I looked at my #MeetSouthAfrica itinerary with disbelief.
I was so shocked I had to sit down and re read it. Surely this was a mistake.
A nine day trip and three whole days were allocated for Joburg. What on earth were we going to do there?
Surely a goldmine tour and the Apartheid Museum could be completed in a morning, maybe a Soweto tour in the afternoon, and then what?
I come from Cape Town, and you know, we are like tourism with a capital T. Underlined. In bold.
We have Table Mountain, which of course we built with our own hands, and around this icon we arranged Blue Flag beaches, cute penguins , a big city, leafy suburbs and loads of hotels, wine farms, restaurants and tourist attractions.
In Cape Town we have heard of Joburg.
Busy business people live there, and when Capetonians are forced to go there for business, they come back looking very stressed.
So, it was in a very sceptical frame of mind that I landed in Joburg on a Friday morning.
The next few days were an astonishing educational journey that had me smiling all the way.
I will even admit that these words came out of my mouth with monotonous regularity
“OMG, I love Joburg”
We barely had time to scratch the surface of the touristic offerings of Joburg. I cringe in shame at my ignorance.
I will even risk a cliché to add that I will be returning to Joburg again, and again, and again.
Our base was the uber cool Reef Hotel in the financial district of the CBD.
Unusual décor,and I loved the Gold Mine Café on the ground floor almost as much as I was mesmerised by the views from the fire escape on the 10th floor where the smokers sneaked off to.
We ate, oh my word, we ate a lot.
Coobs in Parkhurst where the art and the food competed for attention.
Ten Bompas in Dunkeld where the food was outstanding and there were TV’s embedded into the floor in the bathroom! I have never seen that in Cape Town.
44 on Stanley was a breakfast, shopping, coffee extravaganza. We were told by a person who will not be named, that the cheese cake at Salvation Café is better than sex! Sadly, after the huge breakfast no one had the space to test this statement.
Well fed, we took to the streets of Braamfontein. They are alive with smiling people.
There is so much to see, do, shop and photograph but eventually we had to stop at The Neighbourgoods Market for much needed craft beer and some mellow sounds.
Revived, we proceeded to the Nelson Mandela Bridge, jaywalking in the quest for the ultimate photo, stopping at the street art and to chat to the people en route.
This city takes friendly & creative to another level.
Newtown was the ultimate highlight for me. Our guide, Bongani from Past Experiences made the history come alive, and was gentle with my copious tears at the Workers Museum.
The museum is situated in the original compound that housed many of the work-force that built this country. This museum will get a blog of it’s own, just wait a bit.
We were all fairly quiet as we walked out of the museum and headed towards the Market Theatre, past the statue of “Kippies” and into the Newtown Shopping Precinct.
From there we headed into Gwigwi Mrwebi Street where I started my basic education in street art.
I have a lot to learn, a blog about it is coming.
We saw artists working on their chosen piece of wall, while dancers performed for a camera crew producing a music video. Just an average Saturday in Joburg I’m told.
Maboneng Precinct. It looks like a success story of inner city upliftment. Time will tell if this project will merely make the rich richer, or if the renewed life and business will benefit the broader community. We were there on a Sunday evening and most establishments closed by 8pm. Hopefully this will change as the area starts to draw more visitors. It is a creative, safe feeling space to be in. In true Joburg style, they did not bat an eyelid when I ordered coffee in Lenins Vodka Bar.
I realised how little I know of the history of Johannesburg, so I have bought the book recommended by all the locals, and I am learning and loving it.
And then we had to leave Joburg, and I had a list of places I needed to get to, a thousand questions to ask and a big thick book to read.
I am a convert. Joburg rocks.
My perception after just three days was a clean, energetic, friendly city that works. Full of positive public spaces , enjoyed by integrated, diverse people.
The tourism appeal is evident everywhere. The variety of museums, walking tours, open spaces, architecture, history, culture, art, music and entertainment will keep anyone busy for weeks.
Joburg don’t need no Table Mountain.
My love affair with Joburg was courtesy of SA Tourism as part of the #MeetSouthAfrica campaign.