by Dominic Price, 19 March 2015
DESTINATION: Cape Town
Cape Town is the answer to this season's desperate search for 'winter sun', and as such, it is the perfect October remedy. About now, the nights turn colder, summer is officially nearly over and it's still too early to think about Christmas (no matter how much John Lewis want us to believe) but, in Cape Town, the sun still shines on the pristine beaches, and on its vibrant melting pot of culture.
Unlike other urban havens, such as New York or Hong Kong, this little dynamic bubble is just one hour ahead of London, and though a 12 hour flight, travellers can stroll off the plane and head straight out to explore. No such thing as jet-lag in S.A.
There is, inevitably, the constant reminder of the city's past, but like any thriving modern city, reinvention is at its heart. From its colonial past (the Dutch, the French, the British all settled in the shadow of the mountain) to the memories of Apartheid and District Six, Cape Town has emerged through it all, in different, stronger incarnations. 2014 saw it crowned the most cosmopolitan city in Africa.
Owing its popularity to its history, Cape Town is, like Africa itself, full of diversity and creativity. It is not just an urban city, it is a city for everyone, with everybody being able to find their way. Businessmen, beach-bums, surfers, nature-lovers, foodies, shoppers and just plain tourists can all find their passion carved out at the southern tip of the continent.
Cape Town is one of the world's best cities. It is in your face, it is loud, and it is jaw-droppingly beautiful. There is no other city on earth that boasts the energy, the dynamism and the raw natural beauty than Cape Town.
So, stop swapping your shorts for your cable-knits, and hunt down the passport...
Sleep: In the buzzing heart of the city, Taj Cape Town is the place for your R&R - or at least, where to wait until you're hungry again. Like most Taj Hotels, the building itself is steeped in history, occupying the old South African Central Reserve Bank. Inside however, the 176 rooms are modern and yet full of old-world charm, and with views over the city from the 17 storeys, you can always pick out your next destination.
Eat: Visiting Cape Town is less about showing off your sculpted body, and more about the eating and drinking.
Foodies are spoilt for choice, with fusion, fine dining, street food and local specialities all on the table. For the best dining experience in Cape Town, dinner al fresco at the Delaire Graff Restaurant combines creative dishes, vibrant wines, and stunning views of the South African mountains. They say it's the ambience that makes a meal - the Delaire Graff Restaurant elevates dining into more than just a plate of food, but a dining experience.
Do: In case you haven't noticed, there is water pretty much all around. Make the most of it. Whilst the pristine white beaches are enticing, don't forget you're in the Atlantic, and nearer the Antarctic than you'd think. Don't expect a tropical dip (I'd leave the speedos at home) but enjoy what the sea has to offer you. Surfing, sailing, boating. South Africa offers it all. Maybe not for the faint-hearted though, 98 species of shark inhabit the waters around South Africa, including Jaws itself. But, seeing these giants up close is a once in a lifetime opportunity (for a fair few reasons I don't doubt). Cage Diving is big business, and a sure fire way to burn off those Cape Town calories.
Go: Robben Island. A visit here goes without saying as a must-do in Cape Town. A symbol both of centuries of cruel oppression and the triumph of hope, Robben Island has become synonymous with the former leader of the free and democratic South Africa, Nelson Mandela, who spent 18 years in its maximum security prison. For nearly 400 years this island was a place of banishment - not just for criminals but for other 'undesirables', including lepers and the mentally ill. But it is famed for one man who spent nearly two decades here, in an 8x7 ft cell. This harrowing reminder of the struggle for justice still has a eerie resonance today. The silent, heavy air that envelops the island is an ghostly reminder of this prison. Needless to say, a visit here is inspiring in every sense.
See: There is no where in Cape Town to escape the shadow of the mountain, so why not go up it? Take the cable car up to the summit (I'm on holiday, don't judge...) and admire the 360 degree views. Take a moment to look out on the city sprawling below, and the lush vegetation creeping beyond. There is the wilderness. Turn around, and there is that giant blue abyss - follow that and the next thing you'll hit is Antarctica. Standing on this mountain peak, you realise you're on the very tip of this continent. Prepare for the existential crisis as you look out. And prepare for the temptation of a true Lion King moment.