Saturday, January 30, 2010

South Africa Wrap Up

We're heading out of Cape Town today, after a ten day stay. I can say that I've had an amazing time here - beautiful town, extremely nice people, vibrant culture, great history, tons of sightseeing opportunities and lots to do. A few observations: the Indian ocean is reasonably calm, the Atlantic is fairly rough, 'hoek' is dutch for corner and is pronounced 'hook' (Fish Hoek is a great town name, unfortunately the beach is closed due to a shark attack a few weeks back), I really enjoy bluenose and snoek fish, The Africa Cafe does not have any waiters named 'titty', Castle beer is a great local brew, 'brutal fruit' is a truly awful name for a winecooler, the Cape of Good Hope is cool to visit with tons of hiking (and even cabins for overnight stays), the penguin colony in Simon's Town is a must-see, African food is quite tasty, traffic lights here are referred to as 'robots', & I enjoy Nornadians...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Two Oceans & High Tea

Emily and I visited the Two Oceans Acquarium at the waterfront in Cape Town this morning. It was really fun and they have a number of good displays. My favourites were: Giant Spider Crabs, and the large acquarium with about 50 giant fish (and some small ones). Emily liked the Rock Hopper penguins and the giant lobsters.

This afternoon it was time for 'high tea' at the Mount Nelson Hotel. It was fantastic - buffet style with some of the best carrot cake I've ever eaten. The Mount Nelson is a really cool hotel and I'd recommend it if you want the luxury experience in Cape Town.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Penguin Colony - Simon's Town

After lunch, Emily and I jumped into a Rikki cab for a drive to Simon's Town. We spent about 4 hours at Boulder Beach - the African penguin colony. I took a swim in False Bay (the Indian Ocean is way warmer than the Atlantic). We saw over 1,000 penguins and got to sit on the beach about 2 feet from a whole group of them. It was a really cool experience. Believe it or not they can fairly easily walk/hop up and down stairs to get to the beach. It's a trip to watch. The cat-like creature below is a 'Genet' (related to a linsang). The other animal is a Rock Hyrax (called a 'dassie' in South Africa).

Best unemployed lunch ever!

Emily and I took a stroll a few blocks from our hotel and stumbled across the 'Buena Vista Social Cafe' - named after the band (I'm assuming, as there were band pics all over the place -- almost as many as there were of Che). Second story with a small balcony. Dark. Old photos of men, women and Castro smoking cigars. Paint peeling off the ceiling. A few ceiling fans spinning slowly. Beat up leather couches. We had an apetizer and then main course: Laphroaig (10 yr) and a delicious cuban cigar (Romeo y Julieta No. 2 Tubo) - which was my first actual Cuban cigar ever. I'm not really a cigar fan, but this was smoooooooth. Nice to be sipping single malt and smoking cigars at noon - I could get used to being unemployed :)

Gold Restaurant for more African food!

Emily and I ventured out to the Gold Restaurant for some interactive drumming and delicious African food. We ate: mealie soup and Cape Malay Puri crisps, chicken satays with tomato smoor, vegetable samoosas with chutney cream, spiced patat spears with peanut and coriander stay dip, baby bobotie, cape seafood curry, crip peri-peri chicken wings, vetkoek, dhal with roasted butternut, fragrant basmati rice, shredded vegetable salad, malva pudding and fresh fruit.

Photo credit: Emily McCarley (all photos below).

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Wine Tasting

Today Emily and I set off on a 1/2 day wine taste in the Stellenbosch region of outside of Cape Town. We visited two wineries: Zevenwacht and Saxenburg.
Whites, reds and some tasty cheese!Then back to the waterfront for some fish 'n chips. The hake and snoek were delicious. Snoek is a popular fish with the locals in Cape Town and is very tasty - although one of the boniest fish I've ever had. Off to rest, relax and read for the rest of the day...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Victoria & Alfred Waterfront

Today was a rest day for me. Emily took her first African cooking lesson. It was in a one-on-one class in the home of a woman from South Africa. She had a great time! I chilled at the hotel and read (the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson is quite good summer reading). Emily and I then walked around Bo Kaap - which was a bit disappointing, but perhaps we were not in the right places. We thought about going back to Simons Town to re-visit the African penguins, but decided instead to walk to the Victoria & Alfred waterfront. We found a fantastic Belgian restaurant called 'Den Anker Restaurant', sat outside and watched the clouds roll over Table Mountain and scullers row boats back and forth across the harbour for a three hour meal. And that was it for today!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Table Mountain, Cape Town

Today we met up with a friend from Dublin named Katharina and took it easy. We rode the hop-on/hop-off bus around the city, and up to Table Mountain. Clouds were blowing across the peak sometimes covering it completely and sometimes leaving periods of empty, clear blue sky. We rode the 360-degree slowing spinning cable car to the top in 4 minutes. Got off and spent about an hour walking all around the top - it's beautiful (and the clouds actually added a lot to the experience - we were completely surrounded by clouds and then they all blew away). Had a beer at the restaurant on top and then descended the same way. Back on the bus, we stopped again at Camp's Bay Beach, lunched at 'Bungalow' (my new favourite restaurant where the 'sea food platter for one' is clearly for two), and then spent the rest of the day lounging on the beach watching the sun sink closer and closer to the horizon. A really relaxing day!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Never Weld Drunk!

So an update on our hotel. After resting up from shark diving, we headed out to eat at The Africa Cafe in Bo Kaap. Leaving our hotel my favourite staffer was clearly inebriated again and this time was attempting to weld a strike plate on the front door. As we came down the stairs he looked up at us goggle-less, with his welding wand at full power and sparking and passed along this sage advice "never weld when you're drunk" and then promptly singed his thumb and yelled. We left.

At the Africa Cafe we had a great 'Communal Feast' for about 550 Rand ($90 USD) with the local Castle Lager, and the following:
Cassava Bread: Baked tapioca & cheese flat bread
Channa Fish: Dusted with chic pea flour and fried
Moroccan Lamb Stew: Tender lamb stew sweetened with dates
Kenyan Coconut Chicken: Strips of filleted chicken breasts in a coconut milk sauce
Portia’s Sticky Chicken Wings: Grilled with honey & herb marinade
Kenyan Irio Patties: Spinach, potato and pea patties
Malawi Mbatata, Cheese and Sim Sim Balls: Sweet potato & cheese balls rolled in sesame seed
Ethiopian Aib: White curd cheese with home-grown herbs
Congolese Spinach: Spinach cooked with peppers, onion & tomato
Cape Malay Dhal Curry: Medium strength lentil curry
Zambian Bean Pies: Crispy pastry with red bean filling
Senegalese Stuffed Papaya: Scooped out halves filled with savoury rice & topped with sweet red pepper relish
Chic Pea Bites: Spicy chic pea, onion and dhanya bites
Mozambican Piri Piri Dip: Hot, spicy dip of crushed red chillies & lemon juice
Egyptian Om Ali Dessert