We departed JFK late Thursday morning on and after 22 hours of flying and a three hour layover we finally arrived in Cape Town Friday evening. We flew Emirates airline for the first time and what an experience that was! For the first left from JFK to Dubai we were on an A380 which was a first for me. The plane itself felt modern and slightly luxurious when the flight attendants were handing out gift bags containing eye mask, socks, earplugs, and toothbrush/toothpaste in addition to all of the food! In a time when where airlines are scaling back to be on an airline that hands you menus at the beginning of the flight and giving pretty nice options is a nice change. The lunch/dinner options would usually contain some sort of salad, entree, bread, and dessert, and breakfast would have fruit, an egg entree, and a croissant. You were also provided a snack such as pizza so when you stepped off the plane you had no desire to eat!
We had a 3 hour layover in Dubai so we were able to stretch our legs a bit walking around the airport. We wondered around the airport exploring the duty free shops and souvenirs, though we did exert some self control and didn’t buy anything just yet.
On the second leg of our trip the flight from Dubai to Cape Town was virtually empty – and this is not an exaggeration. We were is the middle of the plane and I think we saw 4 other passengers sitting in our section. Due to the emptiness of the flight we were able to spread out and get comfortable on the flight. Even though we were able to spread out, by the time we made it to Cape Town we were tired.
The Gate1 Travel representative met us at the airport to take us to the hotel was also our tour manager so it was nice to meet him right away. We quickly and efficiently got to the hotel, Protea Sea Point, where we quickly checked in and got to our room. Our tour manager, Johnathan, made some suggestions for restaurants close by but we decided to go light and eat at the restaurant in the hotel since we also wanted to showered and in bed early since we had an early wake up call the next morning.
The first full day in Cape Town started with breakfast at the hotel and a meet and greet with the others in the tour. This was my first experience with doing a vacation with a tour company or group and didn’t know what to expect, but my apprehension was put at ease right away with Johnathan the tour manager. Everyone in the group seemed really nice at the meet and greet and we were then off on our first tour!
The first stop on our tour was Table Mountain. Of course this morning it was misty, rainy, and foggy. We decided to take the gondola up to the top of Table Mountain even if we couldn’t get the amazing views.
We didn’t know how much free time we would get and it is only open to 5 so we didn’t want to miss the opportunity. Even though it was foggy up top it was still an amazing experience. Table Mountain is considered one of the Natural Wonders of the World and there was just something peaceful being up there in the moving fog.
After our trip to Mountain Table we then drove to the Bo-Kaap neighborhood of Cape Town to see the beautiful colorful houses. The houses are painted vibrant cheerful colors and are situated in a hilly part of town. The houses are painted these beautiful colors after the end of apartheid since the residents of Bo-Kaap were able to purchase there own homes and painted their houses as part of their freedom.
Our last stop on our morning tour after driving through town seeing the oldest flower market, the old Dutch fort, and city hall was the Victoria and Alfert (V&A) Waterfront where we visited a diamond museum and store. It was interesting to see how the diamond mining industry began in South Africa and it was quit tempting to buy something when seeing all of the beautiful diamond pieces, but alas I resisted.
In the afternoon we opted into an optional Township tour of Cape Town. This was a wonderful eye opening experience. I am very happy that we decided to participate in this optional tour. We were taken first to District Six, where people were forced to moved to during the apartheid. It was humbling to walk around the museum and see how people had to obtain passes to leave District Six and how a family would live in a one room home. Next we went to Langa, a township in Cape Town, where we went to a community center that is teaching the younger generation the arts such as pottery, drumming, mosaics, etc. They raise money by selling art in the center that is then used to continue to run the center. We were able to meet with several of the instructors who told us about their arts, and in one case we were able to participate in a drumming session! After the community center we walked through the township and were able to see the homes that were there and the community as a whole. It was a very eye opening experience to see the homes people are erecting in small lots of land that have no running water or bathrooms within their home. They are using community water sources to cook, drink, etc.
It was a good way to end the first day full day in Cape Town by experiencing the true Cape Town.