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photography

Inside Urbanologi restaurant

Urbanologi: My Number One Date Night Restaurant

Many of you read my previous post about the interesting experiences I’ve had recently on Tinder and other dating apps, and my plan to start a business helping people improve their dating app profiles. In conjunction with that I’m starting a series of posts about my top recommendations for Jozi dates. First up: Urbanologi. I have mentioned Urbanologi briefly on this blog but never devoted a full post to it, which is inexcusable because it’s one of my favorite high-end restaurants in Joburg. In fact it might be my very favorite. And Urbanologi is definitely my number one Jozi date night recommendation for people who are adventurous — in both the places they go and the food they eat. Urbanologi is downtown, which always feels like a bit of an adventure (although the location in Joburg’s 1 Fox Precinct is totally safe), the restaurant’s decor is the perfect combination of edgy and classy, and the food is innovative, beautifully presented, and insanely flavorful. Urbanologi is also vegetarian-friendly. And did I mention the drinks? Urbanologi shares its space with Mad Giant Brewery, which makes some of the best craft beer in the city, and also offers a great selection of wine. […]

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Naked Tinder selfie

Men on Tinder: Read This

Okay people. It’s time to talk about dating apps. If you’re using a dating app like Tinder — or considering doing so — read to the end of this post. You could win a free dating app profile consultation and photoshoot. I avoided the dating app scene for ages. The whole concept terrified me. But I have several friends who are using dating apps — Tinder most commonly — or have used them in the past, and while the feedback wasn’t 100% positive I’d heard a few success stories. So a couple of weeks ago I swallowed my fear and downloaded the app. I chose a few photos, wrote a bio, and bam: I was on Tinder. I thought I’d swipe on a few profiles, have some nice chats, block a few creeps, maybe go on a couple of dates. And much of that did happen, except for the dating part — I haven’t gone on a single Tinder date yet. But that’s a story for another post. Anyway. The main thing I’ve done while browsing Tinder is laugh. I don’t laugh because the men are witty (although a small percentage of them are). I laugh because many of the […]

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Savory dishes from TJIPS

This Is the East: TJIPS in Eastgate Mall

Sixth in an occasional blog series called This Is the East, featuring hidden spots on Johannesburg’s East Rand. A few weeks ago I saw some photos of a plate of chips — fries, to the Americans among you — on Instagram. These were no ordinary chips. They were beautifully presented, sprinkled with colorful sauces and herbs, and I could taste them right through my phone. My mouth literally watered. A couple of clicks told me these chips come from a place called TJIPS in Eastgate Mall. (Eastgate is the pre-eminent sprawling Joburg mall of the East.) The Eastgate food court is not the first place I’d expect to find a high-end, gourmet chip shop. I was intrigued all the more. Within minutes I was DM-ing with Jaron, the TJIPS’ founder, arranging a visit. The Story of Slap Chips Before I continue, I need to explain about slap chips. Slap chips (pronounced something like “slahp tchups”) are basically soggy fries — a South African staple food. Apparently slap chips originated during South Africa’s gold mining era, when miners ate a lot of fish and chips and food stalls sloppily fried huge quantities of thick-cut potatoes in massive vats of cheap cooking oil. The […]

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Chili sauce vendor in Maputo at the Mercado Central

15 Quirky Things to Do in Maputo

I spent six days in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. Two friends joined me for the last two days but the rest of the time I was alone. Other than booking my flight and accommodation and buying a guide book — the Bradt Travel Guide for Mozambique, which has a short and rather disappointing chapter on Maputo but was helpful nonetheless — I made zero plans before going. Once there, I continued making zero plans and just wandered around looking at things. I realized Maputo is one of the most underrated travel destinations in Southern Africa (perhaps surpassed only by Johannesburg), especially for people who like cities. Maputo is cosmopolitan, with incredible food, history, architecture, art, and culture. There aren’t many cities like that in this sparsely populated corner of the world. Here are the top 15 quirky places/things I discovered in Maputo. This list is by no means comprehensive. Read to the end for a few tips about visiting the city. My Favorite Things in Maputo 1) Architecture Quirky architecture is everywhere in Maputo. 2) Museu De História Natural de Maputo (Museum of Natural History) This is one of the strangest museums I’ve ever visited. The building is stately […]

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Loretta Chamberlain, owner of Yukon House in Bezuidenhout Valley

Afternoon Tea in Bezuidenhout Valley

Bezuidenhout Valley, aka Bez Valley, feels like a forgotten suburb. Once home to wealthy Johannesburg socialites, the area has declined in recent decades. Many of Bez Valley’s stately old houses have been abandoned or fallen into disrepair. But Bez Valley maintains its sense of history. You can feel it while driving or walking its tree-shaded streets. Johannesburg’s oldest house is here and a few other historical landmarks remain. Yukon House is one of them. Yukon House was built between 1906 and 1911 and was home to two Johannesburg mayors in the early 20th century. The house suffered periods of neglect as it changed ownership over the years (read this article about the theft of its priceless stained glass windows) but its current owners, Loretta and Henry Chamberlain, have lovingly restored the mansion back to its original glory. I’ve been meaning to visit Yukon House forever but it’s not open to the public all the time. So when I heard Kennedy of Micro-adventure Tours was hosting a historical tour there — including afternoon tea, my favorite meal — I jumped right on board. Tour and Tea at Yukon House This isn’t your average historical house tour. Loretta and Henry live at […]

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Photo of Mother Theresa at Langwan Cleaners

Langwan Cleaners and the Mother Teresa of Albert Street

In March 2017 I receive a Facebook message. “Do make a turn at my mom’s store, corner Albert and Mooi Street, called Langwan Cleaners. Will make a good story. “My mom, a single mother now 70 years old, has been running a ‘general dealer’ for the past 40 something years. Her business has evolved over the years but she is truly a kind of Mother Teresa of the area. Two years later in February 2019, in a comment to a comment on another post, I receive a gentle reminder. “Reminder to visit my mom😘. 99 Albert Street.” 99 Albert Street. I write it down. Three weeks later I return to that note in my day planner. 99 Albert Street. By this time I’ve forgotten the name of the person who sent me the message or where she sent it from. I know it’s an Indian name and begins with an S. 99 Albert Street. A laundry? Owned by a woman. Someone’s mom. I can’t remember but I know it’s time to go. In a WhatsApp message to Fiver, I write: “Any chance you’d like to go with me on a mysterious mission?” Fiver is always game for mysterious missions. A […]

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Finishing process at the Workhorse Bronze Foundry

Casting Bronze in the Heart of the City

I’m stating the obvious here, but making art is hard. Writing words, shooting photographs, painting paintings, printing prints…It’s all freaking difficult. But sculpting sculptures — especially sculptures made from white-hot molten metal that turns into rock-hard bronze — at least logistically speaking, might be the trickiest of all art forms. I never thought about how bronze sculptures get made, just as I never think about how iPhones or microwaves or railroad bridges or pencils get made. They’re just amazing things created by people way smarter than me, put on this earth for my consumption. Then I visited the Workhorse Bronze Foundry and gained a whole new appreciation for the creation of this type of art. I went to Workhorse last week as part of the Long March to Freedom art walk. Several of the Long March to Freedom sculptures were made there, and it was cool to follow the path of these historic bronze figures that I’ve now visited several times in different locations. More generally though, it was cool to visit the place where so many of South Africa’s great sculptors make their art. The Workhorse Bronze Foundry The first interesting thing about the Workhorse Foundry is its location, […]

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Joburg cycling tour with Kennedy

Cycle Joburg With Kennedy

Over the past couple of months I’ve participated in two Joburg tours with Kennedy Tembo of Micro-adventure Tours. Kennedy offers all kinds of innovative, outdoorsy tours in Joburg and surrounding areas — from Gauteng all the way to the Drakensberg. I am so excited to try them all. I was planning to write about both the tours I’ve done with Kennedy in this post, but actually there is too much to say so I’m taking them one at a time. First up: Kennedy’s coffee and cycling tour through downtown Joburg. I’ve explored downtown Joburg countless times by car, on foot, on a bus, and even on a skateboard. I’ve done cycling tours in Soweto, Alexandra, and Diepsloot. But I’d never done a cycling tour though the middle of the city before, much less a cycling tour focused on coffee. Cycling Downtown Joburg I know what you might be thinking: Riding a bicycle through the frenetic Joburg central business district (what locals call the CBD) is only for cyclists with a death wish. Trust me though — it works. First of all, Kennedy is a great cycling guide. He is calm (in fact he has nerves of steel), navigates the streets […]

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Nguni cow at Brahman Hills in KwaZulu-Natal

A Summer Weekend at Brahman Hills

Two weeks ago I spent a weekend at Brahman Hills, a beautiful lodge near the N3 highway in the Midlands region of KwaZulu-Natal. I stayed at Brahman Hills once before in 2016. Read my previous post for all the details on what Brahman Hills is, what the Midlands is, and what I liked best about my stay — it’s all still true. I went back again for a few reasons: First: I loved Brahman Hills the first time and selfishly wanted to enjoy it again. Second: Last time I went to Brahman Hills with a partner, but this time I was invited as part of an all-female media trip. Traveling with girls is fun. Third: I last stayed at Brahman Hills in winter, when the landscape was dry and desolate. I loved the winter feel but wanted to go back in summer, when everything is green and sparkling. Fourth: I wanted to see more of the Midlands Meander, which has become one of my favorite tourism regions in the country. Fifth: Brahman Hills has a herd of the most beautiful cows in South Africa. New Things About Brahman Hills and the Midlands There are a few important things I either […]

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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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