Day 4 Cape Town & Table Mountain
Ben, August 19, 2010
Today we slept in a bit later than yesterday, but got up in time to have another awesome breakfast served by the hotel staff. We've been drinking coffee from east Africa, and it is excellent. We then wandered down toward the center of Cape Town. We've tried to be careful about where we walk, given SA's reputation for being slightly dangerous. We have asked numerous locals about safety, and typically they seem to feel that the reputation is a bit overblown, but you can also pick up concerns for safety and theft. All in all, I get the impression that crime is a problem here at times, but not all that much worse/different than a big city in the states. If you stay out of bad areas, use common sense, and try not to be an obvious target, you'll pretty much be fine.

Our first stop today was the Castle of Good Hope. It is a castle that was built by the Dutch in the 17th century, but has changed hands a number of times over the years. It was interesting to see, but was an obvious tourist spot and not my favorite thing so far. After that, we went to Greenmarket Square in down town Cape. Many locals have booths set up where they are selling souveneirs -- carvings, masks, dolls, etc. I commented to Pam that many of these types of things look extremely similar to each other and I wondered how many are mass produced. She thought that they may be produced in quantity by different tribes, but I haven't quite decided what I think.

After a quick lunch, we took a cab to the Table Mountain cable car station. We took a cable car ride up to the top of Table Mountain. The view from the top was incredible -- definitely a once in a lifetime type experience. There were great views of the city, the ocean, and the mountains in the distance. I'm excited to see how our pictures turn out.

One last thing that I wanted to note, which I left out yesterday. While there is certainly a wealth of cultural diversity here in SA, I've been even more intrigued by the diversity of opinion amongst the people. I've taken to asking the same question of multiple people, just because I'm curious to hear their opinion. The answers that you get often vary wildly. For example, I asked our tour guide in Joburgabout whether there was much improvement for the people, infrastructure, etc. due to the hosting of the World Cup. He said that there were a few short-term jobs during the tournament, but not much else. I asked the same question of our driver to the airport, and he told us that many things, including infrastructure and public transit, were greatly improved and that you would be hard pressed to find someone whose life was not improved by the Cup. With that said, there is one thing that I can confidently say that all of the local South African's we've met have had in common -- they are all extremely friendly and happy to talk to you or give you advice/information. I can't say I always found this to be the case in Europe.

Additional Comments from Pam :)

In addition to Ben's thorough description of our day, I just wanted to note a couple items. First of all, the cable cars leading up to the top of Table Mountain were a bit unnerving and both of us admitted that our mothers probably couldn't make it to the top (Melanie because of the height, Leslie because of the small space!!). Nevertheless, the small, round cable cars actually rotated as you went up the side of the mountain so that you could get a view from all angles as you ascended and descended. Despite my pounding heart, Ben and I tried to get some pictures of the ascent and descent. Overall, the rotating cable car views were pretty awesome.

The city of Cape Town itself still feels so similar to home (from the businessmen walking around in their suits on a cell, to the street vendors with hotdogs, to kids running around in uniforms - maybe that's not too typical of Chicago - to people of all different shapes and sizes). It seems pretty crazy to think since we are all the way over in the unknown world of \"Africa,\" but sometimes I feel more at home here than I ever did on the quiet streets of Angers. Tonight we are off to a restaurant called \"African Cafe.\" It is basically a restaurant that features African Tapas. I am of course REALLY excited and hope multiple forms of plantains make the menu (as well as a couple dishes I miss from Ghana!), but am a bit nervous about Ben's reactions. It does seem like there is a lot of meat in African cooking, so that will bode well for him (since he really dislikes veggies!). We will let you know what we end up tasting!!
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