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sandtonplaces

Sunset From the Office of a Sandton Diamond Dealer (and some exciting news)

Yesterday evening, as one does, I found myself in the posh office of a Sandton City diamond dealer with four lively ladies from New York City. I’m not much interested in diamonds, although I was intrigued by the tanzanite and semiprecious stones. I’m still thinking about a pair of purple-gold amethysts that I saw, toying with the idea of an early birthday present to myself. But I digress. As the lively ladies from New York City inspected the diamonds with discerning eyes, I wandered out onto the balcony and watched the sunset. It was pretty. Sunset from the balcony of Bryna the diamond dealer, adjacent to Sandton City Mall and just across from the Michelangelo Hotel. See the pigeon on the ledge? This photo reminded me of some news: SandtonPlaces, the book I co-authored with Gerald Garner and Brian Unsted, is about to be published. The book will hit store shelves in Joburg during the last week of June. Excitement. There will be two public launch events for the book: 1) Wednesday 2 July, 6:30 p.m., at Exclusive Books in Sandton. 2) Tuesday 29 July, 7:00 p.m., at Skoobs in Montecasino (Fourways). If you want to buy a book and have it signed by […]

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Joburg’s Best Bunny Chow

The bunny chow is a hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with curry. Invented by South Africa’s ethnic Indian community and traditionally eaten without a knife and fork, bunny chows are one of this country’s best-kept culinary secrets. I ate my first bunny chow nearly four years ago, a week or two after moving here. The photographic evidence is comical — see pictures here. (Neela’s, the Melville restaurant that I wrote about in that post, has since closed.) Bunny chows are a local specialty in Durban and some hard-core enthusiasts refuse to eat them anywhere else. I have eaten a few Durban bunnies (I’ll tell you about my most recent one in a future post) and they are indeed beyond compare. But there is a legendary Sandton dive, Curry-n-All, which is known to be the best place in Joburg to order a bunny chow. I went last week to see for myself. A mutton curry bunny chow from Curry-n-All. Take plenty of napkins — you’ll need them. Curry-n-All used to be located in a petrol station at the corner of Katherine Street and Grayston Drive. But my friend Louise and I showed up there and found the station boarded up. Fortunately there was a big sign notifying us of […]

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A Slice of Istanbul in Midrand

Seventh in my series of Sandton Snapshot posts, leading up to the publication of SandtonPlaces. Browse all of the Sandton Snapshot posts. Just off the M1 highway in Midrand, four minarets stretch into the sky behind the Dis-Chem warehouse. If you’ve traveled that stretch of road you have undoubtedly seen these minarets and wondered what the deal is. Perhaps you did some research and discovered that the minarets belong to a huge Turkish mosque, called the Nizamiye Mosque, and made a mental note to check it out. You probably haven’t gone yet. Unless you live in Midrand the mosque is a bit of a drive, and the idea of visiting a mosque might seem daunting if you don’t know much about Islam. Am I right? I was much the same, until a few weeks ago when I finally went to the mosque to write about it for the SandtonPlaces book. I enjoyed it so much that I went back for a second visit. And I still haven’t had enough. The Nizamiye Mosque. I knew about the mosque before it was even completed in early 2012, mainly because I have lots of photographer friends and this is one of the most photogenic buildings around. I’d seen photos of the mosque on Facebook and […]

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Vegan Food That Every South African Will Love

Sixth in my series of Sandton Snapshot posts, leading up to the publication of SandtonPlaces. Browse all of the Sandton Snapshot posts. South Africans like meat. In my experience this stereotype generally applies across races, genders, colors and creeds. Hence, quality vegetarian cuisine is scarce in South Africa and the vegetarian restaurants that do exist tend to remain best-kept secrets. I myself am not a vegetarian. I don’t eat tons of meat but I’m not willing to give up the occasional burger, chicken leg, or chorizo-laced pizza. But I do enjoy vegetarian food and I’m dismayed that it took me nearly four years to discover the best vegetarian restaurant in South Africa. It’s more than vegetarian, in fact — it’s vegan. That means no meat, no eggs, no dairy. It’s also mostly “raw”, meaning the majority of the food is uncooked or minimally cooked. The restaurant I speak of is the Leafy Greens Café. Yummy food at Leafy Greens Café. Don’t ask me what it is. All I know is that there’s no meat in it and it’s good.  The first time I went for a meal at Casalinga, an acclaimed Italian restaurant on an organic farm in Joburg’s far-northern suburb of Muldersdrift, I didn’t even […]

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Jozi’s Sunday Market Shuffle

Fifth in my series of Sandton Snapshot posts, leading up to the publication of SandtonPlaces. Read posts 1, 2, 3 and 4. For years, the weekly flea market at the top of the Rosebank Mall parking garage — the Rosebank B&B Market — was a go-to Sunday afternoon outing for Joburg families. The market was the only one of its kind in Joburg and had hundreds of stalls selling crafts, antiques, food, and countless other locally made products. I never got around to checking out the Rosebank B&B Market. I kept putting it off because I figured it would always be there. Until, suddenly, it wasn’t.

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Charged by a Dassie in Fourways

Fourth in my series of Sandton Snapshot posts, leading up to the publication of SandtonPlaces. Read posts 1, 2 and 3. This past weekend I went to Fourways, the northernmost Joburg suburb. I know what you Jozi city folk are thinking: Fourways is a sprawling, traffic-choked suburban wasteland and I wouldn’t go there if you paid me. I know many of you are thinking that, because I used to think it myself. Until someone actually did pay me to go to Fourways. So I went. And I discovered interesting things. Sure, Fourways has traffic and gated communities and Montecasino. But Fourways also has chubby, slightly evil-looking dassies, living in the wild. (Dassies are kind of like prairie dogs. But bigger.)

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The Coolest Coffee Shop You’ve Never Heard Of

Third in my series of Sandton Snapshot posts, leading up to the publication of SandtonPlaces. Read posts 1 and 2. I’m seriously behind in blogging and it’s starting to freak me out — so many stories to tell and not enough time to tell them. I have great stories and photos from Swaziland, the Free State, and even from my Port Elizabeth trip (which was more than three months ago), not to mention tons of Melville stuff. The list keeps getting longer and I’m continually bumping older stories in favor of breaking-news, like the publication of Johannesburg in Your Pocket or my rescue of the Hillbrow kitten. Anyway, blogging woes aside, I can’t let this week come to an end without a quick Sandton Snapshot. Today’s Sandton Snapshot is the Bean Republic.

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Sandton Field and Study Centre: Boring Name, Beautiful Park

Second in my series of Sandton Snapshot posts. While reading my recent post about the impending publication of SandtonPlaces, you may have wondered where the photo on the mock cover of the book — a shot of a dog playing in a river — was taken. A good friend of mine from Sandton, who lives and works a couple of kilometres from where I encountered that cute doggie, looked at the mock cover recently and asked me, “What does this have to do with Sandton?” Haha. Prepare to be enlightened. The photo was taken at the Sandton Field and Study Centre, a park that borders William Nicol Drive to the west and the Sandton suburb of Parkmore to the east. The Braamfontein Spruit, one of Joburg’s main waterways, runs right through it.

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Sandton Snapshot: Sundowners at Higher Ground

UPDATE: SandtonPlaces was published in June 2014 and is now available in bookstores around Johannesburg. For more information contact Gerald Garner at gerald@joburgplaces.com. You know that book about Sandton that I’ve been working on? It’s going to be published. Soon. I’ve been working on this project for months. At some point along the line, I think I forgot that at the end of it all there would be an actual book with my name on the cover (along with the names of my two co-authors, Gerald Garner and Brian Unsted), and my writing and photos inside. Then, Gerald sent me this:

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“Researching” Burgers and Shirtless Men

Warning: This blog post is rated PG-13. Children under 13 must be accompanied by a parent. Last Saturday night I spent the evening at Beefcakes, a burger bar in Illovo. A burger bar with nightly drag shows and hot, minimally dressed waiters. The “boys” (and one girl) of Beefcakes. The guy in the middle, Simon, was my waiter.  Lucky me. (Simon, by the way, is a law student and part-time power-lifter.)

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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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24 Storeys Above Sandton City

Yesterday I went to the roof of the Sandton City Office Tower to take photos for the SandtonPlaces book. Those of you familiar with Joburg know the building I’m talking about — the office block in the middle of Sandton City mall with the pyramid-shaped cap on top. This is what the cap looks like from underneath. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of the building from below, but they are easy to find on Google. The Sandton City Office Tower has 21 floors labeled in the elevator, but is actually a few storeys taller than that.

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