Read here about my other South African adventures: Cape Town (Penguins and Wine Tasting)Cape Town (Table Mountain and Cape of Good Hope)

 

After visiting Johannesburg last month, I fell in love with the tranquility I feel when in South Africa, so this month I chose a new destination – Cape Town.

As usual, I was dressed up ready to go to the city after about half an hour after arriving at the hotel, at about the same time most of my colleagues sleep. (From the hotel there is a free shuttle to The Waterfront at 12AM which comes back at 6 PM).

In the first afternoon spent in Cape Town I had plenty of time to get acquainted to the city, chill by the water, have amazing sea food paella and one of the best burgers I had in the food market, taste some more South African wine and have some serious discussions about faith, past and new crew life. On the way to the city there are slums of impossible poverty, practically sheds made of cartons, which I found out are called informal settlement. If I remember well, the same I saw at the outskirts of Joburg.

IMG_6660However they might be called, I thought of them when in my lofty hotel I was a bit cold under the penguin thick quilt.

Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is a setting in the oldest harbor in Cape Town, where there are hotels, restaurants with amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean, Table Mountain and the city, shops, an aquarium, museums, a huge food market with traditional products, a souvenirs market, a wheel like a miniature London’s Eye, with even better view of the surrounding and many others.

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The name of the harbor comes from Prince Alfred, the son of Queen Victoria who started building it in 1860.

From here there you can take a boat to Robben Island where Mandela’s cell is located, you can take kayak trips, fly over the city by helicopter, ride horses on the beach, take a party boat, almost anything you could think of.

The harbor is pleasant to walk and at a temperature of about 20 degrees – it is now winter – it is the best place to be when you are coming from 50 degrees weather.

First I took a picture a huge yellow frame in front of Table Mountain. By the way, Table Mountain is a mountain without a peak, a flat mountain, something I considered totally not interesting, until I saw the sweeping views of the horizon and the city from up there.

Then, I walked around the Nobel Square, where there are four statues of the Nobel Prize laureates of South Africa, among which one is Nelson Mandela. When I was there a seagull was resting on the head of one of them, completing the landscape with mountains in the background, the harbor with beautifully polished boats and the specific architecture of The Waterfront.

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The Nobel Square is right in front of a huge wooden shed where a food market with the most extraordinary sweets, meat products, drinks, beers can be found. I chose a fresh sea food paella which a very sweet chubby South African lady served with love and enjoyed it in the cold South African sun at some table outside overlooking the four statues in the Square.

I decided a glass of wine would not be bad, so I went upstairs in the big “shed” – one side had more floors and the other is opened so from upstairs you can see all the small sections which have no roof, so you can see inside. I took the glass away, but here nobody cares for such minor things. After, I returned it, of course, but nobody seemed stressed anyway. Then we decided we should eat more and I tried the famous burger for which you have to wait almost one hour. Enough time to take a spin in the Cape Wheel.

Then we ate our burgers (I chose the Avo burger with avocado paste) and I had another glass of wine in the bar on top, looking at all the small shops with South African products and talking for more than an hour.

When we came here with the burgers nobody was here and we sat down, then the guy came and said he will be gone for a while and gave me the wine. I offered the money, but he said later. Then he came with the change saying he saw the amount I wanted to hand him initially. Everybody’s cool, relaxed.

Around you can find The Two Oceans Aquarium also and tens of cafes and restaurants with fresh fish smelling from far. In the mall there are all kinds of stores from decorations to local soap and souvenirs. I lost myself in a bookstore, had a shake while looking at the Atlantic Ocean and headed back to the hotel to get ready for the dinner and going out.

The place to be for dinner and partying in Cape Town is Long Street. At the recommendation of our driver we chose Mama Africa, a very traditional restaurant with live music and free wine and like every place in South Africa, amazing food, especially stakes.

Honestly, although people told me Joburg is more dangerous than Cape Town, Long Street didn’t seem safe at all to me. As we left a beggar woke up to ask for money and because he was sleeping he forgot about his dog and stepped on him. The dog barked and we got really scared, but our driver was waiting for us and everybody else seemed relaxed. This makes me remember of the terrifying/funny now adventure in Joburg when I and my friend were the only white persons in a whole neighborhood that we didn’t even know how dangerous it was. Flower power, lucky us!

Besides we had to get ready for the next day’s trip around the area: Boulders Beach for penguins, going up the Table Mountain, wine tasting in a South African wine yard, The Cape of Good Hope.

Read here about my other South African adventures: 

Cape Town (Penguins and Wine Tasting) 

Cape Town (Table Mountain and Cape of Good Hope) /

Cape Town (Victoria&Albert Waterfront) /

Johannesburg (Wild Partying and Savage Animals) /

 

I finally have time to write more about Johannesburg, just before I choose the destinations for the month of June.

Moscow was my top destination for many years and I even missed one planned trip because of my final university exam. However, for some kind of reason, I cannot get over the Johannesburg trip, which was absolutely perfect from all points of view.

If my last post was more about the safari experience and all the animals I saw, this post shall concentrate more on what I like most – food.

I have to mention mouthwatering food, because South Africa has qualified butchers, amazing meat and a huge variety of wines. So, what can you do rather than explore all the tastes and flavors?

A restaurant that you have to go to if you are ever in Johannesburg is The Grillhouse. I would say it is better that The BullRun, but the staff is not as friendly as the one at the latter. A day before I had ordered a Ribeye of 500g, but I still craved for the ribs. Of course, now I had these huge ribs with a baked potato in front of me since I was thinking about them for one day.

 

Before this dinner, however, I walked to see the Nelson Mandela Square and take some pictures.


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Flying means working for each flight in a team with people you have never seen in your life and will probably never talk to ever again. It is tough, it is a challenge in itself when it comes to work, because in the company I work for there are over 100 nationalities: all colors, shapes and sizes, mentalities and beliefs. Also, when it comes to staying at a destination for a few days, it is a challenge because you want to visit, go out, eat and you do not want to do it alone or with not very pleasant people.

However, it my three trips until now, I found extraordinary people to share with my travelling around the world. The dream. It is the same with this colleague I shared most of my time in Joburg.

So, even though we knew we were going for a big dinner we decided to have some Asian “bites”. We chose Wonton chili soup, pork dumplings, crispy prawn dumplings and other things I had no clue what they were, but tasted good.

I think I forgot to show you the white lion. King of the jungle. Lazy as hell around noon.

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So, I told you that I got to find out that Johannesburg is not the safest place on earth.

I love to stand out of the crowd, but when standing out means being the only two white persons in a bad neighborhood in Johannesburg where everybody tells you it is not safe, it is not very fun. Carlton Center is the tallest building in Africa and has an observation deck at the last store. I love rooftop gardens, bars, views, skylines, whatever it is, so I said I cannot leave South Africa without seeing it. It was in a skyscraper, so I thought we are going to a sort of economic center or financial district. It was the day of the flight back so I checked the opening hours and decided to be there first. Who know we would be first and only persons (!!!) in there.

So, let’s go to Top of Africa. We arrange a car from the hotel and the driver drops us in the middle of some streets with almost nobody walking. He gives us the number and says he will be back after us and advises us not to take a taxi and to talk only to security from the tower. Great, now I feel safe! My friend and I feel the eyes of the people looking at us as we are walking through a mall, trying to find the entrance to the observation deck. We find security guy and he shows us the way. We are at 50th floor with the security guy and nobody else. No cafe, no person, no cashier, no visitors, no administrator, no cleaners. Nothing! He is following us as we admire the view.

At one point he left and we were alone. In Africa. At 50th floor, tallest point in the continent. He asked me if there were any cameras here. Obviously there weren’t. I asked if he means in case someone kills us if it stays on tape? Yes. I said I will be the witness. I love black humor, but it was not funny.



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 The adventure was about to start soon, when we took the elevator to go back to the hotel. 
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I don’t know what this mark is. Bullet?

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 Here we are, at the ground floor, ready to call our driver.

Surprise, surprise, we cannot contact him. Then we find another security and he gives us his phone to call him, but apparently it will take him more than one hour to be there and not 20 minutes, as he promised. And we have a flight to catch. And operate.

We asked about taxis and security guy started laughing. Ok, no taxi! But we find out there is a bus that takes us to another bus that takes us to close to the hotel. And besides, he adds, taxis are dangerous for light skin like us. He shows us the bus and we get in. The streets are straight, like the ones in New York, but everything seems frozen somewhere 30-40 years ago. Old and grey. There are people over people, all moving, working, carrying something, bringing stuff, the place looks like a Turkish bazaar, but very dirty, with people dressed in colorful sporty clothes. There is dirt on the floor and dirty water in some canals by the pedestrian area. The pedestrian area is wide but you can barely walk by someone’s side as it is full of tables with stuff to sell from clothes to apples by bag and bananas by plate.

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Everybody is looking at us and we are obviously the ONLY light skin around. The second bus was far away from where first one dropped us off so, we find a kid who shows us the second bus. He leaves after asking for some tip. We comply, of course. The bus driver asked us for a charge which was probably much higher than the real one, but yet more than ten times cheaper that the hotel fare. So, if there was a risk of robbery, it was to late, because the hotel had already done it. In a civilized and organized environment. But, let’s go back to where we were, namely in this bus, where they put us in front, next to the driver. The bus…oh my Gosh! It had everything in it, maybe sheep and hens were there.

The lady with the child in the back gives me some money, I don’t understant what she wants, then the driver takes it then he gives me some money. I send it back. Then we stop to refuel and the driver goes out of the car. The lady taps my back really hard, gives me the look and say simple and assertive: “Money!”. I’m thinking, you know, when you think many thoughts in one second: Oh my God, is she robbing us, is this ok, she has a kid on her lap, where is the driver, is this how she thought it, does she want her change, is it the money she initially gave me, what is she talking about, where is the driver, what is happening. Then she says: “Money! You did not pay!”. Then I realize…oooh, the bus ticket. Ok, she wants to give the money to the driver outside through the opened window. Over all, another story to tell to my grandchildren!

Right before leaving, we entered The Butcher Shop & Grill – The original and only as the call themselves where I got some ostrich sausage and dried beef.

The store is right in Nelson Mandela Square.

On out way back, we stopped in a local market selling handcraft. My favorite, a book support in the shape of a hippo. But I don’t want to gather things, I want to gather memories, feelings, experiences. Spending money on these is much more rewarding.

One last look at the white orchids, keeping the purity of day and secret of the sin and off to the airport.

My favorite picture from this trip:

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So here’s my South African experience in which I tried everything (colleagues asked me what I want to do in Johannesburg and I answered everything, so, so I did) from safari, hugging the lion cubs, being blocked under a wild cheetah, amazing steaks and ribs, quality wine, ostrich meat, bad neighborhood scare, local buses, clubbing, great people. This is life, forever young. In this lifetime, I could not ask for more!

As I was climbing in the bus a leaf fell in front of my feet. I followed it with my eyes and then I saw 2 more eyes following the same leaf…

Read here about my other South African adventures: 

Cape Town (Penguins and Wine Tasting) /

Cape Town (Table Mountain and Cape of Good Hope) /

Cape Town (Victoria&Albert Waterfront) /

Johannesburg (Mandela Square and Carlton Center)

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There are 42 degrees Celsius in Doha, as the captain announces us before we leave Johannesburg, South Africa, where it is winter. Winter means about 20 degrees plus by day and around 10 by night. A very pleasant weather. Even if I had dreamt about this trip, I would have not imagined such a beautiful adventure in Africa.

If somebody told me Johannesburg was a definitely on the “to visit” on one’s list because it is simply amazing, you can visit animal parks and hug baby lions, have good wine and go clubbing, visit museums and local markets, I would have said that is the presentation of all holiday destinations.

I am still touched by my Joburg (as locals and connoisseurs call it) amazing experience, mainly due to the wonderful people I met. The reality is that no matter how beautiful a place is, the people that you share the view are the most important.

So, let’s get started!

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I flew for more than 8 hours and arrived at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. I had been excited, but when I heard “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to South Africa …” I just could not wait to start the adventure. The landscape looks not very spectacular, but there is a lot of green, the view looks pretty rural, maybe American rural. There are a lot of old cars and the first thing you notice is that the car wheel is on the right side. We pass by a neighborhood of small houses looking like wagons, with no roof. They are colorful and they all have small solar panels on top. I think we are heading to a better area of the city by the way the cars and buildings start to look. There are palm trees, evergreen vegetation, ferns, perfectly trimmed decoration trees, trees that lose their leaves, trees with colorful/autumn leaves in shades of gold, burgundy and pale green.

I notice this man of color who is wearing a very colorful tribal motifs T-shirt, like the ones made by Etro and it looks perfect on his skin.

I am listening to some melancholic songs in my room and I realize we are only happy when we take things as they are. And we don’t complain. Even though we wished. When we walk an extra mile for others and they do the same for us. I have not slept for more than 24 hours, but I feel good. And excited. And fulfilled.

After one good nap, one has to eat and in South Africa meat has tradition and the quality of the meat is very good. Most of the restaurants offer huge steaks and ribs which come in a huge portion. My first dinner was at The Bull Run, where you see the butcher prepare the meat and he greets you with a wide smile on his face, like he is not working, but enjoying the evening.

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I had a wonderfully succulent steak with mashed potatoes and Bechamel sauce spinach together with South African white wine. Spontaneously, after the dinner we decided to go clubbing and we were arranged a shuttle from the restaurant after taking these pictures.

When I told people I am going to South Africa, I started hearing about precautions, taking care, be safe, don’t carry valuables etc. I guess I was going to find out later why…

Everybody recommended Kong as the best club in the city (I heard Movida is also very good) so the shuttle took us there, but apparently the driver did not know the way, so he dropped us off at Hyatt Johannesburg. Here I notice the first time a disclaimer regarding the persons who step in, their property etc. and later I saw the same in Nelson Mandela Square. I guess it is not the safest place ever. But I am also brave and crazy and lucky, so I visited everything by day and by night.

From the hotel we walked through some stores and a mall and then walked on some streets which were pleasant, but with little light and no people. Besides, we had no clue where we were going, but we were enjoying the feel of the city.

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I admired the stores in South Africa, the styles of the clothes and accessories. They have that something that I like, have some animal print, some lace, some velvet, but the stay classy and look sophisticated.

Clubbing in Johannesburg is a lot of fun, the music is mostly R’n’B. I admired the girls wearing very tight clothes, aware and proud of their feminine curvy looks, not having all these worries about any defects.

So, done with partying and even though we arrived at the hotel later than 3 AM, at 9 I was heading to the Rhinoceros and Lion Park, probably the biggest tourist attraction around.

Here you can feed the giraffes from a bucket or from your hand which feels ticklish and a bit gross, but it is a one in a lifetime time experience. There is a safari restaurant and you can have a coffee on the top floor next to the giraffes, who have a long enough neck to reach the second floor. Our necks are so long, that we reach second floor.  But we are gracious. I think she is pretty and she liked us.
 Friendly giraffe, eating some special food from my handimage3

Feeding the giraffe. I think she liked my meal offer
From the giraffe stop we went in the safari where we saw zebras, antelopes, ostriches, wild boars, cheetahs, lions, birds, reptiles, crocodiles. I love animals more since this trip.


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Myself and Anabelle, who seemed to like me a lot, but her love really scared me. At first we only took a picture together

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but then she got over friendly
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 The most adorable thing I saw in a while. They are absolutely lovable and you can hug them, pet them and play with them. They sleep most of the time and they do not like to be disturbed, so the become a little sweet-angry baby-roaaaaring if you pet them too hard. 
At the entrance, there is an announcement saying: Forgive us when we’re sleeping.We are only babies. So, if you want to take a picture, please don’t try to wake us…

The cub in the right woke up, stumbling, did not even opened his eyes and then rested on the bum of the other one. DSCN5535

My favorite picture from the safari experience is the one below. It is exactly how I would describe my personality. Calm, cool and warm, but the lions and wild animals might appear anytime.

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Unfortunately, my pictures of the lions feeding are not great, but I can tell you about it. At about noon, there is a truck in the middle of the lions’ playing field. On the back of the truck there is a dead cow which is tied to a rope and the rope is tied to a thick stick planed in the ground. When the time is right, the truck drives away and the cow stays there to feed the hungry lions. They get this treatment every two days and male lions eat first, then the females. Even though you cannot stay very close to their “table”, you can see the blood all over their hair next to the mouth. Bon apetit!

This is all folks, for not, about my amazing Joburg adventure (a real adventure, indeed)!