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Cape Town with Kids: Soccer fever June 2010 – Vuvuzelas and Zakumi

Zakumi - World Cup mascot

Zakumi – World Cup mascot

It all began about 5 years ago, after South Africa was awarded the World Cup Finals in 2010. At that time, I knew immediately that if I were ever going to get to see a World Cup live, then my best chance would be in the country I know best of all, South Africa. Not only would this be a dream come true for me, but my kids (at least two out of three) would be old enough to appreciate this incredible experience.

After successfully “winning” tickets in the FIFA lottery, I left for South Africa half way through the First Round with Daniel (9) and Eitan (5), travelling from Vancouver via San Francisco and London to Cape Town. It is about the longest trip you could make anywhere in the world – about 33 hours door to door. Our itinerary left no room for error – we would be arriving in Cape Town about three hours before our first game (Portugal vs North Korea).

Rule #1 of long haul travel with kids – make sure your plane has seat back TV to keep them busy. Ours didn’t. United Airlines to London and South African to Cape Town both had central aisle TV – par for the course in 1985 perhaps but totally inadequate in 2010. The flights were long and felt much longer…

In London we had a layover of about 6 hours – we therefore has two options with kids: either going into the City for a few hours or taking a day room at a hotel. We went for the latter and chose the Yotel, situated right in Terminal 3. The Yotel is like a Japanese capsule hotel and the kids had a ball. The very comfortable double bed rolls out from the wall at the touch of a button, there is a great power shower but best of all is the lighting – about ten shades of purple designed to help with sleep but real fun for kids. We slept, watched soccer on TV and basically recovered from our overnight flight and prepared for our next one.

The flight on SAA was disappointing, mainly because of the lack of personal TV’s. Apparently SAA do have personal TV’s in much of their fleet, but leased additional planes to cater to world cup demand.

Arrival in Cape Town was very exciting. The new international terminal is state of the art and a giant Zakumi (the Cup Mascot) met us in the arrival hall – unfortunately our luggage didn’t – it seemed to have never left San Fransisco with us. But it didn’t matter – we picked up our tickets and made our way straight to the Portugal vs North Korea match. The weather was ominous – pouring with rain, it was Cape Town winter weather at its very worst. The stadium was incredible – buzzing with people from all over the world, we first negotiated the various rings of security before we reached our seats. This must be one of the great stadiums of the world – huge and ultra modern. We now experienced the Vuvuzelas first hand – what had been an irritating buzz on TV was now an ongoing roar . The game was fantastic – Portugal won 7-0 (a basketball score in soccer) and  with every goal the fans went into a new frenzy. North Korea had hired Chinese supporters!! and about halfway through the first half it was clear they had given up as their team was slaughtered.

After the game it was home to our HQ at the top of funky Kloof Street. Kloof Street has at least 30 or 40 restaurants and is a go-to place in Cape Town. At the same time, the top of the street is quiet and residential and proved to be a great area to stay.   There is no doubt that Cape Town is today one of the great cities of the world. Home to a multicultural population, it has incredible beaches at its feet, the majestic Table Mountain at its back, a downtown with a very African vibe and great day trips in the vicinity.

One of the great pleasures in Cape Town is eating. One can find excellent food from all over the planet but we love traditional Cape food – we had Waterblommetjie Bredie ( a winter stew of lamb or beef with waterlilies), crunchy koeksisters ( pastries doused in syrup), samoosas (like Indian samosas – but different – Cape Town has a very old Malay community originating from people exiled from Indonesia to the Cape during Dutch colonial days)  and of course Biltong, South Africa’s famous dried beef snack, which we feel puts jerky to shame.

We visited Greenmarket Square, a bustling market with goods and vendors from all over the continent. One can find textiles from Kenya, bronze lions from Benin and masks from the Congo. It is easy to spend hours at the square discovering Africa. We also saw many different kinds of Made in China vuvuzelas, as well as hand-made beaded vuvuzelas that would have taken days of work.  We found soccer jersey ripoffs of every country participating in the cup – we bought South African shirts from someone selling traditional masks – behind each mask was a shirt – he just pulled them out one by one for the kids to try on.

Fans from all over the world mingled together – truly an incredible experience. This was literally the world in one city. We knew we were going to have an incredible time.

PS These days I am helping plan great trips for other families to South Africa. For more info, click here.