- Few urban views rival the impressive Table Mountain in Cape Town
- Stay at the ocean-facing Cape View Clifton, which has just seven rooms
- Visit Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years in captivity
Today, you’re likely to see almost as many tourists coming and going on the cable car or huffing and puffing on foot.
But that’s no excuse not to join them — because once you get there the crowds become insignificant in such an exhilarating setting.
We had allocated 45 minutes to wander about on the massive plateau, but it soon became almost two hours — and still, like Moses, we were reluctant to come down from the mountain.
There’s so much to do up there. You can hike, picnic, study the rock rabbits (hyraxes), admire the spiky plants that thrive with little in the way of soil, practise yoga, grow tipsy on the champagne air and even abseil down it if you dare.
Andpracticerse, you can survey the scene from every angle: oceans to the left, oceans to the right, beaches down below, cloudless skies up above, Cape Point somewhere in the distance.
I could live here, you think. In fact, perhaps only Rio has such a dramatic seascape.
And just as that Brazilian honeypot has its favelas, Cape Town has its shacks and townships, teeming with black families waiting for proper housing. Grit is never far from glamour.
Many families have been waiting a long time, the queue barely shortening as more and more of Africa’s poor keep heading south, some 2.5 million from Zimbabwe in the past decade alone.
Peninsula perfection: Head south of the city, and you can glimpse penguins at play on Boulders Beach
I was last here 21 years ago, a few months before the first democratic elections were held — and the transformation is astonishing.
The waterfront, buzzing with shops and restaurants, is a little too California for me, but it’s one of the city’s great success stories.
By comparison, the town centre is still sleepy during the day and has largely avoided a full chi-chi makeover.
When our guide said we were off to the bus terminal not far from the impressive old City Hall building, it was a case of following on trust.
Wine and wonder: Steenberg Farm, in Constantia, is the oldest vineyard in South Africa, dating back to 1682
Our reward was an introduction to a chef called David, one of several who run kitchens housed in cramped wooden shacks.
Lunch here is ten times cheaper than on the waterfront and, somehow, ten times more atmospheric.
But perhaps our best meal was at trendy Test Kitchen, presided over by Luke Dale-Roberts, probably South Africa’s most celebrated chef.
We stayed 30 minutes out of town for our first two nights, at Steenberg Farm in Constantia, the oldest vineyard in South Africa (1682).
The whole place — its lush golf course, excellent bistro (wine tastings aplenty), intimate spa, manor house and colonial-style rooms — exudes charm and calm.
Glorious: There is an argument to say that Cape Town enjoys the most spectacular setting of any city
I detected no smugness, no sense of entitlement. Rather, an acute awareness that this is a work in progress.
And just as the physical backdrop plays such a huge part here, so too does the political backdrop.
I couldn’t find anyone with a good word to say about President Jacob Zuma. Some think he could be gone within 12 months, despite his term officially having almost four more years to run.
His presence is everywhere: on street names, on billboards and, crucially, within the hearts of all South Africans.
We made the pilgrimage to Robben Island, where he spent 18 of his 27 years in captivity, joining a tour led by a fellow former inmate.
Waddle this way: Boulder’s Beach, with its wind sheltered bays, is home to a colony of African Penguins
It could be so much more interesting than it is, but if you’ve never done it, you must.
Then head back to the city via the False Bay villages of Kalk Bay (lunch at Harbour House was sensational and we loved the ramshackle shops), St James and Muizenburg, the latter described as the St Tropez of Cape Town, which may or may not be a compliment.
The swimming is colder on the west side of the Cape, but the views better.
We stayed at the fabulous Cape View Clifton, which opened two years ago and has only seven rooms, all facing the ocean, all whites and greys, with soulful art and comforts of every kind.
A reminder: Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in captivity
You help yourself to drinks and jot it down; guests wander about in the kitchen chatting to the cheerful staff; no one wears shoes.
The sunset on our last night was the colour of the rosé swishing about in our huge wine glasses.
We drank deeply on both counts, painfully aware that the morning would bring a hangover made worse by the thought of flying home.