Cape Town is as great as everyone says. I have listened to people rave about it for almost two years now, and when something like that happens you almost expect to be let down by finding out yourself—surely it’s been built up too much and won’t measure up to all the hype. But it’s gorgeous, friendly, interesting, safe, and gorgeous. Ann and I went to take the GMAT which is not offered in Maputo, only Johannesburg and Cape Town. Since Johannesburg is off-limits for PCVs except when we are in transit, we would have had to travel in the day before or of the test, and then leave immediately after. Since this test will have a large impact on the rest of our lives, we decided we didn’t want to be traveling, stressed, and tired when we took it, so we planned a trip to Cape Town!
The first three days we (Ann, Erin, Buck, myself) stayed in a self-catering apartment (thanks to the generosity of family back home) to ensure we would be sleeping well. Ann and I would go running in the morning and then study in the apartment for the rest of the day while Buck and Erin went wandering around Cape Town. The only other standardized tests I have ever taken were the SAT and ACT. This was very different! We were each brought in individually to have the rules explained. We were monitored from three different places in the room. Our picture was taken and our palms were scanned three times. Then, if we wanted to take our two allotted 8-minute breaks, we had to scan our palms to sign in and out each time. Crazy. The exam went well and now it’s OVER, so I can return to reading books, playing with the girls from the orphanage, and playing guitar without feeling guilty!
While in Cape Town we went to the top of Table Mountain, we did the Robben Island tour, we did a winery tour, and we went to the District 6 museum, but our main focus of the trip was eating good food! We had Korean, Thai, Sushi, Italian, and Japanese (other than sushi). We had Belgian beer on tap. And we went to the supermarket and got things we haven’t seen in months (maybe even 21) like feta cheese, broccoli, sweet bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes and we made the most delicious salads we’ve ever tasted. On Saturday we went to the Old Biscuit Mill which is definitely what Heaven must be like: stall after stall of delicious food ranging from pestos to smoked salmon salads to crepes to fresh breads to quiches to fresh cheeses to curries.
After the GMAT we moved to Penthouse on Long backpackers—my favorite hostel I’ve ever stayed at and I recommend it to anyone headed to Cape Town. There we met two Peace Corps Cameroon guys traveling and two Harvard seniors volunteering SA for the summer. They were a lot of fun, it was great to meet other interesting Americans, and since three of the guys were a Korean and two Chinese, I was able to convince the group to eat as much Asian food as I wanted to eat (that never happens)!
I think one of the reasons people love Cape Town so much is the remarkable physical beauty of it. Table Mountain is so strange looking, yet stunning and visible from everywhere in the city. The bay is beautiful and you can see Robben Island in the distance. The city is spread out, so that downtown doesn’t feel cluttered at all. And the architecture is striking.