a trip back with golfclubs seems a ‘must do’ sort of thing.

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