Okay, so they're not exactly the same but there are a lot of similarities. The laid-back and friendly people, the wine country, the beach culture, the scenery...during the drive in from the airport, Jake and I were both struck by how much we were reminded of CA. We mentioned this to our driver and she said that she's heard this a lot from other Americans as well.
Anyway, here's a (not so short) recap of our first few days in Cape Town. Needless to say, it's been a great start to the trip!
Day One: After quickly dropping our stuff off at our hotel (an African Villa, which we highly recommend), we took a taxi over to Table Mountain and rode the cable car to the top. The views from the peak are spectacular, as you can see from Jake's pics:
After Table Mountain, we went over to the V&A Waterfront to pick up the tickets for the rest of our trip. A brief word on these tickets: when researching round-the-world tickets, Jake discovered that they were significantly cheaper if you started out in South Africa. We thus bought our tickets with Cape Town as the starting point. However, because we are flying more than 16 segments, we had to purchase paper tickets, which needed to be picked up from the ticketing agency in Cape Town upon our arrival. As it turns out, the ticketing agency here does not have the capability to print paper tickets, so a very kind and patient lady named Cindy hand-wrote all 20 segments of our tickets. Check out a photo of the tickets below - I'm curious to see the reactions of the airport check-in people when we hand these over!
Thursday night we went to Jardine, which was delicious. Our one "fancy" meal in Cape Town, and it was worth every penny.
Day Two: On Friday we spent the morning walking around the center of Cape Town, including a visit to the Slave Lodge, which is a fascinating museum about the slave trade in South Africa. The museum is housed in the building where the slaves of the Dutch East India Trading Company lived in the 18th Century. In addition to learning more about the slave trade in SA, we also saw an interesting exhibit on Steven Biko, a political activist that was beaten to death by the police in the 70s. Jake and I recently watched Cry Freedom, which tells the story of Biko's relationship with white journalist Donald Woods. The exhibit added depth to what we had learned from the film and made us both want to watch it again!
Friday afternoon was spent touring Robben Island, the location of the prison where Nelson Mandela and many other political activists were jailed during the latter part of the Apartheid regime. The tour is really fantastic; in addition to driving around the island, you are given a tour of the jail by an ex-political prisoner who served time there. It was a great experience and we both learned a lot.
Day Three: Today (Saturday) we took it a little bit easier (although not much!). We spent the first half of the day on a tour of the townships surrounding Cape Town, including Langa, Guguletu and Khayalitsha. It was another great experience from which I took away a very different perspective on the townships. Although many people living there are very poor, others live in quite nice houses (our guide called them "the Beverly Hills Houses") with indoor plumbing, electricity, satellite television...and some people even own brand new BMWs! There are also a surprisingly large number of hair salons (at least one on every block!) and some very, very cute kids. Some of Jake's pics are below:
After the township tour, we spent the rest of the day relaxing and then drove over to Camps Bay for dinner and drinks. The water at the beach was freezing (like California!), but the sunset was beautiful and our dinner was delicious.
That's it for now! Stay tuned for Jake's recap on the rest of our time in Cape Town in a few days!