Dinner was at Paranga, a hip and happening spot right on the main drag of Camps Bay. It would be right at home in South Beach, Miami or Venice, California — a combination of young fashionistas and older tourists sipping cocktails and eating freshly prepared food just steps from the beach park and surf.
For our last day in Cape Town, we moved on to Kensington Place, a fantastic boutique hotel set high up in the Gardens residential district above the main city, but within easy walking distance down the hill to all the main city attractions. In contrast to the tradition and luxury of Alphen, Kensington is all about style, design, and personalized service.
After a tasty outdoor breakfast, the manager gave us detailed recommendations for a walking tour of the city, which proved on the mark (example: cut through the back entrance of the Mount Nelson Hotel, walk through it and out to the front to access the Company Gardens, the city’s signature downtown park). After a lunch at Pepenero (the cajun chicken pasta was outstanding), we ambled back towards the V&A Waterfront, perhaps Cape Town’s most popular attraction, but found the hyper-tourism and shopping mall overload a bit too much for our taste.
Before dinner, I decided to get some exercise and headed up from Kensington Place to hike Lion’s Head, perhaps the city’s signature viewpoint. Easily accessible from the hotel, the views were jaw-dropping almost from the outset, with a panorama extending from the City Bowl and downtown across the face of Table Mountain and down the coast to Camps Bay and beyond, along with the 12 Apostles (a series of rocky pinnacles along the west face of Table Mountain).
After a short while, the trail steepened and became more rough as it corkscrewed around the peak, ultimately heading almost straight up over some ladders and small cliffs before emerging on the summit plateau. There, a wide swath of Cape Town locals and tourists were gathered and taking in the 360-degree view. To complete the visual, the famous “tablecloth” of fog was coating the top of Table Mountain — wow.
After a tasty dinner at Societi Bistro and a restful night at Kensington Place, we awoke early the last morning to catch the first cable car up Table Mountain, just a short drive up the hill from the hotel. Again Kensington’s manager was spot on, as he had purchased our tickets in advance, saving us from a long line that had already assembled at 8am.
After a surprisingly fast ascent (it’s also hikeable if you have more time), we were suddenly atop the mountain’s plateau, which was already ripping with wind in the early morning. Luckily however, it was perfectly clear, and we spent half an hour walking around the paths and admiring the various lookouts from all directions. The environment up there was clearly harsh, but the fynbos plants were perfectly adapted and hardy. As we seared the view into our minds on our last day in South Africa, we resolved to return to Cape Town again for weeks, months, perhaps even a year. In our accounting, The Mother City might be the coolest city around.