Tag Archives: Cape Town

Capetonian Friendliness

We found ourselves defending Capetonians today. We were in Cederberg, an area three hours north of Cape Town known for its thousands year old bushmen rock art. While there, our guide said that she was happy she moved from Cape Town to this secluded area because she found Capetonians rude and always in a hurry. We were in vehement disagreement. We’re not just comparing Capetonian politeness to New York, we’re talking about politeness on a global scale. Capetonians are genuinely friendly and polite people.

We have dozens of examples of Capetonian friendliness, but let’s concentrate on the ones that involve cars. We’ll start with Capetonian driving manners. Once on highway road, drivers will move to the side to let speedier cars pass. The passing car will then flash its hazard lights in gratitude. Night driving around the city outskirts can be dark but every car we have passed turns off its high beams well in advance of our approach. A car horn is a surprise, even in the middle of the city.

A few days ago, a lady knocked on our door and asked for help to push her broken down car. We happily obliged (Sandeep with a little extra enthusiasm since he was about to get a work out) and moved her car off the road. The task took no more than a few minutes but, two days later, she came back to hand deliver a box of chocolates and a heartfelt thank you.

Not only are Capetonians friendly behind the wheel, they are as amiable when selling cars. We are in the market for cars so decided to visit two dealerships in the city. We let each one know that we would be buying our car in the U.S. but were interested in looking at the models. Any car dealer in the U.S. may have dismissed us. However, in Cape Town, the salesmen when out of their way not only to answer all our car questions but to give us lots of advice on what to do in their city. One had even taken a year off to travel in North America, so we instantly traded travel experiences.

Even the taxi drivers extend friendship. The norm here is to call a taxi company to arrange a pick-up. One particular driver now brings cookies when he knows he is about to collect Ava and Kayan from playschool. On the way home he entertains them with riddles.

The bottom line? Capetonians are friendly. Moreover, we’ve never been hurried through a conversation in Cape Town. We’re willing to bet that behind every burglar bar there is a friendly soul waiting to extend a Cape Town welcome.

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Signs We Love Cape Town

We have a fascination with odd road signs. In Namibia we snapped many picture of signs that we had never seen before, some of which we never deciphered. We rent a car each weekend in Cape Town and Sandeep drives us around the wineries, ocean routes and mountains. What makes Cape Town memorable for us is its natural beauty, so it’s no wonder than many of the road signs have something to do with nature.

Capetonians seems to defer a lot to nature. The joke about the weather is, “If you don’t like the weather in Cape Town, wait an hour.” The winds off Table Mountain are so strong that the trees surrender in odd angles. One day I literally thought the wind was going to swoop Kayan away. Signs everywhere tell us to take care of nature, be it in the form of penguins or baboons. We weren’t sure if this sign at a Stellenbosch winery was asking us to watch out for ducks or snails. Either way, all four of us obediently had our eyes peeled on the road, although I must say it seems futile to try and avoid snails when driving.

The day after we watched for snails we watched whales along the Whale Coast Route, a stretch east of Cape Town which claims to be the best spot in the world for land based whale watching. Around July, Southern Right Whales migrate  from Antarctica. They get very close to the shore, where they rub off their accumulated barnacles on the massive boulders that line the ocean floor. It is still early in the season, but we were lucky to see a few whales in the distance as we sat on shore and ate lunch. We never even knew that the concept of land based whale watching existed and it’s a memorizing experience to be on firm ground while watching these giant creatures out in the vast ocean. We’re planning another trip back in a couple of weeks when hopefully more whales will have migrated.

While there is some marine life we want to see, there is others that we’d rather avoid. The same coast that attracts whales, penguins and seals also has one of the highest concentration of Great White Sharks in the world. Kruger National Park and Great White Shark diving are often cited as the two most popular reasons that tourists come to South Africa. These blue boards educating surfers, swimmers and beach goers about sharks dot the coastline. The last fatal shark attack in these waters was in April 2012, although such attacks are rare. Many of Cape Town’s beaches have official shark spotters and signage that informs people about current shark conditions.

The shark smart board reminded us that we humans are more often encroaching on these animals’ habitats than the other way around. We are so fortunate to be able to enjoy all sorts of animals, from lions to whales, in their natural habitat while in Africa. These experiences have been opportunities for our entire family to really understand that we share this world with so many creatures and that their survival depends on our care and respect.


Filed under Africa, Animals, South Africa

Our Kids Take Us Wine Tasting in Cape Town’s Winelands

For as long as I can remember, my grandmother treated all my ailments with a shot of brandy. I am a strong believer that a good glass of wine cures most pains. We are not the only ones who believe alcohol is medicinal. Jan Van Reibeck, a surgeon of the Dutch East India Company, was charged with managing the supply station in the Cape of Good Hope. The Dutch maintained the area as restocking a midpoint between home and India. One of the leading causes of death for the sailors was scurvy and the Dutch believed that grapes and wine would ward off the decease. The exact date of South Africa’s wine birth can be traced to Jan Van Reibeck’s February 2, 1659 journal entry, “Today, praise be to God, wine was pressed for the first time from Cape Grapes.” Since then, South Africa has grown to be the world’s eighth largest producer of wine by volume.

We’ve visited vineyards in all corners of the earth but had yet to see a wine country as beautiful as the Cape Town winelands. Even during winter, which the locals say is dreary, the mountains glisten green and the vineyards form blankets along the hills and lakes east of Cape Town. Many vineyards have horse stables, lakes for fishing, and small game reserves or orchards, all of which add to the allure. Wine tasting in South Africa is a leisurely affair. Many tasting rooms are set up as living rooms, with expansive views and inviting fireplaces. Some even have pre-packed picnics so you can enjoy a meal among the grapes. Tastings last over an hour as visitors are there for the atmosphere as much as for the wine.

We are on a mission to expose our kids to anything and everything and see no reason why wine tasting should be any different. By that we mean Ava and Kayan do the wine sniffing and Sandeep and I do the swallowing. We chose to park ourselves at Vrede en Lust, a winery whose history spans over 300 years. We felt very welcome upon entry when this sign greeted us.

As tempting as it was, we decided to forgo the nanny and have Ava and Kayan help with the tasting. As we admired the view over the mountains, the sommelier chatted away about pencil shavings and coffee on the nose. We asked the kids for their olfactory opinions.

For the Rose, Kayan said, “Strawberries and chocolate.”

For the Merlot, Ava said, “roses and rainbows.”

For the Chardonnay, they both agreed, “Gummy bears!”

Just to be clear, they only drank water.

As much as we know what wines we like and don’t we’ve never been able to describe the smells with such flair. It just goes to prove that kids to have stronger and less inhibited senses than adults.

One of the many things we already love about Cape Town is how child friendly it is. The winery offered the kids a set of crayons, a sticker book and paper to busy themselves while we enjoyed our wine. When we asked for a recommendation for another “child friendly” vineyard, our hosts casually assured us that anyone would welcome the kids. I guess there is plenty of love for everyone in the winelands.


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