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parks

people walking in 27 Boxes park

10 Places to Visit in Melville’s 27 Boxes

27 Boxes is a retail center made out of shipping containers on 4th Avenue in Melville. The beautiful new children’s play area outside 27 Boxes. I recently wrote a story about 27 Boxes for the Different, which goes into the interesting history of the center and of Faan Smit Park, the Joburg City park that used to be where 27 Boxes is now. So I won’t go into that in this post. I just want to tell you that 27 Boxes has become one of the best places to hang out in Melville. The center didn’t get off to a great start when it opened in 2015; lots of the shops sat empty and Melville residents grumbled that the whole place was an eyesore and would soon go under and close. But new management took over 27 Boxes last year and started fixing everything up. New shop tenants have moved in, and the outside of the center was completely overhauled. It looks fantastic. I go to 27 Boxes all the time and I think everyone else should too. If you want an idea of what to do there, here are 10 of my top recommendations. Ten Great Places in 27 Boxes […]

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Robert Sobukwe sculpture at Long March to Freedom National Historic Monument

The Long March to Freedom National Heritage Monument

In Pretoria, just off the highway in a local park called Fountains Valley, is an army of life-sized bronze men and women walking toward freedom. This hidden bronze army, made up of heroes who fought in the South African struggle for democracy over the past four centuries, is the Long March to Freedom National Heritage Monument. A bronze of Robert Sobukwe, made by artists Louis Olivier and Nkhensani Rihlampfu, on the Long March to Freedom. The woman to Sobukwe’s left is Helen Suzman.  I first encountered these sculptures in 2015, when about eight or ten of them went up in Walter Sisulu Square in Kliptown. I was disappointed when the sculptures later disappeared from Kliptown and someone told me they’d been moved to a field in Pretoria. That didn’t make sense. It took me a couple of years to get to the sculptures’ new home in Fountains Valley. Now that I’ve been there, and seen not ten sculptures but well over 100, all marching in the same direction — some with fists raised, one on horseback, one astride a bull, some carrying books or briefcases and others wielding rifles or spears — I get it. Walter and Albertina Sisulu, leading the charge. […]

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Duck at Marievale Bird Sanctuary

#Gauteng52, Week 50: Marievale Bird Sanctuary

Welcome to Week 50 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit the Marievale Bird Sanctuary. I don’t have my own set of binoculars yet. But perhaps it’s time to admit I’m a birder. A common moorhen cuts through the water in Marievale Bird Sanctuary. I started getting interested in birds during a recent trip to the Kruger National Park, and even wrote a whole blog post on birds in the Kruger. Then a couple of weeks ago I went to the Marievale Bird Sanctuary, the most popular birding spot in Gauteng. I mainly went because birders have been raving to me about it for years and I thought it would be a nice thing to cover for #Gauteng52. But I must confess I loved it and can’t wait to go back. The South African highveld is not known for its wetlands. But this is mining country, and in the 1930s the mining industry started pumping water from underground and created a manmade watery wonderland. (Please excuse this infantile description of what I’m sure is a highly complex scientific phenomenon. If there […]

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Reclaim the Wilds This Sunday

In April 2016 I published a blog post about the Wilds, a park near downtown Joburg. That post felt kind of controversial at the time because most Joburgers considered the Wilds to be a horribly dangerous place where no rational person would ever go. I visited the Wilds back then with my artist friend James Delaney, who lives next to the park and had recently started venturing in with his dog, Pablo. James discovered that despite its reputation, the Wilds really wasn’t dangerous after all. Not only was the Wilds not dangerous, James discovered, it was also one of the loveliest places in Johannesburg. James sits on a newly painted park bench in the Wilds. Pablo, King of the Wilds. Fast forward a year-and-a-half. James has made it his personal mission to transform the Wilds into a well used public space and he is succeeding. Over the last couple of years James has organized crews of volunteers to pull weeds, clear underbrush, and paint park benches. He hung bird feeders on the periphery of the park to attract attention, encouraged his friends to visit, and convinced the security guards in his apartment building to use the Wilds as a short […]

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Eli in Rhodes Park

#Gauteng52, Week 42: Kensington’s Rhodes Park

Welcome to Week 42 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit Rhodes Park in Kensington. Kensington is one of Joburg’s most interesting neighborhoods and I don’t get over there enough. I have this idea that it’s on the opposite side of the world from Melville, even though it’s less than a 20-minute drive without traffic. My friend Gail lives in Kensington and she’s always posting pretty photos from her walks in Rhodes Park. So when I heard Gail was organizing an art exhibition at the park called “The Land That Never Forgets”, I made a point of taking myself across town to check it out. Looking out over the lake (or dam, as South Africans call it) in Rhodes Park. Exactly two years ago there was a terrible crime at Rhodes Park. Since the tragedy Gail and a group of her friends have been holding weekly cleanups and other events to help uplift Rhodes Park, and it seems like they’ve made tremendous progress in making it a safe, welcoming place for the community. This exhibition — consisting entirely of land art — […]

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Cosmos in Delta Park

#Gauteng52, Week 12: The Cosmos of Delta Park

Welcome to Week 12 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 Delta Park, which explodes with pink and white cosmos flowers every autumn. This #Gauteng52 post is cheating a little because I’ve been to Delta Park — a huge city park bordering the suburbs of Craighall Park, Blairgowrie, Victory Park, and Linden — before. But up until yesterday I had never been to Delta Park during cosmos season, which transforms this park into a totally different place. Fields full of cosmos in Delta Park. Cosmos are wildflowers that made their way to South Africa in contaminated horse feed during the Anglo Boer War; the flowers are native to the Americas. The cosmos took to the dry climate of the South African highveld and everywhere the horses fed, the cosmos grew. The flowers seem especially fond of ditches along rural South African roads and highways, and they grow like wildfire in Delta Park. Cosmos: Johannesburg’s Autumn Leaves March is the beginning of autumn in South Africa. We might not have the same abundance of fall leaves that I grew up with in America (there are some, but not […]

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the wilds Johannesburg

The Wilds: Joburg’s Controversial Garden of Eden

There is a big park in Johannesburg, very near to the city center, called the Wilds. For many years I didn’t go there because everyone said it was dangerous. Even the name — the Wilds, bwahahahaaaaa — has a menacing tone to it. I assumed the warnings were legit. I’ve now been to the Wilds twice over the last several months, and damn, is it beautiful. The Wilds is so stunning and peaceful and well landscaped and immaculately maintained that it puts most other Jozi parks to shame. (I don’t say this lightly, as I’m a serious fan of Joburg parks.) The park was opened in 1938, after the Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Company donated it to the city on the condition that the land remain in its natural state. The park is hilly and planted with thousands of indigenous trees and other native flora, crisscrossed by several kilometers of winding stone paths. Walking on the wild side, through the Jozi Wilds. Walking on the Wild Side I don’t want to totally discount the perception that the Wilds is dangerous. I’ve visited lots of quote-unquote dangerous places in this city — Hillbrow, Alexandra, Yeoville, and many others — but none of them seem to elicit quite […]

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An “Off the Beaten Path” Guide to Joburg

Pictured above: A church service in Alexandra Township. A couple of months ago I posted about the “Three Days in Johannesburg” travel guide that I wrote for TripAdvisor. I also wrote a “Johannesburg Off the Beaten Path” guide, which I’m going to summarize for you here. (Check out my full Off the Beaten Path guide on TripAdvisor, which includes longer descriptions and tips for each location.) Writing a guide to off-the-beaten-path spots in Joburg was interesting because in many respects this entire city is off the beaten path. (By the way, I hate that cliché.) In reality it’s the opposite: Joburg is the transportation and financial hub of Southern Africa and the most visited city on the continent. But Joburg is still an underdog from a tourism perspective and many of the city’s best attractions are difficult for first-time visitors to find. Anyway, for my Off the Beaten Path guide I included a diverse group of places — restaurants, parks, galleries, and shops — that adventurous tourists will enjoy but struggle to discover on their own. I’ve listed all ten off-the-beaten-path destinations below. Where possible I’ve linked to blog posts I’ve written about the destinations. I’ve also mentioned a few other off-the-beaten-path places that didn’t make the TripAdvisor top ten. 1) Walter […]

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My New (Almost) Favorite Jozi Park

This week, while poking around the Illovo/Melrose area for my SandtonPlaces research, I wandered into James and Ethel Gray Park: a city park just off the M1 highway in the small suburb of Birdhaven. Sunset dog-walk in James and Ethel Gray Park.

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