Just managed to squeeze in one last standby trip of the year! Cape Town is a winter-only schedule for Virgin, and a popular xmas destination, so I wasn't 100% sure that I was going to manage it, but it was looking like a very short trip out overnight on the 23rd December and back overnight on the 26th would work out, and so it did.

The upgrade gods also smiled on me. Always good to see the word 'economy' gain a prefix.

Thataway, please, driver ...

I watched a couple of films: Woody Allen's Magic in the Moonlight, which was excellent, and The In-betweeners 2 which was silly but fun. I then managed to sleep for most of the rest of the flight.


Being back to my usual handbaggage-only flying, and the airport just 13 lightly-trafficked miles from the city, I was at my hotel within an hour of landing. I was, though, slightly worried about whether or not I'd manage to find my hotel room:

I was staying at the Parliament Hotel, which is budget but got rave reviews on hotels.com and I soon understood why: it has the world's friendliest and most helpful staff.

Once settled-in, I went wandering. I took a rather meandering route through the city (which is more town-sized than city-sized).

To Victoria Basin and the Waterfont.

A set of signposts coincidentally included my two previous destinations.

All along the way, I was keeping an eye out on Table Mountain with a sunset cable-car trip in mind, but every time I looked, it was cloudier than before. This was less a tablecloth and more a collapsed ceiling.

But hey, I'm an optimist, so in the evening I grabbed an Uber car up to the cable-car station. The mountains off to the side were fine.

Table Mountain, not so much.

The cables proved it was still up there somewhere, but there didn't appear a great deal of point in following them.

The good news, though, was that there was a pretty decent view of the city from the cable-car station itself.

So I figured that I'd come back around sunset and hope for better news then, or at least a night version of the above view.

Heading back up about an hour before sunset, nothing had changed. A quick change of plan, then: head up Signal Hill to take sunset photos, then hope for a blue hour from the cable-car station.

This plan initially looked like it was going to work out rather well. This was about half an hour before sunset.

All I needed then was a better foreground. Which I found. About thirty seconds before the cloud did.

Ho hum. Back to the cable-car station, looking down rather than up.

I spent a little over an hour there. Photographically, it was hopeless – nothing vaguely approximating a blue glow in the sky as it was almost entirely filled with cloud – and the cloud was by this time blowing across the road on which I was standing. So yep, I was standing inside a cloud trying to take a photo.

It was, though, very atmospheric, watching the city appear and disappear before my eyes. And I at least managed to grab this shot in a rare gap large enough to reveal the whole city at once.

I'd been told that Cape Town is reasonably safe, but that wandering the backstreets at night with an expensive camera round your neck wasn't adviseable, so I dumped that back at the hotel before setting off for a walk.

The hotel had also warned that finding somewhere to eat on xmas eve anywhere outside of the Waterfront area might prove tricky, and they were right. But I found a backstreet place that served decent (and extremely spicy) chicken, so all was good.

The only failure was that I'd been in Cape Town ten hours and so far the only glass of South African red I'd had was on the plane the night before! I resolved to correct this the following day

Thursday (xmas day)

I'd originally planned to wander round Bo Kaap in the morning and have a tandem paraglide flight from Signal Hill in the afternoon, but the forecast wet & windy weather was correct. The flight was cancelled and it was no weather for colourful photography.

The good news was this would provide the perfect excuse to drop in on Juliette, a friend from National Novel Writing Month days. They were having an open house, though warned me it was all bikerskum. I reassured her that I used to be bikerskum and could probably still remember how.

The Uber driver found me an off-license open on xmas day, and I picked up some local Pinot Noir which, on the basis that I was likely to drink much of it, I supplemented with beer.

This was a beach on the way. Not really sunbathing weather.

It was a fun crowd as advertised, and much enjoyable talking nonsense passed the time very nicely. And I did indeed make inroads into the wine, which was fantastic.

Juliette and Seth have an amazing home, though the town of Table View wasn't really living up to its name today.

I did intend to offer to take a photo of the two of them, but rain forced us indoors, so the above is in fact the only photo I took all day.

I'd hoped the weather might brighten enough for my planned walk around Bo Kaap, but no such luck. I wandered back along the waterfront and enjoyed it, but didn't bother taking my camera.

The forecast for the morning, though, was looking good – so my plan was to get up early, hit the cable-car website, check that it was open and then head on up.


I woke at 7.30am, looked out the window at the glorious sunny day outside, smiled and confidentally hit refresh on the cable-car status page.

Closed due to strong winds

Utter bastard weather. Even when it's sunny, it's rubbish weather!

I phoned them to ask when they thought they might open, and was told they would be running a test in an hour (I assume this involves sending up some disposable tourists to see whether they survive the trip). I checked back after breakfast and it was open! Yay!

I grabbed an Uber car up there, and the parked cars all the way up the mountain road gave the first clue that while I might have thought it was a bright idea to check the website before heading up, everyone else had just gone straight there. The result was that, even with my online ticket, the queues were long. Very long.

Two bloody hours long, in fact. But I didn't care. The upper cable-car station was visible, the cable-cars were running, I was going to get to the top of the mountain.

There were blue skies all around.

Time to hail me one of these:

Finally I was standing on top of Table Mountain! Where I saw the cable-car system was anchored by these rather rusty-looking cables.

I reckoned they'd hold long enough to get back down again afterwards. It did look a long walk down otherwise.

Oh, the view. Yeah, that wasn't a bad effort, now that you mention it.

There was a pretty stiff breeze at the top, which was great as clouds blew across quickly rather than settling, and meant that merely by waiting a minute or two, you could have any view with or without cloud as desired.

A British friend with a huge passion for Cape Town asked me to take a photo of a dassie – a cute little rodent that lives in the rocks.

I told him he looked cute. He apparently thought he looked fierce as he gave me a 'fuck off' look.

There was some other wildlife up there. As you know, I'm a bit of a wildlife expert – this is a bird.

I spent around an hour up there before heading down.

I turned out to have timed my visit well – the cable-car closed again not long afterwards due to high winds.

I had one other friend in Cape Town – or rather about 30 miles outside – and we'd been trying to arrange a time to meet up. Dion was a local Brompton owner who travelled to the UK frequently and had joined the London Brompton Club to give him people to ride with on his trips to London, and we'd met on one of these rides.

The uncooperative weather, and my determination that I was getting up that damn mountain come what may, meant that plans for meeting up were somewhat fluid. Dion was a star, saying he'd come in whenever I was free.

I texted him when I was about to head back down. I'd told him that I'd like to wander round Bo Kaap, for reasons about to become obvious, and he said he'd meet me at my hotel and we'd walk from there.

A very enjoyable walk it was too.

Some locals decided to join us for part of the tour.

You might think this car is more art installation than vehicle ...

Especially when examined up close.

But nope: Dion pointed out it had a valid license:

Dion knew of an excellent local restaurant, so we went there for lunch.

Lamb chops – some of the best I've ever had.

I'd also planned on a few photos of the mountain from the town, but time was running short, so I settled for a couple of quick snaps.

Dion had been heavily involved in the anti-apartheid movement whilst he was a priest. The police, having discovered that water-cannon wasn't a particularly effective weapon in such a hot climate, added purple dye to the water so they could round up protestors at their leisure. He showed me the spot where this happened, now commemorated by a sign.

After that, I just had time to nip back to the hotel for a shower and change of clothes before heading to the airport. The upgrade fairy was kind, though this wasn't surprising given the light loading on the flight, especially in Premium.

And so farewell to Cape Town. My first visit, but very definitely not my last.

Many thanks to Adrian for making it possible, to Juliette & Seth and Dion for their kind hospitality, and to the weather gods for finally allowing me access to Table Mountain. No thanks at all to whichever bastard turned the UK thermostat down to 3C in the few days I was away.