Franschhoek to Cape Town, South Africa


Before breakfast we took a quick spin around town but the warm evening air had brought a blanket of fog to Franschhoek, so no morning views of the mountains encircling this incredible valley.

Le Ballon Rouge is centrally located, just one block off the main drag and two blocks from the divine Bon Vivant restaurant.

The superior guest room is spacious with a large bath and a shower with no walls – just try taking a shower without soaking the floor. But truthfully, no complaints. However, this is not your high service guesthouse. Service is pleasant and adequate but not overly attentive.

Breakfast, with so few guests staying at the B&B, was a fruit and yogurt parfait to start and then your choice of the usual cooked breakfast options. Everything, if not remarkable, was well prepared.

Drive to Cape Town

The drive into Cape Town through Stellenbosch was pleasant enough through a valley of orchards and vineyards, but without the dramatic views of the day before.

Clearly Franschhoek is the prettier valley with the most spectacular views driving down Franschhoek Pass on R45.

Township driving into Cape Town.

Drive to Cape of Good Hope

Arriving in Cape Town around 11am our room wasn’t ready. The reception desk at the Victoria & Alfred Hotel seems to stick to their 2pm check in time, so we did a quick re-arranging of our bags, left luggage at the hotel and headed down to the Cape of Good Hope. 

Table Mountain was under the “table cloth”, as locals call the fog that frequently looms over the mountain top. Otherwise it was another gorgeous day and a pretty drive down the M3 connecting to the M4.

We wound through the towns of Kalk Bay and Glencairn on the east side of the Peninsula with frequent slow-downs due to road construction. Although there is a smattering of art deco and colonial style architecture, the towns were a little on the shabby side and more densely built up, as we were later to find out, than the towns on the west side of the peninsula. We stopped at Dixie’s Pub and Bar in Simon’s Town for lunch. A nice setting along the water with good food.

Past Simon’s Town the population dwindled and the road was right on the coast with excellent views of the rocky shore below.

The cliffs aren’t as high and vistas not as long as the stretch on R44 south of Gordon’s Bay, but still a lovely drive with giant boulders worn smooth from the pounding surf.

Cape of Good Hope

Arriving at the Cape of Good Hope, the landscape is similar to the rugged mountains covered in fynbos that we’ve seen further inland. Still, I can’t help but marvel at the stark beauty and want to take more photos.

The yellow and orange proteas are in full bloomalong with wild geraniums, and some kind of silvery white plant that reminds me of the sun resistant silver sword of Haleakela on Maui.

Cape Point, the further south of the two points on the peninsula, has the more impressive views. A short steep climb leads to the lighthouse and out to the point. Views from the top are simply stunning and worth every step.

While still not filled to capacity, the large parking lot has lines of tour buses and more tourists that we’ve seen anywhere in SA.

The Cape of Good Hope is immensely popular. Everyone wants a picture with the sign. To get that photo you can either walk the 1.5 hours return trail from the main parking lot at Cape Point or drive around and down to the parking lot just in front of the point.

On a sunny day with the winds whipping at the waves and the surf crashing against jagged rocks it was all the drama you would expect from the cape.

Drive Back to Cape Town

The drive up the west side on M65 to the M3, even with a lower speed limit, was much faster than the drive down through the coastal town along the east coast.  The M65 hits the coast again with pretty views all the way to Kommetjie where the road turns inland. The route continues to be scenic through mountain passes until we hit the M3. The late afternoon traffic was backed-up going out of town, but heading back in, we flew.

To our delight Table Mountain had lost its cloth and we drove up to the cable car station for hopefully a sunset viewing, but it was not to be. The station had been closed all day due to high winds. Still the views from cable car station were worth the drive up. We drove along the road past the station taking in the views in the late afternoon light.

The Victoria and Alfred Hotel

The Victoria & Alfred Hotel is nicely situated on the V&A Waterfront, with easy access to parking and great views. Harbor side rooms have a view of the harbor against the majestic Table Mountain, particularly stunning in the early morning light.

Our room on the third floor was spacious, in a more contemporary style with dormer windows overlooking the harbor and mountain top beyond.

Dinner at Den Anker

Just wanting a simple fish dinner, we chose Den Anker on the waterfront and visible from our hotel window.

The menu was mostly seafood with a decidedly Belgian bent and a wide selection of Belgian beers. We started with the mussels – sweet and yummy, and the marrow bones.

I had heard about marrow bones but this was the first time I had seen them on a menu and had to try them. Three large bones, you would most likely make soup with or give to your dog, carefully roasted to preserve the marrow – velvety heaven. Each bone contained more marrow than any one person needed to eat, but so luscious I couldn’t stop spooning it on whatever morsel of bread we had left. I could have ended the meal here divinely happy.

Our mains were the kingklip italienne (how that is Belgian, I don’t know) and the grilled prawns, both delightful. We ended the meal with Belgian chocolate over ice cream, the perfect simple sundae served in a parfait glass and topped with exquisite chocolate.

October 10, 2011

For links to all the posts in this series see the South Africa page.