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2summers

Meruschka at the Oriental Plaza

For Meruschka (a.k.a. MzansiGirl)

Dear Meruschka, Soon after I heard the news last night, I started making a list of all the adventures we’ve had over the years. The list was longer than I realized. I can’t remember for sure the first time we traveled together. It might have been Port Elizabeth in 2013, when we jumped into a mountain of wool. On another trip we spent 10 days traveling the length and breadth of South Africa. You had a terrible cold the whole time. But still I could hardly keep up with you. We slept in tents and grungy youth hostels and fancy hotels. We flew over the Magaliesberg in a hot-air balloon and paddled down the Orange River in a two-person canoe. (You were a far better paddler than me.) We ate hot Durban curry and drank lots of wine. We swam from South Africa to Namibia and back again, then walked back to camp without shoes. The soles of your feet were riddled with thorns. You laughed and winced but never complained. Later we watched the sun set over the Richtersveld. A couple of years later we traveled around Turkey for two weeks. It was the trip of a lifetime for […]

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Cathedral of Christ the King

5 Beautiful, Secret Places in Downtown Joburg

I was on a walking tour today, talking to someone about Joburg. It suddenly occurred to me there are so many insanely beautiful places in downtown Joburg that Joburgers either: a) don’t know about because the places are really hidden; or b) are afraid to visit, or would never consider visiting because they think the place is too dangerous or too trashed or just not worth the trouble. I talk about some of these places until I’m blue in the face, but I still get the same responses: a) blank looks; or b) questions like, “But is it really safe to go there?” So I thought I’d write an article like this, with a really click-baity title, to get your attention. Here are my five favorite beautiful, secret places in downtown Joburg. If you like beautiful, secret things (and who doesn’t?) you should visit them all. 1) Cathedral of Christ the King Yes, it’s in Hillbrow and Hillbrow can be a little daunting. But the Cathedral of Christ the King has a parking lot with 24-hour security and it’s really not very hard to drive to. Inside, the cathedral is pristine and it’s without a doubt the most beautiful church […]

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Inside City Perk Cafe

10 Rad Joburg Things I Didn’t Blog About in 2018

It’s that time again: When I look back on all the cool stuff I did in Joburg last year but didn’t get around to blogging about. There were many such things in 2018 — I didn’t blog as much as normal last year, especially toward the end. But I’m planning to change that in 2019. I think I’m a much happier person when I blog. Anyway, I did a similar post last year and everyone seemed to like it. If I had written ten more blog posts in 2018, here’s what they would have been about. 1) The Moral Kiosk The Moral Kiosk is one of those hard-to-explain Joburg places. It’s part coffee shop (beans from Father Coffee), part vintage clothing shop, part vinyl record store, part live music venue. The Moral Kiosk is whatever it wants to be on a given day, and I love that. I especially love the Moral Kiosk because it’s on 7th Street in Melville, my favorite place. 2) Joubert Park Greenhouse Joubert Park is Joburg’s version of Central Park: a huge green space right in the center of town. I’m not gonna lie — Joubert Park is not the cleanest and probably not the […]

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Thomas and Guy at Wits after their wedding

A December Wedding in Joburg

Wedding photography triggers my imposter syndrome. I’ve been asked once or twice to shoot weddings, and each time an evil little voice inside my head whispers, “Only real photographers do weddings. Don’t try this. You’ll fail — fail miserably, I tell you — and ruin everything. Bwaaaaaahahaha!” But several months ago Thomas and Guy emailed and asked if I would shoot their wedding. They made it clear they wanted me to do it — despite my total lack of wedding photography experience — because they like my pictures. Thomas and Guy also love Joburg. I met Thomas in 2011, soon after moving here myself, when he was writing this cool blog called Urban Joburg. Thomas and Guy have been living in the U.S. for the past couple of years and moved back to Joburg two weeks ago — just in time for their wedding. They are the loveliest of people. So I swallowed my fear and said yes. On 16 December, still wobbly from my own case of jet lag, I shot Thomas and Guy’s wedding. It was the most fun I’ve had taking pictures in a very long time. Thomas and Guy’s Wedding I love these pictures so much […]

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Learning About DNA (and Me) at Health Works in Hyde Park

Check the end of this post for details on how to win a R1000 voucher to Hyde Park Corner. I haven’t blogged much lately. There are a few reasons for this but the bottom line is I’ve been busy and stressed. My brain is moving in ten directions at once and I can barely remember my own name, let alone blog. It’s not the greatest feeling. As recently as 30 minutes ago someone said to me, “Slow down, Heather. Take 14 deep breaths.” But the universe works in mysterious ways. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that amidst all this craziness I was invited, as part of a blogging campaign, to do something I would never have done otherwise: Get my DNA analyzed at Health Works, a funky health shop in Hyde Park Corner. Health Works in Hyde Park Hyde Park Corner is a fancy shopping mall — a Joburg institution, really — filled with high-end restaurants and stores. But Health Works is different. The owner, Linda Weech, is a self-proclaimed “old hippy girl” who used to work in the clothing business but eventually switched over to health food and supplements because “health is more creative than clothes”. Linda opened Health […]

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Inside the Buddhist Centre in Fietas

Meditating at the Buddhist Centre in Fietas

I’ve been in the U.S. for the past three weeks dealing with very frustrating South African visa problems. I’ve been ridiculously stressed. Then yesterday, in the middle of my most recent meltdown, I remembered my recent visit to the Lam Rim Buddhist Centre and instantly felt calmer. The Lam Rim Buddhist Centre is in Fietas (also known as Vrededorp) — a historically non-white suburb in Joburg that experienced forced removals and virtual destruction during apartheid. The building used to be an Afrikaans Dutch Reformed church. It’s not a place where one would expect to find an octagonal-shaped shrine to Buddha painted in every color of the rainbow. But there it is. This is a rough neighborhood and the centre backs up to an informal settlement. But it’s so peaceful there, inside and out. The garden is simple but pretty and there’s a little koppie, or hill, behind the building where the residents of the centre go to have tea. Marie-Lais and I visited on a Thursday evening and met Shayna, who lives at the centre, and Neil, who leads meditation classes there each Thursday at 7:00 p.m. I mostly took photos but tried to meditate a little between shots. I’d like […]

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Fish from Kafe Noir

November Restaurant of the Month: Kafe Noir

In the very heart of downtown Joburg, on a block no one would expect, is a magical corner of African style. Papy Nakuw, acclaimed Congolose-South-African founder of Urban Zulu, has his fashion design business there, as well as a hip backpackers and a hair salon. But this post is about the culinary magic at the corner of Anderson and Van Brandis Streets. The culinary magic of Kafe Noir. Papy, the King of Cool, at Kafe Noir. Kafe Noir is the restaurant attached to Urban Backpackers. It’s been there for a couple of years but up until recently it was more of a small coffee shop; Papy recently expanded the space and it’s now a full-on restaurant. The entrance to Kafe Noir.  Cool people hanging out in Kafe Noir. The menu at Kafe Noir looks quite basic at first — black type on white laminated paper, mostly sandwiches and burgers with a few South African dishes mixed in. But look again. Find the listing for carapau, a grilled Portuguese mackerel, and order it. Don’t ask questions, just do it. Grilled carapau with chips (fries) and salad. This fish, prepared by South African chef Bokang Legele and costing only a few dollars, is […]

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Elevate rooftop bar

Elevate at the Reef Hotel: Joburg’s Secret Rooftop Bar

I have long bemoaned the fact that although Joburg has tons of downtown rooftops with incredible views of the city skyline, hardly any of them are open to the public. The rooftop at the Parktonian Hotel, for example, is open only to hotel guests, and Randlords is only open for events The Elevate Rooftop Venue, at the top of the 16-floor Reef Hotel, used to be the same — available only for guests of the hotel or for various events at varying times. Not anymore though: Anyone can visit the Elevate bar between 3:00 p.m. and midnight, seven days a week. The view is spectacular. Looking out over Anderson Street, Gandhi Square and beyond from the Elevate rooftop bar. The Reef Hotel on Anderson Street. This hotel is also a bit of a best kept secret — one of very few nice, affordable, full-service hotels in the CBD, on a safe, quiet street. Sundowners on the Elevate Rooftop Elevate’s decor is a bit night-clubby for my taste — all black marble and faux leather furniture — and sometimes the music is a little loud. (I know, I am making myself sound 1000 years old.) But none of this matters. There’s […]

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Ritual Cafe in Linden

The Interesting Story Behind Linden’s Ritual Café

I got invited to review Ritual Café in Linden. I was looking forward to it. I love Linden, I love eating out, and I’d been meaning to try Ritual forever anyway. Great excuse for a date night with nice-guy-Kevin. Dinner at Ritual Café Before I went to Ritual I already knew it was a neighborhood bistro with an unpretentious menu (written on a big chalkboard above the kitchen), featuring lots of vegetarian options and also plenty of meat. I went in expecting to enjoy my dinner at Ritual, and I did. The restaurant has such a friendly, relaxed atmosphere and the food is simple and innovative at the same time. Nice-guy-Kevin and I had a great night and we can’t wait to go back. Ritual Café, on the corner of 7th Street and 4th Avenue in Linden. A closer look at Ritual’s interior with its giant chalkboard menu. My meal: Fillet of sole with rice and veggies. Nice-guy-Kevin’s meal: Oxtail stew. We also had a delicious brisket spring roll starter and fig ice cream for dessert. But during the dinner, I realized Ritual’s story is about more than food. The decorative plates on the walls provided a hint. Handmade ceramic plates […]

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Transwerke building in Hillbrow

Transwerke: Artists Bring a Crumbling Building to Life

In Hillbrow, at the corner of Joubert and Sam Hancock Streets, is a striking Art Deco building with a strange, ominous-sounding name: Transwerke. Transwerke, and the many buildings like it in Joburg, are a perfect illustration of this city’s strange, fascinating, maddening contradictions. Outside the building appears dilapidated and forlorn. It smells like pee. But Transwerke is also majestic, unlike any building I’ve seen before. It has graceful, oval-shaped balconies jutting out in all directions. Google doesn’t seem to know what “Transwerke” means and no one in the building could tell me either. Do you know?  An interior courtyard. Behind the building. Transwerke was designed in 1939 by acclaimed architect Gordon Leith. Back then it was the Queen Victoria Maternity Hospital — a place where women gave birth and also a residence for midwives. The hospital sits just below the Old Fort Prison, now Constitution Hill. Under apartheid, the midwives living at Transwerke were sent to deliver babies in the women’s prison. The building closed in 1983 and Transwerke sat vacant. In September 2017, Transwerke received a “black plaque” from the Gauteng Heritage Action Group. Black plaques are meant to shame heritage building owners into stopping rampant decay in buildings […]

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Heather #Gauteng52 book cover

The 2Summers #Gauteng52 Book: Frequently Asked Questions

UPDATE: The 2Summers #Gauteng52 Challenge has been published. Buy it at Bridge Books or at bridgebooks.co.za. Also available at Breezeblock, Bookdealers, and at Mwanawasa Art in 27 Boxes in Melville. Or contact me to purchase a copy directly. After many years of threatening to do so, I’m finally publishing a book. The 2Summers #Gauteng52 Challenge is being printed as we speak and will be for sale in mid-to-late November. What the actual book will look like. It’s soft-cover and 216 pages. A sample page of the book. I’m really excited about the design.  I’m anticipating a lot of questions. Let me try to answer them in advance with some handy FAQ. Frequently Asked Questions about the #Gauteng52 Book Q1: What is the book about? A2: The book is a compilation of the 52 blog posts I wrote in 2017 as part of my #Gauteng52 Challenge, when I visited 52 places in Gauteng province I’d never been to before. The 2Summers #Gauteng52 Challenge is part coffee table book, part guidebook, part quirky blogging nonsense, with beautiful photos and design and text kept as close as possible to what I wrote in my blog in 2017. To get a feel for what the real book looks like, click […]

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Smokey yawning with Trixie

The Melville Cat: I Am a Cat Food Spokesperson

Good day, friends. Here is some important news from the Melville Cat: 1) Trixie, the Midget Fluff Ball Menace, is still in my home. She keeps growing larger. I’m tired of her and yet she continues to be present. Hmph. 2) I have been hired as a spokesperson — a spokescat, if you will — for the local cat food company, Montego. Montego has recently made some changes to its range of cat foods and they have hired moi to tell you about it. As I dictate this post to Heather, she insists I tell you the Midget Fluff Ball Menace has also been hired as a Montego spokeskitten. I can’t explain why. She is a child, barely three months old, and has virtually no experience as a social media influencer. The Fluff Ball tried to open our Montego gift hamper before I even arrived home. How rude. Hmph. But fine. I will include the Midget’s input, if I must. Montego Cat Food: A Spokescat’s Review (and some input from an inexperienced Midget Fluff Ball Menace) Montego has unveiled new adult dry cat foods in tuna and chicken flavors. I should mention this new food contains “Hairball Assist”. I personally do not […]

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