Day one in the Mother City and the big old mountain’s stretched out in welcome under an azure sky. With any luck the Southeaster’s curled up asleep off Antarctica, and you and zillions of other visitors are geared to play, play, play.
You’ve got to start somewhere, so why not with breakfast at Nino’s on Greenmarket Square? It’s a place to be seen, although everyone who eats here tends to do so wearing sunglasses. Nino’s is also one of the few places that understands why breakfast may require a ruthless Bloody Mary or two.
Check out the trade at Greenmarket Square (if the airways have lost your baggage you can kit yourself out from head to toe in less than an hour). It’s also good for buying last-minute Christmas.
By this time the ultra-violet radiation levels should have subsided and it’s a classically beautiful Cape day. Beach-time, obviously. Your choices are many, but depend on whether you want to spend more time in the water than out of it. If the former, proceed to Seaforth or Boulders beaches beyond Muizenberg, where you can paddle with penguins in water warm enough to spend time wallowing.
The “other” side, swept by icy Atlantic rollers, offers a range of possibilities: venture on to Clifton’s beaches only if you are happy in a crowd and sufficiently coated with suntan oil — it makes turning over to brown the other side easier when you’re packed closer than sardines in a tin. Llandudno beach is better, but you must be able to cope with lots of dogs with untrained owners.
Here you can watch out for the legendary green flash that floods the sky as the sun flattens and sinks below the horizon. If you’ve thought ahead, you’ll have stopped at Simply Delicious in Regent Street, Sea Point, for a take-away (wild pastas and salads) and stocked a cooler box with white wine.
If your energy levels aren’t totally depleted, wash off the sand and the block-out lotion and head into the night. Stop off at Café Carte Blanche in Trill Road, Observatory, for cocktails or an apéritif. Locals still know it as Touch of Madness. See the décor, feel the ambience and understand why. You can eat here, too.
Head off to clubland — most of the new clubs are in Bree Street in the city centre. No pointers needed here, watch out for the neon signs and the booming beat — there’s something for everyone. House ravers can head off to the Magic Lushroom above the District Six Café in Sir Lowry Road. Angels is still going strong in Somerset Road, while Manenberg’s in Adderley Street is a must for a genuine Cape jol. D-Lite in Loop Street will make you think you’re in a London club. If you can’t face the trendoids head for The Fringe in Canterbury Street, where it’s said they frisk you for cell-phones at the door.
If you want to jol without moving far go to Don Pedro’s on the corner of Roodebloem and Palmerston roads in Woodstock. Furnished with eclectic cast-offs, the food’s straightforward but good, and the place frequently erupts into a spontaneous party — something to remember should you find yourself at a loose end on New Year’s Eve.
If you wake up feeling like you’ve been kicked about by 33 ninjas, be pro-active and take a hike. Drive to Kloof Nek and walk up Lion’s Head, the peak paragliders fling themselves off in the hope of happy landings on Clifton’s beaches. You’ll get panoramic views of the city without having to queue for the cable car. By the time you get to the top you’ll have sweated out the toxins accumulated in your system the night before and will be able to address yourself to eating and drinking again, which is what holidays are all about.
Guilt levels will also be significantly reduced. Avoid sending them soaring by eating cholesterol-free Thai cuisine at Yindee’s in Kloof Street, Gardens. Or stroll through the Company’s Gardens and have a down-home dinner of roast chicken and veg at the tea room while you watch the squirrels frolic.
If you want to make a day of it, head over to Hout Bay Harbour where you can take a trip on a launch to see seals at play. Eat at Mariner’s Wharf or make like the locals and buy take-away fish and chips from Snoekie’s. Head up the hill to the World of Birds, where you wander through the aviaries, rather than peering through chicken-wire. Hout Bay is also home to the Riding Centre, where you can hire a horse and go on an out-ride that will take you over the nek and down into Sandy Bay.
Beyond Cape Town lie the winelands and new vistas for orgies of excess. Of course, you can always regress into true lumpen-tourist mode and spend your entire holiday playing at the Waterfront — but bear in mind that this would please no one so much as your typical xenophobic local. Enjoy!