Cape Town to Knysna – tips for travelers

We stayed our first few days in Cape Town in Altona Lodge. It was cheap and reasonably clean. We stayed in a double room and were pleased we hadn’t gone for a dorm. The vibe in the hostel/hotel was sometimes a bit strange but it was good value for money. We don’t recommend the breakfast – better to go around the corner to Granny’s Coffee Shoppe where you won’t feel you are inconveniencing someone.

We found our apartment on www.roomsforafrica.com. Specifically we stayed at 4 Highlands Park – it was competitively priced, clean and roomy and the view from the breakfast table was lovely.

The district six museum was worth a visit but it is at least as much a place for healing some of the wounds as for informing tourists about apartheid.

Robben Island is on every Cape Town “to do” list and we got a discount ticket for the 9am boat, making it an excellent value excursion (100 rand or around 10 euro pp). The ticket includes the ferry, a guided bus tour around the island and a tour of the jail given by a former inmate. The story you get from the two tours is not well coordinated, and sometimes varies quite widely in tone which left me, in any case, a little underwhelmed by the experience. Having said this still worth making the half day trip.

The Waterfront is a winner for dinner venues – we tried 3 or 4 places and enjoyed them all, you can spend a lot here but the pizzas, salads and cheaper seafood places are all good options.

In Paarl, Seidelberg (winery) serves a lovely lunch on the lawn or terrace with the loveliest place settings I have seen since back when I was reading bridal magazines. The view is fabulous and the menu delivers lots of tasty choices at very reasonable prices. The “Nuance” white wine was a very drinkable crisp white recommended for with my curry and Ms K’s salad. Mr K and Lily rebelled against their suggested wines and selected a rose which, while it was not something I wanted to take home, was a nice choice for this particular long lunch in the sunshine.

In Franschhoek we stayed in the Traveller’s Lodge (youth hostel), Ms K and Lily stayed in a lovely self-contained cabin with an open fire. The Traveller’s Lodge was basic and expensive by SA standards but cheap for Franschhoek and the team there were incredibly helpful.

In town we liked Kalfi’s for breakfast (but hear it’s also great for dinner), we also ate one night at the Elephant and Barrow which did good “pub grub”.

For lunch we liked Dieu Donne’s restaurant with a gorgeous view and diverse, interesting menu and beyond-the-call-of-duty service (the owner replaced our flat tyre while we ate!) What I didn’t like there was the wait service pre-reviewing your meal as it arrived at the table: “Here is your mouth-watering zebra steak”, “Enjoy your delicious salmon.” Having said this I can highly recommend the chocolate pudding, and the zebra steak did indeed get the thumbs up from Mr K.

For wine tasting I would highly recommend Rickety Bridge, especially for a winter’s day like the one we had. We parted with our rand for the red “Foundation Stone”, a Shiraz, and a Chenin Blanc dessert wine as well as a very tasty tomato relish. Also well worth a look is Cabriere for the sparklings and the cellar built right into the mountain.

In Stellenbosch we visited only Delaire Graff Estate which is worth the trip for the view alone. The wine tasting is a fixed list of 5 wines but I thought they were all quite strong performers in their own category and even if they’re not all exactly your thing, what they do they do well. The tasting fee is a little steep and isn’t deducted from your purchased wines but that view (see previous post) really does make up for a lot.

Hermanus had very cooperative whales the day we visited. The icecream shop across the road from the beach was excellent although not cheap.

 In Swellendam we stayed at the Swellendam Adventure Lodge – Mr K and I liked the no-electricity huts in the garden, but Lily and Ms K fared less well with their twin room with en suite which was apparently noisy and had bad beds.

In Knysna the Knysna Country House is a little treasure with lovely rooms, nice breakfast and a pool for, at least at the moment, very reasonable rates. The staff here are extremely hospitable and couldn’t be kinder, more flexible or more accommodating.

Also in Knysna, JJ’s on the waterfront is a little pricier than we’d usually go for, but the service was informal without being over-friendly and the starters (we only went there so Mr K could have oysters) were delicious. The little Italian place (also at the Waterfront) does good, affordable salads and pizzas.

Finally, just a note that without a car unfortunately this trip would be either expremely complicated and time-consuming or perhaps completely impossible – if at all possible, plan to hire a car.

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