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 […]
Last month Ray and I were invited to enjoy dinner, bed, and breakfast at the Clico Boutique Hotel in Rosebank. I jumped at the chance. People are always asking me for Joburg hotel recommendations, but I rarely have much to offer because who spends the night at hotels in their own city? I was also eager to try Clico’s restaurant as I’d heard good things. My birthday was in July so I decided to schedule our visit on that day, and Clico turned out to be a great place for a sumptuous birthday feast. Dinner at Clico. The garden and pool area at Clico Boutique Hotel. What I liked about Clico: 1) The location. Clico is in Rosebank, just a couple of blocks from the Gautrain station and across the street from the Keyes Art Mile. 2) The service. The reception staff, wait staff, and everyone working at Clico were particularly outgoing and friendly. I offered some feedback after my stay via email, and the Clico management responded immediately in a positive and proactive manner. 3) The wifi. Clico has free, unlimited wifi with a simple password and no silly vouchers or megabyte limits. WHY DOESN’T EVERY HOTEL DO THIS? 4) The […]
My last Stellenblog post was about all the non-drinking things to do in Stellenbosch. I wrote that post for a couple of reasons: 1) I thought it would be useful for non-drinkers visiting Stellenbosch; and 2) I figured it would ease my conscience to write a post about non-drinking Stellenbosch activities before writing this post, which will be all about the delicious wine and other alcohol I drank in Stellenbosch. A beautiful wall of wine at Love Wine Studio in downtown Stellenbosch. A glass of white from Lanzerac. I don’t have a sophisticated wine palette; I’m one of those “I like this/I don’t like that” kind of wine people. (Usually I like it.) But there’s one thing I do know: South African wine is damn good and affordable. If you like wine and want to take a wine-oriented vacation, there is no better place in the world to go than Stellenbosch. Things I Learned About Wine in Stellenbosch I drank a lot of different wine in Stellenbosch, and as I said my palette isn’t sophisticated. I won’t wax on for hours about the different varietals I tasted and what their bouquets were. But there are a couple of trends I’d […]
Let me clarify that I am not a non-drinker. I’m no party animal, but I do enjoy a glass of wine. So I was ecstatic to be invited to participate in #Stellenblog, a blogging campaign in Stellenbosch. There were some non-drinkers in our group, and at the start of the trip I wondered how much fun they would have hanging out for a week in the wine-drinking capital of South Africa. At the end of the week, when I looked through all my Stellenbosch photos, I found they told an unexpected story. There was lots of wine-drinking, to be sure. But the most memorable activities of the week had nothing to do with wine, or any alcohol for that matter. Alcohol-free Stellenbosch So I decided to put together a little guide for non-drinkers. If you don’t like wine, or don’t drink at all, here’s a list of activities to keep you busy on a multi-day visit to Stellenbosch. 1) Take a Segway Tour Back when I lived in Washington D.C., I used to watch group Segway tours glide past and silently make fun of them. I should have known that someday my own Segway time would come. Laugh silently if […]
I recently received an invitation to participate in a blogging campaign called #Stellenblog. #Stellenblog is an annual weeklong event in which bloggers/social media influencers from around South Africa and the world go to Stellenbosch — a university town outside Cape Town that is the center of South Africa’s wine industry — and hang around eating/drinking/having fun. The #Stellenblog crew, clockwise from top left: Fhatuwani, Trudy, Samuel (doing his best to hide), Lauren, Becki, Vuyo, me, and Audrey. Not shown: Ongama, Dawid, and Mark. Sounds like a tough job, right? Okay, I lie. Drinking/eating/having fun is not tough at all, especially not in Stellenbosch. If you go to Stellenbosch, on someone else’s dime, and don’t drink/eat/fun yourself to within an inch of your life, then there is probably something seriously wrong with you. Like maybe you don’t have taste buds. Or your heart is made of stone. So last week wasn’t hard. But the hard part of this job comes now, as I wade through more than 3000 photos and try to figure out how to tell the story of #Stellenblog. I will start with the view. Stellenbosch is drop-dead gorgeous, especially in the fall when the grape vines and grass and leaves […]
As mentioned previously, I spent 72 hours in Soweto as part of a campaign promoting the Soweto Wine Festival. It was an epic journey. Before this trip I thought I knew Soweto, kind of. I’d been there a lot, doing a lot of different things. But #72HrsSoweto held many surprises. Almost everything we did over the course of the weekend was new (or at least partially new) to me. Here are ten new things I did during our #72hrsSoweto weekend. 1) The Soweto Hotel The Soweto Hotel, the only 4-star hotel in Soweto, is on Walter Sisulu Square in Kliptown. If this hotel were anywhere else it would feel like any Holiday Inn. But the Soweto Hotel’s location makes it special. Kliptown is the oldest and most historic township in Soweto, and still one of the most disadvantaged. There’s a bustling market right below the hotel that provides excellent people-watching, as well as a monument and museum honoring the Freedom Charter. Staying there is an experience. My room at the Soweto Hotel. Sunset over Kliptown, from my balcony at the Soweto Hotel. 2) The Soweto Wine Festival I’d been hearing about the Soweto Wine Festival for years, but it had never occurred to me to go because […]
Like many newcomers, Vilakazi Street in Soweto was the first real tourist attraction I visited upon moving to Joburg. Here is the blog post I wrote about that visit, just a week after I arrived. (I’m a little embarrassed by the pictures and the words — I’ve come a long way since then.) Soweto — which is technically part of Joburg but really a city-state unto itself — is a legendary place, with a population larger than many small countries and a larger-then-life history to match. I live 20 minutes from Soweto and have been there many times over the years. I’ve done walking and cycling tours in Soweto. I’ve gone to concerts and art exhibitions in Soweto. I’ve participated in numerous instawalks in Soweto. I’ve done photography jobs and charity events, run races, and visited doll factories in Soweto. But I’ve never spent the night. So when I received an invite to be part of a social media campaign for the Soweto Wine Festival, I jumped on board. The festival is this weekend and I’ll be spending three full days sipping wine and participating in all kinds of exciting Soweto-based activities. The best thing about this weekend is that I get to stay […]
I recently spent a few days in the Cape Winelands as part of the #MeetSouthAfrica local blogger trip. We ate a lot (you already know this) and drank a lot. We also rode bicycles, watched epic sunsets, and met a cute, aggressive, cork-nibbling parrot. I took many photos. I had never been to the Cape Winelands before and it didn’t take me long to discover that this is one of the most beautiful parts of South Africa. After an insane day of traveling from the Drakensburg to Durban to Cape Town, we arrived in Franschhoek just in time for a stunning sunset. We forced our hapless shuttle driver to pull over so we could run across the highway and take pictures. Sunset, mountains, and train tracks: The Instagram trifecta. Just ask Dane Forman, our resident #MeetSouthAfrica Instagrammer. Di Brown of the Roaming Giraffe will probably never forgive me for posting this. Di, you’re a serious sunset photography die-hard and the world needs to know this. The next morning, our first stop in Franschhoek (note the crazy spelling of Franschhoek — it took me a few days to get this right) was the Haut Espoir boutique wine estate. Haut Espoir is run by a very interesting […]
Note: The title of this post refers to an American advertising campaign for beef. I’m no fan of the American beef industry but the slogan fits the post. I recently had coffee in Rosebank (a shopping district just north of Melville) with my blogger friend Jane. After coffee we popped into The Grillhouse — one of the most popular steakhouses in Joburg — to say hello to Jane’s friend David, the Grillhouse’s operations manager. David asked me if I’d ever dined at the Grillhouse. “I’m too poor to eat steak,” I told him. “The closest I’ve come since I moved to Joburg is a hamburger at Spur.” “If you can afford to eat at Spur, you can afford to eat here,” David said.
South Africa is not known for pizza, and you certainly won’t find authentic New York- or Chicago-style pies here. (I recently saw a Facebook photo of someone eating Ray’s Pizza in New York. It looked so delicious — I nearly wept.) But there is pretty decent pizza to be had in Melville. I’ve become a fan of two restaurants, both of which serve pizza of the ultra-thin-crust variety. The atmosphere of both places will give even the coolest New York pizzeria a run for its money. My top pick is the Ant, which I described briefly in a previous post. I didn’t get back with my camera until today though, and the essence of the Ant is best conveyed through pictures.
Mom and I were in Cape Town for three days — we had lots to see and no car. I’m usually not a fan of group bus tours, but when Mom suggested a tour of the Cape Peninsula with a company called Daytrippers, it seemed like a good plan under the circumstances. Alexi, our charming Daytrippers guide, fetched us from the guest house at 8:45 a.m. To my relief, our touring vehicle was not a bus, but a cute van towing a bike trailer. (For some reason I did not take any photos of the cute van or the cute tour guide. Apologies.) We headed south out of Cape Town and marveled at the crystal blue sea and lovely beachfront suburbs. Clifton, a spectacular Cape Town suburb along the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula.
We had a quiet Christmas Day at the Lucky 5 Star. The most notable thing about it, for me at least, was the weather — it was about 30 degrees Celsius (that’s upper 80s for you Americans) with blinding bright sun. It was a beautiful day, but I felt a little unsettled. It just didn’t feel like Christmas to me. Christmas morning at the Lucky 5 Star.