Thursday, July 18, 2013

Happy Born Day Madiba & 18 Reasons to Visit South Africa

I long for another week of South African Summer. Two years seems like an eternity from my beach hopping, road tripping, party thumping trek across that beautiful nation. Today I attended the Congressional Celebration for the 95th Birthday of Nelson Mandela and was reminded of all the reasons why I want to go back and why South Africa should be at the top of your travel bucket list!

1. Deep House Music: If you're like me, the only African music you're familiar with in the US is likely from Nigeria or Ghana. And while I will "Ashowa" with the best of them there is a certain smoothness that comes with South African Deep House. Check out my favorite track by my friend Nutty Nys - "I've Been Waiting" and transport yourself to Durban this instant.

2. Township parties and BBQ:The last time I was in Johannesburg my friends were DJ'ing a party in a nearby township. This place was a literal hotbox of sweat and good tunes but the icing on the cake were the grilled meats right outside of the "club" (I use that loosely) - even the best halal chicken has nothing on this.

3. Civil Rights Flashbacks: South Africa is similar to the US in many ways, apartheid = segregation, youth led civil rights movement, etc. However, the one way they have diverged is in their use of the word "colored" - it happens all the time, among everyone although the usage is slightly different.

4. Rooftop Parties: It is easy to lose yourself and think you are in Brooklyn when in Johannesburg. Rooftop parties are always happening and with an eclectic mix of artsy folks are guaranteed good times.

5. Accents: A weird mix of British, Australian, and well "African" the South African accent is pretty distinct but awesomely lovely to listen to.

6. Poppin' Pino: South African wine is absolutely deeeeelish. Something about that climate makes these grapes go crazy. My favorites are a red regional grape called Pinotage and South African Gewurztraminer.

7. Roadtrips to Lesotho: I know you may be thinking that a country entirely within another country can't be that great - but you're wrong! Lesotho has three things going for it...skiing, sausages with french fries on top, and funny semi-asian looking hats.

8. Big Ass Lions: While I hope you spend most of your days with actual people, one cannot escape the magic of Kruger National Park. Don your linens and cap - you're headed on a safari!

9. Florida Rd.: Looking for a strip that feels like a mix of spring break and a Diddy video? Stroll along Florida Rd. in Durban and you'll get the best of both worlds, and maybe a good bite to eat. Need a night to soak it in? Stay at the Quarters Hotel - four Victorian homes converted to a place to rest your head.

10. Xhosa Lessons: Unfortunately many an African stereotype tried to mimic the clicking sound of the Xhosa people. See the real deal and learn about the important heritage of the Xhosa people along a backdrop of dolphins, golf resorts, and horseback riding.

11. Re-create the Dance Scene in Sarafina: Visit Soweto, the most famous township in all of South Africa and feel the spirit of the uprising there. If you visit during the warmer months, be sure to stop at a local shebeen for a cool refreshment.
12. The African Rodeo Drive: The Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre will quickly remind you that there is MONEY in Africa. From Louis Vuitton to other retailers the shop smells of extravagance.

13. Stars: Yes you can see stars from anywhere in the world but none are quite like the ones in the Southern Hemisphere. Unless you're planning an antarctic trek, this is as south as it gets and it is beautiful. On a clear night it looks like you can actually touch the stars.

14. Bunny Chow: No trip to Durban is complete without this famous curry. Get it in lamb for the best, most authentic taste and have a sample of the cities Indian heritage in your mouth!

15. World Cup: I know that the days of the first FIFA in Africa seem long gone but the vestiges are certainly ever lasting. New, world class football stadiums dot cities across the country and let you indulge in the world's most famous sport up close and personal.

16. South African Airways: A member of the Star Alliance, SAA will feed you even on domestic flights under an hour. Beyond that perk, you get the benefits of a global airline with direct flights to the US and some local flavor.

17. The Radisson Blu Rooftop Pool: Located in Sandton, one of Johannesburg's most swanky neighborhood's this rooftop pool is open all night. Trust me, I know from experience what kind of fun this pool and a few cocktails bring.

18. It is the birthplace of Madiba - that actually is enough:)