I guess its not such a secret anymore.
I’m flying back to Cape Town today after my third visit to Joburg. Yes, third visit… ever. Yes, ever. Lets not do that again.
The truth is, I’ve wondered if it was the allure of the airport, the flight (I have a thing for airports and flying), or a double (sometimes queensized) bed all to myself (people in relationships don’t be frowning at me – you know you also crave just one night to lie diagonally) that makes me like visiting Joburg so much, but I think its really the place itself. I think I really like it.
I told someone that last night, that I liked Joburg. To which he (a Joburger) responded, “but what about your mountain?”
Yes yes, look. I’m not saying Joburg is better than Cape Town, and indeed… it is hellofa flat without any mountains (or hills!!) to speak of. Its also dusty, and busy, with lots of traffic and really really big. But, for all those reasons, and more – its exciting.
The republic of Cape Town feels disconnected from South Africa, from Africa even. I know we Capetonians kinda like it that way, our beautiful bubble of wine farms and restaurants, the promenade and dog (and cyclist – erg, that Argus-training time of year again) friendly establishments. But Joburg is vibrant and diverse. It feels South African. It feels African.
My first trip to Joburg I was all wide eyes absorbing the tales of who and what, areas and landmarks (there really aren’t any that make it easy to navigate) and trying to get a sense of direction in this flat city.
My second trip, I was prepared and equipped with an itinerary. We had coffee in Braamfontein at Father Coffee, and lunch at 44 Stanley. We shopped Sandton City (hello there Zara which seems better just because its Sandton) and had dinner in the european-esque 4th Avenue in vibey Parkhurst. Bistro Vine: extraordinary food, a good wine list and of course – having my sister as company helped to rank it as top shelf. Parkhurst – this must be my favourite (but then, my next visit will have Illovo on the itinerary). Rosebank Tasha’s, Hyde Park Tasha’s. I may have a thing for Tasha’s.
My third trip, no shopping (still broke from London), but always a coffee (its more than an addiction now).
Braamfontein again because damn! That place is cool. We popped into Double Shot, Joburgs equivalent to Cape Town’s Origin in the Waterkant. Braamfontein is filled with these hipster coffee shops serving up great coffee, beating any hotel breakfast-included cappuccino. (My secret mission for all future colleagues I travel with: to visit a new one each time).
The reason for this 3rd Joburg visit, because it apparently can’t all be about coffee and shopping, was the Bookmark Awards in JHB’s “town” at the Turbine Hall. Driving across Nelson Mandela Bridge, the sky burning red as the sun set*, train tracks below us and my boss telling me a story of the great man himself and the excitement of the people who came to see the opening of the bridge, my little secret crush on this place became obvious.
On my flight home I looked out the window as we came into Cape Town. At the green fields and vineyards that I’m so comfortable seeing and knowing and that tell me I’m home and I realised what it is that makes me crush on Joburg. It is so vastly different to Cape Town. Its like travelling to a different country, a brand new place that’s only two hours away. And within it, there are hundreds of pockets of different countries with different flavours and colours and energies. That is why its special.
Now all I need is to experience the thunderstorms I’ve read about and perhaps dance in a warm summer afternoon rain.
*can’t deny that it was possibly smog making it so striking.