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Lunch at Andalousse

Andalousse: A Quickie Cape Town Restaurant Review

A few weeks ago, during a very bad week, I was in Cape Town. I couldn’t really taste food but I needed to eat. So when my friend Lucy invited my friend Di and me to have lunch at a restaurant called Andalousse, I accepted. Inside Andalousse Authentic Moroccan Cuisine. Andalousse is a Moroccan restaurant, probably the only one in Cape Town, on Victoria Road in Woodstock. It’s a very busy street and Andalousse is an unassuming place, so you have to look: It’s across the street from the police station and right next to a small doctor’s surgery. Don’t be put off by the location; Andalousse is worth it. I’m no expert on Moroccan cuisine. But the food was delicious and the owner of Andalousse, Moosa, was wonderful. This is a great change of pace from the usual high-end, artisanal Cape Town fare that foodie bloggers normally blog about. (Don’t get me wrong, I love high-end, artisanal Cape Town fare but this is just something different.) Andalousse reminds me more of the secret food dives I love to review here in Joburg. Lunch at Andalousse For three people we ordered: One kofta tajine; One half-order of shish kabab; One half-order […]

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Hindu temple in Marabastad

#Gauteng52, Week 38: Exploring Marabastad

Welcome to Week 38 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 Pretoria suburb of Marabastad. Marabastad, like Sophiatown and District Six, has a history that can exist only in South Africa. A suburb of Pretoria just west of the city center, Marabastad has always been a multicultural neighborhood populated mostly by Indian and black South Africans. The area experienced forced removals during the 1940s and 50s, when everyone was forced to move out and people of different (non-white) races were relocated to various townships outside the city. A Marabastad street corner. A traditional medicine (muti) shop in Marabastad. Unlike Sophiatown and District Six, much of Marabastad was never demolished and the people who were forcibly removed continued to do business there. (There’s a decent Wikipedia entry about Marabastad, although the history section peters out after about 1950. Read more about Marabastad here.) Marabastad was supposedly named for the Ndebele Chief Maraba, who headed a village of the same name in the 1880s. Even today, Marabastad is the place where Ndebele artisans (like the women I wrote about a few weeks […]

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Inside St. Sergius Russian Orthodox Church

#Gauteng52, Week 37: South Africa’s Only Russian Orthodox Church

Welcome to Week 37 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 Russian Orthodox Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh, in Midrand. If you’ve driven from Pretoria to Johannesburg, you’ve probably seen it: The white church with gleaming gold domes in Midrand, easily visible from the N3 Highway. Apparently lots of people show up at the gate of the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh, simply because they have glimpsed the church from the road and are overcome by curiosity. The Russian Orthodox Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh, built in 2003. The domes are covered in very thin gold leaf. Father Daniel, the priest, says it’s less than one kilogram of gold altogether. If you read my blog, then you know I love visiting churches and places of worship of all kinds. So when I got invited to visit St. Sergius as part of an event organized by the Johannesburg Russian Tea Room Group, I eagerly accepted and invited my friends Ang and Gail. St. Sergius is the only Russian Orthodox Church in sub-Saharan Africa (the next closest one is […]

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Reefsteamers steam locomotive #3046

#Gauteng52, Week 36: The Reefsteamers Magaliesburg Express

Welcome to Week 36 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 take a ride on the Reefsteamers Magaliesburg Express. Reefsteamers is a volunteer-run, non-profit organization that restores antique steam trains and runs weekend day trips around Gauteng Province. The Magaliesburg Express — a return day trip from Johannesburg Park Station to Magaliesburg and back — is a regular Reefsteamers route. (Magaliesburg is a small town a bit more than an hour’s drive from Joburg.) I’d been wanting to do one of these train trips for ages. This is “Vreni”, a steam locomotive built in 1945. Read about all the Reefsteamers locomotives. The Magaliesburg Express usually runs on the last Saturday of the month. (Browse the timetable here.) A couple of weeks ago I rode the train with Ray and his two friends from Canada. The first thing I’ll say about our Magaliesburg Express train ride is that it was definitely NOT an express. The round trip wound up taking more than 12 hours and it had some strange, tragic consequences. Nonetheless I would still recommend it, especially for train enthusiasts and photographers. […]

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Seamstress at Amani ya Juu

Six Arts and Crafts Hotspots in Africa

Although I generally avoid shopping, I love to buy things when I travel — especially in Africa (which is most of my traveling these days). So when Afristay asked me to write a post about traveling in Africa, I decided to take a look back at some of the best arts and crafts I’ve found in my explorations around the continent. I’ve been to 13 African countries and I’ve come back from every one of them with something amazing. But for brevity’s sake I’m limiting this list to six favorite spots in five countries. African Arts and Crafts: My Top Six Picks 1) Teyateyaneng, Lesotho Teyateyaneng (or TY for short), a small town about 30 minutes from Lesotho’s capital city of Maseru, was one of my first African craft discoveries. There are several weaving cooperatives in TY, in which groups of women work together to create Basotho-themed mohair tapestries. I love the tapestries themselves (I have three), but I also love watching the women make them. My favorite place to visit is the Elelloang Basali Weaving Centre, which I blogged about here and here. Marosa, one of the weavers at Elelloang Basali. The weaving center is lined with recycled cans. Alina with […]

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Pink house in Melville

#Gauteng52, Week 34: The Pink Church With a Blue Door

Welcome to Week 34 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 Blue Door Print Studio, inside Melville’s mysterious Pink Church. On the southeastern edge of Melville — technically it’s in Richmond but I consider it Melville — is a mysterious Pink Church with white trim. For a long time it was abandoned, then it briefly became an antique shop although the shop rarely looked open. Some people say the Pink Church is haunted. I’ve driven past the Pink Church about 500 times and was always curious. I never went in. The Pink Church at 24 Chatou Road, Richmond. (But really it’s Melville.) Last month I saw an article in the Northcliff Melville Times titled “Building Transformed into Print Haven”. The article said the Pink Church has become the Blue Door Print Studio. I learned that the building was built in 1904, and it was indeed a Methodist church back in the day. Later on it was a synagogue, which somehow makes the Pink Church even more fascinating. Two days later, I finally went to the Pink Church. The front of the Pink […]

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Mama Anna with her beaded Ndebele kudu head

The Ndebele Artists of Mpumalanga: Coming Soon to Joburg

We drove down a dusty KwaMahlanga street, bordered by beige and brown houses. I saw dogs, chickens, and goats, all in various earth tones. Orange and lemon trees, laden with late-winter fruit, provided periodic bursts of yellow and orange. We pulled in front of an earth-colored house, guarded by an earth-colored dog. A color explosion awaited inside. Mama Anna Skhosana stood in the middle of the living room, draped in a jewel-toned blue, yellow, and red Ndebele blanket. Her shaved head was adorned with overlapping bands and a thick beaded collar hung around her neck. Mama Anna’s artwork — a large wooden kudu head covered in intricate beadwork — sat nearly finished on the coffee table. After a few minutes of enthusiastic greetings between Mama Anna, her daughter Minky, and my hosts Nomvula and Mahlapane, Mama Anna sat down to continue beading. Mama Anna works on a beaded kudu head. Every inch of the kudu is beaded. Mama Anna doesn’t use any glue to attach the beads (at least not that I saw) — only thread. We returned to Mama Anna’s house the next day and three kudu heads sat lined up on the sofa, ready for delivery to the […]

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Ray's family at Kruger Elephant Museum

Kruger, Top to Bottom: Secret Places and Random Tips

Before my recent trip, I hadn’t fully grasped how large the Kruger National Park is. The park is 19,500 square kilometers (7,523 square miles), spread over a pipe-shaped area 360 kilometers (220 miles) long and about 65 kilometers (40 miles) wide. Our route through the Kruger, with all the rest camps and picnic spots where we stopped along the way. The camps where we slept are marked in red. I also hadn’t grasped how much there is to do in the Kruger, beside the obvious game-viewing. Kruger is so vast that traveling between rest camps is an experience in itself. We stayed in four camps over seven nights, starting in the northernmost Punda Maria camp for one night, then on to the Shingwedzi and Satara camps for two nights each, finishing at the massive Skukuza camp for two nights. (Note that booking accommodation in the Kruger is a special skill requiring a blog post of its own. Ray’s mother is an expert — maybe I’ll ask her to do a guest post.) The Kruger rest camps are historical, iconic places worth exploring in their own right. A thatched Kruger chalet. This one is at Satara, one of my favorite rest camps. […]

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bee-eater in the Kruger

15 Birds of the Kruger National Park

I like birds as much as the next person, but I am not a Birder with a capital B. In fact, I’ve been known to make fun of Birders occasionally. (Sorry, Birder friends. You make me laugh sometimes.) I did, however, catch a hint of birding fever on my recent Kruger trip, and came away with more bird pictures than I know what to do with. The lilac-breasted roller, one of the most common birds in the Kruger and also one of the most beautiful. So I’ve decided to throw them all into a blog post. If you’re a serious South African Birder, you won’t find any dramatic surprises here. Most of the birds pictured are common in the Kruger. But I think you’ll find the photos pleasing all the same. 15 Birds of the Kruger I’ll start with the birds we saw most often and work my way up to the rarer sightings. 1) Glossy starling A glossy starling waits patiently for crumbs at the table outside our chalet. Glossy starlings, or cape starlings, are all over the Kruger, especially in the rest camps where they are prolific scavengers of human food. They’re very naughty and also ridiculously beautiful. 2) […]

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Mom and baby hyena - mom looking away

Three Incredible Moments in the Kruger

I’ve just come back from a week with Ray and his family in the Kruger National Park. I’m not sure where to begin writing about it. This was an extraordinary trip. Sunrise in the Kruger. I’ve visited lots of games reserves in South Africa over the years — mostly private reserves with luxurious accommodation and a “guests must not lift a finger except to press the camera shutter” kind of approach. (There are tons of private reserves around the borders of the Kruger, while the park itself is public.) I know the drill at places like this: Wake up early, guided game drive or walk, return to luxurious accommodation, eat gourmet food cooked by others, sleep, eat more food, another game drive, drink sundowners, eat more food, go to bed, repeat. Such trips usually last three days at most, because: 1) Few people can afford to stay longer; and 2) Eating and drinking 10,000 calories a day is surprisingly exhausting. Luxury safaris are wonderful. I’m ridiculously fortunate to have stumbled into a profession allowing me to take trips like that from time to time. (Read about a few of them here and here and here.) But my do-it-yourself week in the […]

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Cosmopolitan garden

A Pedicure and More at the Cosmopolitan Hotel

I was recently invited to have a pedicure at Tenfold, a new nail salon at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Maboneng. I am not a beauty blogger and writing about mani-pedis isn’t my normal thing, but I liked the idea of getting my nails done in a super-old historic building in the middle of downtown Joburg. (Also it was my birthday weekend and this seemed like a nice present for myself.) So I went, and wound up staying at the Cosmopolitan for the entire afternoon. The garden at the Cosmopolitan, which looks spectacular at the moment — amazing considering it’s winter in South Africa. Tenfold, owned by a lovely woman named Georgia Shekeshe, occupies a pretty corner spot in the Cosmopolitan garden. It was a great place to relax with a cup of tea and a foot massage on a cold winter day. It will be even nicer in summer when the doors are open. Tenfold’s green exterior. The salon’s zen interior. I can’t believe I photographed my own feet in such a vulnerable state. Tumi did a great job and the warm towels were welcome on a cold day. Group portrait at Tenfold. Georgia is in the middle with the […]

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Green and orange beading at piece

Beading with Beauty at piece

My love for beaded jewelry began many years ago, when my sister worked in a bead shop. Susanna and I would pick out beads together and then she would make bracelets and earrings and necklaces for both of us. I don’t think it ever occurred to me to try beading myself; I’m not crafty like my sister is. But my jewelry collection kept growing. The bead love intensified when I moved to South Africa, where beadwork is everywhere. I was recently invited to a beading class at piece, a beautiful African arts and crafts shop in downtown Johannesburg. (I wrote about piece in my #Gauteng52 post on Ellis House earlier this year.) The classes are led by Beauty Maswanganyi, a master beading artisan and long-time staff member at piece. Beauty helps get a bracelet started at the beginning of the class. Beauty has a pretty good track record as far as jewelry-making goes: Past clients of hers include Oprah and Michelle Obama (!) I did not excel at beading. (Learning to bead is hard for left-handers. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) But it didn’t matter because this class was so freaking fun, and I went home with my own […]

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