I could tell you about the precious time my mother and I spent with each other on our first visit to Cape Town together; an opportunity at last for her to show me the places she grew up and to introduce me to old friends. I could write about the days with my beloved American cousins, a chance for us to hang out without husbands and partners. I could introduce you to my wonderful aunt Jenny, with her constant supply of wine and wit. And most of all, I could share with you the story of my beautiful cousin Caroline's wedding.
But I'm not going to. Those stories I'm going to keep to myself, memories to hold close and treasure, gem-like.
Instead, I'm going to share a few Cape Town travel tips. The first of which is simply, go to Cape Town. "But isn't it terribly dangerous?" I hear your murmur. To which I reply, "Bollocks." Which isn't to say it's an oasis of safety and calm, but what big city is? It's easy to be put off travelling to South Africa when you glance at the crime statistics, but important to realise that tourists, provided they behave sensibly - being aware of your surroundings, don't walk around with your wallet hanging out of your back pocket, keep rental cars locked, etc - are extremely unlikely to become victims. Visiting as a tourist brings with it the same risks that visiting London, or LA, or Paris would bring.
With that cleared up, here's why you should visit Cape Town.
Firstly, it's the most beautiful city in the world. It just is. Not merely the mountains (although they are spectacular) but the gorgeous beaches, the vineyards, the forest and fynebos on Table Mountain's slopes. At Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens you might even spy a dinosaur or two.
A couple of blocks south from Long Street is Greenmarket Square, home to a sprawling arts, crafts and curios market. Take a turn around the whole place before deciding where to buy, as many stalls sell similar goods, and be prepared to bargain.
It seems like every time I visit Cape Town, I discover some place new. On this trip it was Woodstock, a formerly down-at-heel district between the university and the city centre, now home to some great shopping. The Old Biscuit Mill is exactly what it sounds; an old mill, host to a farmer's market every weekend but during the week still worth a visit for the cute independent shops. My cousin and I (both shopping mad) may have spent rather a lot of money here...
* I've written at length about family's South African roots & anti-apartheid activism, about my previous trips to the country, and about the experience of being the child of South African immigrants. You can read those posts here, should you want to.