Sunday, May 17, 2009

STI: Escape to the Cape

May 17, 2009

Escape to the Cape

Move to the beat in South Africa's Cape Town with its noisy carnivals, wide open spaces and vineyards

By Frankie Chee 




Lambert Yeo

Age: 58

Occupation: Senior director of restaurant chain

Length of stay: Two years


You can hardly blame Lambert Yeo for being captivated by Cape Town.


The second most populous city in South Africa after Johannesburg, it offers visitors a kaleidoscope of exciting sights, sounds and treats - from whale-watching off the coast of Hermanus and the boisterous annual Capetown Minstrel Carnival to the delectable wines of the Stellenbosch vineyards.


Mr Yeo, 58, senior director of casual dining chain Fish & Co Restaurants, migrated to the city two years ago with his wife Grace, 60, and two daughters, aged 29 and 27.


On weekends, he enjoys discovering the city's little towns and eateries, and says he will take visiting friends on a road trip to show them the scenery in this beautiful city.




The best way to explore the city is by...


arming yourself with a good map, a rental car, funky African beats for the road and a wild and wonderful thirst for adventure.


The best time to visit is...


In the summer, from November to January, if you want to soak up all the sights and smells of nature, and get yourself a tan in the southern hemisphere.


Which places in the city excite you?


Whale-spotting at Hermanus, called the Riviera of the South, possibly the world's best land-based whale-watching spot. The shuttle from Cape Town costs R350 (S$30.85) one way for one person, for a minimum of two passengers.


There's also Simon's Town along the coast, where you can waddle behind the penguins. I also like the scenic drive along Chapman's Peak, and the quaint Olympia Cafe (134, Main Road, 7975 Kalk Bay, tel: +27-21-783 6396) in Kalk Bay, to the south of Cape Town, which serves fresh organic food.




Your favourite breakfast is at...


The Mugg and Bean (Shop 612A, V&A Waterfront, tel: +27-21-419 6451). Try the red cappucino and the traditional boerewors, a popular South African sausage dish. Its name comes from the African words boer (farmer) and wors (sausage).


Your favourite eating place is...


The Olympia Cafe in Kalk Bay.


The coolest place to chill out is...


The vineyards in Stellenbosch, 50km east of Cape Town, along the banks of the Eerste River. There are more than 100 cellars there, most of which are open to the public, so it is a good place to try some of South Africa's finest wines.




What do you think Singaporeans will like most about your city?


The wide open spaces, succulent steaks, vast skies and the beautiful African sunsets.


What is the biggest difference between Singapore and this city?


Cape Town has its famous townships and nature in great abundance. It has a population of 4.5 million and with a land area of 2,455 sq km, it is the largest city in South Africa.


Also the nature here differs from one area to the other. For example, fynbos, which means fine bush in the Afrikaans language, is a natural shrubland or heathland vegetation occurring in a small belt of the Western Cape of South Africa, mainly in winter rainfall coastal and mountainous areas with a Mediterranean climate.


Where is the one place you always take your friends when they visit?


I take them on a road trip down the Garden or Wine Route. Along the way there are interesting places such as Boulders, where you can see penguins nesting just near the shoreline; Sea Point, along the coast where the view of the vast ocean and the mountain landscape is exhilarating; and Stellenbosch, where the vineyards are.


What is the one thing you must do in your city?


Go to Moyo (R310 Lynedoch Road, Stellenbosch, tel: +27-21-809 1133), an Africanthemed restaurant where one can experience the heartbeat of Africa.


You dine in an authentic African setting while being entertained by traditional and contemporary African music and dance performances. Included in the menu is tagine, a North African stew named after the traditional conical claypot it is prepared and served in.


What do you do on your weekends there?


I enjoy discovering eateries and little towns with lots of different vibes. Some of the little towns I have found are Muizenberg in Kalk Bay, which is an artists' town, and Simon's Town, a naval base.




Where is the best place to go on a shopping spree?


Greenmarket Square, which has a flea market that sells everything from beaded Kenyan slippers to hand-carved wooden chessboards. Other arts and crafts found at the market are hand-painted fabrics, glassware, clothing, jewellery, music CDs and paintings from all over Africa.


There is also an abundance of coffee shops, restaurants and hotels around the Square, which sits in the centre of the city, near the Houses of Parliament, the South Africa Museum and the Old Town House.


What is a good souvenir of the city?


A classic bottle of wine from the Cape.




Are there any notable festivals that travellers should look out for?


The Capetown Minstrel Carnival. The city comes alive to celebrate the new year in this raucous carnival, the likes of which are not seen elsewhere in the world. The burst of colours from the painted faces and costumes of the participants attract a lot of tourists to the almost month-long January festival.




Are there things to do or see outside of the city?


You can make a trip to Namaqua Land, about 500km away from Cape Town. The desert of Namaqua bursts into a stunning flowering carpet of red, blue, yellow and orange blooms between August and September. There is also Knysna's lush forests and its National Park, where you can see the animals that South Africa is famous for. It is situated in the Western Cape province.

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