Tag Archives: prepare your trip

Some things to do in Johannesburg

For those lucky enough to have been in Johannesburg over the festive season, you would have had the joy of driving far and wide to find an eatery open on Christmas Eve. The nice bit about this was that there was very little traffic as many “Joburgians” had left the bright lights for the crowded beaches of KZN and the Cape.

But during the day in Joburg, those left to tend the lights, the potholes and to keep the shops reasonably busy would have enjoyed the many attractions Egoli has to offer … and here are just a few of them:

  • Brightwater Commons – a great place to visit, especially if you have children to entertain! This is the site of the old “Randburg Waterfront” … there is still some water there, stocked with particularly beautiful Egyptian Geese and their goslings, but the whole area is a “laager” of shops, restaurants and activities for the whole family to engage in. Adventure Golf, Bowling, Laser Quest, pool, skateboarding, rides, jumping castles etc etc. Sure you pay for these activities, but having them all in one place, with the variety and safe environment it is easy to sit and watch the kids while enjoying some food or beverage in any one of the many restaurants.
  • Bonsai Nursery in Midrand – an amazing place with thousands of bonsai plants and also a superb collection of orchids. The owner is very helpful and full of advice, too. These wonderful plants also make very unique gifts, and many of them won’t break the bank. This nursery also fascinated children aged from 6 to 16 for the hour we were there.
  • Crocodile and Reptile Park – this was the alternative to visiting the Lion Park which is exorbitantly priced! We rocked up, all 9 of us, and the entrance fee was R150 each, then an extra R30 if we wanted to actually see any lions … but if we wanted a “tour” then we would have been charged R700 per head. It might NOT be regarded as expensive if you’re on holiday from the UK and have £’s to spend, but for locals, this is just ridiculous! So we went off to the Croc Park and it was great, a very instructional tour and the opportunity to hold snakes, baby crocs and hissing cockroaches and more. There is also a nice lapa where you can relax and enjoy some drinks or snacks. The kids and adults loved it!
  • Chinese Restaurant & Sushi Bar – off Jan Smuts Avenue near Randburg, this is one of the units in the Chinese Shopping Mall. What wonderful food! Authentic Chinese and Thai food, served with friendliness and efficiency. The kids all enjoyed the experience, too.
  • Trumps Restaurant, Nelson Mandela Square – this was one of the few eating places open on Christmas Eve! We were told, at 6pm that we had to be seated by 7:00pm as the kitchen was closing at 8:00 … we rushed through and got there at 6:45 … and boy were we impressed! The place was busy, comfortable and we were made very welcome. There was no pressure to order (I think they decided to keep the kitchen open as there were still people coming in at 9 and ordering …) and the menu is tops! The food was generous, very tasty, well presented and great value for money. My prego steak roll with onion rings, vegetables and chips was huge and fantastic value at R75.00. The youngest child and the ladies left with “doggy bags” but all in all a must re-visit!
  • There are many other things the kids were able to do … ice skating for hours in Midrand, attending the ice show at Monte Casino, visiting the zoo and mooching around malls only Cape Town could dream of … they say that travel broadens the horizons, even a trip to Joburg can broaden a Platteland horizon!
PostNet - Rivonia
PostNet – Rivonia

So after Gill, Elaine and Barbie at Africa Places find you the perfect place in a resort near Johannesburg, don’t forget that with careful planning, there is lots to see and do there too!

PS – for those, like me who left their laptop at home and need to connect to the internet and want to use computer facilities … go to PostNet in Rivonia, on Rivonia Boulevard. You won’t be disappointed by the friendly staff, the modern facilities and the personal service.


Holidays – choose your venue

Johanneeburg Zoo“Holidays” should be that time of the year when the batteries get replenished. When the body and mind relaxes and rests. “What’s a rest?” you may ask. In today’s world it seems that “rest” doesn’t exist. It appears that people are “busy” all the time – rushing, trying to meet deadlines, running late with schedules, juggling balls in the air and hoping not to drop one.

Why is this? What has society done to us that we get caught up in this seemingly never ending round of rush-work-rush? Could it be that technology has a part to play in this malaise?

That’s where Africa Places come in, in the effort to create the perfect place for the busy “you” to escape to in order to break the mould of “rush-work-rush” so that the busy family can regenerate themselves and reconnect with each other and themselves. Regardless of the resort or facilities they are able to find for you, they are the facilitators in kick-starting the holiday process.

And people also think that “holiday” must always be some isolated house in the bush, with nothing around for miles. While this might be the environment that many would seek, it is not the definitive holiday venue. Take the family who decided to holiday in Johannesburg, YES, Johannesburg and fond that their batteries were well and truly recharged on returning to their workplace in the Cape. There were many things that contributed to their communal “recharge” – like attending the first day of the Test between South Africa and India at the Wanderers, taking the best part of the day to saunter around the Johannesburg Zoo with picnic basket in tow, going to the Ice Show at Monte Casino, enjoying the food at a garden centre while the children played on the swings and fed the ducks, watched the daredevils on their skateboards and bikes at the Brightwater Commons, watching the jugglers at Sandton City and so on.

Sure, there are those who would say that these activities would contribute to stress levels and can’t possibly be a holiday, but that family would answer that assessment by showing relaxed faces and broad smiles.

Your holiday should be that which breaks the mould you’re in, that causes you to do things you don’t usually do, to appreciate what others take for granted. In the same way as the “Joburger” will stare for hours at the sea breaking on the rocks while the Struisbaai resident will drive past the same rocks every day and not even bother to glance at them, our habits, our perceptions and our values differ because we are all different and we all have different lives and different lifestyles.

So whatever you’re doing to relax and recharge – Barbie, Gill, and Elaine at Africa Places wish you a refreshing time as 2013 ends and the New Year looms on the horizon. Make one of your resolutions that of allowing Africa Places to find the perfect spot for your next recharge!

African sounds at Christmastime

SAEP CollageIt’s still not too late to find that “perfect place” to get away from it all. The team at Africa Places will work hard to find you a unit in a beautiful resort where you and the family can recharge, re-energize and regain your mojo!

One of the projects that Barbie, Gill and Elaine would like to support, is the SAEP Christmas CD. Here’s a unique Christmas gift that is lovely to listen to and at the same time it supports this worthy cause.  The South African Education and Environment Project (SAEP) empowers young people who are neglected by South Africa’s education system. Through tutoring, enrichment and support, they give impoverished learners the tools to reach their potential and uplift their communities.

The Christmas CD is one of their projects developed in response to community needs to help the next generation build academic and life skills, prepare for and succeed in higher education and employment, and contribute as leaders to South Africa’s economic and social development. But at the same time, it has given the artists a tangible product that will help them achieve their goals.

Listen HERE to a sample selection from the CD

Buy this CD direct from SAEP (South African Education & Environment Project) for only R100.00 and show these talented young people that their efforts are rewarded.

Buy it for your own enjoyment and also to send overseas to friends and family – traditional themes set to the sound of Africa! …

Tips to make planning your trip easier

Yellow line trafficThere have been a few things mentioned previously about planning your holiday – using Google Maps, asking locals for suggestions and advice and planning your route. Here are some basics to consider before setting off into the “great trek” known as the end-of-year-holiday.

  • Get your accommodation sorted ahead of time! I know that it adds spice to the adventure to rock up and ask whether there is room at the inn but when the computer says, NO! It’s not much fun trying to sleep in the car in the hope that the next day will yield somewhere to lay one’s head. This is where Africa Places can help – Elaine and Jill are experts at sourcing the type of accommodation you are probably going to want to use. Comfortable, with amenities, in great locations, with lots for the kids to do and activities for the mums and dads too.
  • Make sure the vehicle is ready to roll! Check the tyres, get it serviced and checked over. Tell your garage that you’re going to be going on a trip let them advise you accordingly on the state of your vehicle. If they suggest it needs shocks – do it! Carry an emergency tool kit with the type of essential tools you might need if you get stuck between Touws River and Montagu – or on some other road that’s not a main route with lots of passing traffic. Screwdrivers, some spanners some wire, duct tape, some rubber tubing (you never know how useful THAT can be to temporarily seal a broken pipe), jubilee clips. Ask your mechanic what he takes with him, that’ll give you an idea. Don’t forget your wheel spanner and a jack that works.
  • Maps! Yes, even in the days of GPS and Google Maps available on mobile phones, there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned map that you can fold, write on and show to locals when you’re lost. The chances are, the local you ask won’t be au fait with a GPS or Google Maps and will get confused.
  • Local knowledge! Do some online research of the area that you’re going to be visiting. Even if you’ve been there before, there are bound to be new things in place and even some old places no longer there (like a coffee shop that you loved). Search some Facebook pages with the name of the town or resort in, you’ll get a lot of information from very involved locals who contribute to these pages. Local tourist information bureaux will also provide information but be aware that many tourist bureaux will only “actively promote” their members – there are many really good establishments who are not members who also need to be supported. Google blogposts for the area you’re going to – bloggers can give you some really great insight into what’s happening in the area. Narrow your search from “what’s on in Gauteng?” to “what’s on in Northern Suburbs?” to “what can I do in Fourways?” or something similar.

Here’s another tip … keep enough fuel in your tank to reach the next town plus a “contingency” amount of about 25% more (just in case). Some people advocate that you should never let the tank get below 25% full. But don’t carry an extra can of fuel in your car – that’s just dangerous!

In any event, the fuel price comes down tomorrow, 5th November … but I wonder if it will come down on 3rd December or not. Just keep budgeting!

Planning for potholes and tolls?

Planning your holiday as never been more important than in recent times. Gone are the days of taking the car in for a quick service the day before the trip, filling up with petrol and hitting the road. And when you were budgeting for your holiday, the costs were pretty straightforward and constant.

Since those days (whenever they were) there are a whole lot of other factors that weigh in – one being the variable cost of fuel. According to the latest reports, it’s coming down on 5th November. That’s good news. But will it still be down or change again come the beginning of December? And if you take into account the December price, will there be a nasty surprise at the beginning of January when you have to make your way home again?
Accommodation is usually treated by many as the thing that gets the most attention in the planning stage. Those folk who don’t use the convenient services that companies like Africa Places provide have even more of a battle to find the perfect place to stay, looking for what’s available, discovering when it’s available, and what the facilities there will be and then trying to match them up with the needs of the family. It’s a bit like buying shoes – the shop has lots of shoes, but what you like is not available in your size, and what IS in your size, you wouldn’t be seen dead wearing them! The accommodation arrangements are all “stuff” that Barbie, Elaine, Gill and their experienced team remove from their client’s shoulders and deal with on their behalf.

e-tollSo if your accommodation is sorted out, the story doesn’t end there. These days the route planning can also be fraught with obstacles that you might not want to negotiate. Like toll roads. As a rough estimate, if your journey took you from Cape Town to Johannesburg add on an extra R120 for tolls and another R120 if you’re heading from Pretoria up to Limpopo. Travelling from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth is not as pricey, only R35 – but that doesn’t take into account the myriad of speed cameras near Wilderness where it is possible to get “caught” up to 5 times. And that won’t be cheap!

And if you’re driving around Johannesburg what’s the e-toll going to add to your costs … that is, if you subscribe to the system?

Some folk decide to avoid the tolls and take the alternative routes. Then they have to factor in the extra cost that the increased distances of the alternative routes might add to their fuel bills. And then there is the reality that some alternative routes haven’t been adequately maintained and there may be potholes that could damage tyres and wheels!

No. Planning the journey is not as simple as it used to be many years ago. I’m just glad that arranging the accommodation has advanced in leaps and bounds!

(Next time – Resources to use to make the planning much easier!)

Always ask a local …

You hear this advice when people are about to travel overseas, “avoid the tourist traps! Go where the locals go. You’ll save money and get better value!”

RSRIMAG2783So why do so many people ignore this advice when they go on holiday here in South Africa? Is it laziness on the part of the traveller – they just want to do the easiest thing possible? Or is it that they have enough money not to care what they spend?

Definition: “Holiday – a period of suspension of work, study or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation or travel, release from duty, business or activity.”

Surely this suggests that holidays are times spent doing different things, exploring a little, not following the same routine as one normally would?

One would think, therefore, that it would be the perfect time to stop at that small town (or big one for that matter) and pop in to some local shop and ask the proprietor, “where do you go to eat when you have a night out?” Or, “what are the 5 best things to do in this town?” Or, “where is the friendliest place to go to relax?”

When you arrange your accommodation, Africa Places will do their best to find the best type of self-catering or resort unit to suit your needs and budget. They will even make some suggestions of what facilities there are in the area. But the finer details of what you really want and need is impossible for anyone to plan, other than yourself.

One of the wonderful things about the internet is that it has made the process of planning so easy to do. From following your route on Google Maps to exploring the various options via the myriad of websites that will tell you about the place you are going.  Just about every fact about your trip and destination can be found.

But what the internet will not be able to tell you are what the locals say. That personal interaction from the saleslady behind the counter at the homebakes shop who will tell you the best place to get the chops for your braai. And the chap at the petrol station who can suggest the best time to get to the dam that will more likely get you a bite on your rod (he might also tell you the best place to fish from, too). Or the local mother, pushing the toddler in the stroller, who can also tell you about the local “holiday club” that is designed to keep kiddies occupied during a morning so parents can do things that would otherwise bore the kids to tears.

And if you ask a local where they go to eat and they say, “we always just go to the SPUR,” find another local to ask! Nothing wrong with a SPUR, but if that’s where you go to eat on holiday, you might as well stay at home.

Use Google Maps to plan your trip … gee, it’s easy!

When I mentioned that I’d never been to Sun City, I was looked at as though I’d grown another head. “Never been to Sun City …. Never??” Well, lots of people haven’t, but would like to go. Accommodation is one thing that you don’t need to be concerned about – Africa Places will sort THAT out for you, all it takes is a phone call.

But when I started planning on how to get there I was surprised at how far away from Johannesburg it is. If you listen to those fortunate people who have been there, you’d think Sun City was just round the corner. This is a typical comment from those who have made the journey, “… we spent the day at Valley of the Waves and then had a braai at home afterwards.

Google Maps screenshot
Google Maps screenshot

Looking at the map on Google Maps, and planning my route from Sandton I saw that the trip is over 160km and depending on how low you fly, will take up to two and a half hours each way, without stops! Why, then go for the day? At least overnight there and eliminate half the travelling time. And you do know how I like to stop on the way to anywhere – making my journey part of my holiday.

And guess what? Never having been to Sun City, I’ve also never been to Hartbeespoort Dam either! Shock and horror! So I want to explore a little. I hear the Dam is very pretty – so why not take a picnic, as one does, and break the journey at the Dam and enjoy the view, browse through a few shops (they MUST have shops) and see a little of what people have been raving about?

So I started exploring my proposed route on Goole Maps and went to Google Street-View. I found some lovely little places where we can make a short detour and unpack the picnic, sit and enjoy the views for half an hour. There is a place right next to the water, about 2 km off the “planned route” – ideal! Or we could opt for the complex right next to the road, called Chameleon Village. Over the road from that, is what looks like a whole lot of craft shops that one can amble around.

I love Google Maps! I have been able to follow my route on my computer. I can see the terrain I will be going through and I have been able to spot places that I want to explore and investigate. It’s a fantastic tool to use to plan a trip with.

Who said men don’t consult maps? It makes me look pretty smart too when I can tell my fellow travellers with some authority, “well we turn left up ahead and about a km down the road we’re going to stop and have a wander round a lovely craft village. How does that sound?

And then, there it is! Almost like I’ve been there before!

Start your holiday off right … have a picnic!

Today’s modern life is frenetic, for a variety of reasons, which I don’t need to examine now, but when on holiday, it doesn’t need to be that way too.

Laybye near Caledon
Laybye near Caledon

One of the special memories I have of growing up is of the picnics we used to have as a family when travelling on holiday. We’d usually leave home when it was still dark and as the dawn broke mum would start handing over a snack to us kids in the back seat. This was usually an egg sandwich aimed at tiding us over until we “stopped for breakfast” at the side of the road.

And even though we were on a mission to reach our destination, dad would always be on the lookout for laybyes and when a likely one was spotted he’d pull off the road and we’d stretch our legs as the basket was emptied on the roadside table. A tablecloth was put out and Tupperware boxes containing sandwiches, cooked sausages, hard-boiled eggs and pieces of chicken made their appearance. All prepared and cooked the night before by our forward-thinking mother. A flask would also be opened and four plastic mugs would be filled with steaming tea. 

The family was able to sit together, talk about the trip, the next destination and watch other cars speed by. The fact that dad was relaxed, not rushing off to work or at meetings – but out in the open, in shorts, with an open-necked shirt and not wanting to dash off made made an exceptional memory even more lasting.

A few years ago, the wife and I went on a long car journey. We had our “padkos” with us too. We stopped during our journey and had our own picnic. The good memories came flooding back. What was even more pleasant was that we weren’t in some noisy, glitzy mini-mall of petrol pumps, ringing tills and milling people all trying to fill-up, hit the loo and grab some fast food in as short a time as possible and then speed off to the next pump-stop 500km away!

I’m of the firm opinion that the journey should be part of the holiday. Especially when there are children in the car too.

It’s all very well when planning the holiday to consider where to stay, and how to get there – and even what to do when you’re there. But what about the process of getting there? I’m suggesting a whole new way to look at the trip from A to B. Plan the route on a map, not your previous recollection! Examine where you’re going through, what is there to see (like a monument, or an historical landmark) and do? Is there some special place that will thrill the children to go to?

And, as an afterthought, just think how much money you’d save by making your own picnic to enjoy at the side of the road. Instead of the burgers, the fizzy drinks, the sweets, the crisps, the pre-made sandwiches you find in one of the roadside “oases” …

Africa Places is the leading South African company for sourcing Sun City Accommodation – this could be the perfect location for your holiday. The helpful consultants at Africa Places will take the time to find you the best option. If that’s not your cup of tea, Africa Places will source other, similar accommodation for you and help to make your holiday complete. Contact Africa Places.