Top 10 things to do in Cape Town according to the locals

I remember being a little girl and traveling with my mom and dad across the world to Cape Town, South Africa. My mom, dad, and brother were all born there and as a child I would go back often. Some of my most amazing memories came from trips there with my family. Fast forward eighteen years and I was going back to Cape Town for the first time as an adult. I knew this trip would create a whole different set of memories and I was excited to be able to explore a different side of this amazing city.

There is so much to see and do in Cape Town that the city can be a little overwhelming, and with all of the press that South Africa has been getting lately, it can also be a little scary. It is important to stick to the safe spots but you also want to get a taste of what this amazing place has to offer and so I was happy to find out I still had plenty of cousins in the city that helped guide me around.

Here are the top 10  things to do in Cape Town according to the locals

1. Head to the top of Table Mountain

While this might be on every tourist website, it was also the first activity recommended by the locals. Once you see the views from the cable car and from the top you will understand why. The views of the ocean from the top are incredible and you can even see Robben Island. While our visit the skies were mostly clear, it was also very neat to see the clouds rolling in. You truly feel like you are on top of the world.

2.  Hike Lions Head

 

The scenery in Cape Town is incredible and one of best ways to see it is on a hike up Lion’s Head (Table Mountains little brother). It is a difficult hike but seeing the views of the ocean and of Table Mountain along the way are definitely worth it.

3. Take a stroll to the V&A Waterfront

The Waterfront is one of the few places we found were you can eat ocean side and also offers some great local shops. It is a great spot for fresh seafood and all of your souvenirs.

4. Visit the beautiful Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden

My cousin is a local tour guide and she said this was her absolute must for guests. The garden is home to a large collection of African plants and offer some beautiful trails and sculptures.

5. Take a drive along Chapman’s Peak

 

This was by far my favourite part of the entire trip. The views along the coast were truly breathtaking. From the deep blue and turquoise green waters to the deep red rock formations it was an incredibly special place. I honestly believe this is the most beautiful place in the world.

6. Take a day trip for some delicious wine

We spent a day driving along the coast up to Stellenbosch. The farms there are spectacular and the wine is so full of taste. Wine in Cape Town dates back to 1659 and Stellenbosch is the second largest producer in the town. We dined on delicious food and went through some delicious flights. This is an absolute must when visiting.

7. Take a photoshoot in Muizenberg

Muizenberg is by far one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Cape Town and one of the things that makes it so unique is the beautiful rainbow houses along the shore. Take some pictures in front of the homes and dip your toes in the water. Just be careful, the sharks hang out on this side.

8. Indulge in a South African Braai

If you don’t know what Braai is, well it is a traditional South African BBQ as we North America’s call it. I was lucky enough to be invited over to my cousin’s house to enjoy this delicious home cooked meal, but if you are visiting Cape Town and don’t have family you should probably still spoil your taste buds. Take a trip to the Backyard Grill and Lounge. Located in the artsy Woodstock is this distinctly South African eatery complete with live entertainment.

9. Take in the art in Woodstock

Speaking of the artsy area of Woodstock, a real treat is walking around and taking in the local graffiti that covers the street. The artists have truly prettified the sides of the buildings and it is amazing how you can find the most beautiful artwork in the most unexpected places.

10. Swim with the penguins at Boulders Beach

Ok, this may be a locals favourite, but if you are in Cape Town this is a must. As a child I remember visiting this beach every trip and getting up close and personal to the penguins. It is really special to see the babies and families in their natural habitat.

Tips for making the most of your trip in Cape Town 

Cape town will always have a special place in my heart and I hope to be able to experience the beauty of it again some day but again it is very important to be safe in this city.

  • The best way to get around is via uber or renting a car. Try to avoid cabs because the locals say they can sometimes rig the prices
  • You can either use the Rand currency but most places do accept debit and visa
  • Know the areas that you are visiting and don’t walk around at night alone
  • Some of Cape Towns top restaurants book up months in advance so make your reservations ahead of time
  • Be prepared for the weather. Bring layers, you can experience all four seasons in one day.

I hope that you all get to visit this magical city soon.

Happy travels my friends,

xo

Mia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mia Goes M.I.A. Top things to do in Santorini even if you aren’t on your honeymoon

IMG_5399.JPG

It was on the cab ride to the airport when I first questioned my decision to go to Santorini. Our driver told my boyfriend and myself that; “Santorini will make you fall in love all over again.” Listen I can be romantic at times, but my idea of a holiday includes adventure and excitement. Here we were heading to what some might call the honeymoon capital of the world.

When we first arrived in Santorini, I instantly knew what our driver was talking about. This place was like a picture, hand painted to perfection. Gorgeous views around every corner. I thought I was in a dream. Yes, it had all the elements for the perfect romantic getaway, but what I quickly discovered was that Santorini is not just for the lovers. It also happens to be for the wine lovers, the food lovers, and even the adventure lovers. Oh and yes, with the magical sunsets that take place every single night, it is also for the lovers as well.

I wanted to share with you a different side of Santorini. The Santorini that you don’t need to visit with your new hubby or wife . The Santorini that you can enjoy with a group of friends, solo, and even with your boyfriend of two years. The following are my top things to do in Santorini when you are looking for more than just a romantic getaway.

20768276_10213689681812271_5342903680362027230_n

Cliff Jumping

I had never been cliff jumping before but it was always something that I wanted to do. I had heard about a great cliff jumping spot in Oia by Amoudi Bay. When I made my way to the top of the cliff, I instantly knew why this spot had become a go to destination. You could see the entire city of Oia from here. The beautiful white buildings that resembled snow-capped mountains are all around you. The crystal clear Mediterranean down below. I cannot say that my jump was all that graceful, but it sure was exciting. Letting out your inner daredevil and going for a dive is a must if you visit Santorini.

 

Getting here: I probably should have mentioned this first, but getting to the actually cliff is a daredevil experience as well. You need to make your way down a slew of steep steps to Amoudi Bay. Once at the bottom you take the path on your left around the rocks and keep going until you see the rock out in the water. Trust me there will be people already jumping to let you know you have made it to the right spot.

ATV/RZR Tours

IMG_5490.JPG

When I first landed in Santorini I was amazed by the landscape of this island. Deep red and black rock cliffs are what make up this volcanic land and what better way to explore the amazing terrain then via ATV.

The great thing about taking an ATV tour is that it only takes around an hour to get around the whole island, meaning that there is plenty of time to explore along the way.

The roads can be a little scary. They are extremely narrow, not well marked, and for the most part you are driving up or down a giant slope, but the views are spectacular. Make sure to stop by the Monastery of Profit Ilias, the tallest point in all of Santorini for an incredible view of the entire island.

Beach visits

IMG_5465

To tie in with the unique landscape of the island, is the unique beaches that you can find here. Two of the more famous beaches are the Red and Black Sand Beach and they should both be on your list to do in Santorini.

The Red Sand Beach was truly remarkable. The beach is surrounded by deep red cliff sides. If you are heading to the Black Sand Beach make sure to bring some flip flops because the sand gets extremely hot.

20800141_10213689684852347_8420144266106056866_n

Wine Tasting

IMG_5363

I know, when you think of Greece you don’t particularly think of wine tasting but Greece and in particular Santorini has some of the most unique wine in the entire world.

Firstly, it is one of the few places in the world where you can get volcanic wine. The volcanic soil of Santorini really creates a different tasting experience. Secondly, their wineries aren’t afraid to experiment.

The winery that I went to in particular was called Domaine Singalas. This is one of the more daring wineries on the island because they will try all different types of fermenting and aging techniques to create one of a kind wines. Trust me each glass I tried was more delicious then the last.

The food at Domaine Singalas was also local and amazing, I highly recommend their eggplant tower!

IMG_5382

Taste the local food

As a true foodie, Santorini was a dream and there are two spots I cannot recommend enough.

Melitini: This might of been the best meal of my entire life. The food was so fresh and so delicious. It is a little tapas restaurant so make sure you order about three different plates to share. You need to try their dips  and order them with some fresh pita. I left their full and happy.

Vinyart: This restaurant was a little off the beaten path but it had a really cool vibe. Celebrating both the food and local art the restaurant was decked out with photography, sculptures, and paintings. Plus the food was amazing. For a mixture of a great meal and some culture you need to eat here.

Cool-off

20770378_10213689682692293_5390157597866001812_n

I learned the hard way that Santorini in the summer time is hot, hot, hot! But thankfully a lot of the hotels in Oia have beautiful pools with even more beautiful views. I had the chance to check out the infinity pool at the Canavas Suites. Not only was it a great way to cool down, but it also offered a stunning view of the Caldera.

 

Take in the Sunset

20767925_10213680887872428_98183227929720281_n

Now we get to the romantic part of the trip, the famous Santorini sunsets. This island is known for having the best sunset in all of Greece, (maybe even the world). Whether you are there with your significant other, friends, or even by yourself the sunset is a must see.

I know that a lot of people will gather on the top of the castle in Oia to take in the views, but here is the thing, it can get really crowded and tough to find a good spot. So I decided instead to make a dinner reservation at Sunset Amoudi (hey a girl has to eat right). Sure it was a little pricey, but it was definitely worth having a front row seat to watch the sun set over an amazing day.

If you do chose to have dinner with a view, make sure to call ahead. A lot of the restaurants with sunset views will book up really quickly.

 

Take a Stroll

20840894_10213689682412286_4529751396141397002_n

One of my favourite things to do in Santorini was just taking a walk around town because you never know what you are going to find. Walk down some alleyways and you may just be surprised by some picturesque views perfect for your Instagram page!

 

Honorable mentions

There were two things that I really wanted to do, but alas the hot summer month of August didn’t seem to be the best time to do it. The first was hike from Fira to Oia. I have heard there are spectacular views along the way and will probably stare at pictures from other blogs regretting not doing this walk for as long as I live. The second was take a visit out to the volcano and hot springs, again hot springs seemed unappealing in 30-degree weather.

I honestly cannot recommend Santorini enough. It truly became one of my favourite places in this whole wide world. It offers so much beauty, so much culture, and so much to explore. You need to cross this one off the bucket list. Happy traveling friends!

 

Mia goes M.I.A: One Week in Thailand

11065304_10205717431831004_3398585911342487588_n

I did it on a whim. I had always dreamed of exploring Thailand, and so when I found myself with about 10 days off in between jobs, I decided this was my window. After already paying for the flight and hotels I was told by plenty of friends that I was absolutely insane. They told me there was no way I would be able to truly experience, explore, and enjoy such a short trip to such a beautiful place. It was at that point for the first time that I questioned my decision. Two 20-hour travel days left me with just eight days of actual vacation time. It was crazy!

However, after some major time spent planning the exact islands I wanted to see and exactly what I wanted to do, the impossible suddenly seemed slightly more possible. I knew that with such a short time frame I would have to pick either the east or the west side of the Thailand. Ever since I saw the movie ‘The Beach’ I had always wanted to explore Koh Phi Phi, so west side it was. Phi Phi, Phuket, and Krabi in eight days, I wasn’t as crazy as I thought.

Yes, the trip was short, yes I wish I could have seen more of this amazing country, but to be hones this was one of the greatest experiences of my life. By doing so, I also learned a valuable lesson; limited time should never be an excuse to follow your dreams and to explore the world. The truth is all of our time is limited, and who knows if I would ever have a ten-day window to see Thailand again.

Still questioning me? Well how about I help you plan your very own week long trip to Thailand.

10394846_10205717258266665_1651567423943753846_n

 

Phuket

 Day 1: I started my adventure in Phuket. I arrived in the afternoon and saw that our hotel offered Thai food cooking classes. Hungry after my long flight, I decided why not learn how to make my favourite dish, Pad Thai. Let’s just say I won’t be cooking for anyone anytime soon but it was extremely fun to learn the steps and see the professionals in action.

The day then turned into evening and I had heard about the amazing Cabaret shows. The shows have become famous among tourists because of the ladyboy acts, but the show was so much more. The dances truly depicted the Thai culture. The beautiful costumes and music really made you appreciate this foreign world.

I finished my fist day in Thailand exploring the lights of Bangla Road. Basically considered the Vegas of Thailand. The road was filled with clubs, bars, and shopping. Bright lights filled the street. I dipped into Coyote Bar to listen to some amazing live music.

Day 2:  I started the day bright and early with a trip to the Big Buddha, one of Phuket’s top attractions. This 45 meter- high marble clad statue is truly a piece of art. While there, everyone who visits also has an opportunity to be blessed by a monk.

Since I was leaving bright and early the next day for my next destination, I decided to have a quiet evening. I took a “Tuk Tuk” aka the taxi cabs of Thailand up to Baan Rim Pa Patong, one of the best rated restaurants in Thailand. The reason I wanted to eat here, was because it sat atop a hill where you could overlook the entire city. The food was spicy and delicious and the views were breathtaking.

Koh Phi Phi

11038785_10205722154869077_2656006933953654029_n

 Day 3: The ferry right from Phuket to Phi Phi is about 2-hours long. A little sleepy from the ferry ride, I decided instead of any excursions I would spend the rest of the day exploring the Island. I went shopping in the markets, got a fish foot massage  and laughed the entire time), and got some famous Thai rolled ice cream from a small local shop (in fact I ate the ice cream every single day I was on the island.)

Well rested during the day I spent the evening climbing the Andaman View point. The climb is pretty tough, but the views of the sea from the top, particularly at sunset is truly magical.

I then spent the rest of the night visiting a tree ho. The bar is actually up in a tree and overlooks the beach. I watched a fire show with a Singha beer.

Day 4: Today was the day I had been looking forward to since I decided to visit Thailand, a visit to Hat Maya. Ever seen the movie The Beach? Well I am talking about that exact beach. I grabbed a coconut drink and explored the beautiful trees, white sand beach, and turquoise water. The boat then took us to Shark Bay where we went snorkeling with some local black tip sharks.

Back at the hotel I prepared for one of the more famous Thai excursions, a full moon party. Dressed in florescent paint, I was off to Slinky’s Bar. Located right on the beach, I danced the night away and even tried my hand at fire limbo.

11070187_10205738242671262_5807354486231596790_n

Krabi

 Day 5: Day 5 started with a short 90-minute ferry ride from Phi Phi to Krabi. Once I arrived in Krabi I spent the day soaking up the adorable town of Ao Nang. I met with the amazing friendly locals, shopped the markets, and stopped for a drink at Cuckoo’s Nest.

Day 6: Today I woke up nice and early to tackle Tiger Cave Temple. No, there are no tigers here, this is actually one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in Krabi. It is a strenuous climb but the view from the top is stunning.

Once back from the tough climb, it was time to relax. I had heard about Rei Lay beach and decided to take a short boat ride over. I cannot recommend this spot enough. Rei Lay was the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. I spent the afternoon relaxing and even got a Thai massage right on the sand. The best part, a Thai massage will only cost you about $10.

Day 7: My last full day in Thailand. I had always wanted to ride an elephant, and after some research I found out that Phang Nga Elephant Park really treats their animals with respect. I decided to visit the park, and had the chance to meet my new fried Pancho. It was such a surreal experience to get a piggy-back ride from such an amazing creature.

11072830_10205737414410556_5721633903613295048_n

The rest of the day was spent heading back to Phuket to prepare for the long flight back to Canada.

My one week and a day trip to Thailand was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I had the chance to explore the beauty, the culture, the landscape, the food, and the breathtaking beaches of this amazing country.

Want to visit Thailand, or any country for that matter but don’t have a lot of time? It can be done, just plan ahead. Decide where you want to go, book the excursions ahead of time, have an open mind, and of course plan to come back. I sure hope I get to explore more of beautiful Thailand in the future, but I will never forget the eight days I spent in this beautiful country.

1901222_10205731973314532_7102799567611713555_n

11070515_10205717261626749_5157240473514403247_n

Until the next time I go M.I.A happy traveling

xo

Mia