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White and purple jacarandas on Herbert Baker Street

The Quest for Pretoria’s White Jacarandas

I’m in America right now and I had really been looking forward to seeing the fall leaves here. I came home at exactly this time last year and the leaves were spectacular. Alas, it’s been a warm autumn on the East Coast and that seems to have slowed down the color change. The leaves have only just begun their transition in Maryland and Virginia. Not to worry though. While I don’t have any good fall leaf photos yet, I do have good pictures of white jacarandas in South Africa. The white jacarandas of Herbert Baker Street. Two weeks ago I went to Pretoria with my journalist friend Marie-Lais Emond, who writes a weekly column for the Citizen called “Other Side of the City”, to find the legendary white jacarandas. Marie-Lais had known about Pretoria’s white jacarandas for years but had never been able to find them before. Finally this year, someone gave her their exact location on Herbert Baker Street in Groenkloof. What’s the Big Deal About White Jacarandas? A bunch of white-flowering trees in early summer might not seem like a big deal to those of you on the American East Coast and in Europe. But if you live in Africa or […]

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A Day in the Life of a Quirky Melville Tourist

A few months ago, I promised to write periodic posts about Melville guesthouses, restaurants, and shops. I’ve strayed from that commitment — the majority of my posts these days are about the Joburg city centre or more far-flung places outside of town. So today I’m getting back to my roots. Melville is one of Joburg’s wackiest neighborhoods; it straddles a divide between tree-lined suburbia and urban grittiness. Melville is constantly changing — there are always quirky new places to visit, along with well-loved old standbys. I’m not a Melville tourist, but I’ve just spent a few days wandering around pretending I am. Here is a recommended itinerary for a one-day visit to the place I call home in Jozi.

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Tortoises, Birds, Locusts, and One Fantastic Sunset

Joe and I spent Sunday afternoon at the Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden, a national botanical garden northwest of downtown Joburg. Technically it’s within the city limits but you would never guess you’re in a city while you’re there. “Garden” doesn’t properly describe this place; it’s a large nature reserve with a complicated maze of hiking paths, a bird-watching hide, and spectacular waterfalls. The main garden area – which includes swaths of green grass and an extensive collection of indigenous and endangered southern African plants – was filled with families lugging blankets, coolers, and picnic baskets. But once we walked up into the hills we didn’t see many other people.

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An Honest Living

This post was originally going to be about rain. It rained this week, for the first time in six months, and everything is crisp and green and beautiful. Here are a couple of photos I took with that topic in mind. Jacaranda petals litter the street after a rain storm.

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A Walk Through Old Johannesburg

Just before dusk yesterday, we went walking in Westcliff — an old, wealthy neighborhood adjacent to Melville. We tramped over a bridge along a busy road as rush hour traffic whizzed past. Then we crossed the street and entered another world. Sunset through the jacarandas in Westcliff. The streets of Westcliff are quiet and peaceful and lined with jacaranda trees. The jacarandas haven’t bloomed yet but I love looking up at their black curving branches. In a few weeks they’ll be exploding with purple flowers.

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