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travel

Coffee machine at third space

My Favorite Jozi Coffeeshops: Thirdspace

In a continuation of an occasional series on my favorite new Jozi coffeeshops, I bring you Thirdspace in Fourways. Yes, Thirdspace is in Fourways, which means yes, it’s in a strip mall and opens out onto a parking lot. Trust me though — this is a strip mall coffeeshop worth visiting. Fourways, as I’ve written in a previous post, is a far-northern Jozi suburb known for its abundant shopping malls and traffic congestion. Navigating Fourways can be frustrating and leave one longing for an escape — a secret oasis off the road with comfortable chairs, good coffee, sandwiches, and free wifi. Thirdspace is just such an oasis. The sexy espresso machine at Thirdspace. Coffee + Work at Thirdspace In addition to being a coffeeshop, Thirdspace is also a coffee roastery and a co-working space. This place is extremely popular among freelancers, because it’s free and people are welcome — in fact they’re encouraged — to stay as long as they please. So if you want to spend the day working there I suggest you arrive early to snag a table. (They’re open from 6:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.) Freelancers hard at work. Werk werk werk. I went to Thirdspace to do […]

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Skateboarding tour in front go graffiti

Skateboarding Across Jozi

I consider myself a connoisseur of Joburg walking tours. When I found out there is a skateboarding tour of Joburg, I obviously had to try it. From left to right: Ayanda, Tiffanie, Marie-Lais, and Tshepo during our City Skate Tour, in front of a graffiti piece by Tapz. I somehow made it through more than four decades of life without riding a skateboard. How different could it be from walking? I thought. Quite different, as it turns out. Standing on a four-wheeled piece of wood, sailing downhill, is nothing like walking at all — it’s both far more exhilarating and far more terrifying. I’m really glad I did the tour but the next time I’m going to spend less time taking pictures and more time actually learning how to skateboard. Let’s just say I still have a long way to go. Skateboarding with City Skate Tours Marie-Lais and I met our guides from City Skate Tours, Ayanda Mnandu and Tshepo Tsotsotso, and fellow tourist Tiffanie at Curiocity Backpackers in Maboneng. We spent a half hour or so learning skateboarding basics on the hill in front of Curiocity. Ayanda and Tshepo are great teachers. After many tries, I felt like I was […]

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Bergbron Plaaskombuis breakfast

March Restaurant of the Month: Bergbron Plaaskombuis

Afrikaans is a crazy language, with super-long words filled with many vowels, guttural g’s, and rolling r’s requiring acrobatic tongue movements. Afrikaans food words are no exception; they are delightful and I have no idea what they mean or how to pronounce them. Such were my thoughts as I pondered the menu at Bergbron Plaaskombuis. Bergbron Plaaskombuis. “Plaaskombuis” means farm kitchen. “Plaas” is farm and “kombuis” is kitchen and the two words are combined together into one long word, as often happens in Afrikaans. “Kwekery” means nursery. What is tuisgebakte and how on earth do I say it? What about boepensbroodjie, roosterbrode, sonop jaffel, vaaljapie? Skilpadjies? The menu at Bergbron Plaaskombuis, which the server delivered with a tiny tin cup of homemade ginger beer.  Bergbron (another inscrutable Afrikaans word) is a western Jozi suburb, adjacent to Northcliff, Greymont, and Florida Glen. I was excited to discover an interesting restaurant there (thanks to Gail for the tip), as I find the sprawling West Rand suburbs difficult to penetrate from a “things to do” perspective. The Plaaskombuis is definitely something worth doing. Breakfast at Bergbron Plaaskombuis Marie-Lais and I went to the Plaaskombuis on a cold, rainy Friday morning. The restaurant sits on the property […]

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Shanana Malawi boat

Hi from Malawi

Malawi. I type the word and stare at it, say it over and over in my head. I google Malawi and get this from Wikipedia: The name Malawi is thought to derive from the word Maravi. The people of the Maravi Empire were iron workers. Maravi is thought to mean “Flames” and may have come from the sight of many kilns lighting up the night sky. The Shanana Malawi, docked at an island in Lake Malawi. I spent ten days in Malawi. On the ninth day, sitting in the beach bar at Fat Monkeys Lodge in Cape Maclear, eating a chicken mayo sandwich and staring out at the lake, I began mentally composing a blog post. As I was doing that, I started to cry and had to quickly wipe the tears away when a guy in the bar walked up and asked if I knew where to find an ATM. (I didn’t.) I wish I’d gone to my room right then and written the post. Now that I’m back in Joburg it seems kind of melodramatic and I’ve been stalling on blogging for three days now, because I need to write this before I can move on to anything […]

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Yield coffees and sandwiches

My Favorite Jozi Coffeeshops: Yield Coffee Bar

It’s been a couple of years since I wrote my top five Jozi coffeeshops post. All the places mentioned in that post are still great. But I’ve discovered several good new coffeeshops lately so I thought I’d do a series of short posts about them. First up: Yield Coffee Bar. Yield is in Linden, which has always been one of my favorite Jozi suburbs for eating out. I didn’t discover Yield right away because it’s a block away from Linden’s big cluster of restaurants along 7th Street and 4th Avenue — at the corner of 6th Street and 3rd Avenue. Looking in on Yield Coffee Bar. Inside Yield. Yield is a tiny, simple little place. It serves delicious coffee — the beans come from Urban Grind Roasters, which I wrote about in my top five coffeeshops post — and sandwiches. I met a friend there for lunch and we had iced coffees and salami and cheese paninis. Good iced coffee is hard to find in this town (although it’s starting to get easier, thank god) and Yield serves a good one. Iced coffee and sandwiches. Note the biodegradable cardboard straws. I wish every restaurant would do away with crappy plastic straws and start […]

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Pizza and beer at Impi Brewing Company

February Restaurant of the Month: Impi Brewing Co. in Lorentzville

It’s time for the second installment of my 2018 Restaurant of the Month series. This month I’m featuring the Impi Brewing Co. in Lorentzville. I almost hesitate to call Impi a restaurant, as it’s really more of a hangout. But Impi has such a cool atmosphere, in such an interesting Joburg location, that I feel compelled to include it in this series. Outside Impi Brewing Co. Impi means “war” in Zulu. Impi is in the new Victoria Yards complex, in the tiny suburb of Lorentzville, which is between Bertrams and Troyeville. My friend Gail just wrote an interesting post about Lorentzville, which I recommend. Lorentzville is also home to the legendary Fama Deli. The first cool thing about Impi is it’s in Victoria Yards, this sprawling warren of artists’ studios and gardens and galleries and workshops that just opened a few months ago. (I briefly mentioned Victoria Yards in a post last month.) The second cool thing is the decor: It’s a tiny place filled with an eclectic mix of Zulu art/artifacts, modern industrial furnishings, and quirky antiques. Inside Impi Brewing Co. with owners Nico (left) and Tsietsi (right), and bartender Kgomotso (middle). I love the headdresses on the wall behind them. The […]

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Gerakaris winery in Craighall Park

A Winery in Joburg!

There’s a new winery in Joburg called Gerakaris Family Wines. This is a big deal (hence my use of a rare exclamation point). Let me explain why. South Africa is heaven for wine-drinkers. I rave about it all the time to my American friends. South African wine is as good or better than wine anywhere else in the world, and ridiculously affordable. Also drinking wine in South Africa is a particularly enjoyable activity. We’ve got the right weather and the right scenery and it’s all just perfect. But South Africa’s wine culture is in Cape Town and the surrounding areas of the Western Cape province. No one comes to Joburg for wine. The climate here isn’t right for grapes and it’s next to impossible to buy decent wine by the glass in this town. Up until now, as far as I have been able to determine, there were no wineries in Joburg open to the public. That changed a couple of weeks ago when Gerakaris opened for business on a quaint little property in Craighall Park. Gerakaris Family Wines. Gerakaris is not an actual wine estate, meaning it doesn’t grow its own grapes. But that doesn’t mean the wine isn’t […]

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The Steyn garden and dog

The Magical Bonsai Trees of Randfontein

A couple of months ago my friend Ang went to a bonsai tree nursery outside of Joburg. The nursery has thousands of bonsai trees and it’s called Bonsai Magic. Naturally, I saw Ang’s Instagram post and went to Bonsai Magic myself about three days later. Bonsai, as I’m sure you know, is a Japanese art form that involves growing and sculpting tiny trees. I vaguely remember buying a bonsai tree at the mall with my allowance when I was about 12, probably inspired by Mr. Miyagi of the Karate Kid, and promptly killing it. (I’m sure there are others among you who did the same.) I hadn’t thought much about bonsai trees since those Karate Kid days. Until I went to Bonsai Magic. Rows and rows of bonsai. I’ve just realized I really love that word. BONSAI! Bonsai Magic is owned and run Kathy Steyn, who I understand is one of the top bonsai artists in South Africa. Kathy and her husband have a lovely house with a beautiful garden (the nursery is on the property), lots of chubby dogs, and a gaggle of exotic ducks and swans. The Steyn garden and dog. And lots of bonsai. Black swans. The Steyns are currently […]

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Culture section of National Museum of African American History

From Africa to America: The National Museum of African American History and Culture

I’ve just returned to Joburg after two weeks in the United States. I spent most of the trip trying to stay warm (this was my first dose of American East Coast winter since 2010), running errands, and spending time with family and close friends. I didn’t have much time for cultural pursuits, but I did achieve one major Washington D.C. tourism goal — a visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. The National Museum of African American History and Culture (I’ll call it the African American Museum for short), located prominently on Constitution Avenue right beside the Washington Monument. The museum opened in September 2016. Read more about the museum’s award-winning architecture here. I feel it’s important for me to write a post about this museum, as it links the two halves of my life together in a couple of ways. First, the African American Museum was designed by acclaimed British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye, who also designed the Hallmark House building in downtown Johannesburg. I stood in the same room with David at the Hallmark House media launch a few years ago but was too shy to talk to him. I regret that now, as I’d like […]

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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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