Cape Town

It’s South Africa’s second most populous city, though it’s known as the Mother City because it was the nation’s first colonized city settlement. Now the modern city is one of the most-visited tourist destinations in all of Africa due to its robust offerings from wineries and beaches to shopping and more. Yet to this writer, there’s one thing that shines above them all. As racial progress continues, the Cape Town culture collides beautifully in this South African city by the sea. Speeding down dirt roads in between sprawling rows of green vineyards, you almost forget you’re on a winery estate. Marking my first time on an ATC, the daredevil in me quickly takes over the aesthete in me, and I lose all awareness of the surrounding 170-hectare landscape that is the Hamilton Russell Vineyards. Instead, I find myself, eyes peeled to the path before me, trying to mentally calculate turns and dips without ever having to relinquish my grip on the accelerator.

Cape Town Photo Gallery

But at last, common sense wins out when our ATC tour slides into the estate’s sampling room. I mean, what reasonable person would pass up the offer of a glass of wine? Inside, I sample the estate’s wines, including its award-winning Pinot Noir, which I’m told was one of the late Nelson Mandela’s favorite wines. I admit, I can’t confirm the latter fact. But I can say with certainty that South Africa has established itself as one of the world’s best wine producers. Due to its warmer climate and diverse terrain, grape varieties like Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Pinotage shine in the region. And as South Africa’s booming wine industry continues to grow, more people of color are establishing their roots in the wine market, which for centuries has been driven by white-owned vineyards. In fact, the Mandela family produces its own wine label. And as recently as this year, South Africa can now claim its first black female wine maker in Ntsiki Biyela under her Aslina brand, which is named after her grandmother. It might seem a bit random, but my ATV and wine pairing does seem to fall in line with the theme of my Cape Town visit: adventure, beauty and culture. There are several other great wineries within driving distance from the city, so drinking your way through (and around) Cape Town is definitely an outing to please the taste buds. But there is so much more to savor from Cape Town than its vino. Located on the western cape of the nation, the city provides a stunning landscape of picturesque beaches and awe-inspiring cliffs. Again my inner adventurer rejoices with all the possibilities. You can spend the day by the ocean.

Muizenberg Beach is a popular destination for beginner surfers. And Camps Bay Beach, neighboring a community of bars, restaurants, B&Bs and mansions, is the perfect locale for your sun-and-fun agenda. Or if you’re really adventurous, you can take it to the air. One by one, on a foggy morning, I watch paragliders take the courageous leap (but more like a runway takeoff) off of Signal Hill, landing near Sea Point Beach. And I learn true adrenaline chasers can aim higher, as in hiking up past Signal Hill to the higher elevation of Table Mountain, one of the city’s most-recognized landmarks, known for its 2-mile flat range. But if you want to see the peak of Table Mountain without all the work, there is a cable car that takes tourists up to view the mountain’s national park. Full disclosure: this is the route I take. And I’m not ashamed; it is certainly the easiest way to scale the mountain in a sundress and sandals. But if I could offer a bit of wardrobe advice, I’d say bring a jacket—as the elevation drastically changes, so do the temperature and wind. However, to take your view to yet another height (literally), I highly (pun again intended) recommend a helicopter tour. With such a diverse landscape, you can see all the wondrous ranges, valleys and vineyards around the city. But the most startling observation is not nature’s poetic juxtaposition of terrain, it’s actually a human-made construct. Nearly 20 years since the end of apartheid, the most glaring depiction of the residual effects of the country’s segregation is the shanty towns, which stand out in stark contrast to the neighboring metropolis.

From high in the sky, you can see the vivid divide of the center city’s wealth and economic growth paralleled to the verymuch-still-inhabited community of wall-towall shacks. Despite the country’s progress, with this visualization, you become all too aware of the apartheid history and the long road ahead. With the sobering image in mind, it’s only right to pay homage to South Africa’s civil rights quest and its former president and legend, Nelson Mandela. With boat tours departing from the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, I take a tour of Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of his 27 years as a political prisoner. The Robben Island Museum tours are led by former political prisoners of the island, who walk you into the prison yard, jail cells and barracks. It has quite the impact. And I’m keenly aware the Robben Island tourgoers comprise a diverse group of nationalities and colors. It’s nice to know the attraction is of interest to other nonblack tourists.

And that display of unity isn’t just reflected here. Famously dubbed the “rainbow nation” by former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the country demonstrates that beautiful mix of culture in venues like Cape Town’s Old Biscuit Mill. Offering a bit of a hipster vibe, here South Africans—of all colors, ages, origins and fashion senses (think dandy to dad jeans)—flock to this co-op of microbusinesses. I find everything from handmade soups and local designer threads to an international array of food vendors. The Mill’s Neighbourgoods Market (open only on Saturdays) is a foodie’s paradise. Authentic paella. Hibachi ice cream. Freshly shucked oysters. Wood-fire pizzas. Chinese steamed buns. It’s the best of global street food culture all in one setting. Furthermore, whatever your dietary leaning, you’re likely to find your vegan, glutenfree and rawest options here as well. Across town, the rainbow nation is represented quite dynamically in the Bo-Kamp neighborhood. The collection of houses, each a shade of bright blue, pink or other pastel color, are known as the Malay quarter, which was a community for mostly freed Malaysian/Indonesian slaves. Despite modern gentrification in the prime locale, it still retains an active Muslim culture as evidence by the restaurants, shops and mosques lining the neighborhood. There’s plenty to see and do in Cape Town, which is why it’s such a hot international tourist destination. But it’s the fusion of people and cultures—which are deeply woven into the very fabric of the city—that makes it so vibrant.

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