Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cape Town Wheel of Excellence

One of the newest attractions in Cape Town is the 40 meter high Wheel of Excellence at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront.  The big wheel has 30 fully-enclosed cabins and the 15 minute ride literally gives one a bird eye view of the Waterfront and surrounding Mother City.  When the Kidz heard that we were going on a big wheel there was a lot of apprehension, specially from Drama Princess who is always a bit weary of the unknown, but once we were inside and going around they absolutely loved the ride. 

Going around you don't really know where to look.  The view is breathtaking with beautiful vistas of the attractions around the Waterfront, the city beyond and Table Mountain in the background.  The other way you can see Table Bay, Robben Island and the beaches along the Bay with the sprawling city all around and the mountains in the distance.  All in all its a WOW! experience and anybody can do it, even granny in her wheelchair; as two of the gondolas are wheelchair friendly. 
The wheel has definatively changed the skyline of the Waterfront area and added an attraction which should not be missed by anybody wanting to see more of Cape Town. 

Our ride on the Wheel of Excellence was courtesy of the V&A Waterfront.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

South African Museum

I'm a museum kinda guy.  There is always something new to discover even if you have been to it so many times before.  My favorite museum to go to is the South African Museum in Cape Town.  Its the oldest museum in sub-Saharan Africa and was established in 1825 by Lord Charles Somerset.  It is both a research and educational institution and offers collections of natural history and anthropological objects that document all forms of life - living and extinct - from southern Africa.   Whats also nice about the museum is that fact that its located at the top of the Company Gardens (seen in the photo just behind the Delville Wood Memorial) so a visit can be combined with exploring the whole area.   

One of the most popular and impressive parts of the museum is the whale well with it's life sized whale and whale skeletons. Its combined with the rest of the marine section which also showcases sharks and dolphins. 

Other exhibits range from an extensive collection of mammals and birds, to an excellent collection of material cultural heritage of our indigenous populations going back to their earliest origin.  These include Stone Age tools, some over 120 000 years old, and rock painting.

Chaos Boy's favorite part of the museum was the dinosaur and fossil section with these life sized skeletons being the centre of the exhibit.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Buildings along the Company Gardens

As I have mentioned in my previous post, several Cape Town's most significant historical buildings can be found along the Company Gardens as one walks down Government Avenue.

At the bottom entrance to the Gardens are Church Square and the Slave Lodge.  The Slave Lodge was built in 1679 by the Dutch East India Company and housed thousands of slaves during the time when slavery meant big business for the Cape Colony.   In 1810, after the British had taken over, the building became the Supreme Court and in 1914 was turned into government offices.  In 1966 the Slave Lodge was turned into a museum, paying tribute to the past and containing historical displays on the Cape as well as a collection of antiquities and artefacts from around the world.  Slavery was officially abolished in the Cape in 1838.  The statue was erected in 1920 and is that of  parliamentarian Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr who was recognised for his efforts to have Dutch recognised as a language (on the same footing with English) in the Constitution of 1910.

Probably the most impressive buildings along the Company Gardens are the South African House of Parliament buildings.  Cape Town is South Africa's legislative capital while Pretoria is the administrative capital.  The House of Parliament buildings were  original designed by Charles Freeman who miscalculated the foundations and was replaced.  Constructions was overseen by Henry Greaves and completion in 1885 with the new House of Assembly being designed by Sir Herbert Baker.  Guided tours can be done through the House of Parliament during the week and visitors can also buy tickets to sit in the public gallery during parliamentary sessions certain parts of the year.
Next to the House of Parliament is Tuynhuys, the office of the President.  This beautiful building was originally built in 1700 as a residence for important visitors to the Cape.  It has been used as an official residence by almost all the governors of the Cape - Dutch, Batavian and British - and by State Presidents after the country became a Republic in 1961. 

Towards the top of Government Avenue opposite the South African Museum on Government Avenue is the South African National Gallery.  The National Gallery began with a presentation of some 45 paintings by Thomas Butterworth Bayley in 1871, and since then has grown to one of international stature and houses some of the most beautiful collections of South African, African, British, French, Dutch and Flemish art in South Africa.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Company Gardens

The greenbelt that is the Company Gardens, stretching through urban downtown Cape Town, attracts both locals and visitors in their droves.  People go there to admire the historic buildings, sight see, play in the park, feed the squirrels, read a book, sit in the shade and relax or just to get from the one end to the other.  The Company Gardens were established in 1652 and takes its name from the Dutch East India Company who first started the garden to supply their ships, that plied the spice trade route between Europe and the East Indies via The Cape of Good Hope, of fresh produce.  The gardens were irrigated through a system of open irrigation furrows fed by the area's numerous streams originating on  Table Mountain.
During the late 17th Century the Garden had expanded quite a lot, but after the Dutch East Indian Company went bankrupt it started going backwards and was in ruin by 1795.  During the first British occupancy very little money was put into the Garden and it deteriorated even further.  The Dutch Batavian Republic administration revived the Garden in 1803 and when the British took over again in 1806 they started to build important institutional buildings around the area.  The Gardens themselves were again given to the Governor for his use and in 1848 a portion was released as a public open space.  In 1892 the Municipality took over the Public Garden for the first time the garden was open to all as a right and not a courtesy.  (Sorry for the history lesson)
Some of the significant features of the garden include the oldest cultivated pear tree in South Africa thought to date back to 1652, a rose garden designed and built in 1929, a well dating from 1842, a memorial slave-bell dating back to 1855 and a Japanese theme garden with a stone Japanese lantern donated by the Japanese Ambassador in 1932.

As mentioned earlier in the post, the Company Gardens are home to a few very prominent buildings as well as statues.  The South African National Library is just one of those buildings while there are statues of figures like Cecil John Rhodes, Sir George Grey and Gen Jan Smuts.  In the next post I will tell you a little more about some of the other buildings you will find around the Company Gardens. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cape Town War Memorial

As you would know I am always on the lookout for something interesting to photograph, doesn't matter if its natural or historical.  As far as historical attractions go you tend to find some kind of war memorial in just about every town and city around South Africa and Cape Town was no different.  In actual fact I found two right next to each other.  At the top of the Company Gardens just below the South African Museum is the Cape Town War Memorial containing the names of the men from the city that has died in the two world wars.  Right behind it is the Delville Wood Memorial which commemorates the World War 1 Battle of Delville Wood in France, in which a predominantly SA force of more than 3 000 soldiers was reduced to 755 survivors by German forces.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Feeding squirrels in the Company Gardens

You may not find it on all the tourism guides being printed about Cape Town, but one of the popular things to do for visitors to the Mother City is to go and feed the squirrels living the the Company Gardens.  Most of the vendors around the area sell bags of peanuts and you can easily spot the difference between visitors and locals by those carrying a bag of nuts.  The squirrels have become so accustomed to people that even though they are wild they will come and take the peanuts from your hands.
On our visit you could easily see that it was peak holiday season and there were lots of visitors about feeding the squirrels.  Why?  Because they just didn't seem too interested in food.  The Kidz were a bit disappointed that the squirrels didn't want to come to them, but we did eventually find a couple willing to do so.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Groot Constantia

The very first wine estate in the Cape I got to visit years ago was appropriately also the oldest wine estate in the Cape.  Groot Constantia was established in 1685 by Simon van der Stel who was the then Governor of the Cape of Good Hope.  The farm was used to grow fruit and vegetables, farm cattle and produce wine.  The original farm was broken up into three parts (Groot Constantia; Klein Constantia and Bergvliet) in 1712 after Van der Stel's death.  Today the Cape Dutch-style manor house is a museum with the exhibition of furniture, paintings, textiles, ceramics, brass, and copperware, provides an insight into the life of a successful 18th to late 19th century Cape farmer.

The Cloete family purchased the estate portion around the manor house in 1778 and planted extensive vineyards.  They also extended the manor house and added the Cloete Cellar building situated right behind the manor house.  The extension and wine cellar were designed by architect Louis Michel Thibault and the cellar's elaborate pediment gable was done by well known Cape sculptor Anton Anreith.

Walking towards the manor house along the lane of trees from the car park you pass the Jonkershuis complex.  The Jonkershuis Restaurant is the estate's main restaurant and sitting in the shade on a hot summers day with a glass of cold Constantia wine in hand can't be beaten.  The complex also has an Orientation Centre that uses panel, object and archaeological displays to give an overview of Groot Constantia from the past to present.  There is also a collection of carriages on display in the Coach House.

My personal point of view?  I love Groot Constantia.  Its easy to get to and there is so much to see.  If you aren't into the old and historic you can go wine tasting or just order a picnic basket from the restaurant and relax under the trees.  Groot Constantia does get very busy during peak holiday season though and there can be loads of individual travellers and tour groups about, so like most of the attractions around Cape Town it is a good idea to visit when its not as hectic.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Groot Constantia gate

Somebody asked me if anything has happened because they don't see any new blog posts other than on PEDP.  But don't worry, I haven't been abducted by an alien race from another planet.  I've been away at Tourism Indaba in Durban for the last week or so and didn't have time to do any forward posts for this blog.  As blogging is a hobby for me I have to fit it in where I have time available and time has been a very scarce commodity lately.  This means that I often sit and blog in the evenings when I should be giving attention to the Damselfly, the Kidz and things at home which then means it only gets done late at night.  Oh how I wish I could travel and blog professionally.  Then the time thing wouldn't be such a bother.  Anyway, I digress.  I still have a couple of Cape Town posts to get through which I will try and fit in over the next week or two (depending on the time).

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Kalk Bay Harbour

Compared to big city harbours the fishing harbour at Kalk Bay really has something special to it and when visiting you won't get stopped by security at the gate, except if the parking lot is full.  Kalk Bay Harbour is primarily a fishing harbour so that is what you will see.  Fishing boats leaving pre-dawn and returning in the afternoons with their catch, fishing boats off loading and fishing boats moored at quayside.  The majority of the boats in the harbour are painted in bright colours which means that they are very popular with anybody wearing a camera over the shoulder. 
But the harbour isn't just about the fishing boats.  Its also about people.  The locals gather on the breakwater to wet their lines or just sit and discuss things while visitors look on hoping to see somebody catch something.  Its amazing how easy strangers can start a conversation and it is no different here with most of the visitors ending up chatting to the locals asking about the (potential) catch.
The harbour also has a vibrant fish market where you can by your fish fresh off the boats with snoek being a favorite.  The local "tannies" will also clean your fish for a fee and I stood there in amazement watching them scrape and cut away.
We ended our visit to the harbour with fish and chips at Kalkies.  Who wants to sit in a fancy seafood place if there is a traditional fish and chips shop right there on the harbour with great views over the surrounding area?  Plus four of us ate for the price one would pay in the fancy restaurant.  Suddenly I feel like fish and chips tonight.

Friday, May 4, 2012


Living in Port Elizabeth we can't really say we know much about subways.  On our recent visit to Cape Town we took a train ride from Kalk Bay to Simon's Town.  As we had to board the train on the other side of the tracks we had to pass under it through a tunnel which, with its graffiti, was what I imagine subways would be like.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012