Have to Have Haas

Nestled in the middle of CBD’s colourful Bo Kaap is the wonderfully unique Haas Coffee Collective. Haas offers a feast for all of the senses as soon as you walk through the doors. You almost don’t know what to do with yourself, walk up to the counter and order a delicious smelling coffee and every cake they have (they all look incredible)? Or grab a seat and assert your place in the middle of this design emporium? Or explore each of the sections of this small coffee shop that also poses as a sort-of gallery with incredibly unique, bizarre and inspired art pieces, hangings, trinkets and curiosities? As I’m sure you can tell from all of those questions, there are a million dazzling things hitting you all at once. However, once you have settled yourself in and ordered a (delicious) coffee or tea, you have time to soak up the very chilled atmosphere that Haas offers.

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Haas Coffe

1003985_10151452626141879_309519496_nSome shots I took showing off Haas’s wonderfully weird decor

Incredibly friendly and knowledgeable staff will explain the different blends of coffee that they offer and might even suggest that you try the maverick drink of choice:  kopi luwak coffee, priced at an unashamed R100 per cup (about $10 or £7). This is the most expensive coffee in the world and it is pretty rare – Haas is the only venue in South Africa that sells it. It is so rare and expensive because of the bizarre process that goes into creating it. Sometimes known as ‘poop coffee’ it is created by the Asian Palm Civet eating the coffee berries and then excreting them. This process supposedly takes out the bitter taste of the coffee and improves the flavour. Obviously after hearing all of this I had to try it! I must confess though I love coffee, I am no expert. I enjoyed my civet cup of coffee but it certainly didn’t blow my hair back. I’m glad I tried it just to tick another interesting thing off the bucket list though.

936475_10151354759661879_1380912874_nMy cup of kopi luwak coffee

Haas offers a number of other interesting coffee blends, all with wonderfully original names, ranging from ‘The Swimming Club,’ to ‘The Mysterious Gentleman,’ to ‘Monday Moring Lift Club’ and my favourite: ‘The Famous Jailbreak’ – all unique and equally delectable.

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1005954_10151452626221879_76974248_nWinter’s day vibe and a Summer’s day vibe at Haas

The reason that I wanted to write about Haas is because it is my go-to coffee spot in Cape Town. I love the decor and the vibe, and I especially love showing it off to my friends. If someone has never been there or heard of it I know I have to take them. If it’s a sunny day we’ll sit outside and soak up the multicultural beauty of Bo-Kaap, or we’ll sit in the inside/outside courtyard in the back and enjoy our own little oasis of serenity. On a cold winters day walking into Haas is like walking in to a (very stylish) hug, the warmth of the place and the aroma of the coffee greet you at the same time.

 1044168_10151452626101879_860813165_nJess Curtis and I enjoying the sunshine outside on the vintage Haas chairs

Haas is kooky, and quirky without being too try-hard. Their décor is based on a wealth of curated design items, most of which can be purchased. You never know just what you will find next time you visit – dinosaur pot plants, a flea cross-stitched into a pillow, painted ants crawling over your saucer or a crocheted animal head hanging on the wall – next to the real taxidermy heads.

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931254_10151452639041879_165981638_nExamples of some of the awesome curiosities one can find at Haas

It’s refreshing to be able to go into a place and sit with a cup of coffee and just survey the scene for a while. Haas is most definitely a winner in my books – you will probably find me there on a casual afternoon this week!

482159_10151317135756879_1875434565_nMy favourite – the Zebra head that greets you as you walk through the door

“Chile is the new Iowa” – The World According To Kendra

481019_10151048984241879_1106593579_nKendra and I jumping for joy in front of the Capital building in Des Moines, Iowa

Kendra Murphy is my sorority sister, and one of my best friends in the entire world – even though we are worlds apart. I met her when I spent my year in America and we instantly became close when I moved into the White Castle. Kendra was one of my roomies and I hope one day in the future we can live together again (maybe in London where she can perfect her faux British accent). Kendra was born and bred in small town Iowa but she has always had a passion for all things foreign – particularly Spanish. This year she moved to Chile to teach English and this is her story so far:

After one of my most memorable and fun weekends in Chile, I feel more comfortable here than ever. I flew to the south of Chile, the region otherwise known as Patagonia. It is easily the most beautiful place I’ve seen in my ancient 24 years. This particular trip really made me think about the phrase “local tourist”, and how it is almost exactly how I feel at times living in Santiago, my “home”, and visiting other places in South America.

1082183_10200852513293382_1392977359_nSantiago from above – Photo taken from Kendra’s private collection

My 10-month anniversary is slowly creeping up on me, and like most things nowadays, the time has flown! In fact, I feel like it has only been 3 months. Then again when I think about all of the things I’ve done in these past 10 months, it seems a good amount of time. I originally came down to teach English, and after receiving my certification, I started teaching. It has been quite the learning experience as an English teacher. You’d think speaking a language your entire life would leave you with some technical knowledge of the language. Well, try to teach a foreigner all of the meanings of “get”. Jokes aside it’s a challenging, flexible, and fun job, plus very interesting to work with intelligent professionals who struggle with the past tense of English.

There are so many amazing things about Chile, most that I learned after I had been here a while, but some are obvious when you look at a map. This skinny little country has the driest desert on earth; some of the worlds best observatories; a coast of ocean and the opposite coast of mountains; a few volcanoes; beautiful Patagonia; and then the most southern part of South America… to name a few. And that amazingness is only geographical! Can you imagine the scenery? It’s too incredible for words, and pictures definitely do not come close to the real beauty. That’s what’s great about living here; we are able to see these sights in front of us most days.

 36295_4116409506820_1295031686_nView of the city – Photo taken from Kendra’s private collection

Beyond the physical, Chile is a country with a lot of history, art, culture, wine, and bread. For those history inclined, you probably know that Chile was under a dictatorship up until the 80’s. As for me, I learned this after several months of being here, and it still blows my mind that not even 40 years ago this country was under such strict government control. I recently visited the Museo de la memoria, de Los Derechos Humanos, and there was an entire floor dedicated to this era. There were videos, radio shorts, newspapers, artifacts from prisoners, diaries, all of which made it more real that this situation not only happened, but in the recent past. This time obviously sparked a lot of opposition, and with that comes art. I’m not the biggest art connoisseur, but I have realized this country has artistic thinking, and it’s visible in their architecture, music, poetry, and those who produce the art. With a dictatorship come rules and restrictions, which perfectly transitions into my favorite subject, food.

 994902_10200849464977176_584356296_nTraditional Chilean barbecue – Photo taken from Kendra’s private collection

Yes food is my favorite subject to talk about, especially while snacking, but I don’t want to get your hopes up. Chilean food is, to be polite, not spicy. By not spicy, I mean, bland. (Chileans, please don’t take this too hard, because food is food, so obviously I love it anyway) Here is a little rundown of the food situation in Chile. The overused condiments are salt, mayo, and olive oil. Bread is, kind of sacred. Don’t even get me started on the coffee, but I’ll say one thing – instant. On the opposition, meat is taken very seriously (I do have to say, I’ve had some of the best meat in my life here), and man do they know how to throw a BBQ. The desserts are more pastry-like, but supremely delicious. If you like empanadas, they have more flavors than you can think of. With 4000 miles of coastline, it’s inevitable that seafood is a popular choice.

 522325_4199315779425_70447954_n 558857_4199294258887_321121202_nKendra enjoying the sea side – Photos taken from Kendra’s private collection

With all of the bland, yet some delicious food, we have to wash it down somehow. A famous alcohol in Chile is Pisco. This alcohol is usually accompanied by coke, or I prefer it with Tonic. It’s a sweet liquor, that has a distinct taste, and hangover. Along with Pisco, Chile is wine country. You won’t believe me, but the wine is amazing, and cheap. Yes, there is a God. There is a special grape, Carmenere, which was originally only found in France, and mistakenly brought into Chile long ago. Since this minor mistake, Carmenere has been the rage in Chile for many years, and still today is rarely found outside of this isolated country.

1170870_10200849462177106_1358490018_nKendra with the mountains behind her – Photo taken from Kendra’s private collection

After receiving this “assignment” from dear Saxony, I’ve been constantly noticing, even feeling my experiences differently. Things that used to never catch my attention or interest, are now intriguing for me. I think as a foreigner we’ll always find these new and interesting parts about the foreign or different place. That’s why we’re there, isn’t it? To have a new and different experience? Well, I don’t have that answer for everyone. But I may have found mine, and/or an epiphany. As I near my trip back to my homeland after these 10 months, I am convinced that we (everyone, people, humans) need to look for these interesting things/people/experiences in our daily lives, whether we’re in our hometown, favorite restaurant, or another continent. If we do this, we will forever be a local tourist, and my friends, that means our journey never has to come to an end.

South Africa as told by Chris Lynch

1209327_10151544472961879_1480625386_nChris and I after bumping into one another at a festival in London this July

I met Chris during my last years of school in England. We met because Maidenhead (the town that I lived in for most of my time in England) isn’t that big and our schools couldn’t help but overlap. Mr. Lynch has always been a source of comedy, though you’ll never catch him laughing at his own joke. When I found out that he was coming to Cape Town I could not contain my excitement. Here is his story:

On the 18th of March 2013 I made a Facebook status that will forever live in infamy.

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Not merely because of the lazy racism that went into the spelling of SA or even the MINIMUM 6+ likes that rained down like that festival you forgot your wellies at. OH NO! This was because it stirred a simple reply from a certain Saxony Goodwin:

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Now I’m sure you’re thinking what I thought at the time… “That’s all very well and good but that doesn’t let me know if Robin Island is worth a visit?” Once I had got over the initial disappointment I excitedly got in contact with Saxony and arranged a meet up. Posting my amazing 2 week journey all in one blog would be impossibly boring, so in the interest of brevity ill quickly provide My TOP 5 moments you’re gonna feel most like a tourist in South Africa.

Tourist

1) You are drunk on excitement on the drive in to Cape town only to suffer an intense sobering experience when you see your first township. It’s then you realise that the same section that you thought they must visit every year to get video reel for Comic Relief? yea? well that goes on for miles and it doesn’t get any nicer. And that’s one of the many many townships you’ll see on your travels around SA.

2) You stop and take a picture of a drive through Nando’s getting stared at by the locals.

3) Getting approached by a guy in a dark alley that it turns out is a warden whose job it is to escort you safely home. (He worked 6 days a week 12 hour shifts by the way… yea)

4) My Safari was a life changing experience. Truly Amazing. Imagine hunting a cheetah in a car and then getting out of said vehicle to trek it on foot just yards away! but there is something in the back of your head remembering you’re paying a lot of money and this cheetah was bred in captivity and the park you are in (although the size of the isle of Wight) is basically just Longleat on steroids.

5) You get slagged off by a local for calling a safari a safari and not a game walk.

Non Tourist

Being a travel agent my mum was lucky enough to get a free stay in THE most preposterously posh hotel. We’re talking:

> butler meeting you at the door

> asking for your name

> sounding a gong (causing man browsing yahoo on the receptions free wifi to comically jolt)

> announcing “The SMITH family have arrived”

> The entire check in staff standing from their individual mahogany desks to clap you down the stairs.

Now I bring this up not to show off, but to highlight the culture shock I experienced when moments later I was being bunged in to the back of a tiny car. I had been picked up by Saxony and 2 of her friends Emma & David. From a week of pool and relaxation apparently i had stepped into a plan and we were already late! What followed next was a whirlwind of going to Emma and Saxony’s house, ditching stuff, grabbing booze (from a walk in fridge MENTAL) and organising meet ups. I had not a clue what was going on but was happy to go along with the ride as it was a much needed change of pace after 2 weeks of the stressing over every plans minute detail that comes with being on holiday. It was then the question of dinner came up…

Now, we live in a lucky age where after a mere 2 hours googling one can achieve a knowledge of where is good to eat of anywhere in the world. I pride myself on this ability and was able to name the top 5 restaurants in Cape Town. After a week of doing this for every meal however I don’t think I need to explain my relief that they would take care of it. They asked for a type of food and all I said was “Whatever you’d normally do”. At the time I wasn’t interested in taste, I just wanted to eat somewhere normal where there isn’t that nagging feeling you’re being laughed at for haven fallen into a tourist honey trap. It sounds petty but by asking for just “The standard thing you’d grab before a night out” I was committing to the (dare I say it) ‘authentic experience’ that I strive for anywhere I go. Without realising it I realised I was…

Becoming Cape Town

Now if I had known that “Whatever you would normally have” meant a takeaway Steers Burger I would have kept my damn mouth shut 😉 (Joking) But eating it on signal hill watching the sunset with tinny in hand was a highlight of my entire trip. A shame therefore that the second the last ray of sun disappeared behind the horizon we were off and you also heard the orchestra of other car doors slamming as the locals rushed off to leave the tourists at the mercy of the local Vagrants that appear at the drop of nightfall. If you listen closely you can almost hear mine and my parent’s “Sorry, no thanks” “Not to day’s” echoing in a parallel universe where we had gone there ourselves.

The plan was to go out out to Assembly as it was the place everyone went that night (obviously, how could I not know?) But first I had the pleasure of getting to know the group better. The high and lowlight of which was due to Saxony’s comment “I think the best way to get to know someone is to hear their most embarrassing story”. What followed were some of the most horrific story’s I had ever, and will ever hear.

Although life scarring, it’s not often you meet somebody on holiday you get on with well enough to get to that level of conversation and I really enjoyed getting to know everyone I met that night. Oh and the club? It was oddly similar to any night id had out in east London. You know the drill:

Assembly

Anyways, a lot of the time when we are travelling it can sometimes feel like we are simply ticking boxes of things “you’ve just gotta do”. Sure, when these things include things like seeing one of the last rhinos on this planet its not something to complain about. But every so often it’s nice to relax and have a burger & a beer on a hill with friends.

 10150_10151315855706879_1308817815_nenjoying the sunset on signal hill 

Thank you Saxony

Thank you for reading

Peace x

Chris

Oh America

Until now I have focused on my transition from England to South Africa and all the exciting new things that I have discovered in the process. But as promised in the ‘about’ section I do want to give America a little mention. Mid-West, College-Town America, to be more specific. I spent my second year of university in America studying at Iowa State University, and what an experience I had! I decided before I boarded the plane that I was going to make the most of every single American experience that I possibly could. I went with another friend from Exeter, Rebecca and we became a little family.

IMG_1375Rebecca and I the day after we arrived in Iowa – ready to rush!

At first we were put into Halls just off campus, ominously named ‘The Towers’ – where they stick all of the transfer students and study abroad kids. Luckily Becca and I didn’t spend much time there in the first week – we were too busy going through Rush. “Rush?” I hear you say, “sounds like something from a movie” well have you seen legally blonde? Becca and I were embarking on our biggest cultural shock yet, Greek Land. Rush is the week before university starts and it is the biggest interview process of your life. You visit all of the sororities in Greek Land and talk to millions of girls to figure out which sorority you want to join, while they figure out if you should join them or not. Each day gets more intense as the list of possible houses to join gets smaller and you spend more time in your chosen houses. After an exhausting week Becca and I joined a sorority – Sigma Kappa.

46051_427479211878_4388057_nThe ladies of Sigma Kappa on the day that Rebecca and I got our bids (invitations to join the sorority)

We chose to move into the sorority house as quickly as possible, fondly known by the women of Sigma Kappa as the White Castle. Living in a sorority reminded me of what I imagine living in a boarding school to be like. You share a room with either one girl, two or even three – completely different from England where you have a room to yourself. I absolutely loved it. Our sorority had a bedding situation that was entirely peculiar to me, and when I tell people about it now they still don’t believe me. Rather than having beds in our rooms we all slept in massive rooms called cold airs. Cold airs are ALWAYS dark and ALWAYS cold. It’s a massive room with a lot of bunk beds, everyone has their own bed and is in charge of getting their own linen etc. In the middle of Summer all of the windows are always closed and the air conditioner is in full swing. The first night I slept in cold airs in the middle of August, while it was about 35degrees outside I froze underneath my sheets. In the middle of winter they open all of the windows. Let me tell you something about Iowa – in the winter you freeze.

IMG_6454A casual freezing walk on Campus in the middle of winter

The first thing anyone would tell me when I asked about winter was “you’re going to need a North Face” these brand-loyal Americans were not wrong. My North Face jacket absolutely saved my life. Back to cold airs – picture the scene: pitch black -30degrees outside and it’s snowing, you’d think we would close the windows right? WRONG. Cold airs – always cold.

1174697_10151536568031879_1321986768_nThe White Castle – our Sorority house 

There were lots of other awesome aspects about living in a sorority though. You were always with friends, there was always food in the fridge and always many an activity occurring. There were also fun little aspects to it that made you feel like you were in a club, that you really shared a bond with these women – every Wednesday everyone in Greek Land would wear their letters. Any piece of clothing that had the Sorority or Fraternity name or letters on it counted. That being said, everyone wore their letters all the time anyway! I still have so many items of Sigma Kappa clothing that I find myself in all the time. Also, in any photo opportunity the girls would make the Sigma Kappa hand gesture urging the other girls to “throw what you know”

221756_1759909995691_1177260072_3089248_7640757_n“One Heart One Way” – The Sigma Kappa Motto

Each semester different events happen like Homecoming and Greek Week, where the sororities and fraternities are paired up and compete against each other. We did things like Yell Like Hell which involved a skit, a routine, stomping and a lot of shouting. Another fun event was Lip Sync which also involved a skit, a routine, some interesting costumes and can you guess it? No yelling this time, lip syncing to a previously recorded tape.

207842_10150121407181879_3190374_nMe as Hermione Granger in Lip Sync for Greek Week 

All of these events were taken very seriously in the Greek community and there were committees in place to make sure that everything ran smoothly. One thing was for sure though – it all added to the spirit that is always felt in Greek Land. Becca and I are now alumni of Sigma Kappa but I know that this chapter of our lives will always hold an incredibly special place in both of our hearts. Though there is no equivalent in either England or South Africa there are a couple of similar opportunities to get involved with and experience that school spirit.

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IMG_9140Sigma Kappa ladies and Fiji gentlemen competing in the Greek Olympics

In England the sports teams with their initiations, Wednesday night partying and formal dinners remind me of Greek Land. And in South Africa what I have heard about going into Res sounds quite similar too. The best thing that Sigma Kappa taught me was the value of getting involved. I was able to get involved in so many philanthropic events and meet amazing people at the same time. I urge you to volunteer, try it out, make a difference, and never be embarrassed.

216125_10150153675511879_3889269_nBecca and I getting ready for Vespers – the Greek land Oscars

The African Travels of Jessica-Alice Curtis

I met Jess in my first year at the University of Exeter – we both studied English and we were in the same seminar group. When I met her on the first day a few things ran through my mind – “wow what a beautiful girl” was one of them, “she is incredibly well read” was another, I did not for a second think “we will probably chill out together in South Africa sometime” but guess what? Yup, you guessed it – she came to South Africa and we chilled out together!

988600_10151441252356879_841205064_nJess and I embarking on a glorious climb up Table Mountain

Jess had the most amazing journey that you could imagine. While most people taking a post-university gap year end up travelling to Australia and Thailand, or even America – Jess decided to explore Africa… BY HERSELF. I still cannot get over how incredibly brave this girl is! Here is her account of being a Local Tourist as a British girl in Africa:

1012331_10151452626406879_586173180_nMy very own Local Tourist! Look at how many stamps she has in her passport

I was lying on the beach in Zanzibar when I sent Saxony a facebook message, asking for some tips about South Africa – where to go, where to eat etc etc. Well, 3 months later and there I was, sitting in Saxony’s front room and unloading my grubby back-pack whilst she was explaining this blog and the inspiration behind it. I was instantly intrigued by the concept of “being a local tourist” and was keen to be a part of such a unique online project.

For the past 5 months, I have been back-packing through East Africa on my own. I started my journey in Uganda, where I lived in the small rural village of Bufuka, on Lake Bunyonyi. Bunyonyi is also renowned for its beauty; small islands are dotted here and there and locals glide across the lake in dug-out wooden canoes. It could easily be mistaken for a scene from Pocahontas. This makes the lake a great stop-off point for any traveller, especially those who are heading to the Impenetrable Forest to see the mountain gorillas.

But, for me, Lake Bunyonyi was not a stop-off point, it was my home. Well, temporarily. I spent two months living in Bufuka and working for an NGO called Edirisa (which develops sustainable projects in education and tourism to provide Ugandans with skills, jobs and incomes). I quickly adapted to life as a local and instantly felt like part of the community. Like everyone else, I paddled my canoe to get around and bought my groceries in the local market. I lived off a diet of rice and peanuts, learnt Rutchiga (the local language) and, jumped into the lake whenever I needed to wash. It was easy to forget my life in England and live like a Ugandan. Nonetheless, as a blonde 22 year old muzungoo (white) girl, I clearly didn’t look like a Ugandan. The local children would greet me by jumping up and down, pointing and shouting ‘muzungo, muzungo, muzungo ‘ow are you muzungo yesca?!’ This was a constant reminder that I was not a local, nor a tourist; I was both, I was a local tourist.

1069414_10153037549060367_839202911_nPhoto Credit – Jessica-Alice Curtis: Jess the muzungo getting to know the locals

That’s not to say that I felt unwelcomed or out of place. I truly believe that, as a local tourist, I had the best of both worlds. I had the privilege of settling in one place and really getting to know its culture and people on a personal level. Everyone in the village welcomed me with open arms and shared stories about the region’s history (stories of Punishment Island), current affairs (the Kenyan elections and Rwanda-Uganda relations) and, of course, village gossip (who was getting married next). I felt safe and settled and at the same time, I was always excited by my new environment and didn’t take anything for granted. I hiked mountains and visited nearby villages, which many of the locals were reluctant to do because, for them, it was just the mundane and the norm. I really felt what it was like to be “home and away” and, after months of back-packing, I found this was the most rewarding and memorable part of my trip.

998567_10153037538210367_201147394_nPhoto Credit – Jessica-Alice Curtis: Jess’s very own canoe!

Once I left Uganda, I lived like a typical back-packer which undoubtedly, has its perks. I travelled through Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa by hailing any vehicle heading in my direction. I jumped on buses and trains, trucks and planes and despite some journeys being uncomfortable and exhausting, I loved passing through the different landscapes and seeing the true beauty of Africa. I dragged my back-pack across the Namib Desert, tasted new cuisines (Zanzibar night market in Stone Town) and got lost in some very dodgy neighbourhoods (never again will I get in a Dar es Salaam taxi). I didn’t stay in one place for longer than a week and I moved on whenever I felt like it. Travelling in this way was so exciting because I was seeing everything for the first time: every country had its own atmosphere, and it was exhilarating to visit places, as an anonymous and fascinated out-sider. I have been asked loads of questions about my trip, most of them the same: Was it really dangerous? Were you really scared? Did you see a lion? Yes, I did see a lion and yes, at points, I was scared. Travelling alone (especially as a blonde girl) meant there was always a strong chance that I could have been mugged, kidnapped…or worse. And, I must stress that I purposefully avoided some areas in Africa for those reasons. Countries like Sudan and Somalia were crossed of my ‘to do list’, due to political and social unrest and I took local advice very seriously, even in places that are deemed ‘safe’.

999681_10153037539320367_1805566367_nPhoto Credit – Jessica-Alice Curtis: Jess enjoying a luxurious ride in the back of a bakkie

It is a shame that so many people deem the whole of Africa a ‘no-go zone’. It has so much to offer. Not only does it have the most amazing wildlife and breath-taking landscapes but it is home to the most kind-hearted, hard-working, gentle and welcoming people I have ever met. When I hitch-hiked into Rwanda, I took a leap of faith and trusted the driver (Mr Simon, a 36 year old, father of 2, who had a car boot full of artificial flowers) based on his wide smile, friendly hand shake and opening line ‘you help us, so I help you’. Mr Simon, like so many other Africans, was proud to show me the reality, beauty and resilience of his country, no matter how harrowing it was. We took a few de-tours through the mountains and stopped in two rural villages which are still recovering from the 1994 genocide and constant influx of Congolese rebel fighters. Mr Simon then found me a place to stay in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, and dropped me at the front door. He proved that whilst there are dangers of travelling in Africa, it is the people that make it safe.

There is also an element of surprise and uncertainty that makes Africa so special – you never really know where you’re going or end up, or how long it will take you! When I finally arrived in Cape Town, I immediately fell in love with the city and could see why Sax loves it too. There is an energy and magic about the place which is infectious and there is always something exciting to do; whether you’re watching the beautiful sunsets over Table Mountain or seeing bands perform in a Long Street bar. It was great to have Saxony, the ultimate local tourist, at my side. We hit the usual hotspots – ate at the V&A Waterfront, climbed Table Mountain and posed for photos with the Boulder’s Beach Penguins and at Cape Point. But, Sax also knew the secrets of the city and things you couldn’t find in a Lonely Planet guide or TripAdvisor search. She knew where to go for the best sunsets (Signal Hill), Coffee and Cake (Haas), markets (Hout Bay), breakfast/brunch (Melissa’s on Kloof Street), Plus, and this is a HUGE plus, Sax proved to me that Cape Town has THE BEST sushi I have ever tasted – (trust me, I am a sushi slore and became a regular at Takumi and Willoughby’s). Sax had set up her life there and yet, she was still keen to find new adventures round the corner. Surely this is the best way to live? I left South Africa feeling very lucky and extremely grateful to Sax, and all her friends, for showing me how awesome Cape Town is.

1009886_10151441251511879_1776824839_nJess and Tom at the top of Table Mountain

 603852_10151372225556879_481477190_nJess soaking up the colourful sights at Hout Bay Market

995401_10151452674116879_2000257218_nJess and I at Cape Point – barely surviving the windy conditions

At this point, I must admit that I have been very bad at writing this blog – it has taken me soooooooo loooonnnnngggg to sit down and actually finish this thing. I started writing back in June, on the day that I left South Africa and, after a few more months travelling around South America, I am FINALLY finishing this paragraph back in England. In fact, I am writing this sitting in an office, at my desk, on a typical Monday morning. Having dragged myself out of bed, battled my way through traffic and driven down roads that I know like the back of my hand, I have never felt more like a local. This, in a way, encapsulates one of my points: that you can be a local, a tourist or, a local tourist, at any point in your life. Everyone can feel like a stranger in a new place and everyone has one place they call home. But, what is most exhilarating, is finding the middle ground. You do not need to live abroad for months to have this experience. Go to a cafe you’ve never been to before, visit a museum you walk past but have never been in, discover a new restaurant in your home town and, you’ll appreciate being a local tourist for the very first time.

Recommendations: Books – Whilst I was travelling, I was engrossed in “Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts – I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the concept of “being a local tourist”. Shantaram follows the life and struggles of a foreign fugitive as he sets up a new home in India. The novel develops ideas of belonging, international identity and a sense of an ever-changing self which, I believe, are themes that are evoked in Saxony’s blog. Beware – it is long and it is addictive.

Fearless as a Lion

photo (1)The stunning Lion’s head from my bedroom taken the morning before my climb

One of the first Local Tourist experiences that I had in Cape Town was the absolutely stunning climb up Lion’s Head. I went with my oldest friend Chelsea (we were born weeks apart in the same hospital in Durban).  Having never been up Lion’s Head, I assumed that it would be like a fun trail up to an awesome view. Well, I got the second part of that assumption right. As I was so freshly reintroduced to wild South Africa and had come from a very health-and-safety conscious England I had forgotten what freedoms South Africans’ were used to. Half way up the climb I realized that South Africans are pretty fearless, I also realized that I have vertigo. Not wanting to hold the group back I pushed through, clinging for my life onto various steel ladders, chains and handles that had been inserted into the rock. I rock climbed – no harnesses or funky coloured bits of plastic jutting out of faux rock, no no, I climbed up rocks – big rocks. And let me just say what an exhilarating experience it was.

photo (3)I made it to the top!

I made it to the top, no martial in sight. I saw people toasting glasses of wine (I almost feel off my chair – that climb and then getting tipsy?! Only in Africa), one guy was meditating, people had brought their dogs and some people had run all the way to the top. Wow. The panoramic view of Cape Town was spectacular. I have subsequently climbed it again, and let me tell you – that view is as spectacular the second time as it was the first!

IMG_6013Catching our breath at the top

When my friends and family come to visit me in Cape Town the first thing I will do is take them up Lions Head. First and foremost to show off the impressive Mother City from this birds eye view, but secondly because this would NEVER fly in England! If this magnificent peak were situated in the Queen’s Country firstly you would probably have to buy a ticket from the National Trust just to get near it. Secondly, if you were allowed to climb it, I am fairly sure you would have to wait in a queue for a martial with a rock climbing certification to guide you up.  Thirdly, I guarantee there would be boot hire and harnesses involved at some point. And finally, if you made it all the way to the top, most of the peak would be cordoned off because it would be too dangerous and who would be liable if someone died?!

photo (4)An example of England’s heath and safety concerns at it’s finest – I saw this by a coffee shop this Summer

Such restrictions are not even considered in Africa. If you want to do something, you get up and do it, potential dangers aside. South Africans are incredibly lax when it comes to health and safety. Fitting six people in the back of a truck (bakkie) and driving Chapmans peak road just to check the view is all part of life – no seatbelts.  What I love most about this attitude in South Africa is the complete sense of freedom that you feel. One of the most wonderful aspects of  the South African mentality is that people live to enjoy life. As I continue my travels through life I hope that I can always keep this wonderful disposition.

photo (2)Early morning climb – the BEST way to start a Saturday! 

Goodbye England

I wrote this post a couple of days before I flew back to South Africa. In hindsight – 24 hours of travelling sucks.

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Chasing the sun from London to Dubai to Cape Town

As my time back home in England draws to a close and I start to say all of my goodbyes I am constantly reminded that I am using borrowed time. I was initially meant to fly out last Saturday but as fate would have it, the roads towards the airport were completely grid-locked and I ended up missing my flight by an hour. Nonetheless my mother and I went to the airport to see what we could do. The very nice lady at the Emirates desk told us that as it was Ramadan in the Middle East (and my flight goes via Dubai) all of the flights to South Africa were completely full until the 24th. A week and a bit later then I intended to head back. As glad as I was to spend some more precious time with family and friends in sunny England I am all too aware that this time comes at a price. My time in South Africa is drawing to a rapid close. Once I graduate from Red and Yellow I will be left with a decision about whether to start my career in glorious South Africa or prestigious London. I am fortunate enough to have both passports so I can come and go as I please. I always hoped that I would come to South Africa, get back in touch with my roots and then at the end of my course my dream job would present itself… But what if it doesn’t? Well if it doesn’t then I will hop on a plane and my great South African adventure will be over, for now. My point being that we think that we have all of the time in the world. My generation in particular seems to think that we will be in our 20’s forever. While this attitude suggests that we want to party forever, it is detrimental to the carpe diem attitude that we should have. So often at university friends would complain about writing essays and studying for exams claiming that they couldn’t wait to get out of education and into the real world. The ‘real world? ’ We are in it my friends! Every single day is another day in the real world, it’s a journey, a lesson, another chance. We need to stop wishing for tomorrows and living in the memory of yesterday. Now is absolutely our time to shine. Particularly as a Local Tourist, there is no time to do that thing that you wanted to do tomorrow. Do it today! I get to spend another amazing week at home but I’m losing an amazing week in South Africa. So this weekend I am heading into London to try and do every single thing that London can offer me in this glorious weather and as soon as I touch down in Cape Town you can bet that I am going to soak up every opportunity that comes my way. I guess what I am trying to say is that no matter where we are living there are amazing experiences to be had all year round. We need to make the most of these incredible opportunities that are on our doorsteps.

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My goodbye committee 

I have been back in South Africa for 2 weeks and I have most definitely embraced my second semester. I did a Lion’s head trail, went to the wine festival Grape Day Out in Stellenbosch, saw local South African band P.H. fat launch their new album, tried lots of new amazing coffee shops, but most eye-opening and awesome of all – I got to go on a township tour (blog post to follow). Hello Cape Town! Thank you for welcoming me back, it’s good to be in my home away from home.

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The view of Table Mountain from my apartment