Table Mountain, Cape Town

Who doesn’t want to see the majestic Table Mountain up close and personal! After a recent trip to Cape Town this spring it was the first stop after landing in the city. I wanted to share my tips on Table Mountain, The How to get there and the what to do’s!

The name was given from the meteorological phenomenon that occurs which forms a billowing fabric to fall over the Mountain giving it a table cloth appearance over it’s flat surface, Table Mountain has been named one of the 7 new wonders of the world (as of 2011) and is often ranked within the top 10 sights to see before you die.

 

Getting to Table Mountain

Getting to the Aerial cable car entry is easy enough! With the City Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off bus dropping at the entrance it is easy to include within the package. However there is a free bus service which will take you to the same drop off point for those whom are aren’t. The MyCiTi shuttle service from the Lower Tafelberg Road stop, just off Kloof Nek Road is free of charge and runs from opening time until 7pm so for those travelling in the summer months of November to February who are hoping to wait out the sunset  this might only work for one of your journeys. There are other busses that run to the lower cable station but will charge and you must use your myconnect card to pay for the journey, and they will not expect cash. Taxis and Uber’s can be ordered for collection and will charge approx. 15 South African Rand per km.

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The easiest way to get to the top….

Is of course the cable way! A wonder of it’s own the cable way has been running since 1929 and has undergone some modernisation over the years, With new 360 viewing the floors of the carriages now rotate as you travel to allow all guests get the best views.

For the small price of 255 South African Rand (£12) you can purchase a return on the cable way to the top and back. Always ensurer to check online before visiting to check the days operating hours, And due to high winds they may not be running without any notice. I found following them on twitter meant I was always up to date.

For those who are looking for something a little more challenging you are able to climb to the upper cable station via Platteklip gorge, the most direct route. This steep hike can be done in only a few hours for those who are super fit, and can be accessed from Tafelberg Road. Please only climb while the cable car is operating, and be aware of sunset timings… You do not want to be caught out and try and climb back down in the dark. The path is well constructed but is very steep, there was plenty of opportunities to sit and bathe in the sunshine and look back into Cape Town and table bay while you climb so make sure you pack a lunch and plenty of water!

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Now What?…

Now you’ve made it to the top whether hiked or cabled you are free to spend as long as you want at the top. Personally I think joining onto one of the guided walks (which run every hour on the hour) are a great way to learn the local history of the island and to understand where you are looking out towards. With fauna on the top of the Mountain you are unlikely to see anywhere else in the world the guides are informative and  are happy to answer any questions you might have.

If you prefer to wander on your own there are three walks you can take, and with the longest only being 45 minutes you don’t have to spend all day there. Almost all of the walks once at the summit are wheelchair friendly with paved walkways and signage.

Those who are looking to stake their claim to fame are able to climb to the highest point on Table Mountain, Maclears Beacon which sits pretty at 1085 m Above sea level. Follow the yellow painted footprints on the path ways to take you to the chains and poles erected to help assist you to the rocky steps.

 

 

For more information on the cable way please visit their website here.

For more information on the City Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off Bus and it’s route please visit their website here.

Always advise others when hiking and when can be avoided please do not attempt alone. If doing so please ensure you advise your hotel reception desk and advise a time you are likely to return.

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Johannesburg Things To See And Do

Being the largest city in South Africa, And the second largest city in the continent (only beaten by Cairo) you would expect there to be plenty to entertain the tourists that pass though however before I arrived I thought I might struggle to find things to do and was I proved wrong! I wanted to share my top tips on what to see and do while in Jozi.

 

Lebos Soweto Bicycle Tours 

Located in the famous south western township (otherwise known as soweto) This little hostel located in the area of Orlando West within SOWETO host daily bicycle tours in the local area. Taking you out for either 2 or 4 hours your tour guides will lead you though the houses of Orlando and take you to the main sights in the local area, Including Nelson Mandela’s house and the Hector Pieterson museum. Your tour includes lunch and they are more than happy to stop while you take photos, Trust me your phone/camera will be glued to your hands! On a side note for those not looking exert themselves Lebos also offer Tuk Tuk tours in which you can be driven around in their awesome Tuks Tuks with a guide (As shown below!)

Prices start from 430rand for a 2 hour cycle. Tours can be prearranged online here.

 

Valakazi Street & Nelson Mandela’s House

The only street in the world which can lay claim to once being the home or not 1 but 2 Nobel Prize winners; Desmond Tutu & Nelson Mandela, Possibly the most famous street in Johannesburg is a must see while in the area. With dining options and local bars you can easily people watch from the outdoor Terrence’s and order some authentic local South African cuisine.

Although Nelson’s family no longer live at 8115 the building has been turned into a museum for guests to see the humble beginnings the legacy started from and hear the meaningful life he lived. Nelson donated the house to the Soweto Heritage Trust on
1 September 1997 and asked for it to be kept as a museum for people to visit and learn.

It truly is a unforgettable moment and hearing the guides stories, showing us the bullet holes that still exist in the structure is heart breaking.

Entrance starts at 40rand per person. Learn more online here.

 

Hector Pieterson Museum & Memorial 

On June 16, 1976, Soweto high school students took to the streets in a peaceful protest against the sub-standard education in black schools but on the way to the stadium, they were met by the apartheid police. One of the first to be killed by the police was 12-year-old Hector Pieterson. The soon iconic image of Pieterson’s body being carried with his sister running alongside.

The memorial was opened by Nelson Mandela in the early 1990’s and the museum followed in the early 00’s. With an aim to persevere the memory of the events of the day, there are a collection of eye witness statements, pictures and historical documents and certainly plays an important part of South African history.

Another museum that may interest you if you would like yo learn more about the apartheid in South Africa you can visit the museum on Cnr Northern Parkway & Gold Reef Road. Learn more here

 

Orlando Towers

Looking for an adrenaline rush? Look no further than the SOWETO suburb of Orlando west! With the option of Bungee, Free-fall (yes you read that right, Check out the videos online on the link below) tower climbing and paint balling this place have it all. With a new cash free policy all bookings must be pre-booked online with a debit or credit card.

Check out there website for more information, videos and booking links here.

My Favourite Sights In Prague

Having just returned from a wonderful four days in the city of Prague I thought I might share my top sights not to miss… Other than Charles Bridge and the Astronomical Clock.

Located in the capital of Czech Republic in the kingdom of Bohemia lies the beautiful historic town of Prague. Unfortunately famous for its stag weekend reputation it pleasantly surprised me on my arrival to have only seen the one group on what might of been the busiest weekend of the year, Easter Weekend.

Any illusions you might have of a weekend in Prague I’d like to help change, as this has quickly become one of my favourite cities!

Prague Castle

This world recording holding residence to past King’s of Bohemia is recognised as the largest ancient castle in the world. It is easily the biggest tourism draw to the city. Personally I am not one for a castle tour but we happily followed the masses on a tour. The views from Starbucks roof terrace is easily one of the best you will find and provides panoramic views out over Prague below.

If you time your visit right you will be able to see the changing of the guard, that’s right just like at Buckingham Palace this is quite a big deal. Crowds will gather to watch the guards leave their post, and if you are there for 12pm (lunchtime) you will be provided with entertainment from the fanfare ceremony that happens daily.

Once you have had your fill take a slow walk back to Lesser Town down the hill. A long road lined with shops, restaurants and cafes there is plenty to see and places to stop.

Nerudova Street

One of my favourite history facts is before street numbers and road names existed there was another way people recognised addresses, With house signs which happened to be pictures displayed on a plaque above the door. If you were looking for the bakers house, all you’d have to do is look the loaf of bread picture! I love this and think it would be amazing if this of been continued even to this day… I think my house would have an aeroplane plaque! 😉 The signs have been restored on some of the houses on this street located just below Prague Castle. Take a walk back to Lesser Town passing through and see if you can spot the house of two suns.

John Lennon Wall

Located just below the castle in Lesser Town, this monument to peace, love, art and John Lennon was created back in the 1980’s after his murder. Used as a way for young Czechs to show expression through the means of Art in anger to the communism. Western music was banned in the country and repenting against this they would write lyrics from the Beatles onto the wall.

What started as a portrait of John himself has now been lost underneath the layers of paint that have been covering the walls for many years. After trying to cover the wall with whitewash and rid the graffiti it has become impossible to cover it quicker than the artists arrive. Now left to be decorated as seen fit this massive tourist attraction will be ever changing with messages that still reflect the hopes from those in the 80’s, messages of peace and love.

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The Old Jewish Cemetery

Located within close distance of the old town this old Jewish Ghetto is home to one of the most beautiful, sobering graveyards I have visited. It is believed to be the largest recognised Jewish cemetery in Europe, where thousands of gravestones are lain in the small courtyard at the Pinkas Synagogue. The synagogue after communist regime was closed and the 77,927 inscribed names of the holocaust victims were erased, but these later were restored and now they cover the entire interior of the building.

Rooftop Drinking

With such a beautiful square it would seem a shame not to see it from above in all its glory! We decided to skip the queues to climb the clock tower, after all it’s what we came to see but we still wanted the vantage point it offered. I’d heard there were some rooftop bars in the Old Town and decided to check out the terrace at Terasa U Prince Hotel. With reasonably priced cocktails we treated ourselves to a sundowner and watched the sunset from the warmth of the heat lamps wrapped in blankets.

My tip is to give the food a miss and make this a pre dinner drink.

Petrin Hill

Located close to Prague castle this proud hill sits atop the terracotta roofs and golden spires of the city below and is popular for those looking for a walk away from the crowds or a perfect picnic spot. Easily accessible from the city using the the funicular railway (also known as a cliff railway or a cable attached tram for almost vertical climbs) for those not looking for something as energetic or a short but steep walk up the 327 meters. Passing through some manicured gardens, and through the memorial to the vitims of communism there is plently of opportunities to stop along the way and once you arrive at the top there are cafe’s and coffee shops. Trust me the view will be worth it!

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Petrin Look Out Tower

Don’t think the that’s the end of the fun once you’ve made the climb! You are able to get even higher! This mini replica of the Eiffel Tower sits atop of Petrin Hill adds another 60m onto your height for some clearer views of the city below. For less than £10 per person you are able to purchase a ticket for the climb up the 299 stairs to the observation deck at the top. There is an elevator which operates at an extra cost (free to pensioners and disabled guests) for those unable to make the climb after a trek up Petrin Hill.

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 Powder Tower

Dating back to the 11th century this Gothic tower is one of the remaining castle gate entries. Used as a decorative entry to the castle grounds rather than defensive means, it was used to store shotgun powder in the 17th century hence the name “Powder Tower.” A great example of the classic Gothic architecture of Eastern Europe this tower stands proud at the entry to Old Town Square and separates the new from the old. It is possible to climb to the lookout 44 meters above Old Town Square for a small fee.

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The Best Dining Spots In Prague

I have to admit I ate some of the best meals and snacks I’ve ever had while I was in Prague so I thought I’d share my recommendations from my dinning experiences! There certainly was a lot!

*Indian Jewel 

http://www.indianjewel.cz/

After spotting an advertisement for a lunch time special we decided to give it a try. For 109 CZK you could try their 2 course menu. With a different curry on offer each day with the deal it does mean you cant be fussy, but for £3 each you can’t complain! They mix up the days with a vegetarian then meat option the next. We dinned and had the Sag Chicken which was very tasty and within the deal you receive a portion of rice and a desert of Kheer; Saffron flavoured Indian Rice Pudding.

Both were very tasty, and for only £3 it is a bargain! This worked out as our cheapest meal/snack while we were travelling in Prague and considering it’s Old Town Square location it is a great lunch stop off!

(They also offer a 3 course dinner menu for only 399 CZK, £11 each. However this is an all meat dinner, And when I asked about vegetarian alternatives there didnt seem to be another option)

 

* Joy Burger

http://joyburgerbar.cz/

Oh my good God! This place is amazing! We had walked pasted twice before I gave in and we tried to get a table, with the choice of an hour and a half wait or perch on the end of someones larger my rumbling stomach got the better of me and we crashed crashed a group of young girls meal out.

The restaurant is casual dinning and perfect for a quick meal, lunch or dinner. But be warned there isn’t many seats and does fill up quickly so book ahead where you can.

Burgers were good value between 205 – 285 ck although they don’t come with Fries on the side and are purchased separately, we ordered a portion between the two of us and it was plenty with the massive burger each. Admittedly we spent more on the selection of dips to go with them than the actual Fries with Chipotle and refried beans….

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Located a moments walk from the old town square.

* Giovanis

http://www.giovanni-praha.cz/

We stubbled across this cutesy little place while wandering down all the little cobbled streets around the Old Town Square and was so glad we chose to dine here.

The menu is a selection of Italian dishes, although personally I don’t think I could of been tempted away from the pizzas after seeing them delivered to others tables and went straight to that section of the menu!

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Located right next to the astronomical clock in the old town square.

 

* Las Adelitas 

http://www.lasadelitas.cz/

After a day wandering we happened upon Las Adelitas after noticing a sign leading into a building, Hidden within an alley way in the basement this place can be easily missed. Having only just eaten we chose to eat here the following night and booked a table, Which we were lucky to have done as this seems to be the in place and was heaving, Which just added to the atmosphere! We devoured the menu and settled on Burritos and Flautas which were served as something similar to an enchilada. After a small issue with the arrival of mine (which the staff fixed flawlessly and professionally) we enjoyed what might of been my favourite Mexican, and thanks to the staff we were offered the chance to have a pudding free of charge.

I have to add a special mention as I thought the décor and atmosphere here really makes the restaurant something special, Having travelled through Mexico I really think they have grasped the Mexican vibes and was thoroughly impressed! Even if you are only after a tasty cocktail after dinner elsewhere this place is sure to please!

 

*Trdelnik – “tr-del-nik”

Okay so I had so many of these sweet treats I lost my mind a little, I think I tried one very time we walked past a stall! They are very moreish!

So you are probably wondering what I am on about right now… These sweet treats, Sometimes referred to as a chimney cake are hollow sweet pastry/bread rolls. They are made by rolling out thin strips of dough and are rolled around a wooden stick and then are cooked on coal fires then are lathered in butter, sugar, chocolate and often Almonds or Walnuts and served piping hot… Don’t trick yourself into thinking they are anything less than 600 kcals for something as little as these!

They are the perfect street snack as they rip apart in the spiral it is cooked and be torn into  bite-sized pieces. We found them in various different ways from Nutella in the middle to ice cream! All forms are mega tasty so don’t miss out on these!

 

Why I Love Reykjavik 

  

Words can not begin to explain how greater time I had while I was in Icelands capital city! 

I have always wanted to travel to Iceland but found every time I looked it was more expensive that I expected! However for this trip I did my research and found great deals online on websites such as Expedia & Icelandair whom offer cheaper deals from London.

Our trip through Expedia was 4 nights in the new skuggi hotel with return flights from London Luton, came to less than £300 a person… Bargain! Although unlike Icelandair who offer excursions as part of the package we had to book these separately. I booked my transfers, blue lagoon, northern lights and golden circle trips directly through their website, personally I do think they monopolise the tours in the area leaving very little scope for smaller firms however when putting a search together this will be the operator you will come across constantly, if you prefer something a little more personal (rather than 80 seater coaches) there are a few companies I would highly recommend as alternatives…

  • Icelandaurora.com – if you are looking to get print worthy shoots from your trip I would highly recommend this company, the guides are also photographers and can help you take the perfect shot. Travelling on a smaller group ensures more time at each sight and the ability to have a little say in the evenings plans.

(Possibly the most expensive of the tours on offer, however if like my travel partner your aim is the perfect shot it is definitely worth paying the extra)

  • Car hire – there is no real benefit to having the guides on the tours, having your own car gives you the opportunity to visit the surrounding ‘golden circle’ route at your own pace, with free parking at most of the sights and at the blue lagoon if you are comfortable driving in a new country I don’t think you could regret doing it alone… Our hotel staff were more than happy to suggest driving and parking spots where we might catch the best views of the lights within 15 ,ins of the city centre, which would still be visible on the same nights the tours go ahead!
  •  Floating tours.com – this one I might suggest for those looking for something extra special, maybe celebrating a birthday or spoiling yourself to something romantic this company take you to a secret lagoon in small groups for you to chill under the stars, have a massage and enjoy the more rustic surroundings than that of the more popular blue lagoon, and being a evening tur during those dark winter months your even have the chance of spotting those elusive northern lights

I don’t think there’s a single person I can think of whom I wouldn’t recommend this to, any one with young children (maybe avoiding the winter) to a hen do I think would enjoy the trip alike…I don’t think I’ve ever fell in love so quickly with a city other than my second home in Sydney! Everything feels very quaint and precious, the small town surroundings make it very easy to be come comfortable and settled quickly… And less likely to be come lost 😉

The options of things to do is endless, from picturesque city strolling to day trips into the majestic unknown, Spas and hot springs and endless eateries where else could you end the day watching the auroras borealis? 

Everyone I’ve know to visit Iceland has always said how much they have loved the country, and after my great experience I think I’m overdue a 2 week stint with a road map and a hire car and see this beautiful country for more than just Reykjavik.

Viđey Island, Reykjavik

Located just 20 minutes by boat from Reykjavik old harbour this tiny island should be high on everyone’s visit list…

You’d be forgiven if you have never heard of Videy island, As I certainly hadn’t either! But this is home to Yoko Ono’s peace tower, A magnificent light installation built in memory of John Lennon. The beam of light shines bright every year between October 9th (John’s birthday) until December 8th* (the anniversary of his death).

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Having seen the lights from Reykjavik I started to investigate and started to ask around, Once I learnt about the Peace Tower I started to research how I could get over to the island to see it for myself! Luckily I stumbled across a tourist information who were more than happy to help and showed me a tour operated by Elding and called ahead to ensure we were able to get onto the tour departing that evening.

Fortunately for us they did and for 8000 isk (£45 approx) we had a space booked for 8pm that evening and needed to make our way to the old harbour.

We were advised to wrap up warm against the cold November evening being surround by water the breeze would feel colder than in the town. With 2 pairs of thermal socks on I could barley feel my feet they were so tightly packed into my snow boots, but all for the best as they hadn’t exaggerated how bitter it would be.

Heading over to the Island was easy enough and after meeting our fellow 8 passengers we took a small boat over, As I mentioned it is only a short distance and there was seating inside to keep you warm. We were handed our mini torch to keep for the tour, as the only light emitted from the island is the peace tower and 1 small light on the dock for the boats, Otherwise you are on your own!

I think this all added to the experience though and made it feel really adventurous. (We had the opportunity for the small cafe to be opened if we would like a hot drink or to use the rest room.)

We had 2 hours in total with our guide whom took us to the highest point on the island which by no means is a steep climb and gives a beautiful vantage point over the water to Reykjavik and your first peek of the peace tower below.

As for the tower itself it really is a work of art.Symbolising Yoko’s and John continuing campaign for world peace this ‘light, wishing well’ is built in white stone with 24 languages inscribed all asking for the same thing… “imagine peace”

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Using 15 light beams and mirrors the light is projected into the sky and feels as though the light is never ending. Our guide said although it has never been confirmed he likes to believe the reason Yoko chose Iceland for the placement was because the light is able to shine down on the rest of the world due to its northern hemisphere location… Which I have to admit I personally love.

Part of the art project was “wish trees” where Yoko asked the world to send their wishes to her at @IPTower (and you still are able) she buries these at the base of the (wishing well) Peace tower, where now over 1 million wishes are stored

Standing starring back over Reykjavik and feeling the power of the peace tower I think Yoko may of been able to see the natural beauty here and decided to place her honour to John in something as beautiful as the memory of their relationship.

This truly was a magical experience and having travelled after the attack in Paris in November 2015 it really was a time all I wanted to imagine was peace.

* Taken from http://imaginepeacetower.com/videy/ for full time table of lit dates

IMAGINE PEACE TOWER is lit on the following dates:

09 Oct – 08 Dec
21 Dec – 31 Dec
18 Feb
20 Mar – 27 Mar
John’s birthday to death day
Winter equinox to New Year’s Eve
Yoko’s birthday
Spring equinox (J&Y’s Honeymoon)

It is lit from roughly 1 hour after sunset until midnight – except John and Yoko’s birthdays and New Year’s Eve, when it is lit until sunrise. On October 9th and March 20th, it lights at 8pm.