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south africa

Zietsies dining room at night

A Beautiful Place to Eat and Sleep in Auckland Park

People are always asking me for recommendations on places to stay in Joburg, and I never know what to say because in Joburg I tend to sleep in my own house. But here’s a place I can recommend for sure: Zietsies Guest House, which is technically in Auckland Park but I call it Brixton. View from the porch at Zietsies. I’d been hearing about Zietsies over the years and had done a one or two pickup/drop-offs of friends who stayed there. Technically Zietsies is in the suburb of Auckland Park, but it’s on Brixton Ridge just across from the Sentech Tower. I heard Zietsies had an amazing view of Melville and the northern suburbs, and that while it’s primarily a guesthouse you can also have dinner there upon prior arrangement. Then a few weeks ago I met Elzabé, Zietsies’ owner, while having coffee at Breezeblock, and she invited me for dinner. I asked if I could bring my mom and nice-guy-Kevin along and she said yes. Two weeks later we were there. Dinner at Zietsies I feel that my photos do a very poor job of conveying the atmosphere at Zietsies, especially at night. But just imagine a house perched […]

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blowtorched cocktail at Mooteebar in Melville

Avant-garde Cocktails at Melville’s Mooteebar

My mom came to South Africa and we spent two weeks traveling around the country doing fabulous things and it was amazing and I didn’t blog the whole time she was here. I think this is the first time in eight years that I’ve gone two weeks without posting, and now I have a huge backlog and I feel totally overwhelmed and I’m finding it hard to start. So before I dive into all the mother-daughter activities here is a quick post about Mooteebar. Outside Mooteebar on a very cold evening in Melville. You might recognize the building as the former home of Café Mexicho, Melville’s now-defunct mediocre Mexican dive.  Mooteebar needs a place in this blog because: a) It’s in Melville; and b) It’s the most unique and innovative bar in Johannesburg. If you are remotely interested cocktails, no matter where you live in this city, you need to give Mooteebar a try. You will either love it or you will hate it — there are few in-betweens when it comes to opinions on this place. But Mooteebar is worth a trip either way. Cocktails at Mooteebar Inside Mooteebar. The bar also has a lovely outdoor courtyard and roof deck, but […]

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Bread from Croydon Bakery

This Is the East: Croydon Bakery

Welcome to an occasional blog series called “This Is the East”, featuring hidden spots on Johannesburg’s East Rand. First up: the Croydon Bakery. Some background: A few weeks ago, a nice guy named Kevin presented me with a takeaway container of peri peri chicken livers from O’ Peri Peri in Edenvale. I had been expecting a small portion — maybe four or five livers — with some sauce and a few chips (fries) on the side. Instead I received: 1) A plastic tub the size of an unabridged dictionary containing the livers of at least a dozen chickens swimming in half a gallon of sauce; 2) A large bag of “slap chips” (South African term for soggy french fries — oddly delicious) too big for me to hold in one hand; and 3) two large rolls combining to the size of a small baguette. All for R70 (about $5). I stared at the pile of food. “How will I eat even HALF of this?!” I cried. Kevin cocked his head, spread his hands wide, and said: “This is the East.” If you’re from Joburg then you know what he meant. If not, let me explain. “The East” is the East Rand, aka Ekurhuleni, […]

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Jackal in Dinokeng

A Quick Visit to the Dinokeng Game Reserve

I recently went to the Dinokeng Game Reserve for a quick, one-night media visit. Dinokeng opened officially in 2011 — pieced together from a bunch of private farms — and is the only free-roaming Big 5 game reserve in Gauteng province. (The Big 5 are lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo, and rhino.) Sunset in Dinokeng Game Reserve. The most remarkable thing about Dinokeng — which means “place of rivers” in Tswana — is how close it is to Gauteng’s main city centers. It’s less than 90 minutes from central Joburg and less than 30 minutes (even as few as 15-20) from Pretoria. People are always asking me to suggest quick weekend getaways from Joburg; Dinokeng is one. One Night in Dinokeng Chris Pieterse, our guide for the Dinokeng media visit, owns the Chameleon Bush Lodge. My colleague Marie-Lais and I loved our night at the Chameleon and found ourselves wishing we could stay longer. Fun branding for the Chameleon Bush Lodge. Marie-Lais’ room — each has a different color scheme, mimicking the changing colors of a chameleon. Dinokeng is still new and doesn’t yet have the established feel of a park like the Kruger or even the Pilanesberg. While we had quite […]

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Hot air ballooning at Bill Harrops

Hot Air Ballooning Over South Africa

I have a terrible cold, my second in a month. (How is this even possible?) The last thing I felt like doing this morning was waking up at 4:30 a.m. and driving more than an hour through the cold winter darkness. I did that anyway though, because one can’t pass up a chance to go hot air ballooning through the Magaliesburg Mountains at sunrise. This week the South African National Hot Air Balloon Championships are happening at Bill Harrop’s Original Balloon Safaris in Skeerpoort, near Magaliesburg. I was invited as part of a media contingent to photograph part of the competition — from the vantage point of our own media balloon. Balloons prepare for the air at the start of this morning’s competition. I took a Bill Harrop’s balloon safari once before and blogged about it. I won’t repeat myself now, other than to reiterate that taking a balloon ride over the Magaliesburg is one of the coolest tourism experiences in this area. It’s worth the price — around R2000-R2500, or $150-$185, depending on the package. Anyway, today I just want to show you this morning’s pictures. Up in the Air at Bill Harrop’s Waiting for the balloons to inflate […]

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Johanna and Sunday in their food truck

A Tour of Johannesburg Food Trucks

Lonely Planet recently asked me to do some research about Jozi food trucks for a book about food trucks in different cities around the world. Dream assignment! Once I started investigating the Joburg food truck scene, I realized they’re everywhere and there are all different kinds. There are the hipster food trucks, brightly painted with clever branding and usually selling some kind of ethnic food with a twist. There are the basic South African food trucks — which are technically trailers, not trucks — usually plain white, selling down-home South African staples at rock-bottom prices. Then there are the trucks that fall somewhere in between. A collection of what I call “hipster food trucks” at the Hoods in Sandton. Tselane’s Kitchen, a traditional South African food trailer in Midrand. This post is by no means comprehensive. But here is a selection of delicious Jozi food trucks I’ve come across in my recent travels. Note some of these trucks move around so you might not find them in the same places I did. Hangry Chef: South African/Indian cuisine (Joburg CBD and elsewhere) I discovered the Hangry Chef, which at the time was called the Chilli Chef, in the parking lot next […]

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Andrew, owner of Sumting Fresh

June Restaurant of the Month: Sumting Fresh

I can describe Sumting Fresh in one (not so) simple word: South-African-Asian-American-fried-chicken-street-food. Sumting Fresh, on Grant Avenue in Norwood. Inside Sumting Fresh. Really though, Sumting Fresh is hard to explain. It was once a food trailer in Midrand, then became a food truck, then a full-on food party bus feeding thousands of festival-goers, then a brick-and-morter restaurant in Norwood. (Also, the food bus is still going strong today.) Sumting Fresh serves creative and sophisticated cuisine in a casual, fun, almost-fast-food environment. Sumting Fresh doesn’t fit into any particular genre. It’s just delicious. What is Sumting Fresh? The magic of Sumting Fresh can be summed up through its signature dish, Gujon Chicken. Here’s the Gujon Chicken description from the Sumting Fresh menu: “crumbed deep fried chicken strips / asian slaw / aioli / sweet chilli / parmesan / fries / watermelon”. It’s a crazy combination of ingredients served in a big, cheese-covered, deep-fried pile that I wasn’t quite sure what to do with at first. But I was enchanted by the first bite. I didn’t stop eating until I was way too full, even though I hadn’t even come close to the bottom of the dish yet. I asked co-owner/chef Andrew Leeuw — […]

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Downtown Joburg from 120 End Street

On Top of Joburg at 120 End Street

Nothing beats watching the sunset from a Joburg rooftop. Looking down at the crazy evening traffic from the roof of 120 End Street. On Sunday evening, Mark Straw from the Joburg Photowalkers organized a rooftop mission for all of the photographers who contributed their pictures to the recent #JoziWalks weekend. We drove together to 120 End Street, a 26-story residential building in the middle of the CBD, and spent the evening taking pictures there. 120 End Street (center) shot a few months ago from the roof of August House. I’ve always been curious about the view from the top of this building.  On the roof at 120 End. Another Take on the Joburg Skyline I’ve said this a million times before, but Joburg’s skyline is its best asset and I never get sick of looking at it from various angles and heights. Every rooftop provides its own unique interpretation of the city. 120 End Street has a particularly interesting view of Hillbrow and the most chaotic section of the city centre, between Ellis Park and the Noord Street taxi rank. Someone on Instagram asked me which street is in the middle of this frame. I’m pretty sure it’s De Villiers […]

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Pantsula dance group in Orange Farm

Jaw-Dropping South African Dance in Orange Farm

On Saturday and Sunday I participated in the 2018 #JoziWalks weekend. Sponsored by the Johannesburg Development Agency, #JoziWalks invites people/groups from all over Joburg to organize walking tours in their communities. (Read about last year’s #JoziWalks.) On Saturday I joined the walk through Orange Farm, led by the InTouch Youth Development group. The start of our walk through Orange Farm. Photographer Hymie (left) walks with one of the hosts from Orange Farm. Cute kids who demanded a photograph. Orange Farm onlooker. Orange Farm is a township founded in 1988. It’s an hour’s drive south of downtown Joburg — a perfect illustration of the spacial segregation of apartheid. There are very few jobs in Orange Farm so virtually everyone (I mean everyone able to find a job, which isn’t easy) living there has to make the long, costly commute to Joburg for work. I was excited for this walk as I’d never been to Orange Farm before. It was really interesting seeing a new place, and I was particularly blown away by the dancing. Dancing in Orange Farm We watched three dance groups perform: a Tswana dance group called Jascho, a Pantsula group called Killers Entertainment, and a Zulu dance group […]

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Lascaux rock art painting at Sci-Bono

The Wonders of Rock Art: Now at Sci-Bono

The Sci-Bono Discovery Centre is a science museum in Newtown, in the middle of the Joburg CBD. The museum is housed in a cavernous, 110-year-old former electrical workshop. Somehow I’ve never blogged about it before but last week I received a perfect opportunity when I was invited to the launch of Sci-Bono’s “Wonders of Rock Art: Lascaux Cave and Africa” exhibition. The Sci-Bono Discovery Centre during the opening of the Wonders of Rock Art exhibition. The Wonders of Rock Art The Wonders of Rock Art is a collaboration between Sci-Bono, Wits University, the French Embassy in South Africa, and the French Institute of South Africa. There is a lot going on in this exhibition and I can’t begin to explain it all. But in short, there is a life-sized reproduction of France’s Lascaux Cave, which has been nicknamed “the Sistine Chapel of Prehistory”. The Lascaux Cave was discovered in 1940 (by a bunch of teenagers chasing a dog) and is filled with one of the world’s most stunning displays of prehistoric rock art. A reproduction of Lascaux’s “Panel of the Black Cow”. The reproduction was painstakingly created using the same materials the original Cro-Magnon artists used 17,000 years ago. Reproducing the reproduction. […]

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Outside Toninos in Orange Grove

May Restaurant of the Month: Tonino’s

Tonino’s has been on my hit list forever. Tonino’s: Is it a sports pub? A blues venue? A casino? A Portuguese restaurant? A pizza take-away? Yes. All of that. I first noticed Tonino’s a few years ago during a visit to the fabulous Kalahari Books, which is across the street. The restaurant caught my eye immediately with its bright yellow facade. I made a mental note to check it out sometime, then forgot about it. Then last month I saw this article in Hello Joburg magazine about Jozi’s top five dive bars, and Tonino’s made the list. I also noticed the restaurant has a buy-one-get-one-free deal on the Entertainer app. (Side note: The Entertainer app is awesome. Here is a post I wrote about it a few years ago.) The universe seemed to be telling me I should go have fun at Tonino’s. So I did that. Having Fun at Tonino’s I first visited Tonino’s on a Friday night with a group of friends. I’m really not much of a bar fly normally, but I loved this place the moment I stepped through the door. The walls are full of character, decorated with interesting pictures and neon signs and old-school […]

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people walking in 27 Boxes park

10 Places to Visit in Melville’s 27 Boxes

27 Boxes is a retail center made out of shipping containers on 4th Avenue in Melville. The beautiful new children’s play area outside 27 Boxes. I recently wrote a story about 27 Boxes for the Different, which goes into the interesting history of the center and of Faan Smit Park, the Joburg City park that used to be where 27 Boxes is now. So I won’t go into that in this post. I just want to tell you that 27 Boxes has become one of the best places to hang out in Melville. The center didn’t get off to a great start when it opened in 2015; lots of the shops sat empty and Melville residents grumbled that the whole place was an eyesore and would soon go under and close. But new management took over 27 Boxes last year and started fixing everything up. New shop tenants have moved in, and the outside of the center was completely overhauled. It looks fantastic. I go to 27 Boxes all the time and I think everyone else should too. If you want an idea of what to do there, here are 10 of my top recommendations. Ten Great Places in 27 Boxes […]

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