Thursday, October 29, 2009

Table Mountain Cablecar summer sunset half price special

Wow -- more great news for tourists visiting our beautiful city and for those who love to host and share Cape Town with family, friends and visitors In addition to the visitor friendly innovation of being able to book your tickets online for the table Mountain cableway, and avoid the long lines that sometimes put visitors off , Table Mountain Cableway has announced a four-month long summer Sunset special offer which starts on 1 November, 2009, and will continue until Sunday 28 February 2010, with prices being reduced by 50%, for those who travel after 6 pm to enjoy the romantic sunsets.
Adults can now experience the thrill of travelling to the top of our iconic table Mountain at a height of 1076 metres in the Cableway’s rotating gondola, which gives every passenger beautiful panoramic views of one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The cost is now just R 80 (US $ 10) return fare for adults and only R40 four children under 18 years. This is a wonderful gesture and I am sure that it will be enjoyed during this coming holiday season when our city experiences an influx so many visitors, seeking Cape Town family holiday accommodation. The special tickets can be purchased from the Cableway’s offices from 6 pm. Do bear in mind that the Cableway operates only during good weather for the safety of visitors. Their office number is (021) 424 8181.
On the top of the mountain one can follow paths to various scenic look-outs, and make use of the telescopes provided to get a close up of the city and the harbour. There is a souvenir shop and light meals or a sundowner drink can be enjoyed the restaurant. In these coming summer months, the early evening is a great time to plan your trip as the sunsets are beautiful. For your comfort take a jacket or windbreaker , irrespective of the weather, as it usually cool on the mountain top, where the evening breezes blow.
The website says that this offer includes New Year's Eve when the last car will travel up at 11 pm, and return at 1 am. Imagine being able to see the New Year in enjoying dinner at the table Mountain Cafe and watching a spectacular sunset over the ocean.
Some facts about the cable cars that you might find interesting
· 800,000 visitors from all over the world travel the cableway each year
· The cable car was imported from Switzerland and there are only 2 other such cable cars in the world, one in Titlis in the Swiss Alps in Switzerland, and one in Palm Springs in America.
· The cable cars take about 5-10 minutes to reach the top of the mountain at 1076 meters , and they travel at a speed of up to 10 meters per second.
details of the on line booking facilities can be found in our post in the August blog

Monday, October 26, 2009

The South Peninsula of Cape Town

The South Peninsula of Cape Town

Visitors seeking holiday accommodation in Cape Town are often confused when the locals talk about the Southern Suburbs and the South Peninsula. Let me try and clarify these two small regions for you.

The southern suburbs of Cape Town are those which stretch from the city towards the coast of Muizenberg; diverse and interesting, but away from the undoubted attractions of the beaches. The South Peninsula is one of the most popular holiday regions in the Western Cape, and stretches from Muizenberg on the False Bay coast through to Simonstown, and around the Atlantic seaboard towards Cape Point from where the road meanders through typical beach side villages; Scarborough, Kommetjie and Noordhoek. In the South Peninsula the visitor will find a series of charming coastal towns all of which have quite a significant history and all of which have undoubted attraction for those who are seeking a relaxed coastal lifestyle. Here you can find an almost limitless choice of beach holiday accommodation , from self catering, bed and breakfast to the most upmarket guesthouses. Don't be surprised if you find the people, both young and old or walking barefoot in the town in their baggies, as the area is truly laid-back.

Muizenberg has a long history of popularity for beach holidays and was extremely popular in Victorian times although it deteriorated during the 70’s-90’s, but it is rapidly revitalising itself. It has village charm but you will also find seafront mansions built by wealthy Victorian businessmen. The beach is long with a shallow slope and ever rolling waves, making it very popular with both swimmers and surfers alike. You are most likely to find the cheapest holiday accommodation in this suburb. Along the beach at surfer’s corner you will find beautifully restored Victorian shops and apartments together with cheerful and inexpensive restaurants where you can breakfast or lunch while watching the surfers at play.
The pretty stone built Edwardian era railway station building at Muizenberg is a notable attraction, and accommodates both a popular restaurant and several antique shops.
From this station one can take the train down the Southern line which follows the coast of False Bay through the suburbs to Simonstown. Visitors will find this an interesting and relaxing diversion and your kids will love looking out over the sea and the tidal pools from the train window.

Rubbing shoulders with Muizenberg is exclusive St James, with Mansions and luxury holiday homes facing directly toward False Bay along a stretch which is known as millionaire’s mile. Visitors will undoubtedly have seen many pictures and postcards of the beautiful tidal pool with its brightly coloured bathing boxes at St James, as it is a favoured subject for many photographers. Here you will also find the historic cottage of Cecil John Rhodes which is open to the public as a museum.

Once you pass through you are sure to be enchanted by the historic fishing town of Kalk Bay ; so named because of the lime extracted from sea shells and used for the construction of buildings in the 1800’s. The main road of this little suburb is lined with charming Victorian shops with apartments above and has become notable not only for its unconventional and Bohamian lifestyle but also as a browsing destination for antiques , crafts and art galleries for both locals and visitors. On weekends, winter and summer, you will find it busy, although never too crowded. There are many good restaurants in the area; probably the most notable of which is the Brass Bell, situated on the sea side of the station, and which has been near for decades, becoming something of an institution. It has a selection of dining areas all of which have great views of the sea. My personal favourite is to dine in the deck area where you can eat with the waves breaking alongside. Kalk bay remains a working fishing harbour and you will find a visit to the small harbour interesting, where you might be able to buy fresh fish from the boats. In the harbour are a few upmarket restaurants, but you can also stand in line with the locals to sit on benches and eat at Kalky’s Fish ‘n Chips which is reputed to have the best in Cape Town

Around the corner is Fish Hoek which is best known as the only town in the Western Cape where the sale of liquor is not allowed. Latterly, it has permitted a few licensed restaurants and pubs. Although most of the South Peninsula became inhabited early on by settlers, it seems strange that this town with its beautiful, sheltered beach was only laid out as a township in 1918 and has very little of historic value. You should not be put off by this, however, because there is a long stretch of white sand across this sheltered bay which is an ideal bathing spot for families, young surfers, and safe for children. There is a concrete walkway that follows the shore for a long distance and makes both a pleasant walk as well as an opportunity to watch the whales when they appear in September to November for mating and calving.

Historic Simonstown is the last real town on the False Bay side, gained its name from the Dutch Governor, Simon van der Stel who personally surveyed False Bay in 1687 and recommended it as a sheltered safe alternative anchorage to Table Bay in winter. The main road of Simonstown, St George’s street, is known as “historic mile” and one can have an interesting walk admiring the selection of beautiful buildings; some of which date to the Dutch period in the 18 th century, but most of which were only built from when the British took occupation in 1806. During the days of the British Royal Navy there were many hotels in the main street and most of these historic buildings have now been converted into holiday accommodation. Simonstown’s business fathers have been very successful in attracting tourists, because of the interesting town centre and the wonderful beaches and the naval base. Sometimes it can be a little too popular as the tour buses offload the masses for a break and a bit of shopping en route to Cape Point. There are some interesting museums here, including the Simonstown Museum which is based in the old magistrates residence, dating back to about 1777; the Naval museum and the Heritage Museum. Explore also the historic small Muslim area above Jubilee Square, the town centre.

The beaches of Simonstown are generally sheltered from wave action both by the little bays and also large boulders off the shore, making this an ideal spot for families who would like their children to be able to swim and play in safety. Very few have not seen pictures or heard of the cute African penguins that now inhabit one of the best beaches, which is boulders Beach, just outside of the town. Until a short while ago it was possible to swim alongside the penguins that took over the beach in 1985, but now one will have to be content to admire them from the walk that skirts the beach.

Along the road from Simonstown to Cape Point you will see a few dotted beach cottages, some so far from the road as it climbs towards the point that you wonder how people get done to them.

From here there is a coastal road which is truly spectacular and passes through Scarborough, which is a genuine beach cottage village, popular with retirees and those who can afford to have a weekend home close to the city. You will have plenty of time to admire the sea and the beautiful beaches as you drive along the coast, before spotting the lighthouse at Slangkop, which towers above another seaside village, called Kommetjie. This village, apart from being known as a good spot for catching crayfish, is extremely popular with surfers who like to ride its rolling waves. Long Beach stretches from this village right across the bay to the last town of the South Peninsula, which is Noordhoek.

Noordhoek is quite different from any of the towns that I have described. It was originally a farming settlement occupied from about the 1700s, growing fruit and vegetables for the naval settlement in Simonstown. Over the past few decades it has grown considerably in size but properties here tend to be much larger than the average for Cape Town, as it is still deemed to be agricultural. Plot sizes average 1-2 acres, with the result that it is popular for those who keep and ride horses and the only town that I had seen which has special road crossings- not for pedestrians -but for horses. You will find many attractions here- restaurants, galleries and the like, and because of the size of the properties many owners have more than one building on their properties; the choice of holiday accommodation here is extensive both in range and in price. There are some exclusive and very expensive lodges, B’n B’s and guest houses, but you will also find affordable self catering cottages such as Horizon Holiday Cottages where you and your family will feel at home in the ideal location to explore those wonderful and interesting area.
Not for nothing is Noordhoek known as cape Town's best kept secret destination
Please see our website and book your affordable holiday accommodation today

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cape Town Annual Carnival starts 2010

More great news for Cape Town (and visitors) for 2010, Cape Town will stage its first Carnival that will not only match that of Rio, but will become an annual event. Whatever you do, book your accommodation now – whether affordable self catering Cape Town
accommodation, lodge or guest house for this exciting event.
The city fathers (or should that be mother?) have cleverly scheduled it between the famous Argus Cycle tour of the Cape peninsula and the 2 Oceans marathon. Executive Mayor Helen Zille has announced that starting 2010, Cape Town will have an annual all inclusive Carnival that will aim at bringing together the diverse communities of the city through music, dance, creative and cultural expression, culminating in a weekend of inclusive fun for Capetonians and visitors alike.
The Carnival will be held from 19 - 21 March 2010, with the aim to have the annual Carnival on the 3rd weekend of March every year, in between the Argus Cycle tour; the North Sea Jazz Festival and the Two Oceans marathon . Conveniently Sunday 21 March is a public holiday which will mean that the Monday will be a public holiday, and give you time to recover or stay longer in our beautiful city.
The highlight of the weekend will be a parade comprising 8,000 to 10,000 performers on Saturday, 20 March, and also include A fashion show by top Cape Town designers, a grand carnival ball and street parties.
The Friday night of the Carnival weekend will have Carnival balls and dancing, in a wide range of venues. Themed Balls will be held in all participating communities on the Friday evening, culminating in the Grand Carnival Ball on the Eve of Cape Town CarnivalOn the Saturday, there will be a street parade with some 1,500 and 3,000 artists including dancers, musicians, singers parading through the streets and magnificent floats; some as high as 2 stories. The participants from our wonderfully diverse communities will have an opportunity to put on their dancing shoes, fire up their rhythms and tell wonderful visual stories of diverse and common roots that span lifetimes.Throughout the day the crowds will be able to vote for their favourite group via SMS and people across South Africa will be able to watch the spectacle on TV.
There will be a competition at midday, with the groups performing for 60 minutes each.- the audience will be able to see breath-taking performances of dancers and musicians, a swirling mass of colour and creativity, costumes and movement stretching more than a kilometer. Professional judges will judge the formal part of the competition and finally the judging and voting will be combined. At the stroke of midnight, the winning group will be announced amidst joyous celebration. The top five teams will automatically be entered into the 2011 Carnival and the party will continue until the wee hours of the morning.
Professor Rachel Jafta, chairperson of the Cape Town Carnival Trustees said that following a visit to Rio- world famous for its carnival – “we identified that Cape Town has no shortage of cultural offerings combining music, dance and other kinds of creativity, however, these all seem to be catering for particular niches....we wanted to create something new, where communities interact and celebrate our uniqueness, but also unite as citizens of one of the most beautiful cities of the world.”
Currently, Cape Town's most famous carnival is the Cape Minstrel Festival, also known as the Kaapse Klopse carnival, which takes place on the second day of the New Year, when the brightly decorated and clothed minstrels and musicians parade the streets of Cape Town

Whatever your taste or interest there is something for you in Cape Town- any time of year.
The Carnival date falls at a time when the weather in cape Town is good, with little wind. For a great deal on Cape Town holiday accommodation see our website.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Chapman's Peak Drive Re-opens

Great news for tourists – both local and foreign - Chapman’s Peak Drive was reopened on Friday 9 October 2009 after being closed for many months, following heavy rock falls. This is also good news for our beautiful Noordhoek valley as the tour buses bring local business, and guest accommodation business including our own can offer something special to tourists. Chappies is a popular scenic drive for our guests. We honestly share our guest’s disappointment when they arrive and find it to be closed.
The route starts at the picturesque fishing harbour of Hout Bay. You will have arrived here either by taking the coastal road from Cape Town city through Sea point, passing Clifton and Camps Bay with its beautiful beach and strip of restaurants favoured by the in-crowd, or by approaching it from the southern suburbs of Cape Town through the exclusive suburb of Constantia; via Constantia Nek. Either way you will be able to enjoy a wonderful scenic drive even before you get there. From Hout bay the road winds steeply up to Chapman's Point, offering breathtaking views of the Hout bay and the harbour until the road reaches lower levels again where it ends at Noordhoek. As you approach Noordhoek you will see Long Beach with its remarkable 8 km of white sand, stretching across to the neighbouring village of Kommetjie, and Slangkop lighthouse. (see our heading picture) Chapman’s peak drive is highly regarded as one of the most spectacular coastal drives in the world. There has been much controversy about the privatization of its management and the eradication of alien vegetation; blamed by some as the cause of frequent rock falls. Full credit, however must given to the operators and that is that they are highly conscious of maintaining a clean safety record.
Even those of us who have always lived in this beautiful part of the Western Cape never tire of this route- which is an alternative to those who live in the South Peninsula of getting to the cape Town city centre- driving along the winding road with its many twists and turns and wonderful panoramic views. Although the road is quite narrow, since it was rebuilt and reopened in 2003, quite a number of opportunities have been provided to pull off to the side of the road, marvel at the views and take advantage of wonderful photographic opportunities. You should not be in a hurry on this road, not just because it has many twists and corners, but because it is also favoured by cyclists who wish to add both challenge and enjoyment to their exercise.
You will also find a number of picnic spots equipped with concrete tables and benches where you could spend a happy couple of hours, as many of the locals do on the weekends. During the time that the whales migrate to the Cape in their mating season, Chapman’s peak drive also offers a great opportunity for whale watching.
Depending upon whether you commence or in your drive in Hout bay, you will find many opportunities to browse in quaint shops for handicrafts collectables, arts and antiques. There are a number of really good restaurants, although my favourite spot is Mariner’s wharf where you can enjoy the view from the excellent restaurant upstairs or join the locals eating fish and chips at outside benches , while enjoying watching the fishing fleet come and go.
On the Noordhoek end of the drive you will be sure to find many attractions to seduce you to tarry. Noordhoek farm village is a browser’s paradise of galleries, collectibles, and handicrafts, as well as wine shop and delicatessen in the food barn. You will find plenty of accommodation in Noordhoek, ranging from luxury to affordable, such as ours, and B ‘n B’s or self catering.

History of Chapman’s peak drive
Chapman's Peak Drive was the brain child of Sir Frederic de Waal, the first administrator of the Cape Province. Work on the road began in 1915, although may were of the opinion that it was an impossible task. The road was blasted into the mountain side and is a masterpiece of road construction It was formally opened in 1922. Rock falls were a constant threat and a series of unfortunate events lead to the closing of Chapman’s Peak Drive in January 2000.
Due to its sensitive location within the Cape Peninsula National Park and the provisions of Sections 23 and 24 of the National Environmental Management Act, No 107 of 1998, an integrated environmental approach to the rehabilitation and upgrading of Chapman's Peak Drive was required.
This turnkey project was carried out by the Chapman’s Peak Construction Joint Venture. This joint-venture R145 million project was overseen by Entilini Concessions, the special-purpose company established by the consortium of Concor Holdings, Haw & Inglis and Marib Holdings. The project has been undertaken with full participation of the local authorities and communities.
You can find more information at their website.