Thrills and swills in Cape Town

by Felice.Hardy

Whether you're an adrenaline junkie or a full-on foodie, Cape Town's got you covered

Going up in the cable-car to the top of Cape Town’s 1086m Table Mountain, my aim – like the millions of tourists who had travelled up before me – was to enjoy the view of the ocean. I certainly never expected to leap off it. But when I saw two men carrying ropes and ironmongery to the edge of the cliff, I was curious. 'We’re abseiling,' said one of them. 'Fancy a go?'

Fifteen minutes later I was on the end of a rope with 1000m of nothing between my feet and the ocean below.
For the ignorant like me, climbers descend mountains by abseiling. With feet placed steadily on the rock, you are supposed to feed the rope through a karabiner on your harness to control the speed of your descent. To start with, I felt unexpectedly secure, facing in to the mountain while slowly letting out the rope bit by bit and gently springing off the rock. But suddenly, as I lowered myself down the huge overhang, the rock face vanished. My mouth went dry and I screamed, but there was no one there. The rope twisted me round and round.
After what seemed like an hour, I realised that I would have to do something about it, so I made myself carry on feeding out the rope little by little. Finally my feet came into contact with rock, I reached the ledge and felt the steady hand of the guide. 'No one told me about the nothingness,' I whispered. 'If we warned people, they wouldn’t do it,' he smiled. On the way back to my hotel I passed two window cleaners abseiling down the side of a building. The sport obviously has its uses in real life too.
Safely back at sea level, I drove 50 minutes along the Wine Route via the charming seaside towns of Kalk Bay and James Beach, the latter famous for its painted beach huts. We also passed through the rather uninspiring village of Fish Hoek, known for its winery, and Boulders Beach, which is choc-a-bloc with lovely furry penguins who bray like donkeys while parading down specially constructed boardwalks and nestling in the bushes.
My destination was the gorgeous Cellars Hohenort in the Constantia Valley. The manager, Clayton Howard, had recently abseiled off Table Mountain himself and, being quite a lot bigger than me, had worried the rope might not hold his weight. Anyway, he lived to tell the tale and eat a delicious lunch with me. The hotel has its own vineyard where they produce wine solely for their restaurant. The in-house Martini Bar specialises, as you’d expect, in martinis and has the largest collection in the world – 152 at the last count, including an interesting sounding Black Truffle Martini.
Back in Cape Town itself, I stayed in little O on Kloof Boutique Hotel in Bantry Bay. The hotel is more like a stylish private house yet has a real home-from-home atmosphere – and excellent food too. Alternatively, there’s the recently refurbished Kensington Place for something even more funky and inspirational, or Cape Grace Hotel for lavish living in the popular Victoria & Alfred Waterfront area.
The V&A Waterfront is the buzzing place to be in the city centre, with its craft shops, restaurants and open air jazz. The exclusive suburb of Clifton is also worth a visit – its four beaches attract everyone from yachties to surfers. The third coolly cosmopolitan district is Camps Bay, with its palm-fringed sandy beaches and pavement cafes overlooked by the ever-present Table Mountain. 


Travel writing is my business but skiing was where it all began when I first put on a pair skis in Switzerland at the age of four and gradually became so hooked that I later found I had to make my living out of it. I also write about adventure travel and my recent experiences include abseiling off the top of Table Mountain, white-water rafting along the Ganges, jumping off waterfalls in Hawaii, paragliding in Zermatt, and kayaking in Australia's Northern Territory. I have been a freelance travel writer for more years than I care to remember and write on hot and cold travel for publications including the Evening Standard, The Observer, Condé Nast Traveller, Country Life, Harpers Bazaar, Tatler, Vanity Fair, easyJet magazine and BA's Highlife magazine. I have written and edited more than 20 travel guidebooks including The Good Skiing & Snowboarding Guide for Which? and several books for Cadogan Guides. I am now co-editor of the ski information website . My favourite places in the world are the Indian Ocean, the Alps and the Rockies. I am also an artist  - creating paintings in oils and acrylics that have been inspired by my travels around the world. You can see some of my work at