FOR those who’ve never been to Cape Town, which included myself prior to this trip, it’s difficult to pin down exactly what makes it so great. The core of the problem is that there ceases to be a unique selling point when you offer everything. Most destinations have one, maybe two of the four pillars of travel: beach, culture, food, or nightlife. However bewildering, or fanciful it may sound, Cape Town has all of them – a bit like San Francisco, but with much better weather.
The entrance to the AC Waterfront Hotel, Cape Town
Our week in Cape Town, where I stayed at the AC Waterfront Hotel, Cape Town, began with a foraging expedition at Veld and Sea Nursery, found in a Cape Point microclimate that, incredibly, has never been impacted by an ice age, and so features uniquely evolved wildlife. Witches finger flowers soon to be syrups and jams, salvia sage that smells like roast lamb – Veld and Sea Nursery is a sensory trip, best taken as one of Marriott Bonvoy’s exclusive Moment experiences (biddable events requiring points accrued over multiple Marriott Bonvoy stays).
Expect Midsommar-esque flower crowns, borderline paganistic outdoor feasts, and a master class in cocktail making, in collaboration with Cape Town gin supremos, Geometric Gin, using some of the nursery’s vast reserves of herbs and botanicals.
Lion’s Head Mountain, as seen from an AC Waterfront Hotel suite
While gin is Cape Town’s fastest-growing drinks market, wine remains the South African capital’s proudest quaffable export, so a trip to one of Stellenbosch’s legendary vineyards is a must. Sample the world’s best Pinotage and hang around for a farmhouse dinner that put’s Britain’s best Sunday roasts to shame.
For those unable to heed expert advice (it’s wine tasting, not wine drinking), there’s no better way to clear one’s head, the morning after a trip to Stellenbosch, than by scaling one of Cape Town’s famous peaks – Table Mountain for experts, Lion’s Head for mere mortals. The latter was the perfect level of difficulty: doable for an amateur but certainly never patronising. For a post-climb bite, head to Miriam’s for bunny chow, the heartiest of hearty local fare. Once back at the hotel, enjoy a cocktail and marvel at your exploits from a safe distance by taking advantage of the AC Waterfront’s rooftop pool lounge.
The AC Waterfront Hotel rooftop pool
Staying downtown, a short walk from the AC Waterfront Hotel is the Contemporary Art Museum of Africa, without doubt one of the most visually striking art museums I’ve ever seen, and home to the world’s largest collection of contemporary African art. The converted 1920s grain silo features work from William Kentridge and Kahinda Wiley, as well as a host of lesser-known local artists, Cheri Samba being my personal pick.
For another slice of history head to Mabu Vinyl, the Cape Town record store that featured so heavily in much loved 2012 documentary, Searching For Sugarman. Music played a huge role in South Africa’s apartheid fight, and there’s nowhere better to retrace this musical history than on Mabu’s balcony, with a beer, in the company of the store’s hugely knowledgeable, long-time staff.
by Charlie Navin-Holder
Glass stayed at AC Hotel Waterfront Cape Town by Marriott
by Charlie Navin-Holder