Whether you’re a Capetonian taking a quick ‘sho’t left’ in your own city, or a traveller from beyond the province limits or the borders of the republic, deciding what to do with your leisure time without a guide can prove tricky.
But if you want something slightly off the beaten track that includes some light exercise and a history lesson; elevated views of the V&A Waterfront, harbour, City Bowl and surrounds; sundowners overlooking Sea Point’s beachfront promenade; and a laid-back gourmet dining experience followed by a luxurious overnight stay… pull up a chair and read on.
The marble-tiled, breezy, air-conditioned lobby of Winchester Mansions offers welcome respite from the pulsing afternoon sun in the Cape summer sky. Once the friendly hotel receptionists confirm your reservation and hand over your room key, head up to your quarters and freshen up before venturing out again. Perhaps have a cold one at Harveys bar or take a quick splash in the Winchester’s azure pool, but there are things to do and people to see, so don’t dilly-dally about too much.
Tel: (021) 434 2351. Hotel rates range between R1,630-R7,350 per night.
All freshened up? Good. Now grab a comfortable pair of shoes and a bottle of water, and shuttle, cab, or Uber your way to theCity Sightseeing South Africa offices situated at 81 Long Street. There are a range of activities you can enquire about within, but today we’re here for one specific reason – the FREE guided walking tours. There are two 90-minute options: The 11am historic city tour, and the 2pm Bo-Kaap walking tour, and we’ve made it just in time for the latter. Make your way down to Greenmarket Square (Cnr Burg and Shortmarket Street) and look out for the tour guides with the yellow umbrellas.
Our group lucked out and ended up being led by dreadlocked impresario and laid-back tour guide, Paul. We never did catch Paul’s last name, but the more time you spend with him, the more you get the feeling that he probably doesn’t waste time with things as frivolous as surnames… As Paul herded us up Wale Street toward Bo-Kaap in the sweltering heat, he made a quick pit-stop at Honest Chocolate (64A Wale Street) to wax lyrical about their handmade, organic, raw cacao delights. Once we hit Bo-Kaap though, Paul switched modes and proved a most eloquent and knowledgeable storyteller, painting rich historic tapestries with a combination of the spoken word, sweeping gestures and animated facial expressions.
He started off the 90 minute tour by explaining the colonial history of Bo-Kaap, and how one particular area became known as “Schotsche Kloof” thanks to the military occupation of the British and Scots – and even the French, for a spell – way back when. Around the next corner Paul pointed out Auwal Masjeed, the oldest mosque in Cape Town, founded by the legendary Tuan Guru, and explained its significant and rich history. At this point, we were only about 20 minutes into the tour with so much more to look forward to… but we’ll leave the rest of the walk’s history lessons and surprises as just that, surprises, so anyone who decides to join one of these walks can delight in the same wonder and insight that Paul was able to weave for us. Suffice to say, he pointed out many tourist hotspots and areas of significance, and even explained the reasons behind the famous, brightly-coloured houses of the “Malay Quarter”.
Nielsen Tours / Cape Town Free Walking Tours, Tel: 076 636 9007. The guided walking tours are free, but tipping is encouraged.
Free City Sightseeing walking tours: The Historic City Walk (from 1 November to 31 March 2016) 8:45am, 11am and 2pm The Bo-Kaap Walk (from 1 November to 31 March 2016) 11am, 2pm and 4:15pm
4pm: Bird’s-eye view
Armed with your newfound knowledge of the history of Bo-Kaap, it’s time make your way to another tourist haven, the V&A Waterfront, to catch some of the best views this side of the mountain by hitching a ride on the Cape Wheel. What was initially meant to be a mere six-month long attraction, peaking during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the “Wheel of Excellence” at the V&A proved to have much longer lasting appeal than Shakira’s seasonal hit, “Waka Waka”.
No advance booking is required here, just show up, queue and get your tickets from the on-site booth. The giant observation wheel was modelled after the London Eye on the banks of the River Thames, and is made up of 30 fully enclosed, air-conditioned cabins that safely reach heights of 40 metres above the ground. One “ride” lasts for about 12-15 minutes, which equates to four revolutions on the wheel, ample time to get your camera out and snap your surroundings from the same vantage point as those pesky seagulls you often see flying about.
Tel: (021) 418 2502. No booking needed – Adults R100 and Children (4-15 years) R50. Children under 4 years free of charge.
Even if the idea of spending an entire day in the Cape Town sunshine is one that appeals to you, it can take its toll and knock the wind out of your sails. What better way to regain your composure than with a refreshing cocktail or frosty draught? Make your way back to the Winchester and grab a seat at Harveys bar, claim a barman or waitron as your own and strongly suggest they bring you a cold one; and keep ‘em coming. The CBC Weiss (on tap), mojitos and Long Island iced teas come highly recommended, but whatever your poison, they’re sure to have it.
Harveys sea-facing front deck is perfect for catching those Instagram-worthy sunsets, while sipping on your drink and savouring the salty sea air drifting up from the promenade. The bar also serves some moreish snacks and light meals, but don’t forget to save your appetite for the main event, dinner at Harveys Restaurant.
7pm: Dine and wine
Once you’ve worked up a good enough appetite, simply make your way from the bar to Harveys restaurant, just across the hotel lobby – you’ve certainly trudged around enough for one day, no need to clock up those steps on your Fitbit Flex any more than you have to. Harveys restaurant serves up modern, South African cuisine with a strong seafood component. Starter dishes include the likes of creamy steamed mussels, spicy seafood linguini, or freshly shucked West Coast oysters, while the heavier main course fare ranges from trio of guinea fowl, loin of springbok, to a range of seafood dishes.
There is also an extensive wine list as well as a decadent dessert menu to satisfy most tastes, including a savoury option of a “South African Cheese Platter for Two” (R95) made up of five different cheeses with Cape fig preserve. However, the crown jewel of the menu has to be the indulgent seafood platter for two (R595), which boasts crayfish, six prawns, 12 mussels, two battered hake fillets, Patagonia calamari rings, French fries and savoury rice with lemon butter, garlic butter and chilli sauce to round out the lip-smacking smorgasbord.
Tel: (021) 434 2351 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info or bookings. Full Harveys dinner menu available on their website, subject to change and seasonality.
If you want to hit the town for a night out that’s your prerogative, but the combination of a long sun-kissed day, lazy cocktails, and a delicious three-course dinner with award-winning wines would be enough to make anyone’s eyelids rather heavy at this point… go ahead and turn in for the night in your luxurious room, you deserve it.
11am: Sunday Jazz Brunch
The pièce de résistance of any weekend stay at Winchester Mansions definitely has to be their Sunday jazz brunch. You don’t have to be a hotel guest to attend this sumptuous weekly event, and locals and tourists alike have come to appreciate the fabulous food and fine live music on offer. These weekly brunches have been going on for quite some time, and they’ve certainly perfected the formula over the years… expect the Sunday papers and a glass of bubbly on arrival, in the superb outdoor setting (weather permitting) of the hotel courtyard, while the live jazz band warms up their instruments for the languid day ahead. And we mean languid – the brunch stretches from 11am to 2pm and the buffet menu covers everything from every imaginable breakfast dish to cater for all tastes (seriously, there’s even sushi) which somehow morphs into a Sunday roast with all the trimmings. There’s even a selection of delectable desserts, for those who haven’t been defeated by everything that came before it.
Then of course, there’s the live jazz music, which by no means is just your average background din. The band is the real deal and the accompanying artists are among some of the most accomplished in the country. On the day we attended, the featured songstress was none other than Tina Schouw – stage performer, musician and singer/songwriter – who wowed the crowds with her mellifluous renditions of jazzy favourites like “The Girl from Ipanema”. Worth the price of admission alone.