JAMIE’S SOUTH AFRICA/BOTSWANA EDUCATIONAL JOURNEY – PART 2

Friday, September 4th, 2015

Flying for over 20 hours can really wear a person out.  Luckily, once I arrived in Cape Town, I was whisked away by our private guide, Michael, from Thompsons to our first hotel, The One & Only Cape Town.  Located on prime real estate within walking distance to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, this hotel is an oasis in South Africa’s bustling city.  There was not a bad view from any room in this hotel.  I was lucky enough to have an island view room, which was a

across from the pool and had a rondoval feel.  I spent the afternoon at the pool getting to know the other agents I was traveling with before we headed off to to the Cape Grace for dinner.

The Cape Grace is also near the waterfront.  A smaller, more
intimate property, this hotel boasts one of the largest whiskey collections in the world.  With over 525 different whiskeys, 10,000+ bottles of wine, and claim to Signals, one of the top 35 restaurants in the world, this is a definite stop for any foodie.  Our group was treated to a chefs table dinner with wine pairings after our hotel inspection.  I would definitely recommend trying Springbok!

The second day of our adventure started early.  We beat the lines to get up to Table Mountain.  Luckily, we were able to go to the top on the only clear day while in Cape Town.  Visits to Table Mountain are largely dependent on the weather and the guides that we use are flexible to ensure that you have the best chance to get to the top.  The views were breathtaking!  If you are adventurous, there are numerous trails to hike to the top as well as rappel from the top down.  After a walk around we went back down the mountain for a tour of Cape Town.  A city rich in history and culture, we visited a castle, market, and the historic area.  For the adventure seeker, Cape Town is the perfect place to go shark diving as it is located near one of the largest populations of great white sharks in the world.

In the evening we experienced the Chefs Table at the One & Only.  The food and wine pairings were delicious.  After dinner, a few travelers headed to the bar for a nightcap.  This was my first encounter with the strength of the dollar in South Africa.  After three drinks my bar bill was $15.  This bar is at one of the nicest hotels in Cape Town!

Early on day 3 we headed out for a full day of traveling.  We drove south along the gorgeous coastline.  Along the way Michael told us stories of Baboons and  development.  We stopped to see penguins before heading down to the Cape Peninsula.  Although not the southern most tip of Africa, the Cape of Good Hope has beautiful views and a rich history of explorers.  There is a a lighthouse that allows you to see for hundreds of miles on a clear day and provides some great photo opportunities.  Again, we arrived before the crowds, which is quite important if you don’t want to sit in a 2 hour long car line!

On the way back to Cape Town we stopped for a colorful lunch with Chef Bruce.  A gourmet 5 course lunch with wine pairings served in his home, Chef Bruce sources all of his food locally.  If you can get reservations, this is truly an experience not to be missed!

After a filling lunch we headed to our next hotel, the Grand Dam of Cape Town, the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel.  Located in the hear of the historic area of Cape Town, this hotel is a true gem.  Over 150 years old, this is a very classy property.  High Tea is one of the highlights here.  Accommodations range from rooms to cottages and they offer an adults only pool.  The gardens are great for meandering around and breakfast is a spread not to be missed.

After a good nights rest and filling breakfast, we met with some of the finest hoteliers in South Africa and learned about what makes each property unique.  In the afternoon, a few of us went to Robben Island, the former prison where Nelson Mandela, along with many other political prisoners were held during apartheid.  It was a long but interesting excursion however I do not recommend it for children or anyone that does not familiarize themselves with Apartheid and South African history prior to going.

This evening we were invited to an exclusive Chef’s Table in the kitchen of Planet, the acclaimed restaurant of the Mount Nelson.  An experience not to be missed for any group of at least 6 people, we enjoyed wine pairings and South African cuisine followed by the most magnificent chocolate I heave ever had!

On our 5th day we checked out of the Mount Nelson and headed to South Africa’s famous wine country.  Two towns, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are the perfect base camps for the many vineyards in this region.  Only about an hour from Cape Town, the wine lands are a great extension to a Cape Town visit.  We visited Waterford Estate for an extensive tasting of 15 wines.  They offer a wonderful wine and chocolate pairing that I would recommend as it highlights 3 great wines.

We were able to call La Residence home for only one night.  Upon arrival we were greeted by 4 amazing men.  They gave us a tour of the hotel and all of the unique rooms that were individually designed and decorated by the owner, Liz.  A small, intimate property with only 12 rooms and 5 villas, this hotel was rated by Conde Nast as #1 in the world.  Prior to arriving, the staff did a bit of research on each one of us and matched us with the room that they felt we would like best.  I was given the Versace room, which was TO DIE FOR!  Boasting a chandelier in the bedroom and bathroom, I felt like I had died and gone to heaven.  We were treated to a delicious dinner followed by drinks by the firelight and laughter with 4 great men until late in the evening.  Perfect for a romantic escape, wedding, or base to visit all of the vineyards in the area, La Residence was truly a highlight of this trip!

Penguin Beach

Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town

Waterford Wine Tasting

Boat House with Chef Bruce

Bedroom at La Residence

Cpae of Good Hope at the Lighthouse

Cape Penninsula

Cape Grace Hotel. Cape Town

Table Mountain View

Nelson Mandela’s Cell at Robben Island

Cape of Good Hope

One & Only view from hotel rooms

Bathroom at La Residence

Island View room

Table Mountain

Jamie and Joan on Table Mountain

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