Kalk Bay Harbour - reminiscent of a Cornish fishing harbour. Arrive about lunchtime to watch the fishing boats come in with their catch of the day. It's fun watching the catch being landed and then auctioned off. The seals come right up to the harbour edge to pick up the scraps thrown overboard.
Convenient hotel near the Waterfront.
Friendly service, good breakfast and affordable rates. There's also a great massage place next door if so inclined. A shuttle will take you to the shopping area for a few rand, and it's easy walking distance to Long St, Bo Kapp, etc.
The concierge can also suggest some day tours, and the hotel has an agreement with a good local cab company to offer reduced rates.
Lower Buitengragt 1, Cape Town
For most visitors to Cape Town, the Wembley – a legendary roadhouse which serves the tastiest Indian and Cape Malay food for miles – is a little out of the way. It's in the heart of Athlone, one of the city's largest suburbs, officially on the other side of the railroad tracks during apartheid (it was designated “Coloureds only”). But for those who live in Athlone and its own suburbs – Belgravia, Rylands, Gatesville, Surrey Estate and beyond – the Wembley is the center of the culinary universe of take outs.
The beauty of a roadhouse, of course, is that you don't really take the food out. You take it to your car, parked a few feet away, and gobble the delicious, piping hot food, which steams up your windshield as you watch the ebb and flow of the crowd around the take-out counter.
The Wembley is a beacon at night, a brightly lit temple. Cars of all types come and go, carrying happy families. It's their Friday night out. You can wait in your car for a waiter to appear at the window – he will take your order, dash off, and return with your food on a tray, and a smile of apology for being a little late.
Or you can step up underneath the take-out awning – don't be shy to push to the front – and order your meal from one of several harried-looking women who front the engine of the operation. The kitchen: a noisy, organised chaos. Note the colour of the post-it note which she writes your order on. The pink or yellow or green scrap will disappear into the kitchen, then resurface in 10 – 15 minutes next to foil-wrapped lumps, which is your food.
The place recalls 1950s America as seen in movies like Back to the Future. The difference, of course, is that you're in South Africa, in a township, and all the eats are halaal. Groovy. Over the years I've honed the perfect take-out order, which I recommend to all first-timers:
1 Masala Steak Sandwich (the supreme Wembley creation, with french fries on it)
2 mince samoosas (spicy ground beef triangular pastries)
1 koeksister (aniseed-infused doughnut)
1 small faloodah (indescribable – a sweet drink which requires both straw and spoon)
For vegetarians, the food is no less delightful: eat a vegetable curry with rice and 2 veg samoosas, then proceed to the koeksister. Vegans are not catered for – probably not even heard of.
To see what the Roadhouse looks like, check out the 2002 video, “Starbucks”, which the British band “A” shot in Cape Town. The Wembley was sacrilegiously transformed into a generic fast food joint for the shoot, and features throughout. See the video at Rock-Sound.net, among other sites.
The Wembley Roadhouse, 23 Belgravia Road, Athlone (at the corner of Denchworth), is open from 11am to midnight each day. Closed Friday 1-2pm for mosque; call for hours during Ramadaan. (021) 697-1435.
An absolutely incredible experience. Now available world wide as a corporate team-building exercise, the original club in Cape Town is a must see. On a Wednesday the Drum Circle allows you to learn African drumming with fellow novices and real experts alike. You hire your drum for the night and then different teachers take you through different rhythms, increasing in complexity as the night goes on. By the end you'll be convinced that you're Keith Moon or Animal as you take part in this glorious racket. Back in 1998 my friend and I tried to convince some of the drummers to set one up in London - however we were very drunk and it looks like they decided to do it on their own
Glynn Street, but moving soon apparently: www.thedrumcafe.com/
One of the northern suburbs as the bay curves around, it offers great views back to the city and Table Mountain (from the same sort of angle as Robben Island).
The beach is quite good too.
A botanic garden, naturally, but it has thousands of plants all native to South Africa. It takes all day, but there is a nice eatery there too, as well as a bookshop. And from the back you can climb the old track up Table Mountain.
A bus goes from the bus station in the middle of the town, but check times. Journey is under 30 mins. The gardens are inland from the town centre.
This restaurant is a wild place to go - its speciality is chilli chocolate steak - and the place is very bohemian and buzzing. Once the food (which is very good) is served, the music gets turned up and fun begins. Everyone gets a silly hat to wear and the chance to dance to Abba, should the mood take you. If not, just sit back and enjoy the very relaxed atmosphere.
192 Loop Street
Bar and restaurant. Situated in Kalk Bay, it is a fantastic place to settle in with a bottle of something fine. The bar overlooks the ocean and you can spend the afternoon lounging around on huge sofas watching the waves crashing into the windows in front of you.
Below Harbour House Restaurant
Great situation for a walk into the town centre and views of Table Mountain. Lovely verandas and gardens. Friendly and helpful owners and staff and a great breakfast. Well appointed rooms at a reasonable price. A terrific welcome to Cape Town.
10a, Tamboerskloof Rd.
Tel: (021) 423 0042
The food is superb and the wine is cheap and excellent. Solly and Jane welcome you and there is always something for the non-meat eaters. The best restaurant I have eaten in in South Africa.
108, Kloofnek Road,
Tel: (021) 424 3838
If hiring a car, when parking it, even in public car parks, be prepared to pay both for parking and for someone to "mind" your car. Once parked, 9 times out of 10 you will be approached by someone who will offer to keep an eye on your car for a small fee. A couple of Rand is an acceptable payment.
There are various walks up and back down from the Botanical Gardens at Kirstenbosch (the gardens are worth a visit on their own). The routes up from here have the advantage of being in shade. Walking up Table Mountain is a tick most tourists want. But be warned it is steep, and, in summer, hot. Any walk up the mountain requires reasonable fitness.
Always, keep to signposted paths, take plenty of water (about two litres per person), food, wear appropriate footwear, and a hat. Don't leave your base without sunscreen and a jumper as it can be cool on the top, especially if the Table has a cloth on (a roll of cloud that perches on top of the mountain and gives the appearance of a table cloth). Also, take money for the cable car if you can't face the walk down. Make sure someone knows where you are going and what route you intend to take.
Buses run regularly to Kirstenbosch from Adderley Street. If driving take M5
With its back drop of the Twelve Apostles mountains, and views of Lions Head, the sandy sweep of Camps Bay is very popular. It gets very crowded at weekends. Try visiting at the end of day, during the week. Find a spot in one of the seafront bars and watch the sun disappear below the horizon, with a chilled glass of South African white wine.
From central Cape Town take the M6 around the bay, or drive in the direction of Lions Head; Camps Bay is just on the other side. Follow the road down, among some of Cape Town's prime real estate
In Cape Town you're spoiled for choice when it comes to beaches, but if you're looking for something a bit different try Boulders - it has it's own colony of penguins which mingle with the beachgoers. The beach itself is nice, although the water is a little cold in winter.
Unsure of the exact address, but as the neighbouring penguin colony is a major tourist attraction it should be easy to find
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