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south africa

2Summers business cards front and back

Printing Handmade Business Cards in Joburg

I’ve had a lot of printing in my life lately. My friend Fiver, who has always been an artist, has specialized in fine art printing over the last few years. I’ve spent a lot of time watching her make prints. Then last year I blogged about three different Joburg printers (see here and here and here). I guess it makes sense that I started off 2018 by printing my own business cards. It all started when Fiver offered to make some customized linocut prints to turn into a new header for my blog. The linocuts are finished and the header is still in progress. In the meantime Fiver and I decided to turn the linocuts into business cards and print them using the old-fashioned letterpress printers at ImPRESSed Studios. 2Summers business cards in the making. (Photo: Fiver Löcker) Here’s a quick step-by-step of how we did it. Making 2Summers Linocuts Fiver started by sketching various modes of transport I’ve used in my travels through Joburg and the rest of South Africa. She turned each sketch into a separate lino plate, including edges inspired by South African Shweshwe fabric. After the lino plates were cut, they were ready to be printed. Fiver rolls […]

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Sunrise at O.R. Tambo, one of Joburg's two major airports

Joburg Airports: O.R. Tambo vs. Lanseria

Travelstart asked me to write a blog post about the cheap domestic flights it offers in South Africa. Of course I agreed — blogging assignments are easy when the thing you’re asked to blog about is actually useful. And every traveler in South Africa knows Travelstart is the best place to book domestic travel. The last time I booked a domestic flight — a round trip from Joburg to Cape Town — I used Travelstart. The process was seamless and the fare was, as promised, cheap. I just made one mistake: forgetting to pay attention to which airport I was flying from. I normally fly out of O.R. Tambo, Joburg’s main international airport. But I accidentally booked this flight out of Lanseria. On Travelstart, flights from Lanseria are clearly marked “HLA” and flights from O.R. Tambo are “JNB”. Somehow I missed this. I noticed my error a day or two before the trip and cursed my stupidity. It was a 6:30 a.m. flight and now I would have to drive myself all the way out to Lanseria at 4:30 in the morning. I didn’t even consider Ubering because I figured it would be too expensive. Because Lanseria is so far, I thought. […]

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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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Papy at Urban Zulu

10 Really Cool Jozi Places I Didn’t Blog About in 2017

I blogged about a lot of Jozi places in 2017. But there are also a lot of places I visited but never managed to write up, for one reason or another. Lots of these places are really cool and I don’t want their photos to languish forever in my Lightroom catalog. Also, I want you to visit them. So here is a quick rundown of the 10 best places I never blogged about in 2017. Jozi Places I Should Have Blogged About in 2017 1) Urban Backpackers/Kafe Noir (Joburg CBD) Urban Backpackers is a youth hostel smack in the middle of the Joburg CBD, at 98 Anderson Street. The ground floor of Urban Backpackers is Kafe Noir, a funky coffeeshop. The rooftop is a bar and party venue. Chilling on the rooftop of Urban Backpackers after the Hi-Tec #WalkMyCity event. (Photo: Fiver Löcker) Urban Backpackers is owned by Papy Nakuw, a fashion designer who also owns the Urban Zulu clothing label. Papy is impossibly cool. His design workshop is just across the street. Papy at Urban Backpackers. I like the Urban Backpackers because it’s an unexpected place in an unexpected location. Kafe Noir and the rooftop are generally open to the public but […]

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Heather with bagels

#Gauteng52, Week 52: Bagels and More From Feigel’s

Welcome to Week 52 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 — the final week! — I visit Feigel’s Kosher Delicatessen, with locations in Glenhazel and Lyndhurst. For the last couple of weeks I’d been wracking my brain, trying to think of somewhere special to go for the 52nd week of my #Gauteng52 challenge. I wanted it to be a place in Joburg with an interesting story and some kind of personal significance for me. In a post last week I mentioned the tasty bagel I had for breakfast at the Immigrant, and lamented that bagels are hard to find in Joburg. A reader named Colleen commented and tipped me off to Feigel’s Kosher Delicatessen. The old-school Feigel’s sign outside the shop in Glenhazel. I immediately knew Feigel’s would be my final #Gauteng52 post. Feigel’s sells bagels, of course, and the bagels are delicious. But there’s a lot more to the story. Here’s the short version: Feigel was a Lithuanian girl who moved to South Africa in the 1920s. Years later in 1968, Feigel and her two children, Patsy and Jos, rented a shop on […]

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Shoppers at Crazy Groceries

Shopping for “Best Before” Deals at Crazy Groceries

Several weeks ago I was ranting on Facebook about Black Friday. My friend Josef, also an American living in Joburg (in fact Josef and I grew up in neighboring towns outside Baltimore, Maryland), commented he doesn’t bother with Black Friday because he finds way better deals year-round at Crazy Groceries. Black Friday is a hot Facebook topic, and my rant elicited dozens of comments. But Josef’s caught my attention. “Crazy Groceries?” I asked. “What’s that?” I was in for a treat. Outside Crazy Groceries, in the blandest of bland Joburg shopping centers off Malibongwe Drive in Strijdom Park. Crazy Groceries is, of course, a grocery store. But it stands apart from other grocery stores in that: 1) everything sold there is non-perishable; and 2) most of the products are past their “best before” dates. Best before warnings at Crazy Groceries. As I understand it, “best before” dates are different from “sell by” dates. None of the products at Crazy Groceries are fresh or perishable, hence they can’t actually rot or make you sick just because the best before date has passed. (Incidentally, there is a lot of debate about sell by dates and best before dates and whether they mean […]

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Scala Barber

#Gauteng52, Week 51: Scala Barber, the Oldest Shop in Melville

Welcome to Week 51 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 Scala Barber, which has been doling out men’s haircuts in Melville for nearly half a century. It’s the second-to-last week of #Gauteng52 (I can’t believe it), and as the year winds down I want to include one more spot in my own neighborhood. I’ve walked past Scala Barber countless times over the last seven years, and have been perpetually tempted to go in and chat to the owner. But I always felt intimidated. Barbershops are so…male. A few weeks ago, Marie-Lais agreed to go with me to Scala and introduce me to Fred the barber. He was much less intimidating than I thought. Scala Barber, on 4th Avenue near the corner of 7th Street. I love the scissor pattern in the security gate. Inside Scala Barber Scala stands out from the businesses around it because it is so old-school. It has those real twirly barbershop lights in the windows, although the lights are enclosed in weird plastic boxes. The plastic boxes and the iron security gate at the Scala entrance are […]

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BCUC at the Orbit

A December Staycation in Braamfontein

For the longest time I have been meaning to blog about the Orbit, a jazz club in Braamfontein, and Once in Joburg, a posh hostel — aka “poshtel” — across the street from the Orbit. I’d been holding off on doing so because I wanted to experience the two places together as a downtown Jozi staycation. I finally did that last week, spending the night at Once in Joburg and enjoying an evening at the Orbit watching my favorite Jozi band, BCUC. My staycation was organized by I Am Joburg, a new collective providing curated tourism experiences in Joburg. The lobby at Once in Joburg. My friend Michelle and I checked into Once in Joburg, which is a cross between a backpackers and a hip budget hotel. I’d visited Once a couple of times before but hadn’t stayed overnight until last week. One Night at Once in Joburg I love the vibe of this place — it’s always busy and the staff are welcoming and fun, offering a range of social activities and tours for guests. Once is right in the center of Braamfontein, within a block or two of half a dozen restaurants, several bars, a fabulous bookstore and, of […]

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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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Dumplings served at Chez Fong

A Theatrical Dinner Chez Fong

I recently cracked an invite to dine Chez Fong. Fong, otherwise known as Su-yen, chopping up a storm before the other guests arrive. Fong, aka Su-yen Thornhill, is part South African, part Chinese (via Hong Kong), part chef, part comedian, part yoga guru, and part Energizer Bunny. She runs a restaurant that’s not a restaurant (don’t you dare call it a pop-up), in a dining room attached to her sprawling Houghton home, where she whips up eight courses (maybe ten, if the mood strikes her) of pan-Asian taste bud excitement every Wednesday evening. Some dishes re-occur; others surface once and are never seen again. Spicy soy sauce in progress. Dinner Chez Fong is like a lucky packet of flavors, or a Forest Gump box of (savory) chocolates in which you never know whatchyer gonna get. It’s guaranteed to be delicious though. And you’re firmly guaranteed to laugh a lot. People laughing Chez Fong. Su-yen messaged me on a Tuesday, inviting me to attend her dinner the next night. There wasn’t a seat for me, she said, but I was welcome to come hang out in the kitchen and sample the food as it came out. I accepted without hesitation. People […]

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The Palace at Sun City

Adventures in North West Province: 24 Hours at Sun City

Last month I spent a weekend in Groot Marico, a whacky hippie town in North West Province. Soon after booking the Groot Marico trip, I received an invitation to spend the night at Sun City during the same week. I was really excited. I’d never been to Sun City — which is like a South African Vegas — and had been awaiting an opportunity for years. Since Groot Marico and Sun City are both in North West, I decided to extend my stay in Groot Marico for a day so I could go straight from there to Sun City. If you’ve been to both Groot Marico and Sun City, you’ll appreciate the humor in this arrangement. Groot Marico and Sun City are in the same province but they might as well exist in two different dimensions. “The Palace of the Lost City” at Sun City. I was invited to Sun City to participate in the festivities leading up to the Nedbank Golf Challenge, the biggest pro golf tournament in South Africa. I attended the Nedbank Golf Challenge Welcome Dinner, as well as an event called the Style Affair — a ladies’ morning in which women were invited to lounge around […]

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Lettuce growing at Culinary Table

#Gauteng52, Week 49: Culinary Table in Lanseria

Welcome to Week 49 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 Culinary Table in Lanseria. It’s a lesser known fact that Johannesburg has not one, but two major airports. O.R. Tambo International Airport, the huge one everyone knows about, is about 30 kilometers east of central Joburg, give or take. I’ve always considered Lanseria International Airport, the smaller of the two, to be much further away. Hence I never went there. But a few months ago, when I accidentally booked a flight out of Lanseria instead of O.R. Tambo, I realized Lanseria is virtually the exact same distance (33 km) from my house. It’s also a considerably more pleasant drive. Best of all, I’ve just discovered there’s an amazing restaurant virtually next door to Lanseria airport: The Culinary Table. The kitchen garden at the Culinary Table. The restaurant is in the background. The Culinary Table has an interesting story. The restaurant is attached to the Culinary Equipment Company, a large warehouse and showroom just off Route 512. Chef Daniela Gutstadt’s family owns the Culinary Equipment Company, and Daniela initially started out […]

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