Busy, chilly day in York, walking walls, visiting Vikings and climbing castles.

York is great. So much to see, do and learn. It’s even better when the weather is crisp and clear:



We’re grabbing a quick pizza before the kids fall asleep in the car on the way back to Sheffield. This will happen, because I have marched them all over the city for the past eight hours.

It has been fun though.

Cape Town Tourism Flickr Pic of the Day (2)

Just a quickie to note that one of my photos from the ill-fated Ajax Cape Town versus Maritzburg United clash at the Cape Town Stadium earlier this month was published by Cape Town Tourism as their Flickr Pic of the Day.

This is the second time I’ve had this honour, the first being this effort (bigger here), the taking of which was immortalised in this blog post.

I’d forgotten just how much fun that evening was.

And then…

A couple of days ago, I had a bit of a pop at Karibu restaurant for their really terrible performance – particularly as we are trying to impress the huge number of tourists during the World Cup (aren’t we?).
And then… I realised that there is more to impressing the tourists than tacky Waterfront restaurants – stuff that we humans can’t actually mess up. I took the family (tourists, over here for the World Cup) for a trip around the peninsular, which is a pretty touristy thing to do. And if you are a tourist over here for the World Cup (and I know you’re reading this blog in your ones) then you should do this.

We took in breathtaking vistas, saw a breaching Southern Right Whale at Llandudno, admired the crashing waves at Misty Cliffs, sat watching a troop of baboons near Cape Point and then went to see the penguins at Boulders.
And that was where things really kicked off – if you pardon the footballing pun.

Because while we were enjoying the penguins – not in a carnal sense, obviously – there was a little commotion out in the bay.
Dolphins. Hundreds of the buggers:

And instantly, people were staring away from the funny little waddling birds (who took the opportunity to try some unobserved flying practice). “Ooh! Dolphins! Look at the dolphins!” they exclaimed in various different languages.

But my brother was looking at something else. Probably because he doesn’t understand Italian or Japanese for “Ooh! Dolphins! Look at the dolphins!”. My brother was looking at the two, possibly three Killer Whales which were following the pod of dolphins, presumably eating one or two every now and again.

Yes. It’s a whale, but it’s very Jaws, isn’t it?
Der dum. Der dum. Der dum dum dum, Der dum dum dum… etc.

The tourists were in their element. Hell – I was even quite impressed. The penguins were annoyed – after all, this was their gig and no-one was watching anymore. But generally, the mood was one of excitement and enjoyment.

I hope that the tourists have made it away from the tacky Waterfront restaurants. I hope that they didn’t have to queue for too long to get up the Mountain and that they took the time to go and see what else the Cape has to offer. Because, if they did, they’re coming back – and they’re bringing their friends, family and even their neighbours.
So never mind, Karibu. Maybe you haven’t ruined everything. There’s enough elsewhere to make up for your deficiencies.

Probably. Just.

P.S. Winelands/Peninsular photos here.
P.P.S. Portugal v  North Korea photos here.

Telegraph confusion

Following the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai, The Telegraph newspaper (more specifically, hack Francisca Kellett) has helpfully put together a list of the twenty most dangerous places on earth to visit. And there, right behind Afghanistan, Iraq and Chechnya and just missing out on a medal is our dear own South Africa, although, as Kellett admits, seemingly almost with an air of disappointment:

 …most visits to the country are trouble-free.

which doesn’t sound ever so dangerous, now does it?
South Africa beats some tough competition to finish so high up the list though, including the DRC, Sudan and world homocide leader, Columbia. Iran is apparently fine, while Somalia doesn’t even warrant a mention, so I assume it’s safe to go there too. I wouldn’t advise arriving by boat though.

Indeed, it seems that something of a dichotomy exists within the ranks of The Telegraph, since it was less than 6 months ago that they were giving away 90 tickets to travel to South Africa. And it was less than 6 days ago that Cape Town, in… er… South Africa won the award for Readers’ Favourite World City from… er… The Telegraph. Doesn’t seem quite right, does it?

Look further into the Telegraph’s extensive Travel section and you will find Jeremy Vine‘s verdict of Cape Town:

I realised it was the perfect place to be in the middle of the British winter: you leave a damp, grey Britain, and 12 hours later you’re in a sunny Cape Town. Fantastic!

Or Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ “Heaven on earth“:

I have an abiding love for the area – known as Cape Province when I was a boy – and I go back as often as possible. All in all, the Western Cape is just a fabulous part of the world and will always have a special place in my heart.

All of which makes Kellett’s rating of 4th most dangerous place on the planet seem slightly lonely, slightly foolish, slightly… well… bewildering, really.

I could stop there, but – hey, they don’t – so neither will I.

  • Novelist John Fullerton loves Cape Town for its laid-back atmosphere, beautiful setting and rich mix of cultures.
  • Douglas Rogers returns to South Africa’s Karoo to find it transformed into a hip new tourist destination.
  • Katie Derham: South Africa. You’ve got to go there. The beaches, the food, the vineyards, the animals.
  • When you’ve done the Big Five, hunt for mementos in Cape Town’s great craft shops, says Lisa Grainger.
  • Ant’s Nest, a private game reserve three hours north of Johannesburg, is the perfect place to stay with a child, writes Clover Stroud.

I’m not denying that SA has a crime problem – that would be simply foolish. However, I don’t think that it rates as being more dangerous for a tourist than, for example, Iran or Somalia. 

Francisca Kellett knows better, of course. Her winter break this year will be in safe and sunny Mogadishu.

South Africa: Places to visit in 2010

Number 2. Brakpan, a mining town in Gauteng.

The name Brakpan was first used by the British in the 1880s because of a non-perennial lake that would annually dry to become a “brackish pan”.

While in the now defunct uranium mining town named after a dirty lake, you can visit the Gyproc factory, which produces almost a quarter of South Africa’s plasterboard. Alternatively, you can visit the site of the world’s biggest mine dump (higher than the pyramids, nogal!) or just enjoy life as it would have been in a previous age.
An age when people still lived in caves.

For more great places you can’t afford to miss on the South African tourist trail, just follow the TOURISM TIPS category in the sidebar. Suggestions welcome.