Cape Town enjoys a Mediterranean climate – long dry summer days and cool wet winters. Winter is low season which means that there are few tourists and airfares are at their cheapest. Although the days are comparatively short, clear skies and a warm sun is interspersed amongst the rainy days, providing some spectacular sunrises and sunsets.
Shopping, wining and dining are perennial favourites. But outside of these pursuits, there are a few winter gems. The bright orange spikes of aloe flowers adorn many verges and gardens. Kirstenbosch has a great selection of aloes with sugar birds darting from flower to flower drawing out nectar from the tubules with their long beaks. Their glossy red or orange breasts shimmer and glisten in the sunlight. The Boomslang is a treetop walkway which winds organically through the canopy. I could not help running my hands over the beautifully tactile smooth wooden handrails. Flowering Coral trees, a dinosaur park complete with tree ferns and the magical mountain backdrop completes the spectacle. The first few proteas and spring blooms are beginning to show. Tea in the cafe provided more wildlife in the shape of a friendly blue, black and white guinea fowl which darted amongst the tables looking for crumbs. We shared a portion of seeded muffin – two muffins with grated cheese, butter and jam, washed down with an excellent cup of tea.
Driving 5 miles south we reached Kalk Bay – an old working fishing harbour. The Victorian seafront buildings now contain a plethora of antique, bric-a-brac and collectibles shops, scattered between the cafes and restaurants. At The Brass Bell you can enjoy a great meal with the False Bay waves crashing all around you.
But we had come here specifically to visit What Not and China Town, a unique china shop which definitely has no room for a bull! The old multi-level house is jam packed with thousands of pieces of china and porcelain. Every wall of every room is covered with range upon range of yesterday’s prize china. I found a saucer to match my Royal Doulton Coach and Horses pattern teacups, and a set of beautiful mother-of-pearl handled Edwardian silver plated forks. One room is full of blue and white china – willow pattern, Delft, Spode; another has a collection of Bunnykins ware. A Japanese couple were posing in and photographing every room – there eyes popping out with the plethora of china. And here too we saw orange breasted sugar birds drinking from bowls of sugar water on the wall of the veranda provided by the thoughtful owners.
The weather was closing in so we had a welcome cup of cappuccino and a pear frangipane at one of the beachfront cafes before making our way back home for the night.
Away from Cape Town, winter is an ideal time to view the abundant African wildlife. In the game parks the grass is short allowing you to scan further into the bundu; water is scarce, which concentrates game around watering holes. The dry season also means a clear sky and a warm sun during the daytime. But the spectacular aloes and the visiting sugar birds made the Cape Town winter special for me.
British Airways flies direct to Cape Town from Heathrow overnight. With no jetlag and just one night’s sleep in the air, you are ready to enjoy Cape Town immediately you arrive.