Cape Town, South Africa
33° 55' S 18° 24' E
Jul 22, 2009 20:19
Distance 9683km

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Arrival in South Africa

Once the main meal was served last night, cabin lights were dimmed suggesting that passengers should “wynd their neck in” and catch some sleep, thereby relieving the stress on staff.  We settled into an overnight flight pattern that I have seen time and time again.  Lights go out, passengers flock to the toilets, then a sense of calm descends from around 0100hrs until 0600hrs.  This was only broken once when a call requested a Doctor to attend a passenger at the rear of the aircraft.  I saw this passenger later on, lying on the floor near the food trolleys being attended by staff and receiving medical attention.

Flying at near 40,000 feet above sea level in a pressurised metal tube in darkness rather condenses the thoughts.  I do not sleep, at best nodding off for a few moments before resuming a wide awake posture.  With no films worth watching, save Miss Congeniality, I reflected on work left behind and travel necessities ahead.  This went on until my back started to ache and the cabin started to come to life after 0600hrs.

The children received a child’s breakfast at 0715hrs; strange considering they received an adult meal the night before.  Anyway the hot selection was left for Daddy to consume, as a dutiful parent!  My breakfast arrived at 0745hrs and was not half as tasty as the kid’s!

Our flight landed ten minutes ahead of schedule at Cape Town International Airport.  We fought our way off the flight with the scrum instead of waiting to the end, just in case there were queues at immigration.  We need not have bothered as the South Africans have a more relaxed approach to immigration.  They no longer view a foreign face as a threat, but an opportunity to bring revenue into the country, hence the drive towards tourism.  We approached the immigration booth, after only a five minute wait, and the immigration officer did all the administration, no forms for us to fill in, three months permission to reside granted.  It was that simple; no DNA samples, no fingerprints, no forms, no ‘have you ever been a member of the Communist Party or supported the Greater German Reich between 1939 & 1945’, just welcome to South Africa!

We collected our baggage five minutes later and sailed through customs without having to make a declaration.  I noted that many of the locals had been detained, no doubt suspected of importing various contraband without paying duty.  But we sped out into Arrivals and straight to our taxi driver who was waiting for us.  From touch down at Cape Town International Airport until arrival at the Protea Hotel Cape Castle reception took just sixty minutes, not at all bad.

The Protea Hotel Cape Castle is located at the junction of Main & Boundary Road, Green Point, Cape Town.  It is a stones throw from the Victoria Junction, where we stayed in 2000, and easy walking distance to the city centre or the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.  The property represents good value for Cape Town and is family oriented in terms of its accommodation.

Protea Hotel Cape Castle

“Enjoy the convenience of being literally on the doorstep of the V&A Waterfront at the Protea Hotel Cape Castle, a 3 star hotel in Cape Town that offers comfortable apartments with all the trimmings.

This budget hotel in Cape Town is positioned directly adjacent to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront and most rooms enjoy magnificent views of the Waterfront and the ocean. The hotel is within easy strolling distance of the Waterfront, the CBD, sidewalk bistros and some of Cape Town's most exciting restaurants, pubs and shops.

The Protea Hotel Cape Castle's fully serviced apartment suites boast generous en-suite bedrooms, lounges, dining areas and fully equipped kitchens. There is ample undercover parking and 24-hour security. With unbelievably warm hospitality, inviting interiors and magnificent views (Waterfront or Table Mountain), this lovely 3 star hotel in Cape Town is every traveller's home away from home.”

Some of the Trip Advisor reviews describe the hotel as being a little worn around the edges and in need of some refurbishment.  It is however very good value for Cape Town.  It is a slightly better version of what we had in Pretoria, 12 months back.

Our ‘suite’ was not ready so we left our baggage with staff and headed out to explore.  Remember I am rather crabby after having a night without sleep, yet keen to explore?  The two do not sit well together.  Ruth suggested we gather our thoughts at the Cafe Sofia, literally across the road next to the Protea Victoria Junction Hotel.  Free WiFi was just what the Doctor ordered!

We headed out to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront on foot in the afternoon, after we had moved into our accommodation.  We hardly needed the map having ventured this way so many times before. 

“The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in the historic heart of Cape Town's working harbour is South Africa's most-visited destination, having the highest rate of foreign tourists of any attraction in the country. Situated between Robben Island and Table Mountain and set against a backdrop of sea and mountain views, it offers a variety of shopping and entertainment options to visitors, intermingled with office locations, hotels such as the historical Breakwater Lodge once a 19th century prison…” 

Prince Alfred, 2nd son of Queen Victoria, ceremonially started construction work on a harbour basin in Cape Town in 1860.  Between 1860 and 1920 two harbour basins were constructed, one named after Queen Victoria and the other Prince Alfred.  The area was originally owned by Transnet Limited, which manages the rail network.  As harbour traffic declined following the reopening of the Suez Canal in 1975 and economic isolation deepened due to Apartheid, new uses had to be considered for this largely industrial area.  The redevelopment of the historic docklands has been one of the great recent success stories of modern South Africa. 

Whilst I greatly admire the V & A Waterfront, it is little more than a glorified shopping centre and tourist trap, albeit tastefully redeveloped.  We confirmed the location of our boat to Robben Island and then set about secondary requirements of postcards, stamps and wine. In normal times we would have gone to Vaughan Johnson’s but with a global credit crunch in full vigour we went to Pick ‘n Pay for supplies.  We might as well make the most of our self-catering facilities, at least for breakfast, snacks and drinks.  Ruth found a five litre box of South African wine (Swartland Winery) for 70 rand.

When you know the V & A Waterfront as well as Forestside in Belfast, you know it’s time to move onto pastures new!  Still we had supplies for a picnic tea and it was time to stick the kids in the bath and recharge all the electronic gadgets (netbooks, cameras, nintendos, ipods etc) before heading off to Robben Island tomorrow.  I am glad of the chance just to rest.  You know travelling can be more stressful than work; that is saying something!

There are a group of lads staying in the Protea Cape Castle that look suspiciously like an English rugby team on tour.  How so?  Well about ten of them in a freezing cold pool at 1600hrs, trying to convince more of their comrades to follow suit.  I hope we have a quiet night!

Photos / videos of "Arrival in South Africa":

Cape Town International Airport, South Africa. Cape Town International Airport, South Africa. Erin & Ailsa Burnett at the Protea Hotel Cape Castle, Cape Town, South Africa. Erin & Ailsa Burnett at the Protea Hotel Cape Castle, Cape Town, South Africa. Erin & Ailsa Burnett at the Protea Hotel Cape Castle, Cape Town, South Africa. Clock Tower, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa. Ailsa Burnett near the Clock Tower, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa. Signal Hill as seen from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa.