10 reasons why living in Simon’s Town is worth the commute

Lots of people ask us why we chose to live in Simon’s Town given that we’re under 60 years old. On the edge of the earth and amusingly nicknamed God’s Waiting Room, lots of Capetonians seem baffled that we chose to live in this sleepy seaside town. But for us, there are many more reasons to live in Simon’s Town than the penguins and navy officers. For us, this is the heart of Cape Town even if it is a 50 minute drive to the city centre.

penguins near Simon's Town
© Matthew Fortey

Other than “but it’s so pretty”, here are my top 10 excuses for why we chose to set up shop here:

1. The Waterfall Walk. This hike is too good not to share, and I love its secluded nature. It really is a hidden gem on this side of the moon, and it’s great to be nosy and feel inspired as you walk past all the beautiful houses. Then it’s just a hop, skip and a jump along a winding path until you reach a little waterfall where you can while away the time listening to the dassies. One of my pups is mad for water and loves to go splash about in the pool, while the other goes off exploring the sides of the mountains. The area doesn’t get much sun so it’s a cool place to hang out in summer, and in winter when the rains have thundered full throttle, you can enjoy the ‘cascades’.

2. Just Sushi. This offers by far the freshest, most generous portions of sashimi that I’ve had so far in Cape Town, and I would eat here every day if I had the money. It’s also quite nice to not be the only Asian in the village.

redhill-dam

3. Redhill Dam hike. About an hour round trip, this hike boasts some of the most spectacular views on this side of the peninsular. With an unobscured view of Table Mountain to one side, and False Bay framing the other, by the time you get to the dam, you’d think there’d be little left to impress. But that is not the case. Surrounded by dozens of secluded little coves, it’s not only beautiful but a great place to work on your tan away from the hoards of sunbabies back on the beaches.

4. Moules Marinières at Lighthouse CafeThis cute little cafe is a lovely spot for a light lunch. Charming and friendly, it also does great moules marinières. I’m sure the rest of the dishes on the menu are also good but I’ve never tried them because I keep ordering the mussels! I was devastated when the dish used to be a ‘special’ and they sometimes wouldn’t have them, but now they’re firmly fixed on the menu and hopefully not going anywhere.

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5. Best dog walking beaches. Long Beach in Simon’s Town is extremely dog friendly. In fact, dog walkers and scuba divers are just about all that you see strolling along the shores. It’s also one of the few beaches that doesn’t require leashes so one of my pooches can run around and make friends while my other dog that’s not so keen on canine companions has enough room to keep to himself and just have a good dig.

6. Monocle and Mermaid. I keep telling people that Simon’s Town is awesome but no one will believe me, and all the cool cats turn their noses up at our quaint colonial town. But Monocle and Mermaid proves all the non-believers and nay-sayers wrong. This cafe gives all the hipster joints in the CBD a run for their money and takes steam punk to the seaside. With great sandwiches and coffee, it gives me faith that there’s still life yet in our retirement village.

7. Location, location, location. It may not be near the buzz of the city, and although I do occasionally get a pang for the urban ease of ‘popping out’ for a drink, the location of Simon’s Town is perfect for us because we’re surrounded by most of our favourite spots in Cape Town. Kalk Bay, Noordhoek and Scarborough are all within 15 minutes reach and they’re three places that have won my heart. With tidal pools, coffee shops, restaurants and beaches aplenty, there’s enough to keep me entertained all weekend.

© Ashanti Forsmann
© Ashanti Forssman

8. Fringe Vintage Salon. I have searched high and low for a good hairdresser and have had little luck in two years so I tend to put off cutting my hair until I resemble a cleaning appliance. No one seems to be able to get a grip on my unruly locks or understand that I will never do much to tame them. I have walked out of a place in Sea Point looking like I belong in an 80s porn film, and I once was silly enough to go to a salon in China that boasted ‘Tony & Gay” products on its shelves. I should have known better. But Fringe in Simon’s Town is wonderful. It’s well priced, the owner gave me a cut I love, and the setting is unrivalled. With antique furniture, vintage photographs on the walls, and black and white movies playing while you have your hair washed, everything serves to offer a nostalgic escape into yesteryear.

9. Whale and dolphin watching. Even after two years of living here, when I spot one of the many whales or dolphins that pay our little harbour a visit, I can’t help but get excited. The beauty of them breaching or playing in the waters is something that I’m sure I’ll never quite get used to or tired of; and it’s at times like those that I feel a long way from where I grew up in England.

a braai on our balcony
© Matthew Fortey

10. A view to die for. But most of all, this view is why we live in Simon’s Town. So that we can wake up each morning and be reminded that there are so many beautiful reasons to be happy. A braai on a sunny day when you can see all the contours of the mountains on the other side of False Bay is pretty much everything we need in life.

In the navy
© Matthew Fortey

15 reasons why I love Cape Town

Just under two years ago we made the move to Cape Town, and there are many reasons why we fell in love with South Africa’s “Mother City” and decided to make it our base. Not only are some of the most magnificent views accompanied for the most part by beautiful blue skies, but it’s blessed with the best of both worlds – the beach and the mountains. And there’s wine. Lots of wine. 

Table Mountain in Cape Town
© Matthew Fortey

So here are my top fifteen reasons for why, after a decade of travelling, we reckon that this is the best place to call home. I must warn you that lots of the following reasons involve food, but that’s to be expected. You can take the girl out of Asia but you can’t take the Asia out of the girl.

1. Sushi. Forget Japan, come to South Africa. It’s everywhere, it’s fresh, and it’s often very reasonably priced. I’m not convinced by ‘fashion sandwiches’ or the deep fried variations, but I am convinced that Cape Town offers some of the most delicious raw fish in the world.

2. Bluebird Garage in Muizenberg on a Friday night. The number of times I have been here and hinted wildly at jewellery I like to my fiance. To no avail, I should add, but it’s alright because a Yoffi Falafel and a honey beer more than make up for it. The food options aren’t quite as amazing as at other markets, but what it does lack, it makes up for in ambience. It’s a great casual spot just to collapse with friends over a drink after a week at work.

spirit-fest3. Yoga festival. Every March at Mountain Shadows, my favourite event takes place. Spiritfest. All the hippies in the Western Province descend on this little field in Paarl and go ga-ga over Las Paletas ice lollies and gluten-free pizza. If you can tear yourself away from sunbathing or lazing in a rubber tube in the dam, there are treatments, philosophy talks and yoga classes going on at all hours from Sadhana starting at 5.30am to kirtan in the evenings. The live music also goes down a treat, and the energy is contagious.

Open air cinema4. Open air cinema. Summer time in Cape Town means concerts, hiking, sunbathing and most importantly, the Galileo Open Air Cinema. Films are held all over the city at various wine farms and quarries as well as in a couple of staple venues – the V&A and Kirstenbosch. With food trucks to feed you and back rests to rent, there’s nothing better than watching an old favourite under a shooting star.

5. Earthfair. I’m not sure I’ll ever get fed up of the EarthFair Food Market in Steenberg. The location is a bit random being behind a Builders Warehouse in a retail park but I quite like that. I feel it sums up Cape Town… in the places you least expect lie hidden gems. Great music, food and atmosphere, it has everything I’ll ever need in life including my favourite salted caramel La Petite Moo brownies, the best chilli biltong, and my favourite rusks made by Freedom Bakery (chocolate, gluten free and heavenly). Whether you need to shop for a braai or just want to shoot the breeze with friends, it’s a perfect place to pop in after work on a Wednesday or grab a patisserie on a Saturday morning.

6. Wine tasting. You don’t need to go as far afield as Franschhoek to savour some incredible wines. Constantia Glen is one of my favourites as it’s a great place to sit outside on cushions while you sample wine, a board of sorts and the view. Steenberg Vineyards is another fantastic spot to savour a range of wines in a stylish setting. You can’t go too far wrong when pretty much all the farms have variations of views like this:

© Matthew Fortey
© Matthew Fortey

7. Farmhouse Rocks. In my humble opinion, the fortnightly concerts at Farmhouse Rocks in Scarborough are far superior to watching the same acts for more money in Kirstenbosch Gardens. Much more intimate and laid back, it’s a great Saturday out, and the best part for us is that it’s practically on our doorstep so we can tumble home easily after a few too many dops.

8. Walking my dogs along the many beaches, dunes, dams, trails or parks. I’m a bit obsessed with my pups. It’s a bit embarrassing. For my fiance, that is. Not for me. They’re awesome, I’m not sure how anyone could not be head over heels in love with them. I digress. The bottom line is that they rock my world, but as I work and don’t get to spend the day telling them repeatedly how much I love them, I try to make up for it over the weekends by taking them on epic adventures fit for Lassie. One of their favourite spots is the dunes near Misty Cliffs as there are rarely other people there so they can act like crazies in the sand to their heart’s content.

puppies

9. Chilli poppers. I’d never had a chilli popper before arriving in South Africa, and after discovering these little bites of bliss, I decided to go on a mission to find the best one in Cape Town. I try to taste these ‘delicacies’ wherever I see them on the menu, and there have been a few close contenders so far.

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10. Sundowners on Signal Hill. These are a must for anyone, whether spritely weekend holidaymakers or weathered residents. A hard day’s work, some good pals, a six pack of Savannah, and you’re all set to talk nonsense while you watch the sun set over the glorious city. Get there early to find a parking space, and bring a blanket to sit on and a cardigan for when it gets chilly.

11. Moonstruck Summer Beach Concert on Clifton 4th. The annual Moonstruck summer beach concert is held in support of the National Sea Rescue Institute and entrance is free. Nothing beats watching the sun go down and dancing the night away in your bikini to live music.

© Ashanti Forssman
© Ashanti Forssman
© Ashanti Forssman
© Ashanti Forssman
© Ashanti Forssman
© Ashanti Forssman

12. Watching comedy or live music at Cafe Roux. Whether Riaad Mousa is making you laugh or the Suitcase Hearts are making your feet twitch, nights at Cafe Roux are fantastic. Small, cosy and personal, it’s a great place to see talented musicians and comedians up close and personal.

13. Hiking. One thing that I really missed when living amidst the bustle of southeast Asian cities was the outdoors. I mean, it exists, but it’s not very nice. It’s often quite polluted and you can’t see 10 feet in front of you without an umbrella poking your eyes out or a skyscraper blocking the sun from view. Here in South Africa, I have really started to love the great outdoors. The hikes through dunes, up mountains, around dams; the fresh air. There’s something truly magical about spending your weekend enjoying the tranquility and beauty of nature, and it’s something that’s rare to find in a capital city. But here hikes are a plenty and with choices from Echo Valley in Kalk Bay to Silvermine in Constantia, Lions Head is far from your only option for a Sunday jaunt.

© Matthew Fortey
© Matthew Fortey

14. Rugby. Apart from Johnny Wilkinson and a bad joke I heard when England once thrashed France, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you anything about rugby two years ago. Now the likes of Dwayne Vermeulen and Eben Etzebeth have trampled their way into the scrum of my Saturdays. Go Stormers!

15. Restaurants. With some of the best chefs and award winning restaurants this side of the equator, Cape Town has won my heart and my stomach forever. From Pot Luck in Woodstock to La Colombe in Constantia, you’ll never go hungry here.

© Matthew Fortey
© Matthew Fortey