Workation in Monopoli


Definition

If at least one good thing emerged from the pandemic 2020/21, it must have been remote working and the latest travel trend in combination with that: Workationing. A workation allows you to shake up your environment and potentially gather inspiration from being in a new place. Especially for people being in the creative space or knowledge-based professions, this could help seeing problems in new ways and inspire new out-of-the-box approaches, benefiting your work and ultimately your career.

The idea behind workation is what the word literally means: working + vacation. A working vacation that blends productive time and leisure time. This can be done on an individual basis, be it if you are a freelancer or simply if you are able to move your ‘home office’ to any location in the world (formerly known as digital nomads). The concept, however, can also be applied by employers who sent a group of employees away to allow a mixture of personal free time, group experiences (like yoga, hiking etc) and workshops, training etc.

This goes hand-in-hand with the term #slowtravel which is the idea of not just rushing through a destination, but taking it all in, spending more time there, blending in with daily life and experiencing a deeper connection to local life.

An Idea is born..

In my case, we currently don’t have an office in Cape Town. We are working fully remotely at home. Besides having a team in Cape Town, we also have offices in other parts of the world, like Tel Aviv and Lisbon. As you can imagine, any cooperation on projects with the colleagues from other locations is done via video calls, emails, slack etc.

I also don’t have kids that are bound to a school or a place. So, I asked myself the question: would it make a difference to my work output where my home office is? All I need is a laptop, a stable internet connection and a quiet place to work from. And that, I can get basically anywhere I want to be.

So, the decision was made to skip winter in Cape Town and to spend 3-4 months in the northern hemisphere. My first stop was Germany where I had to quarantine for 14 days – this must have been the best time for my employer, because there was zero distraction. I didn’t even go out for grocery shopping. As nice as Germany is and as homely as it feels, it is a good base to have but it is not the place I wanted to spend my workation at. Italy had been on my mind for a while and I even took Italian language lessons back at varsity, so why not refresh those once acquired skills?

You get your usual tourist hot spots in Italy, but that’s not where I wanted to go to. I wanted something small, not yet too well known, a little bit off the beaten path. Yet, still big enough to not get bored after a week, slightly touristy so that you have a good choice of places to eat out and where perhaps the one or the other restaurant offers a menu in English or German. Thanks to friends who went to such a place two years ago, the idea of going to Monopoli was born. Booking platforms as in the likes of Airbnb and others offer amazing long-term deals these days, so I rented a cute little apartment in Monopoli for a month and made my way into the south of Italy to work remotely from there.

Impressions of Monopoli

Expectations of my Workation

My expectations were simple: a change of scenery from my daily life. My routine stayed the same. I was working my standard hours, my colleagues saw a different background when in video calls, but other than that, they shouldn’t have experienced anything different.

I wanted to get to know my neighbourhood, shop in the closest super market, buy fresh fruits and veg from the veggie store next door, get a take-away coffee in the local coffee shop, find a yoga studio (even better, I found a private teacher on a roof top). In short: I wanted to live like a local, I wanted the real ‘home’ office experience just in a different place I could call home for a while.

What to do in Monopoli

Monopoli is a quaint typical Apulian town. Life is still slower there. Shops and restaurants are closed between 13h30 and 17h00. Just make sure, you get your lunch shopping done in time, because if your fridge is empty and your meeting runs over.. well, bad luck..

Go for Ice Cream! It’s a must. You will find amazing ice cream shops all around town, most of them offer vegan, gluten-free or dairy-free options. That was my daily walk after work, to clear my head and fill my tummy..

Visit Baldovino Winebar – not only is it a great location, in the middle of the Centro Storico, partly using the steps of an old church, but also has it the cutest, most knowledgable owner. He indeed impressed me, when he still knew a few days after my first visit what I had to drink my first time there. I would be flattered to believe that I left an impression 🙃

Eat raw seafood. You have probably done the sushi and poke bowl hype, so now it is time to take it a step further. A regional speciality is raw seafood as a starter. It might sound weird at the beginning, but I actually quite enjoyed it. Mussels, squid, shrimps, octopus and the list goes on and on and on. A good place to east amazing local food with a great view and a true holiday feeling is at Carlo Quinto.

Did you know that half of Italy’s beaches are managed by private lidos? Monopoli is no exception. There are quite a few free stretched of beaches, but if you want to get the true Italian feeling and a little bit of more comfort, visit one of the private lidos. You will pay a small fee but you will also get an umbrella and a deckchair with it. I didn’t have a car while I was there, however, there are the most amazing beaches in walking distance.

Take a stroll through the old town, the Centro Storico, get lost in the smallest little streets, discover unique corners everywhere you turn and take lots of photographs!

My verdict

It was the best thing I could’ve done! The timing was perfect, proper summer had just started, yet it wasn’t overfilled with (domestic) tourists (yet), as the main holiday time in Italy is usually August. The change of scenery was good for my general productivity as well as for my creative thinking. It almost felt like taking a step back and looking at the situation from the outside with a fresh pair of eyes. Europe in summer has the exact same time zone as South Africa, so there was no issue with meetings etc.

The only thing that is a negative is that now, I want to do that every year.. and instead of 1 month, I want to do it for 3… So, let’s see how the working environment in general develops and if perhaps this becomes the norm.. Surely it can’t go back to what it used to be? That productivity is falsely associated with time spend in an office. #Justsaying

Lockdown in Cape Town

Cape Town Promenade

Where would I have been better off during lockdown? I had two choices.

A) Staying putt in Cape Town, living in my own place with all my stuff?

B) Leaving to Germany, staying with family, living out of a suitcase for an uncertain amount of time?

I chose Cape Town. Not sure if it was the right choice. Germany had way less stricter lockdown rules, travelling within Europe is restrictive but possible, I could’ve seen friends and family, potentially even meet up with the friends who are that side of the world somewhere in Europe and most importantly I wouldn’t feel so alone on the other side of the world.

Despite probably more pros for Europe, I am not regretting having stayed here. We had one of the toughest enforced lockdowns in the wold apparently. No alcohol and cigarette sales allowed for most of the time. International and provincial borders closed. Not allowed to leave the house except for essentials in the first six weeks, then for four weeks we were only allowed outdoors between 6am-9am for jogging, walking etc. It became gradually more relaxed and now 5 months in we are on Level 2 which is almost back to normal. International borders remain closed, so no regular air schedule in place yet. Daily life has returned to a somewhat normal state of being again.

Cape Town is a beautiful city, in between the mountains and the ocean, the wine lands a short drive away, the rough natural beauty of the West Coast not far and all of this just for us, those that stayed behind at the far end of the African continent. No tourists, just us. I am utterly enjoying the freedom of #WFH and with that comes daily prom walks either in the morning or in the late afternoon. Mountain sessions on empty trails, beach walks without a hassle to find parking.

  • Cape Town Promenade

Level 3 Advanced then finally allowed for trips within our province of residence. August – November is typically whale watching season in the Western Cape and Hermanus is a good spot to do so. Luckily the Western Cape is also home to some great wine estates. Albeit alcohol was still permitted in Level 3, most of these wine estates are just beautiful to visit and stop a bite to eat.

We are lucky to spent lockdown here and call this home. So, no regrets after all of staying here.. however, I will be flying on home as soon as it allowed again.

Things to do

Rent a SUP and cruise the canals

Easiest way to start getting a feeling for Stand Up Paddling is renting a SUP and cruising the canals. No waves make it easy to stand up and not loose your balance. The canals around the Waterfront a beautifully lined up with the One & Only Hotel, kept clean and you can watch people strolling along the sidewalks.

Rent your SUP at https://supcapetown.co.za either make a booking online or just get there. We were lucky as they weren’t super busy during lockdown and they had enough SUPs available for the 3 of us. 1 hour will cost you R220.

Lion’s Head walk-around

During Lockdown the path up Lion’s Head was closed. But there is an alternative – the walk-around. Not as steep as you don’t go up all the way, but still amazing views as you also take a 180° walk around. Starting point is the same parking. You just walk right towards the Kramat instead of up-hill.

Green Point Lanes

During Lockdown Level 4 when we were only allowed to go out in the morning between 6-9am (Sun in Cape Town only went up at around 7h30) the promenade was too busy, so I started going the other direction. Through the neighbourhood, all the way up towards Upper Green Point. There are lovely lanes with steps between Main Rd and High Level and then again between High Level and Ocean View Drive / Springbok Rd. Besides, being rewarded with a nice view once on the top, these lanes also offer a nice work-out if you go all the way up.

Check out this Facebook Group to see the cutest pics of Green Point Lanes .

A Nile Cruise

Visiting Egypt

7 Days on the Nile

[LONG POST WARNING]

Sometimes it takes a special occasion for a dream to come true. It was my mother’s 60th birthday and she decided to celebrate it on a Nile cruise. All in Agatha Christie “Death on the Nile” style. And it sure, wasn’t disappointing at all.

It was my second visit to the Land of the Pharaohs. My first time was 9 years ago – a visit to Cairo which included the Great Pyramids of Giza and a little love affair in and with Egypt. However, I must admit that Upper Egypt is by far the more interesting part of Egypt. That’s the part we visited while on our Nile Cruise.

There are various cruises available. From a 14-day cruise which usually starts in Cairo and goes all the way down (or up) to Aswan, to 1-week cruises and even 5-day cruises. Five days are really short as most of the first and last day is spend travelling. So, you effectively have three full days. We did the one-week cruise and it was just perfect.

As far as I remember it was also my first ever fully guided tour. More on the topic in another post perhaps. I didn’t know what to expect and what we were about to see and experience over the next week when we got there.. so, if you are ever thinking of doing a Nile Cruise this post will give you an idea about our itinerary and what might await you.

DAY 1: Arrival and Embarkment

We arrived in Luxor in the early afternoon and were taken, in true guided tour style, with those big tour busses to our ship (the kind of busses I hate to see driving in the streets of Cape Town – oh the irony). Embarkation (is that the cruise equivalent for check-in?) was done just in time for tea time. Coffee was served on the sun deck to give us a great first impression with an amazing view of the Temple of Luxor, a stone-throw away from our ship.

Day 2: Valley of the Kings and Temple of Karnak

We still woke up in Luxor where we spent the night. So, no movement as yet. Just after sunrise we boarded one of those big tour busses again and drove for about 45 min to the west bank of the Nile, also known as Thebes West (they say the dead were buried on the west bank of the Nile, the living lived on the east bank). First stop: the Temple of Hatshepsut.

The legend says: The temple was commissioned by Queen Hatshepsut who had to pretend she was a man, since Queens were not a thing back then in her dynasty. So, all the statues show her as a man. The architect was her lover who promised to built one of the most beautiful temples the ancient world has ever seen.

Behaving like a Millennial, always on the hunt for that perfect Instagram shot, I did my research on the best angles for those images beforehand. So, I came across Hatshepsut’s temple on various social media platforms and it reminded me more of a neo-classic building than ancient Egyptian and I wasn’t too impressed. That however, changed as soon a I got there. It was simply stunning and an absolute architectural jewel.

Next stop: Valley of the Kings. Oh well, the name promises more. This valley is basically a part of the desert into which graves were carved into the earth. These graves are stunningly beautiful and colourful from the inside but rather unspectacular from the outside.. Well I guess that’s the secret that the first grave was only discovered in the early 1800’s. Long deserved rest for all those pharaohs.

Quick pitstop at the Colossi of Memmon – really nothing to write home about except that we didn’t stop on our way to the Valley of the Kings because there were already too many buss loads of tourists there.. Yet, it is a stunning sight that in the middle of nowhere or in the middle of a wheat field, suddenly you see these massive statues.

Next stop: Temple of Karnak, definitely one of the highlights of the trip. Just magnificent. Exactly 2.7km on a direct axis connected to the Tempe of Luxor. Connected through the Avenue of Sphinxes – which was rediscovered only recently and the current mayor of Luxor had all the buildings built on top of this avenue torn down to make it visible again. All of them, except a mosque and one of the oldest Christian churches in Egypt.

After visiting this highlight of Luxor we finally went cruising on the Nile. Oh what a feeling.. as soon as we left Luxor all we saw was water, the green belt on the shores and the golden sand of the desert. It started to feel a lot like “Death on the Nile”. I actually don’t even know if we stopped anywhere or if we kept on going through the night. When I woke up we were still somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

Day 3: Temples and Cruising

Waking up to the sound of cruising and a sunrise on the Nile was an unforgettable moment.

Next Stop: Temple of Horus in Edfu – one of the best preserved ancient monuments in Egypt. Preserved by desert sand since it was fully covered with sand at one stage and truly one of the most atmospheric temples we visited. The rest of the day was spent cruising again.. With high-tea on the sun-deck and views for days until arriving in Aswan late in the evening.

Day 4: Aswan

Aswan, a vibrant, pretty city on the shores of the Nile where Lake Nasser, the largest man-made lake in the world, was build in the early 1960s. We docked straight by a lovely promenade right in the centre of Aswan. A short walk to the Bazaar and more importantly a short walk to the Old Cataract Hotel where Agatha Christie wrote her world famous novel.

Tip: If you plan to do high-tea at that world famous hotel, book in advance and perhaps avoid going on a Thursday, that’s usually reserved for hotel guests only.

If I ever go back to Aswan, this is where I will be staying!

Another highlight close by is the Philae Temple complex on the island of Philae, a tiny little island on the Nile. The temple was built to honour the goddess Isis and can be reached by a short boat trip.

Leaving the Island of Philae

Day 5: Abu Simbel

Besides spending quality time with the whole family, Abu Simbel was THE absolute highlight of the trip. The 3h30am wake-up call and almost 4-hour drive through the Nubian desert towards the Sudanese border was more than worth it. I love the desert and just to add, I’ve spend almost 5 years of my life living in one. Yet.. for the first time in my life, I saw an actual Fata Morgana. The temples of Abu Simbel are basically two massive temples carved into a rock, built by Ramses II for himself and for his favourite wife Nefertari, the most beautiful woman of this ancient era.

As you might have figured by now, I am such a sucker for ancient ruins. I like to walk through them and imagine I had lived there during that time and what life would have been like.. I was lucky enough to have visited Petra, the famous tomb city in Jordan, about 25 years ago, way before mass tourism discovered the tombs and I can tell you that the Abu Simbel is right up there on the list with Petra in terms of wow-factor.

Historical fact: when the government of Egypt built Lake Nasser in 1962, they knew that the original temples would be flooded. So, the decided to relocate them by 64 meters. Yes, to move them! The whole rock that the temples was carved into.

Here is another amazing historical fact: It is believed that the axis of the temple was positioned by the ancient Egyptian architects in such a way that on February 21 and October 21, the rays of the sun would penetrate the sanctuary and illuminate the sculptures on the back wall, except for the statue of Ptha the god of death, who always remained in the dark. Due to the relocation of the temple by 64 meters, these dates shifted by one day and are now on the 22nd of the respective month. Guess what? We were there on its original date, the 21st Feb!

Day 6: Kom Ombo and cruising back to Luxor

The day started with a little cruise on a typical small sailing boat which was basically more or less an excursion to sell us gifts and crafts onboard. The locals are making use of every opportunity to sell anything to tourists. And everything costs 1€ by the way…

After the Arab Spring in 2011 tourism basically came to a stand still which was the only source of income for so many locals. Traders are desperate for any sale and would even dock on our ship and sell gifts from their tiny motor boats.

Next stop: On our way back to Edfu where we would anchor for the night, we stoped at another Temple: Kom Ombo. The temple is unique because it is in fact a double temple, dedicated to Sobek the crocodile god, and Horus the falcon-headed god. The layout combines two temples in one with each side having its own gateways and chapels. I just wish we could have arrived a bit earlier as the sun set over the Nile was magnificent from the temple’s viewing point.

Day 7: Luxor

If things had gone to the original plan we would have arrived in Luxor a day earlier and the evening of day 6 and perhaps day 7 could’ve been spent with my Egyptian connection mentioned at the beginning.

Fate had different plans and we only arrived back in Luxor just after midday on our last day. We visited the Temple of Luxor – the one that is connected to the Temple of Karnak by the 2.7km long Avenue of the Sphinxes. The temple is magnificent. A master piece.

The one obelisk missing at its entrance is the one that’s now in Paris, standing tall on the Place de la Concorde (little did I know about that fact when I was admiring the Parisian obelisk just 2 months prior to that).

Again, I just wish we had managed to get there earlier. If you are not bound to a group travel itinerary, try to get there as soon as the temple complex opens in the morning and hopefully you will also avoid the crowds.

In the evening we had the opportunity to go back to the Temple of Karnak for a sound and light show. They’ve done a great job. It takes you by foot through the temple complex and it sets you back 3500 years by sound and light effects. What a perfect ending to a perfect trip. One more night on the ship before a week of time travel back to ancient Egypt came to an end.

Summary

A great trip to spend quality time with the family. A great way to explore so many different places and to learn about the era of the Pharaohs. Travelling in February was perfect. Don’t go there between May – September it will just be too hot. Sometimes I wished we had more time at certain places, on the other side it was pleasant that everything was taken care of, no planning from our side required. All in all, a trip I can highly recommend. Maybe try to slot in a hot air balloon ride over Luxor. We simply didn’t have the time for it. Next time… I have a feeling my second visit to Egypt wasn’t my last one.

Paris je t’aime


It’s easy to fall in love with Paris. That’s why Paris is the best rebound I can think of. So, where better to go to and distract yourself after a break-up or a heartbreak. Just remember movies like “Midnight in Paris” or “Before Sunset”that give us a pretty good idea of how beautiful Paris is. It is not only the beautiful architecture, or the stylish sense of fashion of the Parisians, there is more to it. It’s the way of life that Paris portraits: good food, good wine, class and style. Short: The savoir-vivre!

Continue reading “Paris je t’aime”

Winter Magic


6 Reasons to love winter in the Cape

Winter in the Cape is underrated. So much in fact, that Cape Town and the Western Cape as a whole struggle with tourist numbers every year. Visitors, come! There is no reason to avoid the Cape in winter. In fact it has become one of my favourite seasons.

Reason number one

Less traffic – way less traffic. And I mean not only on the road. No queues to most tourist attractions, no need to book a restaurant two weeks in advance. The city is not as congested as it is in peak season.

Reason number two

The wind – there is basically no wind in winter. Have you been to the Cape in summer and experienced the South Easter? Then you know what I mean. In winter, there is basically no wind in the Cape.

Reason number three

Sunsets – the most beautiful sunsets are unarguably in autumn and in winter. Especially on a cloudy day. Remember what they say: beautiful sunsets require cloudy skies.

Reason number four

Really affordable – prices fall for locals. You can find a lot of restaurants offering winter menus at reduced prices. Even weekend get-aways are becoming more affordable for locals when the influx of foreigners with stronger currencies wears down.

Reason number five

Sunny days – and there are plenty. Winter in the Cape is rainy season. That’s true, but the rain usually never lasts too long. A few rainy days are usually followed by as many (if not more) days with temperatures rising to a gentle low twenty. Ideal for beach or prom walks, lazy lunches in the sun or visiting a wine farm and buying some red for those rainier days.

Reason number 6

Fireplaces – who doesn’t love them? And I am happy to announce that I have just learned how to make a fire in a fire place! My first one!

5 Things to do in Cape Town that won’t cost you an arm and a leg


I made 2018 my year of not going on a long-haul flight. It is November now and it looks like I’m going to make it! Having been on a ten hours flight once a month for the past nine years took its toll on me. Traveler burn-out is a real thing. Moving back to Cape Town a year ago and escaping the concrete urban jungle that is Johannesburg, made me wanting to explore my old new hometown more. It is after all one of the most beautiful places in the world with an influx of hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. If they all come to see what is so special about Cape Town, I can as well stay and discover that too.

Besides the bucket list items of every visitor, like a helicopter flight, a paragliding tandem jump, shark cage diving and having dinner at Africa’s only restaurant that made it into the top 50 restaurants worldwide, there is plenty of free (or at least free’ish) stuff to do. Here are my top 5:

#1 Lion’s Head

My number one activity has to be a hike up Lion’s Head. No doubt! I prefer the views to those from the top of Table Mountain, you get a bit of exercise in and it’s a perfect second date activity.
The hike up is very popular with locals as well as with tourists. So, choose your depature time carefully if you want to avoid masses of hikers which results in queuing and trying to ditch trailrunners and suicidal selfie takers. Never go up for a full moon hike! You have about 2000 people trying to squeeze in on narrow pathways. (Tip: get a tripod, head towards Vredehoek side of town and take a long exposure photo of those masses of people all equipped with lights making their way down).

If you go for a sunset on any other day, don’t forget headlights or at least a fully charged phone with a torch function.

#2 Promenade Walks

Take a long walk along Sea Point and Mouille Point Promenade. Restorations and construction work have almost been completed. If you start at the public swimming pool in Sea Point and you go all the way past the Mouille Point Light house, you can stroll a good 5km along the Atlantic Seaboard. There are different sculptures displayed along the way and the fresh sea air is definitely a goodie on top. If you are an eager jogger, it’s a popular route to go. You even have some outdoor gym facilities waiting for your if you want to push a bit more.

#3 Yoga on the beach

Get over your weekly hump with YogaLife, Cafe Caprice, Havaianas and Savanna!
Wind down the day with a free sunset yoga class led by The YogaLife on Camps Bay Beach. After your bodies and minds have been stretched, float over to Cafe Caprice for a healthy meal and complimentary Savanna Dry.

Bring along a towel, your swim wear, friends and family. All levels welcome! It happens every Wednesday during the warmer season. Check out their Facebook Page for all the details (and cancelations in case the wind blows too strong)

#4 Beaches

One of Cape Town’s main attractions must be its beaches. You don’t have to drive far out to find the most pristine beaches. Clifton (all 4 of them), Camps Bay, Glen Beach are super close to the City Centre and the neighbourhoods surrounding the City Bowl. Parking can be a nightmare and it gets full quite quickly. If you don’t want to lie on the sand like sardines in a tin, choose your beach times accordingly.

Just a short drive out of town is Llandudno beach – another one of these white sandy beaches. A little longer drive out is Boulders Beach in Simons Town. In case you are keen to swim and sunbath with some Penguins than that’s the place to go. If Penguins are not your thing but you are already on the False Bay side of the Peninsula, then head out to Fishhoek, Kalk Bay or St. James.

For the surfers or aspiring surfers amongst you, Muizenberg Beach is probably the beach to go to.

Kite surfers and those braving the wind should head out to Big Bay, Blouberg and Table View. Guess where the name Table View comes from? The view of Table Mountain is one of the best.

#5 Sightseeing walking tours

You probably know of the red City Sight Seeing (CSS) busses that you see around Cape Town or any other major city around the world. But did you know that CSS also offers free walking tours? You can choose between the The Historic City Walk and Vibrant Bo-Kaap Walk. They are for free and the guides work on a tip basis. Each tour is about 90min long and they offer morning and afternoon tours.

Enjoy your stay in Cape Town! Use #lovecapetown to spread the love.

Top things to do in San Francisco


When you live in South Africa and you are given a business class ticket to any destination of your choice where would you go? Well, I looked at a destination map of the airline that gave me that ticket and chose the one that was furthest away. Two long haul flights each 11 hours long, a transfer-time in the middle of about 6 hours and I landed in San Francisco. Just me! Airport shuttle and hotel booked well in advance, a SIM card that works in the US loaded with data and ready I was for my four days adventure in San Francisco.

After much consideration I decided to stay in a hotel in Nob Hill.. Oh well, the view from that hotel was just amazing! Arriving just in time for an incredible sunset, I fell in love with SF almost instantly. Here are my top things to do in SF when traveling on your own and you don’t know anyone in that city:

1. Hire a bicycle: 

San Fran is a bicycle friendly city – well, if you don’t count the hills into consideration and if you stay in the flatter parts of the city.. I guess it is more of a tourist attraction than a local thing. There are a lot of bicycle hire shops spread all over the city. Most of them are located along the Waterfront anywhere between Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. The most famous thing to do with a bike is probably to ride over Golden Gate Bridge.  The city caters for it and the infrastructure from the Waterfront to the Golden Gate Bridge is bicycle friendly with dedicated bike paths etc. And don’t be afraid to get lost, just follow the paths (or the crowd for that matter) and it will take you straight to the bridge). The ride over the bridge itself is noisy (with all the cars hammering past you), windy (and mostly foggy) and be aware of having to dodge all the pedestrians. But it is so worth it! Once on the other side in Marin County you basically just roll down hill straight into the beautiful sea-side town of Sausolito. It’s the perfect spot to have lunch and enjoy a bit of sun. If you are too lazy to ride all the way back (like I was), you can take the ferry back to San Francisco harbor – they also take your bike!

 

2. Downtown, Financial District and China Town:

Nothing spectacular but a should-do, I guess. A must-do for me was to go shopping at a yoga brand clothing shop that we don’t have here in South Africa, hence going downtown had to be done. What I really love about SF is that it’s not a big American City, it is rather small and hence walkable as everything is also just so close by. If you are too lazy to walk up (or down) those famous SF hills, take a cable car, in fact, I think it is a must-do to ride on one of them. There are dedicated stops all over downtown, the waterfront as well as in Nob Hill, you just jump in and pay the conductor 7 USD. Which is a an adequate fee, I believe, because you get your ride plus your tourist sensation, so basically a two in one!

3. Little Italy and Lombard Street

A short walk from the Waterfront is a neighbourhood called little Italy. A cute little space with European flair, a lot of gelaterias and Italian eateries. From there, take another short walk to the bottom of Lombard Street – the crookedest street in the world. Go, and you’ll see why:-)

4. Haight-Ashburry

Nah… not my cup of tea to be honest. I expected more and as soon as I got there, I made my way out again. Not my vibe and it also didn’t feel the safest to be honest. But give it a try. The houses on my way were amazing! lots of old and renovated Victorian Houses.

5. Painted Ladies

Well, what should I say.. another rather disappointed experiences. It is nice to have seen them and the weather was warm enough to chill in the park opposite for a bit, but to be honest you find more beautiful Victorian houses in Nob Hill. The view from the park, with the Painted Ladies in front and downtown in the background makes for a great Instagram shot. But that’s about it.

6. Mission District

Definitely worth a visit. Especially if you are a fan of Street Art like I am! I booked an Airbnb Experience in advance which was the best thing I could’ve done. So, in case you are not aware yet, but Airbnb also offers experiences, which are excursions, cooking classes, painting classes, dance lessens.. let you imagination run wild or check out their website. I booked a guided tour with a local Mission artist to one of the oldest Mural sited in SF (first mural dates back to 1971!!!), Balmy Alley. Patricia who has painted and co-painted murals in Balmy Alley herself took us on a tour through Balmy Alley explaining the history and background stories of the various murals and giving us an insight of the neighborhood. It was definitely one of the best experiences of my whole SF trip. You can go on your own, but understanding the murals is a different story than just looking at them.

7. Hiking along the coast line

Another Airbnb experience I booked was a hike along SF’s coastline, passing Golden Gate bridge all the way to Baker’s Beach. There a quite a lot of hiking trails and you don’t necessarily need a guide to do it. I guess I booked it, because I didn’t know, I was traveling solo and it turned out to be a nice way to meet some other fellow travelers.

8. Rock-balancing at Lands End

Lands End itself is a worth a trip out of the city. It is a beautiful nature’ spot with a short hiking trail to a small beach from which you have a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Down at that beach, you’ll find quite a few hipsters doing rock balancing. It’s a beautiful art of meditation and testing your will power as well as your patience. To learn how to do rock-balancing I booked my last experience and Travis, a local rock balancer, took a group of 7 down to the beach and tried to teach us the art of rock balancing – more successful to others than to me… Yet, it was the most fantastic experience and the timing was perfect! We ended our session just in time for a beautiful sunset over the Pacific.

This is my top things to do round-up for a solo trip! There is plenty more to do – So, I guess I need to go back one day.. See you soon again SF!

Tried and tested


This happens when you are on a sabbatical and think you have all the time you want on your hands – your friends think it is time to find new spots in town and you volunteer to do the research and the bookings.  So it happened that for the month of April it was my task to be adventurous and actually check out new spots. I would just like to add that my friends are very judgmental… you can imagine how nervous I was at the beginning of each time we tried out a new spot.

Sin+Tax
Bolton Road seems to be the new place to be at anyway. A couple of new restaurants have opened up on the corner of Bolton Road and Jan Smuts. There is Bolton Road Collection (Which is next up on my to-eat-out-list), then there is Coalition Pizza which is a great spot to have Pizza e Vino. And then there is Sin+Tax somewhere adjacent to Coalition Pizza. However, the entrance is actually in a side alley next to Coalition Pizza and rumor has it that you can only get in with a password. All in the New York  “speakeasy” kind of bar vibe. The interior is simple but effective. The owner and head mixologist Julian just won the local World Class Bartender competition and will be representing South Africa in the World Finals (by the way another Sin+Tax bartender become third.. so if two of the best South African mixologists work in the same bar, you know it is worth the visit).  Julian has a “main menu” and a seasonal one, which actually changes today as I write this. So, I am very excited to go back and try the new winter cocktail menu.  My recommendation would be to come in smaller groups, maybe a max of 6 people. More gets tricky in terms of nice seating and the guys at Sin+Tax are also quite selective on the number of people they let in, which I guess makes half of the “Old New York days” vibe.

Workshop 55
Next on my list was Workshop 55 in Parktown North (one of my favourite neigbourhoods anyway). It is tucked away in an old residential home right on 7th Avenue, and is made of a bar area and a restaurant area with an open kitchen. We started off in the bar area with some amazing Gin and Tonics. Then went over to our table. It works with a flat fee, so basically each guest pays a flat fee of 240 ZAR and gets three tapas-like dishes. If you want more, you pay extra. It is ideal for sharing on the table and to be honest, it was enough for all of us. We didn’t even have space for dessert. After dinner, we went back to the bar area.  You can easily spend your whole night there without having to move to another place since restaurant and bar area are completely separate and quite different in style, too.

Marble
Although not a newbie in our experience-seeking and tried & tested successfully since December, it is worthwhile mentioning it in this context. Situated on the top floor of the Trumpet Building in Rosebank, Marble offers great views of Johannesburg and especially beautiful views for sunsets. Again, here you have the choice of going to the bar only or to combine bar and restaurant. The dining experience is amazing, a truly South African 5* braai  – the Chef might not like my blunt description but since I am not a food blogger I might get away with it (the fact that he is easy on the eye might attract a lot of female guests, so I have heard).

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Workshop 55

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Sin+Tax

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Marble Sunsets

Discover your own city


I’ve done it in other cities, so why not in my own city. I’ve sent visitors on it, but never went on my own. So, with time off work and another visitor arriving in Johannesburg, I thought, let me give it a try, too. And so I ended on the Red City Sightseeing Bus discovering Johannesburg.  Since I last put a visitor on the bus, a lot has changed to the positive. Starting point is now directly at Rosebank (used to be Park Station), they added the Green Tour to start with which takes you through the leafy suburbs of Rosebank, Parktown, Houghton, Parkview, past Zoo Lake, the Zoo and finally stops at Constitution Hill where you can swap to the Red Tour which takes you through Braamfontain, through downtown Jozi, the south of Johannesburg and stops at the Apartheid Museum. From there, you can now swap into a Red mini bus and start your Soweto tour.

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My highlights: 

  • seeing the Northern Suburbs from a higher perspective by sitting on the upper level. You can actually look over all the fences and walls and see the most amazing manor houses.
  • Constitution Hill! A definite must for every South African. The Constitutional Court Building is accessible for visitors and it’s definitely worth to see. Amazing art is displayed in the public areas. Constitution Hill itself is definitely worth a walk around.
  • The narrative on the bus is brilliantly done, I still learned a lot by driving through town.
  • We had a local Soweto guy who was our Soweto Tour guide and he was brilliant – Mbali Blessing is his name.

 

My lowlights: 

  • Carlton Centre: which is one of the stops on the Red Tour. You can go up to the 50th level and have a 360 degree view of greater Johannesburg. However, the so called “Eye of Africa” really needs a makeover, or at least a clean up. At least the windows would need a clean up.
  • If you book the Soweto Tour you won’t really make it inside the Apartheid Museum due to time constraints, which is a pity, cause this should really be a Must for anyone visiting Johannesburg.
  • Unfortunately there is also not enough time to walk around in Soweto a lot. There is so much more to do. So, the 2 hours tour is good for a first insight, but not long enough (however, Mbali offers private longer tours on his days off.. ask him if you want to and have time) He will even walk through his neighborhood with you and introduce you to the locals and yes, you can feel pretty safe with him.

If you plan to visit Johannesburg or if you live there.. give it a try! It is definitely worth it.

 

We found Wally


I’ve seen so many hash tags over the past 2 years (or so) tagging “Wally’s Cave” that I was curious where it is. Finally, yesterday we went looking for it and we found it!
I followed Mike’s directions which he thankfully shared. Check it our yourself. Continue reading “We found Wally”

Arty spaces 


Looking closer at Johannesburg (let’s call it Jozi from here on) one can see and even more so feel a change in so many aspects. One of them is definitely the upcoming art scene. So much has happened here in probably the last 2-3 years. Continue reading “Arty spaces “

The gem that is Alicante


Alicante is rather underrated. When you think of going to Spain, you’d probably think of Barcelona, Madrid, Andalusia, perhaps even Valencia, probably Bilbao or recently San Sebastián or Santiago de Compostela. Continue reading “The gem that is Alicante”

Fast forward time


Don’t say I didn’t warn you.. It is still Valentine’s month and my thoughts about dating, men, love and travels continue.

So, it is Saturday morning and I am on  my way to Cape Town. Continue reading “Fast forward time”

The perfect travel date


Despite having been proud and happy single for the last couple of years, I probably fell in love countless times. Needless to say that it never lasted very long. Not necessarily because I fell out of love, more like because I didn’t fall, they tripped me.   Continue reading “The perfect travel date”

48 hours in Singapore


48 hours are definitely not long enough. Don’t do it! Don’t just stop over on your way to Aussie Land, Bali or wherever your journey takes you. Spend some time there and discover.. if your wallet allows for it because, gosh, Singapore is expensive. Therefore you get a super clean, super save city. I’ve heard about the cleanness before and yet, I was still surprised. Continue reading “48 hours in Singapore”

Madeira impressions


On my bucket list! Madeira. Image credit goes to my aunt and uncle who recently visited this Portuguese island. When I saw the pictures and listened to how much they loved it, my mind was made up: I want to go:) Continue reading “Madeira impressions”

Algarve, Portugal


Apparently the Algarve enjoys a rather bad reputation. Shaped a lot by British and German tourists. Apparently. I didn’t really experience it that way. For sure not our hotel which was 5* and a prize sponsored by Health&Fitness Travel. The hotel we stayed at was the Epic Sana Algarve – what a gem. Continue reading “Algarve, Portugal”

Lisbon


I won – yes I actually really won – a wellness stay at the Algarve. So, flying to Lisbon was for me the only option getting there, hence why not spending a couple of days there?
I went with a really good friend of mine, we even lived together for a short period of time and I knew we’d get along – in fact it was my first proper girl’s holiday in a very very long time. Continue reading “Lisbon”