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: New York in a Hot Minute

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New York, aka the city that never sleeps. There is no truer statement. With a population of 8 million and 5 unique boroughs to explore, there is so much to see, do and discover. One weekend let alone one lifetime is not enough to truly discover all of New York City. Yet despite only 48 hours on my most recent trip to NYC, I managed to fit in delicious food, outdoor fun, local hot spots, entertainment, and sight-seeing. How do you tackle New York in a hot minute? I am here to guide you.

What to do?

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What isn’t there to do in New York? It doesn’t matter if you love art, shopping, theater, or outdoor fun, there is something for everyone. When I travel, I try to explore some of the local favorites because I feel this is the best way to really get to experience what the city has to offer.

The first night that I arrived, I was told by some of the locals about this comedy club called Comedy Cellar (if you are thinking of going you need to make a reservation in advance.) The Comedy Cellar is a favorite spot in the city because plenty of celebrity comedians like to drop in from time to time so you never know who you may see. I was beyond impressed with the talent and basically spent the night crying from laughter. I also had the surprise of a lifetime when one of my favorite writers, Judd Apatow made a guest appearance only to be followed by Michael Che of SNL. Can you say spoiled?

Day two of this weekend getaway I visited another local recommendation, The High Line. The High Line is a 1.45-mile-long elevated park created on an old railroad. The park is basically an urban oasis above the city. There are beautiful trees and flowers planted along the walk with art instillation at every turn. I started the walk in Manhattan and traveled through the Meatpacking District and Chelsea. The walk was beautiful and truly unique to NYC.

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Once at the end of the High Line, there is a beautiful rooftop patio called the Top of the Standard. This is a must visit because of the breathtaking views of the city. In the evening the bar offers live jazz music and delicious drinks.

Whether you love musicals or plays, no trip to New York is complete without a stop at Broadway. Just seeing the crowded roads of Time Square and the bright lights of the theaters is an experience in itself. This is also the opportunity to see the best talent in the world right in front of your eyes. I had the opportunity to see the new musical Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. The story is based on 70 pages of the novel War and Peace, but instead of a boring history novel, the story is told through rock and roll, pop, and electronic music. The show, which was nominated for a Tony for best musical, is a must see.

As the trip came to a close, there were just a few hours left to explore the amazing city. While many will take the trip down to Central Park, I decided to spend my last day in town visiting a different park, Bryant Park. This park, which is located right beside the New York Public Library, is much smaller and very quaint. My favorite part of this park is the little game area where you can challenge a friend to chess or Monopoly.

The trip rounded out with a stop at the Museum of Modern Art. I am not a huge art enthusiast but the MOMA is a must see. It is home to modern masterpieces of all genres. Everything from architecture, to sculptures, to classics are highlighted in their walls.

New York is such an amazing city with so much to offer. Like I mentioned it is impossible to fit it all into one weekend, but the activities I mentioned above really are worth a try.

Where to Stay

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Just as unique as all the things to do in New York are the amazing places to stay. My biggest piece of advice is find a boutique hotel as oppose to a chain. You can stay in a chain anywhere in the world but New York offers some of the most unique boutique spaces. While you won’t be spending a lot of time in your room, some of these spots also offer beautiful rooftop patios and great amenities that you won’t find at the chains.

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I had the chance to stay in two beautiful boutique hotels during my trip and they were both incredible spots. The first was Hotel Giraffe. The hotel is in the perfect location, right in the heart of Manhattan. What I really loved about the hotel is it stayed true to its theme. Everywhere were pictures and books of Giraffes. There were even statues on their rooftop. Speaking of the rooftop, they had an adorable upstairs patio with stunning views of the city. This was an amazing spot to relax and grab a drink and some sunshine. Another plus at this hotel was the daily wine and cheese reception. Every day at 5pm the hotel would offer their guests wine, champagne, cheese, and other snacks while they had a pianist come and play for their guests. They truly know how to make you feel like a million bucks.

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The second hotel was an equally beautiful boutique spot, the Library Hotel. Again perfect location, right beside the New York Public Library and a 10-minute walk to Time Square. This hotel also stuck true to its theme. As soon as you walk into the lobby, there are giant book shelves with books the guests can take and read. In fact, on their second floor they have a reading room where you can unwind and relax. So much detail went into this hotel it was truly remarkable. When I got to my floor, I noticed that all the rooms had “book cards” and I was staying in the communications room (how adorable). Even the hotels rooftop bar stuck to the library theme. The beautiful bar was called the Bookmarks and all of the delicious cocktails were literary inspired. I highly recommend the Bookmark’s Hemingway. The rooftop offers a wrap-around terrace with incredible views of the city below. This hotel again offered a wine and cheese reception for guests and really made my stay special.

There are so many places to stay in NYC, but I highly recommend trying something a little off the beaten path. It truly will add some flair to your overall trip.

Where to eat

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 New York dining can be overwhelming to say the least. Every corner you turn are ten different and amazing restaurants to choose from. No matter what your taste buds are craving you can find the perfect spot in NYC. While fitting in all the restaurants I wanted to try into one weekend was impossible, here were a few of my favorite spots.

Bread and Tulips: This Italian restaurant is located right in the heart of Manhattan. I absolutely loved the interior décor, bread baskets hanging from the ceiling. The restaurant has an upscale feel, but they make their own pizza and pasta in house so I knew I was in for a treat. I was told their octopus was a specialty, and in a bit of a daring mood (since I have never had octopus before) I decided to give it a go. It was honestly incredible. I followed up my starter with their homemade pasta which had such delicious flavours and was the perfect portion size.

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Blue Hill: This is another incredible spot in the city. I love Blue Hill because the restaurant has locally sourced food, meaning everything on their menu is super fresh and super delicious. The restaurant has a very cozy feel and you cannot go wrong with the menu. I loved their spring vegetable lasagna. The goat cheese just added such flavour.

Ellen’s Stardust Diner: Ok, I know that this one is a little touristy to say the least, but I had such a great experience. The diner offers your classics but you don’t come here for the food, you come here for the experience. All of the waiters are also professional singers, in fact, a lot of them have appeared on stage in New York and internationally. The talent is amazing and they are guaranteed to have you singing and dancing along throughout your meal.

That wraps up my hot minute in New York City. As I mentioned though, it is impossible to fit everything into just one weekend, but these were some of the spots I fell in love with and would highly recommend checking out if you make it out to NYC. I will be back soon and would love to hear some of your favourite spots in the city that never sleeps.

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

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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.

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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

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 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.

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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.

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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.

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

xo

Mia