Friday, 7 April 2017

Returning to Johannesburg

It’s funny to think that this time last year, whilst counting down the days until I stepped on a plane, looking back one last time at the UK for the next 12 months  that it wasn’t even slightly in my consciousness that I’d be setting foot in the city of Johannesburg.

‘Nooo, you don't want to even think about going there’, they’d say. ‘It’s really dirty and terribly dangerous, just fly in and fly straight out.'

‘Oh really’, I’d say, ‘Have you been?’

‘Well no but, that’s what people have told me so…you’d better stay away.’

11 months on and I’ve just left my favourite city in South Africa for the second time and oh boy, Joburg, you were just as vibrant as I remembered.

After feeling somewhat sluggish towards the end of March in Cape Town (perhaps a mix of pre-coming home dread and post-birthday celebrations), we jumped at the chance to venture on a 'holiday within a holiday', stopping off in Johannesburg, Durban and a handful of places along the Garden Route.

With of course, absolutely no planning whatsoever because if there's anything you might have learnt over the past 11 months about the way Rosie and I travel you know we like to make things particularly exciting difficult for ourselves, we started by boarding the plane...and landing at the completely wrong airport. Incredibly, this was only realised by the pair of us after we look at the 'fare estimate' on Uber and recoiled in horror so violently that the phone was almost nothing more than shattered glass on the tiled flooring.

A little curious as to where the flipping FLIP we had flown into, we headed to the Information Desk because of course, we could just hop on a bus or a train and be in the city centre in no time, right?

'Where is it that you would like to go, Miss', the receptionist asks.

'Just into the city centre please, we're staying in Maboneng', Rosie replies.

'Oh, you want to go to Johannesburg?', the lady asks, with a slightly confused look on her face.

Cue the question: Where the hell are we?

Memo to all fellow idiots out there: Lanseria International Airport is not Johannesburg Domestic Airport, sounds similar though, I know....

After an hour long trip in an Uber (please let's not dwell on the cost), we arrived back in Maboneng, the place where our love affair with Johannesburg all began and oh boy, it was just so good to be back.



The Maboneng Precinct is an area of the inner city of Johannesburg which, over the past few years, has been developed and become a vibrant, exciting and creative area for both residents and tourists. With the main aim to 'revolutionise a significant portion of Joburg's inner city, affordable property has been sold/rented out to those from all walks of life and has created a creative hub of restaurants, bars, shops, accommodation and attractive public space.

Maboneng is one of the places which, if you immerse yourself in, will release those inspirational juices and let your ideas roam free.  It's creative and modern, exciting and friendly, arty and edgy - it's brimming with entrepreneurs, hustling 24/7 to get sh*t done and make it work. It's basically a place that ignites the spark within you to push forward with those remnants of ideas and possibilities that could be or should be, your future passion and business. It's a place that makes it seem possible when for so long it's seemed utterly impossible.

Of course, because we know a damn good thing when we see one, we stayed once again at Curiocity Backpackers and it just never disappoints. I wrote in much more detail how amazing this place really is here but basically if you're looking for a place to stay with passionate and friendly staff, a fun vibe and fabulous facilities, this place is where you need to be. For real.


Whilst we were there, we ate at some pretty fabulous places, mainly within the precinct, including Blackanese, which offer sushi with an African twist, Pata Pata, serving South African food including really fabulous meats and my personal favourite, Soul Souvlaki which cooks up incredible Greek food as well as perfect iced coffees at very affordable prices. As you probably know, I could go on and on...and on about food so I'm telling myself that I have to stop writing about the delicious Meze platter and the juicy Springbok burgers and the open sandwich with avocado, feta and sundried tomatoes and move on.

Ugh, the sushi.

Okay, moving on.


If you hadn't already guessed, I'm kind of head over heels in love with Maboneng and I promise I did leave the precinct, including heading over to Bramfontein for nights out and cocktails and all that jazz but we finally managed to see the sunset at 12 Decades Rooftop Bar (where Curiocity have recently opened their sleek 'Curiopads'), a fab spot for those fancying a drink or 3 on a chilled out Sunday afternoon.

As we were here for such a short amount of time last year, this time around we made absolutely sure that we headed to the Apartheid Museum, which is safe to say, easily the most incredible and thought provoking museum I've ever been too. As you arrive and pay the entrance fee, you are handed a randomly selected ticket which decides whether you are to enter the museum through the 'Whites Only' gate or the 'Non-Whites' gate. It is impossible to imagine what living through that time must have been like however it is such an effective, engaging and thought provoking way to begin a visitors experience at the centre and one that I'll never forget.

There is also currently an incredible temporary exhibition celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela,  presenting his childhood, his personal life and just how pivotal a person he was to South Africa's epic struggle against Apartheid. For me, one of the most startling aspects when walking around this museum is realising just how new this history is - when reading about the events that occurred, it's almost unbelievable just how little time there has been since this time, thankfully, came to an end and whilst I can only speak as a visitor who loves this country so much, it's a testament to the people how far this incredible place has come already. If you are heading to Johannesburg anytime soon, make this place a priority - you won't regret it.

They say 'time flies when you're having fun' and that phrase couldn't ring more true for the ticking clock in Joburg. After a glass of red wine and a couple of puffs of sheesha too many, it was time to hit the road, sadly say goodbye and venture on to Durban (via a shocker of a bus journey), but more on that soon...

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