|Subject: Re: Planning a trip to South Africa- would be grateful for information|
We were in S.Africa in 1995 for my husband's lecture tour and we loved it.
It is quite safe to rent a car out of Cape Town and I recommend a few days
driving through Stellenbosch, Frankenshutz (sorry - my spellings are prob.
all wrong), Paarl, Somerset, etc. - it is absolutely beautiful country and
the people are really friendly. We just took day trips out of Cape Town
but, whereever we stopped (whether for a wine tasting or a meal), the people
were very friendly and there were some lovely looking small hotels/B&Bs.
The wine is wonderful (unfortunately - they keep the best at home .... don't
have enough of it to export).
Our hosts were super concerned about potential problems on the roads around Cape Town - but we found nothing to be concerned about (but, nonetheless, we made sure that we had plenty of gas etc. so that we didn't have to stop along the highway outside of the cities or towns. Simonstown, to the southeast, is a lovely historic town and I remember a point near there that had a colony of penguins (can't remember the name but check the tourist literature/websites) - we watched them for hours.
In Cape Town - I recommend the Breakwater Lodge. It's on the waterfront in a rather secure area, just a stone's throw away from shops and markets, and buses to downtown are frequent during the day. http://www.fortesking-hotels.co.za/bwlodge.htm It is part of an old prison that was renovated by the University of Cape Town - I believe they still own the hotel itself but it is professionally managed by a chain. Even though the Faculty of Management actually have renovated cells for offices and classrooms - the rooms in the hotel are a little more standard! I went downtown on my own a few times (while my husband was lecturing) and I had encountered no problems walking all over the city. I certainly wouldn't walk on my own at night but, if you walk purposefully and confidently, you shouldn't have any problem seeing the city on your own.
I wouldn't shy away from Jo'berg - it's a fascinating city and, as long as you are sensible - a must to experience. There is a wonderful theatre company in an old building in the centre of town that puts on plays that recount the history and politics of the region .... very powerful stuff. We were lucky enough to be hosted by a grad. student who was one of a group who brought soccer to Soweto youth and he took us there to meet some friends who lived there and try to understand a little bit about the region and its history. It's a day that I will never forget and I think that more people should have the opportunity to do this (in a way that doesn't make it look like voyeurism - tour buses driving down the streets would not move closer to understanding). It sure helped me to get at least an inkling of what they have been through and understand what wonderful people they are. We saw only one other white face the whole day we were there and felt threatened only once (for a fleeting moment).
Have a great time!