Photos credit of Nicholas Markman
This cape is the most stately thing and the fairest cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth. — From the journal of Sir Francis Drake, on seeing the Cape for the first time, 1580.
As we groggily stepped out to discover the city, seemingly unfurling from out our hotel window perched on the side of Table Mountain, we felt strangely…at home. It’s almost as if San Francisco was reincarnated as Cape Town, or visa versa. Despite obvious differences the two cities seem to share a common DNA. Both come with a staggering abundance of farm-to-table food, proximate wine country, locals inclined toward outdoor activities, precipitous hills, an island prison and a certain edge. Sir Francis Drake, it seems, was rather fond of both.
One key difference, happily is how far a dollar will take you — a quality bottle wine at a high-end restaurant will cost you around US$40 or a measly $5 at a grocery store.
Our first night we met a friend for a drink, which turned into dinner. Due to our jet-lag-induced ridiculously early dinnertime, we were able to walk into Chef’s Warehouse, one of the Mother City’s most popular restaurants where they rolled out course after course of deliciousness in a casual, homey setting.
We woke up bright and early the next morning to sweat our jetlag away with a 101 km road bike down to Cape Point. This has to be the only place in the world where baboon, zebra, ostrich and penguin sightings are possible in one ride. Not to mention the stunning scenery and grin-inducing descents.
That night we enjoyed one of my favorite meals in recent memory at The Potluck Club, which doles out modern small plates. Perched on the top of the silo of an old biscuit mill and encased in glass, the dining room spoils you with its views. If you have one meal in Cape Town — make it here. Just keep in mind that advance reservations are required.
You can’t come to Cape Town without visiting Robben Island, the former prison where Nelson Mandela and other members of the ANC spent nearly 30 years as political prisoners. The tour, led by former political prisoners is both a grim reminder of the injustice humans can met, as well as the resiliency of the human spirit.
The Stellenbosch valley is a wine-y slice of heaven. We checked into our Airbnb cottage, which I would happily move into and spend the rest of my days, and then preceded to check out. Vacation oozed in. Morning runs through the vineyards, lazy afternoons by the pool, biltong wine pairings, ostrich on our backyard BBQ.
Our last night in South Africa we treated ourselves to a stay at Babylonstoren, a 17th century Dutch farm that has been lovingly transformed into the epitome of bucolic lifestyle mixed with a serious eye for design. The property is home to 8-acres of walled garden that pump out all variety of produce that in transformed in the kitchen into artful plates.
Victoria Falls & Botswana
Safari. Both what I expected and something entirely different, perhaps the furthest I’ve gotten from my everyday life. The hours spent gazing out of the jeep at an endless landscape of brush and ancient baobab were like a healing salve. The mind could wander, not away, but back to something. A rediscovery — of yourself.
Africa — You can see a sunset and believe you have witnessed the Hand of God. You watch the slope lope of a lioness and forget to breathe. You marvel at the tripod of a giraffe bent to water. In Africa, there are iridescent blues on the wings of birds that you do not see anywhere else in nature. In Africa, in the midday heart, you can see blisters in the atmosphere. When you are in Africa, you feel primordial, rocked in the cradle of the world. — Jodi Picoult, American author
No amount of writing can describe the warmth, care and passion that the AndBeyond team infused in our experience. We tapped our inner Hemingway and opted for the “original” safari in mobile tents — with a few modern luxuries like soft, warm beds, flushing toilets and meals that set a whole new standard for “camp” food. If it is survival of the fittest on the savanna, then we each day we were increasingly in trouble, aided and abetted by fresh baked cakes and delicious meals all cooked over an open fire.
Five planes later we arrived back in San Francisco, but it was a different us that came home.