Since the madness of the annual GG site inspections came to close at the end of last year, I have been lucky enough to spend a couple of months recovering from all that dreadful travelling in Simon's Town (just outside Cape Town, towards the eastern tip of the Cape Peninsula). I'd briefly visited Simon's Town a couple of times, but each time I was there barely long enough to spot one of the famous Boulders Beach penguins before my ice-cream melted and it was time to leave.
Having now called Simon's Town 'home' for a couple of months, I realise how much more there is to this cute little Naval town than penguins and ice-cream!
Named after Simon Van Der Stel, an early governor of the Cape Colony, Simon's Town has been an important Naval base and harbour for over two centuries. Every morning the Navy cadets jog up and down the main street below my house, singing as they go and every evening the sunset is accented by the call of the Bosun's whistle, signalling exactly what I have no idea, but I take it as a convenient cue for sundowners.
Along the main street, 'The Historical Mile', boutique shops, artisan delis and pavement cafe's now fill the beautiful old Victorian buildings between which steep, crumbling steps lead up to rows of old and new beach houses, overlooking the harbour, Table Mountain to the west and False Bay out towards Betty's Bay to the East.
There are plenty of cafes to choose from, my current favourites being The Lighthouse Cafe and the recently opened Monacle and Mermaid, both of which are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, serving great coffee and among many other things, mouth-watering French toast. On Saturdays, there's a second-hand car boot-style market in the square, below the ever-watchful gaze of the statue of Just Nuisance, the only dog ever to be officially enlisted to the Royal Navy.
I've taken to walking my own 'nuisance' (Angus the 1-year-old Boerbul) in the evening as the sun begins to set and the town becomes quiet, along the wooden boardwalks through the penguin colony down to the beach. I recently discovered that the penguins only settled here in 1985, strange that they should choose somewhere so populated to begin their colony. Perhaps they were also drawn to the history and ambience of the place. Or perhaps it was the ice-cream.
If I'm feeling too lazy to cook of an evening (fast becoming a habit), there is nothing better than picking up fish and chips from The Salty Seadog in the harbour, before burning off all the calories by climbing the steep steps back up the hill to the cottage.
When you've exhausted all that Simon's Town has to offer, the location also makes the perfect base from which to explore the rest of the Cape Peninsula.
I must just say a special thankyou to my friends at Monocle and Mermaid Cafe on the main road for their constant supply of flat whites, coconut pancakes and free wifi!