Friday, December 16, 2011

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town certainly hasn’t disappointed.   Wilder says it is just like being home, except in an alternate universe.  I think that isn’t a bad description.   The climate here is like home, mostly mild but with a blustery wind like our Santa Anna’s that they call the Cape Doctor.  The gorgeous old house where we have been staying, in the bucolic suburb of Constantia, is like our house in Woodland Hills, only better.   It is even decorated with paintings from Mexico, which definitely helps us to feel at home.  The mall we can walk to (over the freeway also like at home) is like our own Calabasas Commons, except perhaps not quite as fancy.  Everyone speaks English here, but in an accent that is often hard for us to understand. 

There are oceans and cities and vineyards, all like and yet unlike home.  The birds that roam the neighborhood and hang out around our pool look really strange, but the grocery stores are huge and include lots of things we haven’t seen in a while, including flour tortillas!  The restaurants are very good and the prices, while not cheap, aren’t budget busting either.

All in all we are very happy to be here, and for various reasons have decided to stay through Christmas and delay our departure to Hong Kong until after the first of the year.  Mostly we are excited to be having Wilder’s friend Stevie joining us here during that time.  Also I am looking forward to making a real Christmas dinner and having a traditional celebration, something we thought might be harder to pull off in Thailand (our original plan.)

Our very first day in Cape Town was my 45th birthday.  Mark and the kids did a wonderful job of creating a special and memorable day for me.   We walked to the mall where I was allowed to pick out two travel guides from the bookstore.  This was a great treat as we are not usually anywhere long enough to justify the expense.  My favorite present though was my “follow me flowers”.  These were not your everyday run of the mill flowers, as whenever I moved from one room to another, one or the other of the kids would hop up and relocate my flowers to sit on a table close to me – super fun!   My celebration also included a casserole I like to make at home and a homemade cake with homemade fondant roses courtesy of Peyton.  They ran into a little trouble when they couldn’t figure out how to turn on the oven, but the casserole turned out on the stove-top, and my cake, while a day late, was worth the wait!  I have a wonderful family and am very grateful that they would work so hard to make me feel special.  My friends at home were also working hard to make me feel loved.  The package they sent though has yet to arrive, and we fear now that someone else is enjoying my birthday goodies.

 Peyton with my Follow Me flowers

My birthday lunch

Staying in the suburbs is lovely but after the first couple of days necessitated us renting a car.  This was initially pretty intimidating as they drive on the “wrong” side of the road here.  I am happy to report though that I’ve only turned into the wrong lane once thus far.  Luckily it was into a parking lot, everyone managed to avoid me, and they all had a good laugh – I even received some applause from a group of onlookers.

$45 per day inc GPS

As to outings, we spent one afternoon taking the cable car up, and then hiking around the top of, Table Mountain.  We have seen some incredible views on our trip, but the dramatic 180-degree views from the point here have to be the best.

We also spent a couple days exploring the Cape Point and the great little beach towns that line the coast there.  Boulder’s beach is famous for it’s penguins. 

You also see ostrich and baboons roaming freely outside the towns.  Speaking of ostrich, it has become one of Wilder’s favorite meals in Cape Town.  On our first outing we went to the very popular Victoria and Albert waterfront and happened onto a great restaurant that serves sushi, dim sum and also oddly, medallions of ostrich.  We’ve had to go back now more than once as Wilder experiences ostrich cravings.

One evening, after ostrich and dim sum, the kids went off to see a movie while Mark and I took a champagne sunset cruise on a big old sailboat.  It was so wonderful when they shut off the motor and set sail with the sun setting behind Table Mountain.

On another day we visited the University town of Stellenbosch and the cheetah conservatory close by.  There we learned a lot about cheetahs, specifically how their numbers have declined during the last 20 years from over 100,000 to about 7,000.  The group there works to educate farmers about the plight of cheetahs and also runs a dog breeding program, providing dogs to the farmers that discourage wild cheetahs from dining on the farmer’s livestock.  The conservancy also houses a few other native animals that were fun to view close up.

They call him a jackal, but he looks like a coyote to me, so I don't like him

Our last night in Constantia we went to the Kirstenbosch Botanical gardens for their annual Christmas Carols in the park.  This was like a cross between Concerts in the Park (Woodland Hills) and the Hollywood Bowl, except it was in the dark and everyone had a lit candle in a paper bag (something that would NEVER happen at home.)  The audience all sang together with the carols as the Christmas story was read and acted out on stage.  It was a lovely evening, and only occasionally irritating as they sang many of our traditional carols to unrecognizable tunes!

We will be VERY sad to leave Walloon Farm - the name of the estate where we have been staying.  Victor the butler (yes the house came with a butler) has really spoiled us, serving English style breakfasts in the morning, washing our clothes and making our beds.  (All thoughts of roughing it on this trip have completely gone out the window.)

We are heading next to a two-bedroom apartment closer to town and within walking distance to the beach, where we will be until December 20th.  While I have a couple of leads, I have yet to book anything beyond that.  Hopefully something will come through soon.  This is very high season for Cape Town (their summer holidays) most things are booked up, and our budget is far below the going rate for anything decent.  We can certainly understand why though – Cape Town is fantastic!

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