Cape Town Travel Diary

Cape Town Travel Diary

Whenever I travel to a new place I usually have an expectation of what it’s going to be like. Cape Town however, blew these right out of the water.

I expected it to be beautiful, I’d heard the food was incredible, the landscape breathtaking – but I had no idea how hard I’d fall for this city. There is something magical about Cape Town, and that’s the best way I can describe it.  

WHAT WE DID

Climbed Lions Head – This took us 3 hours. We’d been told it was roughly a 90 minute round trip and perhaps this is true if you’re Edmund Hillary, but for the rest of us you’ll need three solid hours. Take water, wear proper shoes and be prepared to break a sweat. This climb is no joke. Also, brace yourself for literally being “on the edge” – parts of this trail will have you 600m up with only few inches between your feet and the cliff. It’s fantastic.

Cable Car to the top of Table Mountain – You can hike Table Mountain but as we’d already done Lion’s Head we were happy to pay the 290R (about $20USD) and hop on the 5 minute Cable Car ride to the top. The view from up here will absolutely blow your mind.

Cage Diving with Sharks – First off, its advertised as “Cage Diving with Great Whites” but the Great Whites are few and far between these days, so we saw Copper Sharks instead and as I’ve never seen a Great White in the flesh, they weren’t missed. The experience was still incredible. We did our dive in the town of Gansbaai, which is about 2.5 hours outside of Cape Town.  

Day Safari at Aquila Private Game Reserve – This was an interesting one for me as it wasn’t actually a safari. Game Reserves are designated protected habitats and the animals are free to roam the 10,000 hectare conservatory that is Aquila, however it’s just not the real thing. We were told the ‘true’ safaris are inland, about a 5 hour drive outside of Johannesburg.

Coastal Walk from Camps Bay to Sea Point – This takes about an hour and is filled with great scenery. I really enjoyed doing it late afternoon.

Visited the Penguins at Boulder Beach – This was a learning experience as we hopped the fence to take pics with the little guys, and copped a 500R fine (about $35USD). The confusion is that you can walk onto the beach about a km up from where we entered, and play/take photos amongst the penguins from that end, so we didn’t realise that our short cut wasn’t allowed. At any rate, though the fine seems relatively low, the real concern is not upsetting the penguins or their habitat, so follow the signs!

Drove Chapman’s Peak – This is a must. It’s a winding road that is perched literally on the edge of the mountain on the western side of the Cape Peninsula, between Hout Bay and Noordhoek. Apparently the road can get quite congested, particularly at sunset, but I think we lucked out going around 10am – there were hardly any other cars. You can stop at view points along the drive. 

Visited Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden – You can do tours of the garden, or just pay the 70R (about $5USD) to enter the garden and walk around yourself. You can also take a picnic and spend the afternoon hanging out in some pretty insane greenery. Next time I visit Ill be taking a picnic for sure.

WHERE WE STAYED

Elements Total Stay – Serviced apartments in Sea Point. The apartments were massive, brand new and centrally located in the heart of Sea Point, just a few minutes’ walk from the beach. I have to say the staff at Total Stay were incredible – so warm, accommodating and genuinely concerned that we enjoyed that we enjoyed our stay. Check out their website here.

AirBn – There are a ton in Cape Town, you won’t have trouble finding one!

WHERE WE ATE (and I recommend them all)

For Breakfast

Lola’s

Bootleggers

Nourish’d

Lunch

Primi

Thyme at Rosemary’s (in Gansbaai after our Shark Dive)

Dinner

The Bungalo

El Burro

Nobu

Codfather Sushi

FAVOURITE BEACH

Llandudno – The beach itself is beautiful, the surrounding suburb is adorable and the sunsets here are my favourite.  Next time I visit Cape Town I will be renting an AirBnb in Llandudno.

 

Exploring Vancouver with Fairmont Pacific Rim

Exploring Vancouver with Fairmont Pacific Rim

A couple weeks ago, I packed my bags (my first attempt at travelling with just a carry on – what an unequivocal disaster that was) and headed west to the Fairmont Pacific Rim in downtown Vancouver for their annual Fashion Takes Flight Fashion Show. For three nights we were pampered with lavish dining experiences, a spa day, private excursion to Capilano Suspension Bridge, a seaplane tour of Vancouver’s pacific harbour and an award winning cocktail tasting experience that I only partially remember because the drinks were free (more on that later). 

Let’s start this off with a brief description the Omakase sushi longboard we ate at RawBar in the Lobby Lounge. It took four servers to carry it over to us and about 30 seconds for me to demolish it. Accompanying the sushi was a flight of cocktails created to represent each of the dresses showcased in the hotel’s lobby. The dresses are switched out frequently which means the cocktail flight is continuously changing. As I take my job very seriously, I sampled each of the ones on hand. 

Day two we headed to Capilano Suspension Bridge, which has been a long standing item on my bucket list. We were spoilt with private access to the park before it opened for the day. Standing on that bridge solo was pretty insane and I am so grateful for the experience. And for the absence of wind. 

Later that afternoon I headed to the spa, where I had lunch, a massage and an unscheduled nap. 

We kicked off our last day by having breakfast with all the Canadian designers who were in town to show their pieces at that evening’s show. I loved this part of the day – I always find it so inspiring chatting to people who are passionate about what they do. After some mimosas and avocado toast (heaven forbid I branch out with breakfast) we walked down to the dock below and boarded a Harbour Air seaplane for a tour of Vancouver Harbour from the sky. Another first for me, another incredible experience. 

The next couple hours went like this:

  • A horrifying realization that I forgot to pack an outfit for the fashion show (thank you carry-on)
  • A sweaty jaunt to Zara to purchase multiple tops in the hopes that one would suit my last pair of clean pants 
  • Another unscheduled nap upon returning my room
  • Sushi in the bathroom while doing my makeup and watching Below Deck on the TV built into my mirror
  • Another realization that the only shirt that went with my pants was actually see-through… but fuck it, I’m late and #freethenip
  • Arrived at the fashion show 23 minutes late
  • Drank 2 glasses of champagne and half a glass of Chardonnay because I hate Chardonnay 
  • Found my seat

We sat front row and had the best view of beautiful pieces from designers across the country, talent from Vancouver to Montreal. After the catwalk, we headed to the second floor for the trunk show where we had a chance to shop the collections in person.

This brings us to my favourite part of the trip and favourite feature of the hotel – dinner at Botanist restaurant. We enjoyed the full tasting menu and were served by the 11th best bartender in Canada. (I wonder if I’ve ever been the 11th best at anything, ha…)

The restaurant takes it’s inspiration from nature reflected through the jungle-themed decor, flower pressed menu and creative dishes. Accordingly, the cocktails each represent an element – air, water, fire and earth. The first drink came in a large glass bird meant to emulate the air. The second drink called “the cove” was in a large glass bowl symbolizing water. The third came in lantern, filled with smoke and symbolized the power of fire (it smelled like a bonfire… I just feel it’s important to add this detail). The fourth drink is a mystery thanks to the previous elements. 

A big thank you to Fairmont Pacific Rim for having us at their beautiful hotel, Tourism Vancouver for hooking us up with all the cool adventures and Harbour Air for showing us Vancouver from the sky! 

Links to Explore Below:

The Fall for Gold Package here

Botanist here

The Lobby Lounge here

 

I Want To Live In Paris

I Want To Live In Paris

Wherever I find myself in the world I usually have one leading thought. “I want to live here”. I’m so easily infatuated by places and cultures, like that girl in middle school who doodled every boys name in her notebook – except I’m doodling cities. 

Honestly though, Paris is like a drug. Everyone has style (and not like “cool outfit” style, like “holy shit that girl is chic” style). Every corner is a post card, every boy is attractive and everyone chain smokes while drinking glasses of red – managing to maintain the complexion of a twelve year old model. How???? I have three glasses of wine with dinner and I’m like the crypt keeper crawling out of my bed the next morning. 

I spent four days in the city this time. We stayed in Le Marais, one of the oldest parts of Paris and home to the cutest cafes, cutest boutique shopping and cutest boys. (Honestly I’ve never swiped right so many times in my life). There were quite a few plant based options for food which I was pleasantly surprised by. Hank Pizza & Wild And The Moon are both on Rue des Gravilliers and both worth checking out… though I still inhaled baguette with brie every day I was there, because why the hell not when you’re in Paris? 

I actually find this paradox hilarious. On one hand I’m planning my French transformation where I’ll be impossibly skinny and chic, with no makeup and naturally beautiful hair. On the other, there I am in the corner inhaling baguette and cheese with my girlfriends, debating that 3rd bottle of wine. Can’t win ’em all. 

Anyways, maybe I’ll move to Paris… 

Shop These Looks

 

Up In The Air With Finnair

Up In The Air With Finnair

Last month I had the opportunity to partner with Finnair and experience their new ‘Stopover‘ program via Helsinki. As an avid traveller I’ve historically though of stopovers as a pain, and something I try to avoid. However with programs such as the one Finnair is offering, stop overs actually allow you to maximize your experience and make the most of your travels.

Hear me out…

Instead of paying more to fly direct, the program allows you to spend a night or two (or three etc) in your stop over city before continuing onto your final destination. I flew from New York to Helsinki, spent a couple days exploring the city, then continued onto Barcelona. Both cities were on my bucket list and I was able to tick them off in one go, without the added expense of booking separate flights. Pretty good deal eh?

So if you guys are planning on some upcoming travels, check out the Finnair Stopover Program and see if it will work for you!

Some ‘Fun Facts’ I learned about Helsinki:

  • Helsinki is the world’s coldest capital city
  • People in Finland drink more coffee per person than anyone else in the world (12kg)
  • In June and July, the sun never reaches the horizon

Some ‘Fun Facts’ I learned about Barcelona:

  • Barcelona didn’t have beaches until the 1992 Olympics
  • Barcelona has 12 abandoned metro stations that are reportedly haunted
  • The Eiffel Tower was originally intended to be in Barcelona

Isla Holbox

Isla Holbox

A mere eight miles off the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, all your questions whether heaven really is a place on earth are answered. Isla Holbox is an island in its truest form: 26 miles long, less than a mile wide, a rare find with nothing but a stretch of beach, a small town and the occasional yogi crossing your path on a bicycle. A car-free (and care-free) sanctuary, Isla Holbox is the perfect place to explore by foot, bike or (yes) golf-cart. Even though it’s often branded as “the next Tulum”, it still holds the magic of a sleepy getaway that lets you truly unplug.

 

How to Get There:

 

You have two options here…

 

  1. You can fly directly from Cancun or Playa Del Carmen. This is obviously the more expensive option but it’s quick, so you could make a day trip out of it.

 

  1. You can follow in my footsteps and hop on the old ADO bus (leaves from the ADO station in Cancun) and enjoy a 3 – 4 hour ‘journey’ to Chiquilá, where you will then catch a ferry across to Holbox. The bus leaves from Cancun 3 x per day and costs $118 peso ($7 USD), they do fill up so make sure to get to the station in good time. There are two ferries that run all day in half hour intervals, it costs $120 peso (also roughly $7USD) and takes 30 minutes to get you from Chiquilá to Holbox. In all honestly I would suggest this option as although it is a long drive, you really get an authentic experience on the bus, driving through multiple small towns, picking up school children and other commuters along the way. By the time you get to Chiquilá you might even be able to say more than just “Hola”.  (Traveler tip: Make sure you pee before you board.)

 

Where I stayed:

Holbox Dream Resort – This place is basically a tree fort for adults. It’s a down-to-earth beach front property with really good food and beautiful staff. Breakfast is served daily on the beach front and offers both “westernized” options as well as traditional Mexican dishes. The sunrise is insane, so get down to breakfast early, grab a plate and enjoy what is truly a serene moment.

 

Where to Eat & Drink:

Hot Corner – It could not be more appropriately named being the ‘hottest spot in town” for live music and drinks. It is also located on the corner of the main intersection – go figure.

Taco Queto – This restaurant is basically a bunch of picnic tables under a tarp with a food truck backed into one corner. It’s so fantastic, and so cheap! I paid $45 peso for 3 veggie tacos. What a dream.

Las Panchas – Great fresh fish and Seafood – though this is everywhere on the island.

Basico – The most expensive place to eat in Holbox but it’s still very reasonable. Beautiful dishes and decor.

Naay – A super healthy, fresh, organic salad bar. I couldn’t eat here myself as they had peanut in the kitchen and couldn’t guarantee cross contamination, however its definitely a place to check out if you’re not an allergy kid.

Viva Zapata – Sit in the front on the swings or couches and have some fajitas and beer!

 

Interesting Fact:

Back in the 18th century, Isla Holbox was famous for providing asylum for fugitive pirates from Spain and Italy. Some used it as a stopover, and some decided to stop pirating and stay – honestly can’t blame them.

Newport House – For The Traveller

Newport House – For The Traveller

I’ve always identified myself as a traveler, craving the local scene over the guided tour. I want to understand a place and experience it as it’s own people do. This is what unites us as humans, seeing how others live and realizing that we are all the same. We eat different food, live in different terrains, speak different languages, but we all put our pants on one leg at a time. It has been a long time opinion of mine that traveling is a cure for misconception and the more ground I cover across this beautiful planet of ours, the more I consider the age old debate of traveler vs tourist.

Recently I had the pleasure of visiting Newport House in Playa Del Carmen. If you’ve been to Playa you know how ‘touristy’ it can seem. Tons of people, night clubs, crowded beaches, large resorts. It’s easy to take it at face value but the city has another side, a vibrant soul and Newport House wants to help you find it.

“Live like a local” is their mantra and their specialty is creating “off the beaten track” itineraries so you can discover Playa in your own way. This is what I loved most about our stay – getting the insider info on local cuisine and secluded sites aka things you wont necessarily find on Google.

Newport House is made up of self sufficient apartments with a full kitchen (and laundry), so you can hit up the markets and cook your own dinner with all the local produce you’ll surely over buy. DAC Market, which I’ve included photos of in this post, is a local favourite for fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s about a 10 minute bike ride from Newport House and conveniently NH provides you with the bikes!

Some other things I loved about my experience at Newport House were:

  • The private rooftop, perfect for answering morning emails (they have outlets in the cabanas!) also perfect for watching the sunset over the city.
  • The welcome basket waiting for you in your room, filled fresh organic breakfast essentials – all locally sourced.
  • A list of local restaurants ‘gems’ including vegan/vegetarian options waiting for you in your room.
  • Full access to bikes and longboards to help you explore the city and cruise the beach.

So for all my fellow travelers, if you’re heading to the east coast of Mexico and in search of an authentic experience Newport House has you covered!

© Laurie Ferraro 2018