Flying over the majestic mountains and down into the seaside city tinted in a golden glow from the evening sun felt like a warm welcome to Cape Town as I marvelled at the view from my aeroplane window.
Where to begin? The weather quickly decided for me as heavy storm clouds and sporadic rainfall set in for my first two days in South Africa’s coastal metropolis.
The wet weather didn’t dampen my excitement though, as I started my travels through the city’s historic sights, museums and shopping offerings.
As a solo traveller, I wanted to be right in the thick of the action to make the most of my short four-day stint. The 91 Loop Boutique Hostel proved to be the perfect base. Located along busy Loop St, it was about a five-minute walk to various museums, cafes and historical attractions such as The Castle of Good Hope, the oldest surviving building in South Africa.
Its name stems from that given by Portuguese explorer Bartholomeu Dias, who labelled the country’s southern region Cabo da Boa Esperança (which translates to “Cape of Good Hope”) when he passed by in search of a sea route to India in 1488.
Built between 1666 and 1679, the pentagon-shaped fort has for centuries been central to political, civilian and military life at the Cape. At the central quadrangle, visitors are greeted by four statues of royal, tribal warriors honoured for leading battles against armed colonial conquests and oppression.
As I absorbed the rich history about how Cape Town came to be inside the castle, looking outside Table Mountain teased me as glimpses of its towering formation emerged through the cloud cover.
“Table Mountain is a must” is what a majority of the Uber drivers kept telling me but I knew I had to bide my time and keep my fingers (and toes) crossed that the weather would improve and the cableway would reopen.
I found the local Uber drivers to be friendly and invaluable sources of local knowledge in helping me uncover quirky attractions and places to wine and dine as I darted around the city.
One of those recommendations was to visit the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock, said to be one of the most multicultural areas in the city. Housed within this industrial setting were an array of fashion boutiques, food markets and restaurants. And after wandering through the city’s grandiose yellow-walled fort and museums, I was ready for something to eat.
Delicious fresh produce from the French-inspired Saucisse Boutique Deli hit the spot before setting off again to explore.
While its colourful, graffiti-decorated streets and vintage shops add to the charm of this playful precinct, a word of warning about personal safety came with the Uber driver’s recommendation when wandering around Woodstock.
Pursuing the shopping offerings of the Old Biscuit Mill whet my appetite for a bit of retail therapy. With that, I made my way back into town and to the Victoria and Alfred Watershed at Table Bay and essentially shopped until I dropped.
While on the more expensive side of the Cape’s retail destinations, the Watershed prides itself on locally designed and made clothing, jewellery, gifts and produce. Striking, Gorman-esque prints encapsulate the clothing and accessories of unique local designers stocked by Mungo and Jemima.
For something different, head to Davis Ndungu’s shop of sculptures made from recycled thongs and other products.
The second floor of the Watershed serves as an innovative workspace for entrepreneurs and creatives fuelled by the two coffee shops.
The sun shining through my hotel room window on my last day evoked a sigh of relief that turned to joy when I found out the Table Mountain Cableway had reopened after days of bad weather.
I decided to take my chances and book for the afternoon cable ride to watch the sunset. Little did I know half of Cape Town had the same idea as I joined the long, 100m snake of people queued from the cableway entry to the ticket booth.
Schoolchildren giggling with excitement about the adventure ahead, couples embarking on a romantic date and locals showcasing one of the Cape’s most popular attractions to their friends visiting from abroad, the line was abuzz with anticipation to see this world-famous wonder.
I finally made it to the cable car and, while we were squeezed in like sardines, everybody was able to enjoy the sweeping views of the city with the circular floor rotating as we ascended to the top.
Rugged up in my windshield jacket, I was in awe at the spectacular view of the city, which looked like a cluster of Lego pieces nestled within the greenery of the mountain base and out towards the coast against the backdrop of a pastel-coloured sunset sky.
It was the perfect way to round out my trip to South Africa.