The title may be a little misleading. Sadly, not all of the MEETinLEEDS team got the opportunity to go to the beautiful coastal city of Cape Town. Only Ryan, famous for a gruelling Personal Training session at The Edge, was lucky enough to escape the winter climes of Leeds for the sun bathed beaches of South Africa. Here he shares a few tips about the place that tops the New York Times list of 52 Places to Go in 2014.
“Just like the MEETinLEEDs team are worth shouting about, the Capetonians are an incredibly friendly set of folk and deserving of vocal praise”
First of all I never really wanted to go. Well, I am lying. Once I found out there was an opportunity to stay in such a beautiful place for 3 months, I jumped at the chance. But I never entertained the thought of going to South Africa before this point: there were probably 182 places (approximately) on my “bucket-list” of exotic destinations above the place that is frequently portrayed, shall we say, negatively. However, once I started bragging to people that I was off to live the life of Riley for 3 months, I found out that everybody had been to Cape Town. Everybody. Even my dad, who never mentioned his escapade previously. Why the big secret? After just 1 week (and further confirmed in the following 11) I found out why… They wanted all of this to themselves:
Being from Yorkshire, I am careful with money: if I drop a pound, it hits me on the back of the head. Which is why the fiscal features of any destination are at the top of my list. Cape Town does not disappoint: everything is as good value and quality as a Slice of Summer menu from Great Food at Leeds. There are about 17 rand to the pound, and a main course at a high end restaurant will set you back an average of 150 rands. That’s 8 quid. And I am talking fillet mignon, not needing to fill up on Mcdonald’s after.
Like most conference delegates anticipating the Gala Dinner, eating is in my top 5 pastimes. I have sampled steak in Les Halles, New York. I have mange’d moules and frites in Bastille, Paris. I have carved cuy in Cusco, Peru. But never have I eaten so well as here. From the local Springbok (think venison) and Yellowtail to internationally-recognised staples such as dim-sum and pizza, the best of them I have eaten has been in Cape Town, full stop. If you are in town I implore you to book a table at Bistrot Bizerca, then try and resist the temptation to go back the next night to eat that other thing you were going to order. They also take part in the Street Smart initiative, an excellent cause where you can donate to charities helping children on the streets of South Africa (of which there are many). Guilt free gourmandery at it’s very best.
Wonderful Wine (and Gin)
I have always enjoyed wine, but for me it always fell into the two categories espoused by Julius Caesar: thumbs up or thumbs down. After 3 wine tours I now have the palate of Michel Roux Jr. Okay, more Greg Wallace. The climate of the Cape Winelands, as suggested by the name, is ideal for growing all of the wines you know from the famous regions of France, Argentina, Australia or those available from University House. The Sauvignon Blanc is so crisp I expect Gary Linekar to pop up on every sip. They do renditions of sparkling wines that are made in the same method as in the Champagne region, but for a fraction of the cost. I have to doff a cap to the quaffs available at Annandale Vineyard. The proprietor, former South African International Rugby player Hempies Du Toit, has a delicious array of red wine, each of which is aged for around 8 years in French oak barrels. Try finding one of those in your local supermarket.
“You can fly to Cape Town from the Leeds Bradford Airport, via either Amsterdam or London. If you go from Leeds and need to stay overnight, why not book a night at Storm Jameson Court, just a 20 minute taxi ride from the airport”
If you are more of a gin lover, you will not be disappointed. Cape Town has a growing number of local distilleries offering a range of tipples. The unnamed gin bar, reached by walking through a chocolate shop, is one such retreat. To find out more about this mysterious place, enter your email here. It is well worth the treasure hunt, as Ollie and Angie mix some unusual but uniformly excellent cocktails, designed to cure the ills of modern life. The relaxed, speak-easy nature of the bar and adjoining courtyard make it the perfect place for drinks before dinner or to while away a warm summer evening.
Outdoors and Activities Aplenty
For those of you that enjoy the great outdoors or exercising at The Edge (remember, all MEETinLEEDS delegates get free entry to the state-of-the-art sports facilities!), Cape Town is the place for you. Take a relaxing walk around the tranquil Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, or take the hike up Table Mountain and catch your breath at the top with the breathtaking views. For wildlife lovers a safari is a must, as you can get within touching distance of the Big 5 Game Animals.
For the more athletic among you, Cape Town annually host’s one of the World Triathlon Series events, which was won this year by University of Leeds alumnus and Olympic Gold Medal winner Alistair Brownlee. If you are not a professional athlete (like me), the Cape Town Cycle Tour offers the largest timed cylcing event in the world over 109km. Get competitive and vie for a podium position, or just enjoy the day and the spectacular scenery as you pedal.
Friendly, Funloving People
Just like the MEETinLEEDs team are worth shouting about, the Capetonians are an incredibly friendly set of folk and deserving of vocal praise. I have been invited to Braai’s (the Afrikaans name for a barbecue), free tours of the neighbourhoods, personalised wine tours, best sandwich tours, and even to join the Iron Man (which I politely declined on account of not wanting to drag the team down). The city and people are coming to terms with the still-fresh repercussions of apartheid, with an overriding sense of community and excitement for the future exuded by the majority of locals, which is the exact message extolled by the country’s favourite son, Nelson Mandela. There is a diverse mix of people living in the City Bowl, and millions more on the Cape Flats that extend to the south-east of the city.
They take their leisure time very seriously, too. Take a stroll down Long Street on an evening and try not to stay out all night partying. Go down Bree Street on First Thursday and catch some local art along with excellent street food. Chill out with people in the know on the beaches at Clifton, rather than the windy tourist trap at Camps Bay.
You can fly to Cape Town from the Leeds Bradford Airport, via either Amsterdam or London. If you go from Leeds and need to stay overnight, why not book a night at Storm Jameson Court, just a 20 minute taxi ride from the airport.
Whatever you do, add Cape Town to your must go places: you will not be disappointed.