Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Fairest Cape

This is the story that got deleted in the "maintenance" that Blogger undertook inevitably - with my luck - late last Wednesday night.  I still think it was in retaliation for the poor rating for San Francisco but that wasn't my fault; Tripadvisor didn't consult me.  Which brings us to the point of the story. 
Probably anyone who has investigated an unfamiliar holiday destination has ended up scratching around Tripadvisor.  The website lets you see images of the country and links to a plethora of hotels and tourist destinations.  And best of all – in our interactive world – previous visitors to the country and its establishments can give their ratings and post their comments.  There’s no question that what ebooks are to bookstores, sites like Tripadvisor are to travel agents.
Victoria & Albert Waterfront at night
For the last three years Tripadvisor has been awarding a variety of ratings to hotels and destinations.  There are maps on various Tripadvisor applications where you can pin your most visited and favorite destinations. As far as I understand it, these are the source of the information used to make the awards.  Tripadvisor hasn’t made the rules clear, and no doubt one could argue the results, but be that as it may everyone in Cape Town is over the moon.  For this month Tripadvisor named Cape Town as the world's favorite tourist destination for 2011. The competition was fierce.  Here’s the top ten list:
2011 Travelers' Choice World Destinations

1. Cape Town, South Africa

2. Sydney, Australia

3. Machu Picchu, Peru

4. Paris, France (sorry, Cara)

5. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (sorry, Leighton)

6. New York City, United States

7. Rome, Italy

8. London, United Kingdom (sorry, Dan)

9. Barcelona, Spain

10. Hong Kong, China

After the great time we had at Bouchercon last year, I would’ve put San Francisco high on the list, but it only made position #23 (sorry again, Cara), way behind New Zealand’s Queenstown (#12), Cambodia’s Siem Riep (#14) and Thailand’s Ko Phi Phi Don (#18) (which I, for one, had never heard of, sorry Tim). (Reykjavik made the top 25 in Europe, Yrsa, so don’t feel completely out of it. You are just behind Ia (Oia) from Greece, which looks worth a blog, Jeff.)

Kirstenbosch national botanical gardens
Of course, we’re talking about tourist destinations not where you’d want to live, but I have to say that Cape Town has a lot going for it on both fronts.  It’s scenically breathtaking, cupped by the Atlantic ocean, has super restaurants, a stunning waterfront shopping and restaurant area, beaches, mountain walks, a game reserve, penguins, and is the capital of one of the world’s most extraordinary floral kingdoms with a glorious botantical garden to show it off.
At Cape Point you can climb to a view point and see the ocean on both sides.  Often visitors comment that they can see the line where the two oceans join.  Unfortunately the official divide is at Cape Agulhas to the South East and the southern tip of the continent.  Still, the oceanographical join is where the Agulhas current meets the Benguela current and that moves between Cape Agulhas and Cape Point, so the visitors are right to keep a look out. 
Then there is the wine country. Some great wineries, like Klein Constantia of Vin de Constance fame, are a stone’s throw from the city, others more discreetly settle themselves in the more rural surroundings of Stellenbosch.   
Klein Constantia
African or Jackass penguins at Boulders
So what’s the catch?  Well, there really isn’t one. Because the city nestles between the mountains and the sea, the routes are limited and traffic can be a problem at rush hour, but Johannesburg – with no similar excuses – is usually much worse.  Then again the city is anything but undiscovered and the locals are laughing all the way to the bank.  But prices aren’t ridiculous. Despite the current and not unsurprising strength of the rand, it's pretty reasonable value.  I stayed at a delightful guest house close to the city center with a room about the size of an ordinary apartment and a breakfast that set me up for the day for the equivalent of $100 a night.
Cape Riviera guest house
with Table Mountain in the background
This time I was only there for two nights; Stan and I had book events at two of the delightful independent bookstores that pepper the city. (I would have liked to write about them, but Stan used up our one free Blatant Self-promotion card in his last post.) But I’ll be back for a longer visit. Anyone want to join me?

Michael - Thursday


  1. Michael, blatant self-promotion falls into two categories.

    In one category are the people who talk about their books, or more likely, book, but not about anything else. Everything they write is an excuse to mention the title. They push the book but don't give anyone a reason to seek it out.

    In the other category are all the writers on this blog. None of you ever mention your books; I hope the people who read the blog also read the books.

    To get back to the topic (of sorts)- I have read everyone's books and each conveys a fantastic sense of place. Trip Adviser is a great resource after the decision has been made about the location to be visited. It is filled with facts but no passion. The people who write authoritatively about the sites aren't writing about a place they love.


  2. I agree, Beth. Tripadvisor is more about facts and prices. Stanley and I certainly hope to share some of the things we love about Southern Africa and Botswana in particular. If that comes across, we're satisfied.