Cape Town - Groot Constantia

winery tour and wine tasting experience in Groot Constantia, largest and oldest winery in Cape Town

South Africa's wine industry began in Constantia Valley, back in 1685. Governor Simon van der Stel chose the area for its wine growing potential, now the valley counts 10 vineyards and grows many grape varieties, being Pinotage the local flavour. Simon's house is still maintained as a musum within Groot Constantia, the largest and oldest winery in the Constantia Valley that also arranges lovely one hour tours where you learn more about wine production, visit the cellar and get to taste the wine, lovely paired with specially designed chocolates. For a wine lover like me, it was a definitely a memorable day.

Book your visit to Groot Constantia in advance and make sure you get a spot in the time which suits your plan. After the tasting, you can take a walk around the vineyard, houses and acorn trees, which is a rather lovely way to round up the afternoon.

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Cape Town - Kloof and Long street

Cape Town shopping in Kloof st and Long st
In many ways, Cape Town feels just like San Francisco. Cool city by the sea, with victorian houses, surfers and a huge art community. The only difference is that while in SF you can walk around for days, in Cape Town you need to be more careful, specially at night. Violent crime has been reduced dramatically in the recent years, but still pick pocketing is an issue. Enrique had his phone stolen twice and it would not be the case of any night they went out to come back home without incidents - always someone would have had their wallet and / or phone stolen. Beware of anyone who approaches you, specially kids that are sadly used for this purposes. That's why you see me wearing this old bag which is not large enough to fit by iPhone 6PLUS - because I left it home, together with my new watch and wedding ring. Be careful please!

Best shopping in SA (except for the weekend markets in Johannesburg) are Kloof ST and Long ST in Cape Town, our top 3 favourites were:
  1. Holmes Bros [WEB]: Local Durban brand for cool guy's clothing - yet got a bomber for me...
  2. The Ceramic Factory [WEB]: There's a Global trend on cool ceramics, at least affecting South Africa and China - in Beijing I also found many pieces on this style - all about making funny things such as robots or animal heads in minimalistic porcelain for a cool touch at home
  3. Pan African Market: Carefully selected African art. It's not cheap but amazingly curated.
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Cape Town - Bo Kaap

Bo Kaap colorful neighborhood in Cape Town

Bo Kaap is my favourite sight in Cape Town. It is the oldest place of Islamic Worship in South Africa, since the first mosque was established in the area in 1798. However, the islamic heritage is not by itself the main attraction of this area. People don't come for the mosques, but for the colourful walls. Walking around, you can't help to wonder why are the houses painted in so many colors?

The original residents of the Bo-Kaap descended from the slaves that the Dutch brought in from Africa and Asia during the colonial period. While the beautiful views from Signal Hill and the picturesque houses have attracted many (foreign) investors to the suburb, most of the current residents have a Malay background and are Muslims, celebrating Ramadan every year.

When the month of daytime fasting ends, muslims engage on a three day party called Eid al-Fitr (the Festival of Breaking the Fast).

In Cape Town, hundreds of Muslims gather at Green Point every year in the evening of the last day of Ramadan. They wait for the sighting of the moon, which marks the end of the holy month. It is generally customary to dress up in bright colours, a tradition Capetonian Muslims also take part in. In addition, many Bo-Kaap residents repaint their houses at the end of the Ramadan as part of the celebrations. The residents usually discuss amongst their neighbours what colours they will be using, to prevent clashing colours and to make sure that different colours are picked. It is often said that the different coloured houses have now become no more than a tourist attraction, but the rich history and culture behind it should not be forgotten.

The first time I saw pictures of this neighbourhood was actually during summer 2015, when a Swedish brand launched the "NellyEpicSpring" campaign featuring popular bloggers from Scandinavia shot during an epic week in Cape Town - browse instagram #nellyepicspring to find a million reasons more to visit Cape Town if you are not convinced yer. Or course I don't look like these chicks, but it's kind of fun to walk down the same spots you see on the magazines I suppose.

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Once in Cape Town

once in Cape Town

There is one very long street in Cape Town, which is the absolute place to be. Think about organic cafés, cool hangouts, bars, vintage and local brands. Chicks that seem to have just been pulled out of Gigi Hadid's squad. South Africa being not the safest place to walk around, it pays off to stay in a central area, so you don't need to drive at dinner time - driving at night in South Africa is sometimes scary because when you start feeling safe, a sketchy man pops out of nowhere and starts walking down the road, so you start skipping the traffic lights (called robots in SA) regardless of color.

We stayed at Once in Cape Town, which is a lovely hotel in Kloof street - the continuation of Long street aka the place to be - featuring a rootftop bar, kitchen, own parking, restaurant and 2 kinds of rooms, shared for backpackers and private for grown ups with a wild heart like us. They also arrange many activities with pickup from the hotel, something which is extremely convenient for those who are not driving - we had a rental car and made our own plans. Even if we picked a 3-day weekend in SA to visit Cape Town, we paid 70EUR per night with breakfast included, which felt like an extremely good deal, given the excellent location, parking availability and atmosphere in the hotel - nicely decorated and newly refurbished.

Absolutely recommended as your base in Cape Town - 73 KLOOF ST.

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South Africa - Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park

When it comes to safari, Kruger is the crown diamond of South Africa. One of the largest game reserves in Africa, Kruger covers an area of 20000 square kilometres. It is not exactly close to Johannesburg, so if you are based there you either need to fly to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport or drive during about 5 hours. The park is not malaria free, so you may end up getting a nasty ride out of Malarone pills. Because of the distance, I did not manage to cover this park during my two week visit but I leave you with some shots of Enrique's days there.

Doing a safari in a natural environment is quite different from seeing the animals in captivity. It is interesting to get to see them interact with each other according to their instincts. Did you know that giraffes, zebras and warhogs often go together? Giraffes can see on the distances, zebras have good sense of smell, so they can collaborate and alert each other when predators are coming. Nature is as much cruel as beautiful. While you may get some cute views of mumma elephant with some babies, there will also be corpses, guts, blood and fights, specially during mating season.

You should book a weekend to visit Kruger. Either staying inside or outside the park. If you plan to stay inside, you need to arrive before 6PM which is the time when the park gates close at night. It is possible to go with private tour (up to 10 people) but they all start very early and last for 12h, from 5AM to 5PM. There will be picnic included as part of the tour - typically prepared by your hotel, but make sure to bring warm clothing. Even if you visit South Africa during summer, mornings and afternoons are chilly.

Enrique stayed at Nabana Lodge which is outside the park, but only 4 hours away by car from Sandton. Quite a good combination for those of you working in Johannesburg and want to spend a weekend in Kruger, but have no possibility to take days off. The private safari tour was with Private Kruger Safaris, but they booked both things by writing to some local travel agency called reservations@hazyviewholidays.co.za that provided several options.
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Johannesburg - Living Room

Living Room, Maboneng, Johannesburg

South Africa. That country where the radio sounds as if was streamed out of my iPhone. Now seriously, they love a blend of hiphop, ragga and house music that very much matches my personal taste. We would be driving for hours and maybe it was because of the Nicki Minaj tour happening at exactly the same time, but really, I loved all the songs. I am stressing this because this feeling is something that I never experienced again since I left Spain. House music is no longer as huge as it was 10 years ago and reggaeton has taken over the country. Hence, the whole SA tour including lounging at cool spots like Living Room was quite refreshing.

Living Room is really close to Arts on Main. This rooftop house music lounge is covered with greenery, happy faces and open walls, so you can dance those house tunes while scanning Joburg's skyline. Quite a place to round up the weekend. Dresscode is cool yet casual - think of Gigi going for drinks with Kendall. Tunes are pure house, that will delight Ibiza enamorados like myself.

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Johannesburg - Maboneng Sundays

Arts on Main Market Johannesburg, South Africa

Arts on Main is a mixed-use creative hub in Johannesburg’s arts-gentrified urban neighbourhood, the Maboneng Precinct. When you approach the area by car, the environment is a bit scary. Think of burnt down trash containers, people on the streets... Yet, when coming close to the actual market and its surrounding area, everything turns into a Meatpacking-like environment. Think of a beautiful concrete building with several floors, hosting artists’ studios, galleries, eateries, offices and retail spaces, even a rootftop salsa bar. It offers a smorgasbord of events, arts and merchandise. One of the most inspiring and unique environments I ever visited, where the city’s creative to engage, develop and share ideas, using multiple innovative experiences to transform the area from sketchy downtown into a creative hub.
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Johannesburg - The Neighbourgoods Market

Neighbourgoods Market Johannesburg, South Africa

The Neighbourgoods Market in Johannesburg was founded in 2006 by original members Justin Rhodes and Cameron Munro in partnership with Adam Levy of Play Braamfontein - a company that has been at the forefront of turning the once dilapidated neighbourhood of Braamfontein  into the pioneering creative hub that it is now. Housed in a modernist building that has a spectacular 15-story wall mural by the famed artist Eduardo Villa, 10 years later the market is as much a source for farm fresh foods and specialty goods as it is a meeting point to enjoy community, swop ideas and stories, and be inspired by the energy that makes Joburg.

The Market is an amazing brunch hangout, where you can browse local designers, enjoy mojitos and laid back bites, while facing Joburg's skyline at the rhythm of some local band. Absolutely mandatory if it's Saturday and you happen to be in town. Highly recommended to find local souvenirs for that cool friend back home ;)

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South Africa - Top 6 Sharp Sharp spots

neighbourgoods market johannesburg

There are things you expect the moment you board on the plane to South Africa.

Magical animals, neverending sunsets, tribal souvenirs and neverending amazing natural environment. All this stereotypes are of course well represented but South Africa has in fact a lot more to offer. Saturday and Sunday morning in central Johannesburg - to be fair, the 2 safe areas in the city, Maboneng and Braamfontein - and Cape Town, remind more of the brunch scene in New York and the cool streets of San Francisco, than anything else.

Today we explore my interactions with the hipster scene in South Africa.

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Cape Town - Ostrich Farm

high gate ostrich farm

Ostriches are the chicken of South Africa. Big, juicy, red - their meat is one of the leanest on earth, one of their eggs can feed up to 12 people. They weigh about 100kg and are the largest living species of bird. While they can run up to 70 km/h, they are not able to fly. There are many ostrich farms around South Africa, so it is quite easy to interact with them in one way or another. Vegan or not, it is quite a remarkable experience - and your friends will have a lot of fun watching you fall off the ostrich while trying to ride.

I did not manage to squeeze a visit to this farm but if you do the Garden Route, don't doubt!

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Johannesburg - Lion Park

cheetah, ostrich, jiraffe and cub interaction at Lion Park, Johannesburg

Game parks are a lot of fun, but probably Lion Park stands out in the crowd for providing one of the most varied experiences among all the places we visited. In one day, you get to walk with a Cheetah, feed ostriches and giraffes, watch zebras pass by and lions eat the main meal on their week. All this packed in one Sunday morning, before lunchtime. So let's get started! If you can, try to visit the park on Sunday as it is the day when lions get fed, so it's pretty exciting to watch them walk in circles waiting impatiently for their horse legs.
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Johannesburg - Elephant Sanctuary

elephant sanctuary

Elephants are one of the 5 species called "the big 5" which appear featured in the different South African notes. With a weight of up to 7000kg, they are the largest and probably the most intelligent. Elephants are known to show empathy for dying or dead individuals of their species as well as self-awareness, with an intelligence comparable to primates and cetaceans. Besides using their trunk, ears and noises to communicate,they also rely on infrasound and seismic waves created by stomping their feet - then propagated through the leg and into the ear bones. This may alert elephants up to 30km away of an individual rushing away from a predator. They are native from Asia and Africa, but the largest species is based in Africa.

While ivory trade and habitat destruction poses a significant risk to these amazing animals, parks like the Elephant Sanctuary we visit today make a significant impact when it comes to creating consciousness and derailing crazy expectations over ivory. It shall however be noted that wild elephants with cubs can be extremely violent and should never be approached during game drives. Actually, Enrique had some scary experience in Kruger when mom elephant chased their car while they drove for 5min on reverse. Turn back if you see the babies...

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