visit the administrative...
visit the administrative capital of South Africa! Although Pretoria is so close to Jo'burg, 56 km away, about ½ an hour drive, the 2 cities could not be more different! We were provided a city tour … apparently this city takes its role as the legislature, administration and judiciary very seriously. There are many fine statues, 33 museums, I think, and 4 universities.
If you stay for a period and you would like to get a workout, you can go to the Virgin Active chain of health clubs. The are located on various places around Joburg and you can get a membership for a month for about 450 Rand. The one we went to had squash courts, swimming pool and all sorts of work out tools that you need :-)
Bring home a bit of Africa for Christmas!
We love markets and enjoy collecting crafts on our travels, but face the perennial problem of where to put it all without transforming the house into a curio store. So, for what it's worth, this is my solution ...
Our Christmas tree has always been the focal point of our family - my German grandmother was the first person to have a Christmas tree in my Dad's home village in Ireland back in the 1930s, and some of my most prized possessions are a few of her homemade ornaments which I religiously place in pride of place on my tree each year. When I left home, my own mother gave me a 'starter pack' of decorations from our childhood tree to start my own (a tradition that I will continue with my own kids) and I have been collecting ever since! Everywhere we go, we buy something for our tree - we're not purists, so it doesn't necessarily need to be colour coordinated or even Christmas themed (there are, for example, balsa wood humming birds from Peru, a wooden orang utan from Borneo and pottery figures from the Czech Republic), but when we put up our tree, it is a very special ritual that celebrates our family identity (of which travel is a huge part!) So, what can you by in Johannesburg that would fit the bill? Well, the answer is, loads, and even better, most of it is light and easily transportable! I love the beadwork ornaments (photos to follow) which transform a traditional artform into something contemporary and funky. All sorts of Christmas tree baubles covered with colourful beadwork, or small wire and bead ornaments are available. Prices obviously vary, but you should be looking at between R20 and R50, depending on size and complexity, and of course you can negotiate a discount on volume (since I don't think that it's possible to buy just one!). If you're lucky, you may even find a beadwork snowman, which I think is a delicious cultural anacronism in a city where we only see snow about every 20 years (and certainly never at Christmas!) - these involve more work and will probably cost R80 - R100.
My personal favourite at the moment are Christmas angels made out of old beer cans (photos also coming). Being an environmentalist, I like the recycling aspect - in fact I would happily volunteer to be part of the raw materials generation process - and I love the idea of being inspired by a favourite beverage in adorning the tree (mine features Amstel, Castle and Windhoek!). How better to add some festive cheer(s)???
Suggest that you hire a GPS with your car
It is important to note that hire cars in South Africa generally do not come with maps or streetfinder atlases, and few hire companies are willing to lend these out (presumably as these have not been returned in the past?).
In general, South African cities are not well signposted, and the confusion is compounded where roads have been renamed to reflect the new political order, which the maps may not yet reflect (navigating around central Durban is particularly nighmarish at the moment for this reason).
Tourists are particularly vulnerable when they are lost and either pull off to try and work out where they are, or stop to ask for directions. I would therefore strongly recommend hiring a GPS with the car (all reputable hire companies should offer this, but be sure to specify at the time of booking as they may not have enough units to satisfy demand) - for a very small additional amount, you are making a major investment in your own security.
If you have to ask for directions, I suggest that you pull into a petrol station and ask either the petrol attendents - or even better - local motorists. I can't guarantee that they will give you good directions, but at least they are well lit and secure locations where you will be less vulnerable.
Great location - shame about the food
As I have said elsewhere, I'm not a great fan of the Moyo franchise, as I find their food underwhelming and their in-your-face African approach 'gimmicky' - the face painting and the dancing I can tolerate, but the ritual handwashing (with said employee subserviently murmuring "wishee washee") really tries my patience ...
Moyo at Melrose Arch is all about the location and setting, and very little about the food (a sad conclusion to draw about a restaurant). Melrose Arch is a brand new precinct which has been specifically designed to facilitate al fresco dining, and even on winter evenings, it's possible to dine outside courtesy of braziers and patio heaters (don't even think about the greenhouse gas emissions, but then Melrose Arch is a monument to conspicuous consumption). Ultimately it's a place 'to see and be seen'.
Inside the restaurant is built on a number of levels with little nooks and crannies incorporated into the design. This lends an intimacy that is sadly lacking from many restaurants.
All in all, a triumph of design and branding, but a disappointment to the taste buds and best suited to business dining where you aren't personally picking up the tab. The best thing that I've head there is the unspectacular sounding Nigerian peanut soup, which was really very 'moreish'.
Everything else I've had has been OK but unspectacular and overpriced - but then I guess you're paying for the location. I think that there is a dumbing down of flavours to suit a bland international palate, which is a shame given some of the vibrant cuisines that the menu suggests that it has drawn on.
The menu varies slightly between the different franchise restaurants, which I hope reflects a championing of local ingredients.