Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Crazy Bustling Braamies

Had a crazy weekend in the city, so much so that it has taken me until today to muster up the strength to write about it.

Firstly, let me just say that Braamfontein has never been more alive, and we can attribute this to our dear old friend LIQUOR! Yes, I said it, liquor... and why would I say that you ask? Well, it has finally happened, South Point have been fortunate enough to be blessed with their liquor license, meaning that the streets are running a muck with students running between the various bars now open for business in the city. And this is just what we saw on Friday!

The afternoon was filled with excitement, just having had an awesome meeting with the guys from South Point, we were amped for our City Open Bus Tour for the Spaces and Places Book Launch. The first stop, Lamunu Hotel, situated in the heart of the student village known as Braamfontein on De Korte and Melle, it is the flagship hotel of South Point. For those that have been around Braamfontein recently, it is the colourful building with the big screen outside. You cant miss it, and if you do, you must be colourblind.

Our tour took us through the newly established hotel, looking at the conference rooms, and some of the hotel rooms that they had to offer. And let just say that it is an awesome place to stay if you busy in the city. It also has a bar, with an outside area where when the cricket is playing, like on Friday, you can sit with an ice cold beer and cheer on your team. (Never mind we actually lost on Friday)

After our walk through of the hotel we all jumped on the bus and were swept through the city. Now most of these places we are pretty familiar with, but it was nice just chilling in the open and being taken around good ol Jozi. Stopping at Main Street Life, we ran into one of Jo's family friends who is working in the area renovating some of the buildings, so we broke away from the group and took a private tour of his latest project, and what a surprise when we found the most awesome graffiti... Only to discover that some of it was done by our very good friend BIAS...

After the other guests were done exploring Main Street Life, we hopped back on the bus and away we went to the mining district, and the weather was taking a turn for the worse. So to the Ashanti Hotel we go when it starts spitting with rain, and before we know it, the heavens open and one of the most intense downpours in the history of Joburg begins. So off the rooftop we go and try to take shelter in Darkie Cafe (Thats the name of the place - located on Anderson next to the Ashanti Hotel). What a cool place. If you get there early enough to get a table, it is actually a very cool, trendy, upmarket establishment for one to acquire some beverages. Alas, we did not have a place to sit, so reliable Roses Taxi was called to ferry us across the bridge back to our vehicles. If it was not raining, we would have just walked it, and as it turns out, walking it would have been quicker, because due to the rain, we got stuck in the worst traffic jam... A trip that should take no longer than 10 minutes took us just over an hour... needless to say that we all got know each other a little better after that trip...

Once we finally arrived we took a walk through Braamfontein to go check out South Points Skybar. This is a venue, not a bar, and is referred to by the people in the know as the 'Little Randlords'. It is an outside area on the roof of one of South Points buildings with the most awesome view of the Nelson Mandela Bridge. It is an inspiring space, and the more affordable when comparing it to Randlords (also owned by South Point).

So, it sum it up, Friday was a day of discovery, finding new places in Braamfontein and experiencing the vibe that goes with student living. It is something that all Joburgers have to experience, some authentic city living.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Where have all the PICTURES gone!?!

So, it has been a while now since the fantastic art initiative featuring the works of the great Mary Sibande have been removed from the city, and I must say I really miss seeing those awesome images plastered all over our special town... So when are we going to see those terrible Hennesy ads ripped down and burnt, and what is next in store for us?

I think the powers that be must get a move on now and brighten our streets for us once more, especially with gloomy winter days looming, it will be awesome if there is something to look forward to when roaming around the wind swept streets of Joburg, a little glimmer of something spectacular to put a smile on your face and make that part of your day ever so slightly more special and unique...

So lets get this art gallery we call our home up and running with a great new exhibition... And lets say goodbye to those terrible ads that deface our buildings yet again!


Sunday, March 20, 2011


On Saturday we unfortunately got rained out of doing a tour in the inner city, very sad I know, but alas our control over mother nature is lacking in a major way. Though this was unfortunate, not all was lost... Jo, Tania and I, with the company of the more resilient tourists, made a quick dash to Niki's Oasis to have a drink and wait out the down pour that engulfed the city.

Now, though Niki's is not really a new spot, it is a very cool place to go and chill, listen to some jazz, and quench the thirst that takes you on those hot summer afternoons. We have had a few functions there and frequently end tours at Niki's, getting to know our new friends over an ice cold beer... Just what the doctor ordered after a long city walk. So, for us, I'll be honest and say we have known about it for some time now... but regardless, I think it is worth a blog so as to attract some new people to this truly African watering hole!

Niki's Oasis is located in the heart of Newtown, directly across from the well known Market Theatre on Bree Street. Its quaint appearance from the outside is inviting, with its side walk tables usually occupied by the locals having something to eat and drink while watching the busy streets of Joburg. Inside, there are comfy sofa's where one can lounge and kickback with some friends while Niki herself sits quietly at the bar tending to some work. All the while, there is a constant stream of jazz playing in the background, its smooth sounds washing over you and relaxing every muscle in your body, your worries becoming a thing of the past.

On a Friday night, you will find live jazz on the menu. This is an awesome experience. I recommend it to anyone who is a fan of music. It is as if you are transported back to the 1950's when jazz bars were frequented. Unfortunately some of the style and romanticism is lost in our day and age, I can imagine what it must have been like back in the day, suits and ties, hats and pipes... and all the people dancing and moving to the beats of the bass... it must have been awesome. But for us, in our time, we have Niki's Oasis, a truly African bar in a truly African city.


So if you haven't been there yet, go have a look. If nothing else, you would have had a different experience than you normally would, but I can almost guarantee that once you have been, you will go time and time again.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Siyaya Rae Vaya

Here we are again, breaking down preconceived notions about our great city Johannesburg! As I am sure you have heard from at least one person, the pubic transport is in a state... and not a good one. Too an extent this is true, especially if you have no idea how the buses or taxi's work, but this is not too difficult to overcome... But, with the introduction of the Rae Vaya BRT into the city, the likes of public transport in Joburg needs to be viewed in a new light!

View of FNB Stadium from the Rae Vaya to Thokoza Park

So last Thursday, a few of us went to Soweto to visit Regina Mundi, but unlike most 'tourists', we went through using the BRT, and there is no other way to do it. It forces you to experience Soweto, to be on the bus with the people, walk the streets to get to you destination, and out destination is one of the more moving places to visit in the South West Township... Regina Mundi.

Known as the struggle church, it is one of those places that have remained virtually unchanged since it was built in the 60's, and still proudly displays its scars that remain from its role in the fight against Apartheid. This is one of
the venues that played a role in the 1976 protests that took the lives of several youths, including Hector Pieterson. The church was one of the places that the children took shelter when the Apartheid Government Police opened fire on the unarmed children. The police shot on the church, eventually breaking through the doors and opening fire inside. These bullet holes are visible to this day. It is also a well known venue where political meetings took place, and has been visited by many people involved with the struggle, including Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Also at the church one can see a fantastic photographic exhibition documenting some of the better known imagery from the Apartheid era. There is also a space for you to leave your mark, on the large graffetti wall that displays the writing of literary thousands from around the world. Out side are some really sweet ladies trying to make a living by selling some pretty cool arts and crafts, and some awesome t-shirts. Its really one of those places that should be visited and supported.

Once our visit was complete, we hoped back on to the bus to the heart of the city. A little hungry and thirsty, and the fact that it was our friend's, Linda, birthday, Tania suggested that we finally go to the Marshall Inn, on Marshall Street. So we hopped off at the West Gate station and made our way down. And what a hidden gem! Its one of those strange places that you would not expect in the city. As you go in, it is decorated in this strange Tuscan style, with paintings of flowers and windows on the wall. Quaint  is a good way to describe it. But, one exploring around a little more, we were surprised to discover this awesome pub in the back! And now I was sold... I could have a beer. On speaking with the owners, it came out that they are actually the family that runs the large restaurant during Lesito Land... and now we all know that the Portuguese food there is pretty awesome, so I had to have some... and it was good! But the beer was better. Unfortunately, like most places in city, especially round the mining district, it closes pretty early, around 6pm, and is not open on the weekends. So, if you get the chance during the week, make a break for this place... it is worth a look.

Alas, at this point, Linda had to leave, but we stayed on for an extra drink or two, you know how these things go. Once we left though, we went for our usual jaunt through the Diagonal Street area. It was here that a entire gaggle of old church going ladies caught our fancy, so articulate in the way they were speaking, so casual and fun, they just brought life to the city that makes Joburg so special. What a lovely bunch of old birds, so happy walking down the street to get to the Rae Vaya to take them home, all the way back to Soweto! They told us about there day spent at the church, and we told them about ours, spent at a different church... there was a beautiful symmetry in it all...

All in all, it was another beautiful day spent in the city of gold... New things were discovered, and awesome people met. And from our experience using the public transport of the city, there is no excuse for not heading back into the CBD and using the city the way it was intended!!

Ladies from the South African United Apostolic Church of Christ

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Not a typical Sunday for me. Waking up with a dry mouth only the Sahara could compete with, the last thing I was in the mood for was going out and working, but hangover be damned, I was not going to miss the chance to visit one of the best flats in Joburg. The reason, well Past Experiences and Monsoon Yoga have teamed up to offer people the chance to do yoga in unique places in the CBD. This was the second event held, the first being at the Ansteys Building on Joubert Street. This new location is the brain child of our new friend John and home to him and his girlfriend Alicia... Two of the luckiest people in the world in my opinion!

The apartment is situated on Plein Street across from the Home Affairs in the Anchor Building. 18 Floors up, the deck and pool area give you unparalleled views of the city. All the landmarks are there, to the north you have an uninterrupted view of Hillbrow and the Tower, from the pool it is a clear line of sight to the Nelson Mandela bridge and the Brixton Tower, and the west gives you the the Diamond Building, Newtown, Soccer City and the Mine Dumps... a sight that will take away the breath of any Jozi enthusiast.

Sitting with our feet in the pool, basking in the Sunday afternoon sun, John recalled his experiences while renovating this jewel in the heart of the city, and I must say it was very difficult to contain that green monster called jealousy. He recounted what he had done that weekend, sitting in the pool in the afternoon with some good reading material and a glass of wine, passing the time while the city beneath quietened down, and I could only imagine the tranquility of it all... envious I am!

While we were relaxing on the deck with our feet in the pool, Alicia was busy in their lounge, hosting a yoga class lead by Charlize Tomaselli, a good friend of mine who has returned from India with her training as a Yoga Instructor. This event is EXCLUSIVE, and no one else offers something like this in the city, so it is limited to 10 people per class, but it is worth it. This is another initiative lead by Past Experiences to get people back into the city, view the city in a different light and get people to use the city in a way that they normally wouldn't.

This is an awesome event and I recommend it to everyone. Charlize is not only professional and awesome at what she does, she is passionate about yoga and sharing it with the world!

If people are interested in this event and any others happening in Joburg, you can find information on facebook with Past Experiences and Monsoon Yoga. There is a link at the bottom of this page that you can follow.

Until our next adventure!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Views from Ansteys

After a long day sitting behind the desk, there is nothing better than having a few beers high above Joburg... and thank goodness this happened on Tuesday eve!

Its was pretty cool hanging around in the city without the usual hoard of tourists not familiar with the beat of the street. After work I met up with Jo at Niki's Oasis while she waited for her guests to get picked up, afterward we went on a mission, a mission to find a bottle store to acquire our well deserved beverages, and lets just say the hustle and bustle around the Bree Street taxi rank at 5pm is something else! Unperturbed by the palpable need for the Jozi workers need to get home, we discovered our salvation on the corner and managed to get a few drinks for the night ahead.

Missioning back to the car and out journey had not yet even begun, but we could hardly wait to arrive at the Ansteys, which eventually we did, after a battle down Bree Street I'll have you know... Driving in the city during rush hour is not small feat! But regardless of this stress we managed to find some parking and made our way up!

Now I know you are asking yourself WHY would you be going into the city on a Tuesday night and why at the Ansteys Building? Well, let me tell you... Our friend Brian, an owner of several flats in the Ansteys Building, invited us for some sundowners at his flat on the 16th floor, which also happened to belong to the one and only Cecil Williams back in the day... and if you don't know who he is, I will explain a little later. Anyway, the reason for the sundowners was that Brian and the building were featured in a French newspaper along with no other than Jo, the Joburg Tour Guide, as some of the influential people of Joburg rejuvenation... and a big thanks to Sophie for writing the article. So we were invited along so that the photographer could take a few shots... pretty cool.  

I also got a few shots of the view in, and I just have to say that I love the place. If I had a bunch of cash lying around, this is a definite place where I would invest!

And now, let me explain why the Ansteys is so cool and who Cecil Williams is for those who don't know. Cecil Williams is a very famous South African personality, most famously known for his connection to Nelson Mandela. When Nelson was arrested back in the 60's, it was while acting as Cecil Williams's driver. And yes, Nelson used to frequent the flat owned by Cecil, the very same flat now owned by Brian.

It is an awesome place, built in the 30's, it is one of the best Art Deco buildings Joburg has to offer, and if you have the chance you must go and have a look.