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photography

Tswana dancers on Vilakazi Street in Soweto

Touring Soweto with a South African Blonde

Last week I did an all-day tour of Soweto with Eenblond Tours. “Eenblond” means “a blonde” in Afrikaans, which makes sense because that’s exactly what Gilda Swanepoel is. Gilda and I are kindred spirits — we’re the same age and our life stories have many parallels. Gilda spent lots of time traveling solo around southern Africa and used to write a travel blog. She loves getting to know Joburg’s people and cultures in a very intimate way. I’d been meaning to take one of her tours forever and she does lots of different ones, around Joburg and all over South Africa. But I was particularly keen to go to Soweto with Gilda. I’ve been to Soweto — which is technically part of Joburg but really its own place entirely — countless times (browse all of my Soweto posts here), but I’ll never pass up an opportunity to go again. Soweto is so huge, so historic, and so diverse that no one visit is the same as another, even when you go back to the same places. My tour with Gilda was no exception. A Day in Soweto Gilda fetched me at my house and then we went to pick up […]

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Travel books at Maps 4 Africa

Maps 4 Africa: Navigating Africa Without Google

In today’s Google-powered world, it’s tempting to believe paper maps and guidebooks are obsolete. Who needs hard copies when every piece of information ever collected is contained inside our phones? I’m as guilty as the next person of operating this way. But as recently as a couple of months ago, I found myself stranded in the middle of Joburg’s northern suburbs when my mobile signal suddenly dropped and I didn’t have Google Maps to guide me to my next destination. And you can’t use the “Well, you live in Africa” excuse, either. The same thing happened last year in Manhattan. I still need maps — real maps — and real guidebooks when I travel. And even if I don’t need them, I want them. Luckily there’s a great place to buy them in Joburg. I discovered the Maps 4 Africa shop many years ago, then forgot about it, then discovered it again last year while looking for a Mozambique guide book for my trip to Maputo. You’d think Exclusive Books, the country’s most popular retail bookstore, would have a wide selection of guidebooks for Mozambique — a major tourist destination and one of South Africa’s closest neighbors. But nope — […]

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Our Jozi Works piece in Louis Both S-Bend mural

The Louis Botha S-Bend: Walking Through Joburg’s History

Along Louis Botha Avenue between Orange Grove and Yeoville there is a half-kilometer stretch of road previously known as “the death bend”. Louis Botha is one of Joburg’s main thoroughfares between north and south, connecting Alexandra Township and the city’s northeastern suburbs to downtown Joburg. The road is notoriously ruled by speeding minibus taxis. This particular stretch is a relatively steep downhill from south to north and has a few dangerous curves. The Louis Botha corridor is in the middle of a major redevelopment. The death bend was recently straightened out somewhat, and there is now a wide pedestrian sidewalk and a very high wall along the northwestern side the road. A few months ago, that wall was covered with a huge, vibrant graffiti mural illustrating the history of the Louis Botha corridor (previously the Old Pretoria Road). The graffiti project is called the S-bend mural and it’s the largest mural in Joburg, covering 3,000 square meters. The S-bend mural — “S-bend” is meant to be less negative than “death bend”, while still warning drivers of potential danger — was commissioned by the City of Johannesburg Department of Transport, the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA), and a JDA-supported art campaign #ArtMyJozi. […]

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The road on Route 62 in South Africa

My #10SouthAfricanTowns Project: I Need Your Support!

A couple of months ago I announced my plan to visit 10 small South African towns in 2020, in celebration of the ten-year anniversary of my blog. I will blog about my visits to the 10 South African towns throughout the year (along with my usual Joburg-centric content), and I also plan to publish a #10SouthAfricanTowns book in early 2021. I received about 75 different town suggestions, and after much consideration I’ve whittled the list down to ten. This map is subject to change. (In fact, I’ve changed two of the towns since this post was initially published on 6 December.) But for now, here are the ten towns I’ve chosen: In case you don’t feel like clicking on the map, here’s the list in no particular order: Bathurst, Eastern Cape Prince Albert, Western Cape Philippolis, Free State Kaapschehoop, Mpumalanga Kameel, North West Kakamas, Northern Cape Bredasdorp, Western Cape Val, Mpumalanga Pongola, KwaZulu-Natal Ohrigstad, Limpopo I chose the ten towns based on a few factors: 1) Each town was suggested by one of you, my wonderful readers; 2) I hadn’t visited any of these towns before; and 3) The towns cover all nine of South Africa’s provinces, except for Gauteng […]

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Art Africa shop in Parkview

Five Places to Buy Local Gifts in Joburg

“Buy local” has become a popular retail catch phrase lately. But I have always loved buying locally made gifts, especially gifts in the realm of African arts and crafts. December seems like the best time to add this category to my Jozi Top Fives series. These five shops are where I like to go before my annual trips to America, when I buy presents to take to my family and friends back home. But these spots are also great for local holiday shopping. In this post I’m using a broad interpretation of the term “buy local”, as some of these places sell gifts from all over the African continent. 1) Art Africa in Parkview Art Africa is my go-to spot for buying South African and pan-African gifts. The shop is in a convenient spot on Parkview’s Tyrone Avenue and it has all the usual South African crafts — beaded and wooden sculptures, baskets, textiles, embroidery, etc. — all particularly high-quality and carefully curated. Think the Rosebank African Craft Market but much smaller, less cacophonous, and less overwhelming. Art Africa is at 62 Tyrone Avenue, Parkview. 2) Krag Drag (the Strong One) in 27 Boxes, Melville I blogged about Krag Drag […]

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The Bank of Lisbon Building implodes

Bank of Lisbon: The Implosion of a Jozi SkyScraper

Yesterday morning I watched the Bank of Lisbon Building, a 31-storey tower in downtown Joburg, fold inward on itself and collapse to the ground in a cloud of dust. I photographed the implosion from just under three blocks away, on the eighth floor of Corner House — one of Joburg’s oldest and most iconic buildings — while peering through the porthole-shaped window of a turret with a giant jacuzzi tub in it. Before I get to the exciting demolition pictures, let me back up a bit. The Sad Story of the Bank of Lisbon Building The Bank of Lisbon was built in 1967 in a Late Modernist/Brutalist style of architecture. Based on the name, I assume the building once housed the offices of a bank from Lisbon. Most recently it was home to three Gauteng provincial government offices. In September 2018, amidst tenant complaints about potential safety issues in the building, the Bank of Lisbon caught fire on the 23rd floor. The blaze burned for three days before the fire department managed to extinguish it (water supply issues reportedly hindered efforts to put out the fire), and three Joburg firefighters lost their lives. The building’s shell remained standing after the […]

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Green chile cheeseburger

Green Chile Cheeseburgers (and Other Wonderful Things in New Mexico)

I lived 45 years without knowing there was such a thing as a green chile cheeseburger. Then I went to New Mexico and my world changed. A quick word on spelling. In most of America, this spicy pepper is a “chili” with one L. In British English, it’s a “chilli” with two Ls. Due to Spanish influence in the southwestern United States, the spelling in that part of the world is “chile” — one L, one I, one E. (Learn more on merriam-webster.com.) Confusing, I know. For the purposes of this post I’m going to use the southwestern American (i.e. Spanish) spelling of “chile” because that’s how it appears everywhere in New Mexico. The New Mexico Green Chile Now, some more information on the pepper itself. New Mexico chiles are not like jalapeños or habaneros or any other hot chiles I’ve eaten before. New Mexico chiles are bigger and just plain better, with a half-spicy, half-tangy flavor that I could easily eat in every meal for the rest of my life. When New Mexico chiles are harvested earlier, they’re green, and when they’re harvested later, they’re red. The red and green chiles have slightly different flavors, and New Mexican diners […]

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tree branch in snow

2Winters: Colorado Snow

It’s boiling hot in Joburg this week. But I’m in a winter wonderland in Colorado. My best friend Claire lives in Colorado Springs and I’m visiting her, between visits to Washington D.C., Baltimore, Taos, Santa Fe, and Middlebury. It’s a long trip, happening right as autumn changes to winter, which means this year I’m kind of having 2Winters instead of 2Summers. It snowed a few inches this morning — my first snowfall in nearly a decade — and it was the prettiest, fluffiest snow I’ve ever seen. Colorado Snow I went outside and discovered a soft, silent, snow-white utopia. Falling snow somehow makes sub-freezing temperatures feel less cold — I crunched around comfortably despite the 17° Fahrenheit (-8 Celsius) air. I had the best time taking photos. My mom and I took a walk into town. The snow piled up on the colorful little Craftsman-style houses in the most delightful way. I’m not usually crazy about winter weather but this beats the Joburg heat wave. I’m returning to summer next week.

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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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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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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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Oudtshoorn sunrise

From the Beach to the Desert, Part 2: Oudtshoorn

After spending two days overlooking the beach in Plettenberg Bay (see part 1), our group of lady journalists took a quick hop over the Outeniqua Mountains to spend two days in the desert town of Oudtshoorn. Oudtshoorn is part of the Klein Karoo (or “Little Karoo”), the southeastern border of the Great Karoo, which is the sprawling, semi-desert region that occupies a huge section of central South Africa. I had been to the Garden Route before and I had been to Oudtshoorn before, but I had no idea how close together the two places are. George, the biggest town in the Garden Route and travel hub for the area, is actually closer to Oudtshoorn (just under an hour) than it is to Plettenberg Bay (just over an hour). The stark, windswept scenery in Oudtshoorn was such a sharp contrast to the lush, green coastal views we had in Plettenberg Bay. Visiting the two places together was a really interesting experience. Two Days in Oudtshoorn The first notable part of our trip to Oudtshoorn is the route we drove to get there. The Outeniqua Pass, crossing the mountains via the N12 highway, is one of the prettiest stretches of road in […]

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