Cape Town with Kids: Day One

What a relief to arrive in Cape Town coming from Mozambique. It feels a bit like the time when Noisette and I came back to West Berlin from East Berlin in the 1980s and almost felt like kissing the ground. Okay, I’m exaggerating just a wee bit, but nonetheless I make a wow to be much more patient with South African inefficiencies in the future. They are nothing compared to those of Mozambique.

The kids sense the difference as well. They each receive a goodie bag when we check into our rooms at the Westin without delay, the sheets are crisp and fresh, the view of  the Waterfront is stunning, there is plenty of shampoo and no smell whatsoever. Our only complaint is that the picture we saw on the webpage looked as if the Westin was right on the water’s edge at the V&A Waterfront, and that is not the case. It’s about a ten minute walk. But everything else about this hotel is perfect. We take long showers (without flooding anything), spend a serene night after an entire day of flying and waiting around in airports, and then dig in at the most awesome breakfast buffet we’ve seen in a long time. Your tea arrives before you even sit down, dirty plates vanish miraculously, the croissant basket keeps getting replenished, and about 3 waiters hover a short distance away, ready to anticipate our slightest desire. We all agree it is good we are here after Pemba Beach Hotel and not the other way around, or the disappointment would be huge. Yes, you’ve guessed it, we’re a family of snobs!

View from Westin Hotel in Cape Town

Green Point Stadium

The V&A Waterfront in all its night time glory

Sunset over the foothills of Table Mountain

The one drawback about going to Cape Town with a family of six is that there will be six different opinions as to what should be done next, resulting in a lot of arguing. Our family seems to be especially skilled in that department. I read in Outliers (great book by the way, everyone should read it) that kids from middle class and educated families have a huge advantage over underprivileged kids in that they grow up with a sense of entitlement. Not so much for material things, but a right to be taken for full and to be heard and listened to, giving them a huge edge in terms of future success.They hone this skill by – yes, you guessed it – arguing on their own behalf throughout their childhood. If that is true, then our four kids will all be very successful one day.

So, after a lot of arguing over breakfast, it is determined that we should go up Table Mountain, notwithstanding the fact that we can’t see it under its thick layer of clouds or its “Tafeltuch.” But, as so often in Cape Town, things change completely by the time we’ve taken the cable car up to the top and the sun is coming through. I have to endure a lot of ribbing concerning my fluffy down coat, but I was so cold the last time around, I don’t care. The views are stunning. We take lots and lots of pictures. Of clouds, of dassies, of Cape Town through the clouds, and of every conceivable pose on the rocks.

Great fun for kids: The rotating gondola on Table Mountain

The views are stunning

Jabulani’s “Christo” pose

Lion’s Head

After a few minutes, Impatience is, well, impatient. To get to the gift shop. We tell her that if she never mentions the gift shop again, it will be her reward in a little while. This is very hard for her, but she succeeds. It makes me think back to my childhood. If my brothers are reading this, they will attest to the fact that I was an absolute pest during our summer vacations, whining from gift shop to gift shop. My recollection is that I whined because I never got anything, but the truth is probably that as soon as I got one thing, I’d start whining for the next. So I’m a little bit more forgiving when Impatience does exactly that, though it is very tough as a parent. We haven’t even made it down the mountain again, after shopping for bookmarks and earrings at the Table Mountain gift shop, when an increasingly whiny debate ensues that we must, absolutely must, go to the aquarium as our next stop. Noisette and I aren’t keen on that, of all things, as we’ve seen many aquariums around the world, and they are not all that different from each other. But our suggestion that the kids go on their own while he and I stroll through shops and have coffee on the waterfront only results in more debate (“after all, we HAD to go to Table Mountain with you, so you HAVE to go to the aquarium with us.” The fact that all four kids have voted for Table Mountain as our first activity this very morning at breakfast is completely forgotten. I swear to you, that is how it goes in our family).

We delay a final decision and head to the V&A Waterfront (where the Two Oceans Aquarium is located) to look around. But our Garmin bails us out by insisting (it did the exact same thing to me on my last trip to Cape Town) that we turn left at the traffic circle instead of right, which makes us end up in Camp’s Bay. Noisette and I find that it looks really nice, reminding us of La Jolla, and so we park the car and wander up the beach and back down the promenade. True to character, Sunshine and Jabulani take off their shoes and go play in the (freezing cold) waters of the Atlantic, while Impatience and Zax give us an earful as to their suffering on this horrible and boring beach. We are almost convinced that we are practically torturing them. For Impatience, all memory of the gift shop and the earrings seems to be wiped out. I have her repeat “I shall be grateful for the earrings I got at the gift shop” for the next 5 minutes to buy myself some peace and an opportunity to consult with Noisette about lunch plans, since the other truth in our family is that the best answer to whining is food. We settle for a nice late lunch at Zenzero on the Promenade in Camp’s Bay, where the kids are somewhat mollified with Virgin Daiquiris and Spaghetti Bolognaise.

That’s how cold the Atlantic is in Camp’s Bay
More spectacular views along Chapman’s Peak Drive

There isn’t that much of the day left, so from Camp’s Bay we continue down the coast a bit and drive along Chapman’s Peak Drive, a winding and very scenic road on top of the cliffs to the South of Cape Town. The views are spectacular, but we expect a bit of a longer drive for all the hype we’ve heard about it. It seems to be just a few curves before we’re done and heading back towards the city. There are more winding roads and we feel as if we’re racing against time, because we have decided to watch the sunset from Signal Hill. But we make it there just in time and are rewarded with a spectacular ending of our day.

More posing on Signal Hill

A beautiful Cape Town sunset as seen from Signal Hill

All in all a great day in Cape Town with our family. All the driving and picture taking can be a bit tiring for kids, but there was enough for everybody to keep it fun. Table Mountain got everyone’s vote for biggest hit of the day.

Stay tuned for Cape Town with Kids: Day Two and Cape Town with Kids: Robben Island.