Constitution Hill

Today is Freedom day in South Africa, commemorating 22 years since the first democratic election was held here, marking the official end of institutionalized colonialism and apartheid in the country. This weekend, we got a glimpse at both South Africa’s dark past and bright future at Constitution Hill.

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Serendipity in Swaziland

There is a small kingdom that is circled on all sides by green mountains, shrouded in mist. It is ruled by a benevolent King who tries his best to take care of his people with the help of his wise mother, though he has a penchant for collecting wives and fine things. The people here are not rich, but they are happy with their king and proud of their land. They live according to traditional customs as they have for hundreds of years, but wonder about life outside of their tiny kingdom, and yearn for more opportunities.

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This place is the Kingdom of Swaziland, a mountainous country sandwiched between northeastern South Africa and Mozambique. Driving through this tiny country on our way back from Mozambique, we were treated to an inside view of this incredible place that we never expected.

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Know Before You Go: Planning a Driving Trip to Mozambique

Driving from South Africa to southern Mozambique is an awesome adventure and a great way to experience the country. But in order to have a relaxing holiday and avoid becoming stranded in the wilderness, a good deal of preparation is required. I’m not much of a planner, but luckily I’m married to one. Here are a few hints that we learned along the way to make your trip as smooth and enjoyable as ours was.

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Ponta d’Ouro, Mozambique

When you cross the border from South Africa into Southern Mozambique, the roads don’t just get bad. They cease to exist, along with potable tap water, grocery stores, and many of the other modern conveniences that we enjoy in South Africa. So too does the stress and commercialization that comes along with life in a relatively developed country. Instead, you’ll find natural beauty, lovely people, and a slower, more relaxed pace of life.

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South Africa makes craft beer now, too

When I was in South Africa for the World Cup in 2010, I remember waltzing in to a liquor store with my friends before our first match at Soccer City in Johannesburg. We wanted a six-pack for the tailgate before the match. In the beer section, there were stacks of Castle Lager and Castle Lite, South Africa’s answers to Budweiser and Bud Light, and not much else. That was fine. We were 21, and I would end up drinking some of that beer out of a vuvuzela anyway (sorry, parents), like these New Zealanders we met at Royal Bafokeng stadium.

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The Grand White Dinner

 

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For all its diversity and inequality, the inclusiveness of Johannesburg sometimes cathces me by surprise. South Africa still has a long way to go towards being a fully equal society, and there are times when it seems terribly segregated. But here in the heart of the “Rainbow Nation,” there is an energy of improvement and an economic drive that seems to transcend much of the racial weight that has for so long been a burden on this society. The people of Joburg are driven and hopeful, and see themselves as part of a cosmopolitan city, rather than just members of any race, ethnic group or gender.

This past weekend, I saw this positivity and inclusivity in action. I was lucky enough to win tickets to the Grand White Dinner, courtesy of Marie Claire Magazine. The concept of the Grand White is fairly simple: the day of the event, you get a text with the location of the party. Show up dressed in all white (with a touch of green), bring along a picnic and drinks, find your seat a long table and decorate (with more white and green), then enjoy the atmosphere and dance floor into the night.

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Dog & Fig Brewery

Cici and I worked up quite a thirst navigating our way down the Vaal River. Conveniently for us, the Dog & Fig Brewery is just a few hundred meters away from Earth Adventures along Kopjeskraal Road in Parys. The brewery is set atop a broad grassy hill with stunning views of the Vredefort dome mountains to the northwest.  From the parking lot, a large but simple industrial structure gives way to an eclectic indoor/outdoor drinking and dining area in the back.

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Sonoma: Throwback to California Wine Country

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While soaking in the glorious surroundings of Stellenbosch last week, it was impossible not to notice the similarities to another region, 10,000 miles away, that is also famous for its wine. So in a first #tbt post, I’ll share with you some of the highlights of a trip we took last year to Sonoma Valley, California.

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Midnight Train to Cape Town

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“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Never has that quote rung more true than when we took an overnight train from Johannesburg to Cape Town. It was certainly not the quickest, nor most convenient way to travel; a flight would have arrived in just two hours instead of 26 by train. I loved it anyway, because it was one of the few times in life when the travel was as much of an experience as the destination.

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