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culture

Giuliano eating pizza at Bistro Dolce Vita restaurant in Morningside

Jozi Restaurant Round-Up

When I first started 2Summers, I blogged about practically every Jozi restaurant I went to. (Even Spur.) I’m a bit more selective these days, as writing about every restaurant in town is neither feasible nor desirable. But I’ve been to quite a few interesting Jozi restaurants in the past few weeks, and as I don’t have time to write eight individual posts I’m lumping them all into one. Here’s a quick round-up before I dash off on my annual month-long pilgrimage to America. Jozi Restaurant #1: Che Argentine Grill in Parkwood Che is not new but it has a new location — the trendy Parkwood retail strip on Jan Smuts, near Rosebank. Many of you will remember Che from its former location on Fox Street in Maboneng, and before that its stall at Maboneng’s Market on Main. Luckily the new location maintains the same cozy, rustic feel as the old one. Che is owned by two South American guys, Oscar and Bernardo, who now live in Joburg. Their multi-flavored empanadas are magical, as is their meat — grilled in the traditional Argentinean way over a blazing fire. Che is at 128 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood. Jozi Restaurant #2: Pablo Dos […]

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Mexican food at Picasso's in White River, Mpumalanga province

South Africa’s Best Tex-Mex Restaurant

Picasso’s Mexican Taqueria, which I’ve decided is South Africa’s best Tex-Mex restaurant, is not in Joburg or Cape Town. It’s in a small tourist town in Mpumalanga province called White River, not far from the Kruger Park. My anointment of Picasso’s as South Africa’s best Tex-Mex restaurant (I’m officially calling it Tex-Mex because the food is more like the Mexican fare you get in the United States, rather than Mexico) is not meant to disparage all the other South African Tex-Mex/Mexican restaurants I’ve written about over the years (see here and here). But Picasso’s, more than any other Tex-Mex restaurant I’ve been to in this country, has the full package — great atmosphere, great variety, great service, and (perhaps most importantly) great tortilla chips. Of all the Mexican-inspired restaurants I’ve been to in South Africa, Picasso’s feels the most like my favorite Tex-Mex restaurants in America. Picasso’s is owned by South Africans, inspired by a restaurant in Greece, and named for a famous Spaniard. I was really confused by all this at first but here’s some of the story: A South African couple named John and Lyn went to a Mexican restaurant called Picasso on the Beach while in Naxos, […]

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Sobae apple-cinnamon-pomegranate sorbet at Victoria Yards

Sobae Sorbet: A Frozen Joburg Love Story

Today is Heritage Day, a holiday celebrating South Africa’s incredible cultural diversity. It’s also the unofficial start of summer and a day when South Africans celebrate their diversity by grilling meat. (Heritage Day has been rebranded by many as “Braai Day”.) I thought it would be a good day to tell you about Joburg’s best and most inspiring frozen dessert: Sobae sorbet. Thato Masondo and Thula Ndema didn’t like seeing all the overripe fruit being discarded onto the street by Joburg’s downtown produce vendors. So after a few years of scheming and saving funds, Thula and Thato started Sobae Frozen, making sorbet from that overripe fruit and selling it on the streets of Braamfontein. Today, the couple makes and sells their sorbet at Victoria Yards and at pop-up events in the Wilds. Sobae Sorbet Sobae is no ordinary sorbet, with basic flavors like lemon and strawberry and mango. Thato and Thula are master flavor magicians, whipping up exotic combinations like apple and pomegranate with cinnamon or butternut and banana with chai spice. Using very ripe fruit (and vegetables!) makes the sorbet taste particularly sweet without a lot of added sugar. All of Sobae’s ingredients are locally produced and in season. […]

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Church in Ladismith

My 2020 Challenge: 10 South African Towns

In June 2020 the 2Summers blog will turn ten years old. One decade of blogging. This means I’ve been blogging for more than 20 percent of my life. It also means a baby born on the day I published my first post in June 2010 — here it is, in case you’re curious — is now old enough to actually read and comprehend this blog. It means I’ve currently published 951 blog posts, including this one, and will probably surpass the 1000-post mark in 2020. I want to do something to recognize this milestone, and I’ve decided I need to be serious and start planning now. I’m going to make 2020 the year of South African Towns. A Year of South African Towns I’ve visited a lot of small South African towns recently. And I’ve realized that right now, for whatever reason, exploring small South African towns is what brings me the most joy. Long road trips used to exhaust me, especially when I was alone. But since moving to South Africa I’ve developed a taste for solo driving. I’ll happily jump in the car and drive four or five hours alone, knowing I’ll reach a new town at the […]

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Fish and chips from Tiberius Fish Emporium in Sandringham, Johannesburg

Five Great Places for Fish and Chips in Joburg

It was a Monday and it was my birthday. I had a photography assignment in the morning and then I went to Cresta Mall to do some shopping. After shopping, I thought I should buy myself a birthday lunch. What could I treat myself to for lunch on a random winter Monday? Suddenly I had it: Fish and chips. I drove to a fish and chip shop in Randburg that I had heard was good. I ordered a “small” fried hake and chips for R52 (about $3.50) and salivated during the 10-minute drive home. Once home I devoured half the fish and chips (it was way more than I could eat in one sitting) at my kitchen counter. It was the best birthday lunch imaginable. At that moment I decided to do a Jozi Top Fives post on fish and chips. Fish and chips has been a cheap, popular meal in Joburg since the early gold-mining days. (I touch on that history in this post about slap chips.) It’s not really possible to do a definitive “top five” ranking of fish and chip shops: Everyone has their own favorite for their own reasons — nostalgia or taste or a combination […]

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Eucalyptus tree at Kings Walden

Kings Walden: A Magical Hotel in the Mountains of Limpopo

It’s been weeks since my stay at Kings Walden — in Agatha, Limpopo, above the town of Tzaneen — and I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to write about it. Perhaps it’s because this magical place is difficult to describe in words. Kings Walden is a hotel, in the simplest of terms. But “hotel” or “lodge” or “guesthouse” are not sufficient descriptors. Kings Walden is three generations of a family’s history — a family’s joyous, acutely painful, sacred legend, which embodies the story of South Africa in so many ways — perched precariously at the top of a steep, misty mountain in Limpopo. Bridget Hilton-Barber, a writer friend of mine who grew up here and now runs the hotel, wrote a book about Kings Walden called Garden of My Ancestors. The book starts with the story of Ess Tooley, Bridget’s grandmother and the late grand-dame and garden architect of Kings Walden, snaking down the matriarchal family tree to Ess’ daughter Tana and eventually to Bridget herself, who returns to Kings Walden as an adult coping with multiple losses and traumas. Bridget gave me a copy of Garden of My Ancestors during my stay (there are a few […]

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Succulent flowers in my garden

Feeling South Africa’s Pain

Back in the olden days, I often used this blog as a vessel for my grief and sadness. I went through a lot of tangible pain in the early 2Summers years — losing a partner to addiction, among other things — and the blog was one of my coping mechanisms. (You can find those old posts under the grief hashtag — scroll back to the early ones.) As the years wore on I blogged more about having fun in Joburg and South Africa than I did about pain and grief. My life got happier, and my blog became more popular as a resource for things to do and places to travel to. I took the ball and ran with it. I’ve loved Joburg and South Africa since the day I arrived here, and expressing that love through upbeat, informative blog posts came naturally. I’ve received so many wonderful messages from people who have used this blog to get to know Joburg and South Africa. People thank me for my optimism — for showing them the “good side” of this city and this country. I’m incredibly grateful for those messages and I’m grateful I discovered a path that allows me to […]

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Daouda Fashions shop in China City, downtown Joburg, visited during the JoburgPlaces "Of Origins and Migration" tour

Musings on Migration in Joburg

JoburgPlaces, a downtown tour company that I’ve written about many times, recently introduced a couple of different city experiences that center around the concept of migration. The JoburgPlaces Migrant Cuisines Storytelling Dinner is an epic evening at the Thunderwalker (formerly Somerset House) on Gandhi Square, in which JoburgPlaces guide Charlie Moyo explains the history of Johannesburg in terms of the multiple and overlapping waves of migration that have been happening since the city was founded 133 years ago. The historical overview is accompanied by a series of migrant-inspired food dishes cooked up by in-house chef Princess Bulelwa Mbonambi. The Of Origins and and Migration Tour is a walking tour mainly around Troyeville, Ellis Park, and Doornfontein, exploring some migrant communities in that part of Joburg as Charlie explains the city’s history. The tour begins and ends at Thunderwalker. Thoughts on Migration Charlie taught me a lot of interesting facts about the migrant history of Joburg. For example, I never knew “New Canada”, just north of Soweto, was so named because that’s where all the Canadians settled during the Joburg gold rush. I never knew Chinese and Indians — not blacks — were the first people required to carry passbooks. (Passbooks […]

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Mishack Rapalalani in his studio

Madi a Thavha Mountain Lodge: An Art-Lover’s Paradise

I love Limpopo and I also love African craft art. So when I went to Madi a Thavha Mountain Lodge — a lodge outside Louis Trichardt in far northern Limpopo that promotes the work of Venda and Tsonga artists — I was in heaven. Madi a Thavha started 15 years ago when Dutch immigrants Marcelle Bosch and Aart van Soest decided they wanted to open a lodge in northern Limpopo. There was very little tourism development in this area and Marcelle and Aart had a particular interest in this region’s artists and artisans — sculptors, potters, beaders, textile-makers, etc. — as the Venda and Tsonga cultures have very strong and unique artistic traditions. (Read more about the art from this region in my 2016 post about the Ribola Art Route.) Marcelle and Aart bought an old farm, about 10 kilometers west of the town of Louis Trichardt, and set about turning it into a lodge. They named the lodge Madi a Thavha, which means “water from the mountain” in Venda, because the farm’s water comes from natural springs that flow down the mountain. Today, this lodge is basically paradise. I don’t think my photos properly convey the sense of tranquillity […]

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Meruschka in Turkey

12 Portraits of Inspiring South African Women

Today is National Women’s Day in South Africa. South African Women’s Day, which is a public holiday and falls on 9 August, is different from International Women’s Day on 8 March. The holiday commemorates the Women’s March of 1956, during which 20,000 South African women of all races marched in Pretoria to protest the apartheid pass laws. On that day in 1956, the protestors sang a struggle song that included the famous line: “Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock.” Every time I hear or even think about that sentence, the hairs on my arms stand up. I didn’t think much about celebrating womanhood before I moved to South Africa. Women’s Day isn’t really a thing in America. We have Mother’s Day but that’s really not the same. The truth is, before moving to South Africa it never really occurred to me to be proud of being a woman. But now I am. I’m grateful to this country for that. Also Women’s Day in South Africa is fun. Everyone has the day off, winter is coming to an end, all the restaurants and bars and coffee shops have specials for women. It’s a day for celebrating […]

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20 Pictures From Walk the Talk 2019

I’d never really considered signing up for MTN Walk the Talk with 702. Even though I knew this is one of the most iconic events in Johannesburg with 55,000 participants, and even though lots of people told me it’s great, and even though the walk starts and ends around the corner from where I live, and even though I’m awakened at 6:00 a.m. on a Sunday (every single year) by the noise from Walk the Talk anyway, it somehow never occurred to me to participate myself. I didn’t get it, to be honest. I mean, Walk the Talk doesn’t involve running or cycling (not that I do much of those things either) or any real sport. It’s walking. Who wants to get out of bed at 6:00 a.m. in the middle of winter on a Sunday to just…walk around? But this year Walk the Talk invited me to be part of a public awareness campaign (see my previous post on the topic) and to participate in the walk. It was a special year for Walk the Talk: Since South Africa is celebrating 25 years of democracy in 2019, there was a 25-kilometer route in addition to the usual 15-, 8-, […]

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Ode to Limpopo

I spent seven days driving 1500 kilometres (about 1000 miles), mostly alone in my very tiny car, through Limpopo. I drove Limpopo — South Africa’s northernmost province — from top to bottom and around again. I visited towns with lyrical names: Mookgophong, Mokopane, Polokwane, Tzaneen, Giyani, Makhado. I stayed in luxury lodges and self-catering chalets. I gaped up at a full moon from beneath a towering white tree that’s been dead for more than 30 years. I got lost in an orange grove. I drank gin and tonics. I ate a hamburger on a bun so stale I could have used it as a hockey puck. I ate macadamia-crusted trout and rare beef fillet and vegan burgers and beetroot quinoa. I sat alone and cried in a birdwatching hide. I faced down a warthog. I watched monkeys copulate. I hung out with honking geese at sunrise. I photographed women embroidering elaborate masterpieces. I drove up a mountain on a dry, pockmarked dirt road and gazed down at a sacred lake. I communed with an ancient baobab. I saw the dusty grave of a Canadian First Nations soldier who died in a savage South African war. I visited a macadamia nut […]

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