Friday, March 23, 2012

Cape Town Travelogoue Part 3 (Final)

March 15               We began the day at the Two Oceans Aquarium.  The aquarium was designed much like one you might see in the US and felt a bit like home.  Especially the playland, of which there are few here (although the tea gardens certainly fill that niche, and there is not much like them at home.)  Aside from the play area, the aquarium is divided into three major areas, the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean and the Cape Town area watershed.  The exhibits were well done and all enjoyed it including my middle child, even though there none of his favorite amphibian, axolotls. 
The harbor area is very pretty and well developed.  The harbor is surrounded by upscale housing, large crafts warehouses where you can see the crafters at work, a couple of malls, a very modern ferris wheel and an old fashioned two story Venetian carousel.  We enjoyed strolling around the area and seeing the sites.  It is so funny but on this vacation, the boys couldn't pass up American food when they saw it, so they at at Subway.  The boys also rode the ferris wheel to get the view of the city.  An unexpected highlight of the harbor is the street performers outside the V & A Waterfront Mall.  We heard a talented jazz band playing followed by an energetic group singing some traditional South African songs and dancing, (pictured.)  We finished our time there by collecting polished stones at The Scratch Patch.
We awoke from our afternoon nap to cloudy, cool weather.  Despite this we decided to try to go swimming down at the Fish Hoek beach.  It was a little too cool so we occupied ourselves by beach combing and avoiding the Blue Bottle Jellyfish and snails washed up on the shore.  Then an interesting thing happened, a group of men ran quickly past us and into the water toward a small boat rowing in.  The men grabbed a rope and started pulling.  I then noticed there was a second group of men further down the beach.  The men (and one woman) were pulling in the rope with one man curling the rope into a nice coil for at least a half of an hour.  In between the two groups was the man in charge, a fisherman, with his walkie talkie coordinating the work.  Finally we saw the Trek net arrive with what I estimated to be about 200 fish (18in?).  During this time the crowd on the beach grew to watch the excitement and to purchase fish directly from the fisherman.  You could buy a fresh fish for R50 ($7).  I learned from a local that the beaches have been so overfished in the past that the government only allows three fishing licenses for the entire peninsula.
After dinner we had another family over who was also on vacation to share Joe's birthday cake with us.

March 16         The cloudy and cool weather continued today but that did not deter us from our planned trip to visit the seals on Duiker Island.  Duiker Island is a rocky outcrop in the ocean about a 20 minute boat ride from the harbor.  It was well worth the chilly weather to see the seals lounging on the rocks and frolicking in the ocean like puppies with a new toy.  Back at the dock we were serenaded by a raggedy band of the minstrel troupe style. Sadly, not many of the passengers were giving them coins. 
This afternoon we drove to Stellenboch which is in wine country and easily drivable from Cape Town. It is close enough to Cape Town that the traffic slowed us for a good bit of the drive.  Outside the suburbs the vineyards made a bucolic landscape dotted with old buildings.  It seems that all of the vineyards have wine tasting and many have restaurants as well.  The road into Stellenbosch was congested as well and it was frustrating trying to get to the historic section of the city.
My oldest and the baby were napping and Joe wanted to join them so my younger son and I decided to try to find the Stellenbosch Toy and Miniature Museum.  The layout of the roads in the historic section of Stellenbosch is confusing and we found ourselves at the University of Stellenbosch's Art Museum just as someone opened the door.  That seemed like a good enough invitation and we decided to stroll around.  The main exhibit was on traditional Chinese cut paper art.  My boy was particularly interested in the pictures that were symmetrical since there was no obvious fold lines in the paper.  He also liked a series of oil paintings and poetry on the Butterfly Effect.  We also viewed student art from the permanent collection.  We did manage to make it to the miniatures museum where we were greeted by a man that looked very much like my father.  Along with information on the toys, vast room with a reproduction of a train route and miniature trains and miniature rooms he shared interesting information on the mixing of all the various groups in the Cape peninsula.  His own background was considered 'colored' and that included a mix of descendants of West Africans, the San peoples and the Irish.  I shared with him that America is also a place with much mixed ancestry.
By now it was past time for lunch but strolling around the area we found many of the restaurants to be packed to overflowing.  We needed to eat quickly so we ducked into the Jan Cats Cafe in the Stellenbosch Hotel for a bit to eat since it was not crowded.  This place was really a hidden gem.  The food was great and relatively fast.  On our way back to the car we paused at the Lourens GalleryLouren's drawings are so detail the appear photographic.  His son is also talented and creates unique jewelry of wood, silver and semiprecious stones.
March 17         Our last morning in the area proved to be the most frustrating. We all wanted to visit the penguins one more time after we loaded up the car we thought we would get gas and drive through Simon's Town.  The gas station pump was super slow so we decided after 5 minutes and only a few liters (couple gallons) we would bail and get gas later.  The credit card machine was down, luckily we had enough money to pay.  Once we got to Simon's Town it was unexpectedly congested and there was a detour set up.  We had unknowingly run into the Naval Festival.  The detour ruined our plans  to purchase a quick breakfast at one of the fine bakeries in town and we had to do without until after the beach.  At least the penguins were great and the beach nearly deserted.  The boys went swimming and took a stroll up to the visitor center.  The baby and I stayed behind because she was very fussy and wouldn't let me put her down.  Our drive back was worse than the drive in because of the greater amount of traffic on the route but at least the detour was down.  Oh, wait, no, the officer has left and the roads are still closed.  We just have to do a U turn and waste more time.  Now we are getting worried about getting to the airport in time.  We stopped at a working gas station, filled up and had to make to with cookies for breakfast.
Luckily the road to the airport only had normal traffic and the car rental return only took the 5 minutes it took to get all of us out of the car.  We ran into Woolworths, picked up pre-made sandwiches and drinks (no free snacks are served in the plane) and ran to the check-in.  There we were told we must have IDs for the children.  Really, on an in country flight?  We have no IDs with us and they have to call management to see if we will be allowed to board.  Why wasn't this brought up on the way out?  The flight was fine but the baby caught the virus my oldest had been struggling with all week.  Despite this short frustrating time, it was a great vacation.  My boys say they want to live here now.

And finally a picture of one of the many sunrises I saw with my early rising baby during this trip.

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