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My 8 Day Adventure in Johannesburg and Cape Town

Exploring Johannesburg: A Journey Through History and Culture

My journey to South Africa began with a long, connecting flight through Nairobi, ultimately landing in Johannesburg. This definitely was the low light of this trip. Stepping off the plane, I was immediately enveloped by the vibrant energy of Jo’burg, a city that pulses with life and history. I had been to South Africa before on a work trip to Durban years ago and I was so stoked that I finally got to land in the City of Gold or Jozie as the locals call it.

Arrival in Johannesburg

I checked into the Radisson Red Rosebank hotel about 30 mins from the airport with a very charming taxi driver. Not before some drama though as my luggage didn’t make it to Johannesburg. Due to a delay the layover was too tight to get my luggage transferred. I was reassured that my suitcase is on the next flight so I just left it at that and hoped for the best. Luckily as I always do I had a change of clothes to get me to the morning so I wasn’t panicking yet. Being a seasoned traveller not much panics me at this point!

I was offered access to the executives lounge with free alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks and nibbles and cakes for my trip. This is because I said I was a travel agent and asked for any extras. I took the free shuttle after some drinks and nibbles to Nelson Mandela Square at about 8pm. It was lovely but I was tired so I took the shuttle back at 9pm and went for an early night in.

Soweto Memorial

Following breakfast, my first adventure was the iconic City Sightseeing Red hop-on-hop-off bus tour. I bought a 2 day ticket that included the Soweto tour. We did a quick stop at the Gold City Reef Casino before joining another tour bus that took us to the heart of Soweto. This sprawling township is a place of contrasts, where the struggles of the past and the spirit of modern South Africa collide. Visiting Vilakazi Street, the only street in the world to have housed two Nobel Prize winners—Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu—was profoundly moving.

None more so than the story of Hector Pieterson, the school kid that was gunned down was so moving. His sister to this day gives talks at the memorial spot her brother lost his life. The memorial was very moving and I wish I had more time to explore. There was some street shops and I bought some trinkets for family before heading to Mandela’s first home. It was so small to imagine 4 kids lived there with his first wife. We were entertained by Zulu dancers on the street and we gave some tips.

That night I headed to the infamous Marbles restaurant. I had steak which was so delish! Totally recommend coming here.

Constitution Hill Tour

Constitution Hill was next on my itinerary the following day. I took the hop on hop off bus after breakfast to the Marble Arch high end gated community complex with stylish shops and apartments. I found a spot for breakfast and walked around taking pics and videos before joining the bus again.

Arriving at the former prison complex, now a museum and home to South Africa’s Constitutional Court, offers a sobering glimpse into the country’s tumultuous history. Walking through the old prison cells and learning about the resilience of those who fought for freedom was an unforgettable experience. The tour guide was brilliant and I even stood in the prison and heard of the rations and poor treatment the prisoners withstood. It is always shocking how some humans can behave without humanity.

That day I also did a quick tour of the Mandela Foundation where his office as president still remains untouched from his last day he left office. It really was awesome.

Dancing Amapiano in Rosebank

No visit to Johannesburg is complete without immersing oneself in its music scene after a harrowing day. I took an Uber to dance to Amapiano in a Rosebank club. The beats are infectious, and the experience was exhilarating. I spoke to some girls and the bouncer there who wanted to make sure I was comfortable pulling out my chair and telling the bartender to look after me. The cocktails were great too I had gin and tonic. Security was all around and it was a really good atmosphere. There was a wall for taking pictures and some people were sharing hookah. I enjoyed being a bystander and taking it all in with the occasional shaking of the old leg.

Mandela Square in Sandton

On my last day I visited the Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton again, where the towering statue of Madiba stands proudly. The square, surrounded by upscale shops and restaurants, is a testament to the city’s blend of history and modernity. I eat lunch on the square with an aperol spritz and mozzarella and avocado salad. I even had the pleasure of being accosted by the Emporio Armani perfume girls who put me in a mirrored booth to experience the fragrance called Si live. It was a very cool experience. Later that day I checked out the Mall

Cape Town Adventures: From Table Mountain to Robben Island

After a whirlwind tour of Johannesburg, I flew to Cape Town, where I was greeted by stunning views of Table Mountain from my hotel, the Cloud 9 Boutique hotel just off Kloof Street. My room was lovely a quintessential vibe with mustard cushions and chandelier. A decanter of sweet wine was refilled daily as a compliment. The spaceous bathroom and room was beautiful and I had a glimpse of the Table mountain from my room. The city’s laid-back vibe was a refreshing contrast to the hustle and bustle of Johannesburg.

Table Mountain and Camps Bay

Taking the hop-on-hop-off bus again as I got a 15% discount from my Jo’burg tour, I headed straight to the Table Mountain cable car. The ride to the top was breathtaking, and the views from the summit were nothing short of spectacular. Walking around, I felt like I was on top of the world, with perfect weather adding to the experience.

Cape Town waterfront marina and view of Table Mountain. Picture by Pixabay

Camps Bay, where celebrities often hang out, was another highlight. The white sandy beaches and azure waters are the epitome of coastal beauty, making it a perfect spot to unwind. I fantasized about having a beach house here.

V&A Waterfront

The V&A Waterfront is the beating heart of Cape Town’s social scene. The Waterfront is a hub of activity, with shops, restaurants, and street performers adding to its vibrant atmosphere. The mall also gave lots of retail therapy, but that was not my vibe.

I embarked on a boat tour of the harbor, taking in the sights and sounds of this bustling area. The 30min boat tour around the harbour, I saw some seals frolicking in the water. Again seeing Table mountain from the water just makes this city so picturesque. Couldn’t help but feel a ting of jealousy that I didn’t live here.

Robben Island

On my third day the of the most poignant experiences of my trip was the Robben Island tour. Guided by a former inmate, the tour was deeply moving. Hearing firsthand accounts of the hardships endured by political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela, was a powerful reminder of the price of freedom. Our guide’s knowledge and passion brought the island’s history to life.

That night I headed to La Hacienda, a stylish mexican restaurant with tequilas that blew mind mind and the special menu of what seemed like 7 courses complete with a mountain of cotton candy was an gastronomic experience I certainly won’t forget! For the whole course not just starters, everything was either red, black or green, the tortillas, the nachos the rice everything. Very tasty.

Exploring Long Street and Cape Point

Back on the mainland, I had an outfit made by a talented local seamstress on Long Street, known for its eclectic mix of shops, bars, and cafes. The vibe here is electric, reflecting the city’s diverse and dynamic culture. I walked up and down this street frequently as my hotel wasn’t far away and I got to get my steps in averaging 12,000 per day!!!

A day trip to Cape Point and Cape Hope was another highlight. This was an special tour from City Sightseeing with a live commentator. This took the whole day but was worth it. Climbing up to the lighthouse offered panoramic views of the rugged coastline. On the bus ride, we spotted groups of naughty baboons (I heard they frequently raid houses for food so there is an actual baboon patrol staff with air guns), as well as ostriches and antelope, adding a touch of wildlife adventure to the journey. There was a beautiful aloe plant with vibrant orange plumes in full bloom all along the streets.

Boulders Bay and the Penguins

My final stop was Boulders Bay, home to a colony of adorable African penguins. Seeing the fluffy, grey chicks was a delightful experience, and it was heartwarming to watch them waddle around the beach. There were quite a few people here. On our way back I saw the fog rolling in off the coast obscuring the mountains we left behind.

On my last night I had dinner at La Parada on the Waterfront delicious tapas and wine was the perfect end to an awesome few days.

Highlights of My South African Trip

Cape Town’s safe and easy-going vibe was the perfect end to my South African adventure. Both Johannesburg and Cape Town left indelible marks on my heart, each city offering its own unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. I didn’t have time to do a wine tour but will definitely do this should I return. From dancing Amapiano in Jo’burg to standing atop Table Mountain in Cape Town, my journey through South Africa was an unforgettable experience that I will cherish forever all recorded in My Travel Journal for posterity.