Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

TRAVEL GUIDE: Cape Town

As the sound of gunfire crackled in my ears I suddenly feared my darkest nightmare was about to come true.

My trip to Cape Town seemed to be taking a tragic turn for the worst. And as I put my foot down on the accelerator there was a horrible realisation my adventurous nature had just caught up with me.

South Africa is not known as the safest place to visit on Earth and, in the build up to the trip, all my thoughts had been about whether I would be returning with a heartbreaking tale of misery.

And as the gunfire got louder my heart began to thump inside my rib cage.

But all the anxiety fell away as I darted a look to my left on the coastal road and saw the raw naval recruits.

Each of them was behind a large gun, thankfully aimed seaward, and in unison they were banging bullets out at targets in surf.

I eased up on the gas and smiled to my girlfriend. Panic over.

In fact all the fears I had brought with me as I got off a KLM jet and stepped foot in South Africa has been misplaced.

The greeting I was given by locals was as delightful as the scenery of this stunning land itself.

We stayed in Camps Bay, an area considered by locals to be the Saint Tropez of Africa and it did not disappoint.

Our quiet rented house had a balcony that during the day got as hot as the BBQ that sat on the decking, and the views were pretty sizzling as well with Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles standing proud just behind us.

From our accommodation we had a short stroll down to a white sandy beach that stretched out towards a chilly sea.

But Camps Bay is not so much about sun-bathing, more about sitting outside cafes and bars watching the beautiful people stroll by.

From a relaxing breakfast at Caprice's to a five-star dinner at Blues restaurant there are a myriad of food stops and bars with prices for all pockets.

A personal favourite was Paranga, where the seafood was fresh and service spot on.

It was from here we watched an impromptu one-man show that took the breath away.

An athletic looking man tied a wire between two trees on the waterfront before climbing up it using an old bike wheel.

He proceeded to walk the high wire whilst juggling fire and spinning on the wheel. Spell-bound watchers threw money into his hat.

Just down the beach we were treated to a magical moment as a family of locals started off their walk home by singing a traditional song. The harmonies flooded our ears as the backdrop of a red-hued sunset framed a memory that will last a lifetime.

We did not just stick to Camps Bay. Why would you when South Africa has so much to show?

A trip down Chapman's Drive took us to Cape Point where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, followed by a stop off at Llandudno — a peaceful beach if you want to stop and catch your breath.

Further round the coastline, a day trip to Boulders is worth

while to watch the penguins waddle about oblivious to the stir they cause from adoring mothers and their excited children alike.

As you have gathered, hiring a car in Cape Town is a big advantage. Make sure you pick a model with aircon to ensure any thief does not have the chance to stick an arm in the window as you try to cope with the blazing heat.

But once out of town you should not be troubled anyway. And do head out of town. Stellenbosch, less than an hour away, is renowned for its wine although I preferred Franschhoek, which is further into the hilly landscape.

The local tourist information centre is happy to give you advice on good wineries to visit and the temptation to take home a bottle is too hard to resist.

And make sure you have time in schedule to stop for lunch. We drove through dusty roads of vines to the Grande Provence Estate for a delicious meal in a courtyard setting that oozed class. The pan-fried fillet of Springbok is still talked about in our household to this day.

Food in Cape Town is generally a choice of meat and fish. For a great value fish dinner try the Ocean Basket chain and for those of you not wanting to wonder the streets at night there is an excellent selection of eateries in the Waterfront V&A, a shopping centre that is a central part of the tourist trade.

And there are plenty of tourists flocking to Cape Town, more than ever since the success of the 2010 World Cup.

It's no surprise because if you can get over the initial fear of travelling in a country still deemed as dangerous by many, there are a multitude of rewards.

From fishing to lazing on a beach, from drinking wine to enjoying a health spa, from eating big game to chasing it at a nearby National Park, Cape Town has it all.

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