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2summers

Sausages at the Schwaben Butchery

#Gauteng52, Week 2: Schwaben Butchery, Where Pigs Come to Die

Welcome to Week 2 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I will visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit the Schwaben Butchery on Joburg’s East Rand. I sit at a wooden picnic table outside the Schwaben Butchery, in a nondescript shopping center in Edenvale. I ponder the mustard-slathered bratwurst on my plate. The mammoth sausage intimidates me. The owner of a Jozi café — one of my favorite breakfast spots in town — walks past. “Stocking up on supplies?” I call out as he walks through the butchery’s sliding doors. “Bacon,” he replies, eyes gleaming. “This place sells the best bacon in town. It’s where pigs come to die.” Crass as it sounds, I see what he means. This German butchery has more interesting meat products, and especially pork products, than I’ve ever seen before in a single place. An array of pork in one of the Schwaben Butchery meat counters. Do you know what this is? Me either. There are a fair number of Germans in South Africa, and Germans take their food seriously. I learned this last year when I visited the Black Forest Bakery, a German bakery in […]

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Cocktail at Social Kitchen + Bar

Three Bars for Great Cocktails in Jozi

I’ve never been a big cocktail drinker. With the exception of an occasional margarita at a Mexican restaurant or gin and tonic on a game drive, you’ll rarely see me sipping liquor. I feel like most cocktails are 80 percent ice, and I find myself finished after five minutes and wishing I’d ordered wine instead. However, I’ve recently been to three new bar/restaurants in Joburg that transformed my perception of cocktails, inspiring me to write my first-ever cocktail blog post. Here they are: 1) Social Kitchen + Bar Thami Gobedi, bartender at Social Kitchen + Bar. Social Kitchen + Bar is notable for several reasons. First, it’s a restaurant inside Joburg’s largest and best known retail bookstore: Exclusive Books in Hyde Park Mall. Second, Social Kitchen + Bar has one of Joburg’s top chefs, Russell Armstrong, and the food is spectacular. (I haven’t eaten a full meal there yet but I’ve tasted some mind-blowing samples.) Third, the bar takes inspiration from its location and offers a creative menu of literature-inspired cocktails. The Social Kitchen dining room which, unlike all the other restaurants in Hyde Park Mall, has actual windows. A cocktail inspired by Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, made with Bulliet bourbon, lemon, orange marmalade, and Angostura […]

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Heather on Hennops

#Gauteng52, Week 1: Hiking the Hennops Trail

Welcome to the #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I will visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. On Week 1, Ray and I went for a walk along the Hennops Hiking Trail. Setting out on the trail. I read about the Hennops trail, which is named for the Hennops River it crosses, on my friend Hitekani’s blog a couple of years ago. I’ve been meaning to do it ever since. (This is one of the great things about the #Gauteng52 challenge — it will motivate me to do lots of things I’ve been meaning to do.) I finally got around to it on the last day of 2016. The Hennops Hiking Trail The trail is on a private farm about 50 minutes north of my house in Melville, only 20 minutes from Joburg’s northern reaches of Fourways and Diepsloot. Even though it’s close to town, the Hennops farm is idyllic and made me feel like I was well away from the city. Admission to the hiking trails is R60 (about $5) and there are three routes to choose from: the Krokodilberg route is about 12 kilometers; the Zebra route is 6 kilometers, […]

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Lightning strike over Joburg, seen from Randlords

An Instagram Challenge in 2016. A Blog Challenge in 2017.

In 2016, I committed to post a photo on Instagram every day of the year as part of a challenge called #366DaysOfMakingSpace. Even though the subject of the challenge — anything that relates to making space in my life — was broad, and even though I didn’t have to post photos on the actual day they were taken, this challenge was damn hard. It was so hard that my blogger friend who convinced me to do the challenge in the first place didn’t finish herself. (You know I love you anyway, Dee.) I’m interspersing this post with some of my favorite #366daysofmakingspace shots from 2016. I posted this one during my visit to Istanbul in February. I only missed one #366daysofmakingspace post the whole year. I was in Cappadocia in Turkey, and was so overwhelmed by the scenery that I forgot to do a post. I made up for it by double-posting the following day. Cappadocia, also in February. There were many days in 2016 when I felt uninspired and had to dig way back into my archives to find a photo. (I never posted any photos that I’d posted on Instagram previously.) There were days when I was insanely busy and didn’t remember the challenge until right […]

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Shawn and Rodney at Randlords

Two Men Get Married on the Roof of Johannesburg

This week I went to a wedding at Randlords. The wedding was on Monday, December 19th, which might seem strange. But this is Johannesburg, where a wedding on a Monday evening in late December makes perfect sense. I felt a little sad the day of the wedding. That same day five years ago, also on a Monday, was the day Jon died. Just before the wedding, while Ray and I were waiting for an Uber to fetch us, we had a fight about pants. It was a stupid fight and it was my fault. Ray and I talked to the Uber driver on the way to the wedding but we didn’t talk to each other. Then we arrived at Randlords and took the express elevator to the 22nd floor. Randlords is an events venue in Braamfontein. It’s a rad spot for a wedding. The marriage at Randlords was between two men, Shawn and Rodney. I met Shawn and Rodney in 2012 at the Ansteys Building with their tiny baby, Xavier, who is now a grown-up boy. Shawn and Rodney met exactly ten years ago — December 19th, 2006 — on a street corner in Washington D.C. Shawn (left) an Rodney (right), on their wedding […]

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Ray walking at Stone Hill, a dog-friendly self-catering property in Magaliesburg

A Dog-Friendly Getaway for a Dog-less Couple

I recently received an assignment to book a stay on Accommodation Direct, go stay at that place, and write a review of the experience. Accommodation Direct is a new accommodation booking tool and has listings throughout South Africa and a few other southern African countries. This was a pretty great assignment. I could choose to stay wherever I wanted (with the understanding that I was responsible for getting myself there), I could bring Ray, and my only instruction was to have a good time. The only hard part, as it turned out, was choosing where to go. Accommodation Direct offers everything from low-budget backpacking hostels to expensive safari lodges (I had a budget of R5000 — about $350 — so I had to be smart), with listings all over the place. Ray and I scoured the site for a couple of days, growing increasingly confused and indecisive, until settling on a self-catering guest farm called Stone Hill in Magaliesburg, just an hour or so from Joburg. People are always asking me for recommendations on weekend getaways that are close to town and this seemed like a good excuse to try one out. Plus Stone Hill is dog-friendly — we don’t have a dog but like […]

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Chicken wings starter from Mamasan

Quickie Restaurant Review: Mamasan in Melville

Last week I had lunch at Mamasan, a brand-new restaurant on 7th Street in Melville. (Mamasan is so brand-new that it doesn’t have a website or even a review on Zomato yet. But here is its Zomato page as a placeholder.) It was delicious and I have very high hopes for this joint. My lunch at Mamasan: pan-fried masala hake with cos lettuce, grape, cucumber, gherkin, green bean, apple, cashew nut salsa, and dhania vinaigrette. Such a delightful combination of flavors, all for R90 ($6.39). Mamasan is at the top of 7th Street, near the intersection of 1st Avenue, next to the ancient Golf Tea Room convenience store. Here are the reasons I’m excited about Mamasan:  1) Mamasan serves Cape-Malay-inspired cuisine. (You can read more about Cape Malay cuisine in this post.) I love Cape Malay food and there is very little of it to be found in Joburg. Mamasan’s meat is free-range and the menu is pork-free, for the kosher and halaal diners among you. My friend Sandy ordered the “sticky suur vy chicken wings” appetizer, which she really enjoyed. 2) Mamasan has beautiful, well executed decor and a professional, thoughtful menu. This is not one of those fly-by-night Melville dives that gets […]

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Pulane storytelling during Katlehong Stories session

Katlehong Stories: Storytelling in a Johannesburg Township

Pulane Malatja sits straight-backed, ankles crossed, wearing a short black dress and a red plaid head wrap. A gauzy scarf covers her knees and a notepad sits in her lap. Pulane apologizes as she puts on her reading glasses. She’s just had an asthma attack, she explains, and might not be able to speak as clearly as last time. Pulane raises the notepad and begins to read. I’m trying to take pictures and listen at the same time, so I don’t hear it all. Pulane writes about a phone call she received from a man she loves. “His skin grows darker when he’s drunk,” she reads. I don’t hear every word, but I hear what Pulane means. I know just what she means. Pulane reads a draft of her creative writing piece to the Katlehong Stories group. Pulane shares her thoughts with the group after completing her reading. Among other things, Pulane’s piece explores her experiences as a child watching her father abuse her mother. She says she’d never talked about these experiences until she joined this group. Pulane is a participant in Katlehong Stories, a group of aspiring creative writers and volunteer teachers who meet every second Saturday in a high school classroom in Katlehong Township. […]

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Oriental Plaza Instameet winners

The Oriental Plaza Instameet: Winners Announced

This is a quick post to announce: 1) The first-ever Oriental Plaza Instameet happened on 3 December and it was awesome; and 2) We’ve chosen the winners of the Instameet photography contest. The contest winners amidst a sea of Oriental Plaza holiday shoppers. From left to right: Andile (@may_i_take_a_picture), who won first place, Dominique (@dominiqueinthecity), second place, and Kevin (@kevinspired365_), third place. The Instameet was great. About 40 people came and everyone got into the spirit of the event, roaming around every corner of the Plaza and taking pictures of the shops, the food, and the people. Here are a couple of my own favorite Instagrams from the day. My friend Gail (@dizzylexa) takes photos inside the Plaza’s Grand Bazaar. Ra’eesa of @stylefabrics. Christmas in Africa. Meruschka, aka @mzansigirl, aka samoosa head. The Winning Photos More than 200 Instagrams were posted under the Instameet hashtags, #ShopAtORP and #FestiveDealsAtORP, and narrowing down the winning photos to three was a major challenge. Seriously, there were so many great photos and we agonized over dozens of them. I wish we could have picked more winners. But in the end, here are the photos we chose: Third place by @kevinspired365_. This portrait of a longtime shopowner just screams “Oriental Plaza”. […]

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Woven mats from Elelloang Basali

Must-Have Christmas Gifts From the Maluti Mountains

I went to Lesotho last week for a work assignment. I was in a rush on the drive there, but on the way back I took my time, winding through the Maluti Mountains and visiting some of my favorite places. The Maluti Mountains on the South African side of the Lesotho border. As a travel writer, I’m always trying to discover new things. I rarely visit the same place twice. But there are a few places that are magical and special enough to draw me back again and again. The Elelloang Basali Weaving Centre is one of those places. The Clarens Blanket Shop is another. Elelloang Basali Weaving Centre I first visited the Elelloang Basali Weaving Centre in August 2010 and I’ve been back about four times since. The Centre is right on the Lesotho Main Road in Teyteyaneng, about 40 minutes north of Maseru, and it’s an easy stop for those coming in or out of Lesotho through the Peka Bridge crossing. Just look for the cheerful red building made of aluminium cans — it’s hard to miss. I get emotional every time I walk into this amazing workshop because I get transported back to a pivotal time in my life when I […]

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Herding cows in the Transkei

Four Tips on Car Hire in South Africa

When I moved from America to South Africa, cars were the most difficult adjustment. Everything about cars and driving is different here: Cars drive on the opposite side of the road, car parts have different names (windshield vs. windscreen, horn vs. hooter, trunk vs. boot, AC vs. aircon), all the cars are manual (which Americans call stick-shift), etc. And don’t even get me started about registering a car in South Africa. The same goes for car hire, which Americans call car rental. I worked for a car rental company in America, way back in the day, and I thought I had all the rules figured out. But the car hire rules are different in South Africa, and I learned many valuable lessons last year when Ray and I took a big road trip from Joburg to the Wild Coast and back. A herd of cows on the Wild Coast. This part of South Africa has notoriously bad roads, so Ray and I decided to spare our own vehicles and hire a car. I’ve been meaning write a car hire advice post ever since I got back from that epic Wild Coast trip. Finally, it is time. Here are my tips: Car […]

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