So there I was travelling the highways and byways of the city in a big red open-top double decker bus, making good on Alain de Boton’s declaration that “The pleasure we derive from journeys is perhaps dependent more on the mindset with which we travel than on the destination we travel to.” I felt like a tourist, even without the uniform of sandals-and-socks and a giant Nikon camera, or its modern incarnation that involves pointing an iPad at some unfortunate local.
“If cities had profiles on a dating website, Joburg would be the one with the really great personality,” says Josef Talotta. “That’s opposed to Cape Town – the gorgeous blonde wearing a bikini”.
Talotta is the head of precinct development for South Point Properties in Braamfontein, one of the city’s thriving neighbourhoods. The company’s portfolio includes Hotel Lamunu, 5000 student accommodation units and Randlords, a spectacular party venue perched atop a 22-storey office block. It was Randlords that the Joburg City Tourism Association, an alliance of hotel owners, property developers and other key people who make the city’s social and cultural heart beat, chose for their recent launch, where plans were announced for creating a united front to market the inner city as a tourist destination.
Democracy was unkind to the inner city. Continue reading
Sophia Loren is looking at me. And she is entrancing. An extremely realistic portrait of her by Brazilian artist Vik Muniz – created by the arrangement of around 3000 thousand glittering loose diamonds photographed on a page – hangs in De Beers Headquarters on London’s Charterhouse Street.
Part of Muniz’s “Diamond Divas” series of glamorous Hollywood legends – the artwork sums up only a facet of what diamonds have come to represent.
The building’s very corporate facade had given no hint of its business, that it houses the world’s leading diamond supplier. Although I am not sure what I was expecting. A giant shiny rock to light my way through the rain-soaked streets? This is on my mind because exiting the tube station that morning I stopped a man in a suit to ask if he knew where “De Beers” was and he directed me to a pub. Continue reading
Nothing to do but punt the app (available for all your Apple and Android devices so download it now) created for Gauteng Tourism by the uber-talented super smart, and my most favourite, T-Shirt designer Bradley Kirshenbaum of Love Jozi (and co-creator of one of the city’s other best inventions market on main). Yesterday on the auspicious date of 11/11/11 I got my chance to put my home town Benoni (also the inspiration for this blog) back on the tourist map. For everyone else who is “Straight out of Benoni” this one’s for you.
“This is Mr Matthews your train driver. Sit back and relax. The weather is sunny, the ride is sweet and everything is Ayyyyyyobbbbba (Drawn-out World Cup speak for “just great”).”
I am a fan of the Gautrain #justsaying. In fact I am a fan of any mode of transport that doesn’t involve surgical gloves, hard stares and taking your shoes off. That’s any mode of transport that doesn’t presuppose I am a mad bomber hellbent on the world’s destruction. I’m more like a one-person economic recovery plan, committed to single-handedly rescuing cities from the economic downturn by spending some hard-earned cashola.
Until a few Sundays ago the biggest find in Culllinan was the 3106 carat diamond discovered there in 1905. No doubt much has happened since but I have no idea what it is. On a sunny winter’s morning we made our way to the area north-east of Pretoria now known as Dinokeng, chasing a tale about brilliant Greek food. There is no limit to how far I will travel for a great meal. Add to that – on a winter’s day Pretoria and its surrounds are even more attractive, with weather that’s always a few degrees warmer.
This is a long overdue review of one of those essential companions for making this city your friend. Chic Jozi [by my friend Nikki Temkin] was first published in 2009 and has now been updated. It opens with the disclaimer: “Joburg is notorious for being a fickle and fast-changing city. Stores open and close all the time, change location and name …” Too true and the reason why impulse buying is key to survival here, as one minute that covetable item is in that window and the next day that building has been demolished to make way for another mall. Continue reading
We have a house rule. The best weekend getaways are less than two hours away and involve no cellphone reception (it’s the one time I thank the networks for a job not well done – that doesn’t excuse the dead spots in Joburg’s “under-resourced suburbs” like Sandhurst, Dunkeld and Parkhurst where for around two to R20-million you can get a house but not an uninterrupted phone call. Funny that.) Okay, they also involve crisp white linen, large bath towels, warm weather, a natural wonder (in this case a World Heritage Site), a smidge of shopping, delicious food and great company (these all necessary, in no particular order).
Human Right’s Day weekend in Parys checked all the boxes.
Parys lies just over a 100km south-west of the city in the Free State, where the sky lets you know how vast it is. Continue reading
#209 Follow the game – which we did to Bloemfontein on Friday to watch Honduras vs Switzerland. At this point we’re watching everyone – loving the mood, the spirit and fan fashion sense of World Cup 2010. And we are learning to love the team we are with. Wednesday was Germany vs Ghana at Soccer City (Go Ghana – of course one of my favourites; loved the men with pots on their head and the German guy wearing lederhosen also deserved a mention). Continue reading
#179. Celebrate the coming of the Gautrain.
On a good day – when the monsoon season is not in full swing, and it has been for three weeks – Joburg’s roads resemble the face of a pockmarked acne-ridden teenager. Crevices and dongas, all flaring and angry. The robots don’t work and if they do the roadworks mock them. I have spent the past few days in the car — not waving but drowning, not really driving but sitting. I have been gridlocked in Braamfontein and Rivonia, Bryanston and Rosebank. I have tried the radio and think I have started to master Sepedi – and listened to an audiobook in record time (an 8-hour one). I have made more calls to my mother than I ever should and been offered everything from cellphone chargers to peaches, badly-spelled werld maps to feather dusters. I have debated the merits of fong-kong school shoes with a street kid Continue reading