Turkey why do I love you ?

After 16 trips to this culturally rich country where I have visited no less than 20 cities I often sit back and ponder “ why do I love Turkey so much ?”
It started four years ago when I was an accidental tourist who cancelled a tour I had booked to a completely different continent all because it just didn’t feel right.
Well let me tell you, everything feels right about Turkey.

  • The sweet sticky treats that leave a few extra kilos on your hips
  • The endless miles of turquoise coast that leave you light headed from the sheer beauty of the sparkling waters. Its so bad you might be tempted to miss your flight home.
  • Great transport routes make it so easy to miss some of the best spots in the world. I travel most frequently cross country by bus so that I can sit back and relax.
  • My favourite winter drink, salep. The rich creamy winter drink is one of kind, of any cinnamon lover the smell of this drink brewing will have you hooked forever.
  • The bargains you can get at end of season sales or negotiating with market sellers. There is a skill to shopping at markets but once you have mastered it, shopping is so much fun and well worth it.
  • The friendliest people, always wanting to drink a cup of cay ( tea ) with you even if they can’t speak English
  • An overdose of turquoise, its everywhere you go and any shade of blue is my favourite colour.
  • There is so much to see, around every corner is a new adventure waiting to happen. Its a country rich in history and natural beauty and if you don’t get past the cosmopolitan city of Istanbul you will never be disappointed.
  • Such a large number of world heritage sites, I am always in awe at how ancient civilisations lived. I have crossed from one side of Turkey to the other and the number of heritage sites makes one appreciate what has been past down through the generations.
  • Traditions, the Turkish people love their traditions and stick by them vehemently. In the villages and more conservative communities women wear head scarves, the men are the head of the household, marriage ceremonies take place over a couple of days and older men can been seen walking around with a string of worry beads in their hand.
  • A culture that runs on time, is efficient and nothing is to much trouble.
    Being able to walk the streets for hours in a city as big as Istanbul is not something I can do at home. I love the feeling of freedom and safety that I feel
  • The food is delicious !! all freshly made and so tasty. I have my personal favourites but do try my best to push the boundaries and try new things every time
  • There is no bad view in Turkey, I have never looked out a window and thought “ oh thats terrible “ this also includes the general hygiene of the country. There is no rubbish strewn on the streets.
  • There is so much history in this country that lends to the beautiful architecture of the old buildings. You can see the influence from the different era’s be it the Ottoman or Byzantium.
  • Value for money, with no extra visa costs, affordable hotels that include breakfast and wifi and a very affordable public transport system even our Rand can give us an enjoyable holiday.
  • Only country in the world on two continents.Just a 10 minute boat ride and you are in Asia
  • The Hammams,this is a treat like no other. It is so worth paying the extra money to have a shirtless person scrub down, but be warned they are not gentle. You cant believe the amount of dead skin and dirt that comes off your own body. You are left feeling so smooth and silky afterwards.
  • Cay, this is the ice breaker, some call it the equaliser. No milk, with a cube of sugar served in the Turkish shaped tea cup and saucer its hot and strong. Where ever you go there is cay, serious business deals are brokered over cay. Combine it with a simit and you are living the Turkish dream.
  • Turkish delight or better known as lokum. The genuine good quality product is made with honey and not sugar. This hundred year old recipe has been mastered and nobody can resist trying and then buying even if they don’t like sweets                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   So will I return again? of course I cant wait for the next trip

Girls weekend in Mozambique

“Friend, are you busy this weekend? “ these were my words to my best travel buddy on a Thursday evening. We have been to Turkey, Cyprus, Namibia and Upington together.

“if it involves you, definitely not, what are we doing “ she replied. Later she told me that when I asked her she knew straight away it was going to be an epic weekend !!!! and oh boy was it a weekend filled with fun, laughter and adventure.

Immediately we bought bus tickets and early Friday morning departed from Park Station in Johannesburg for what turned into a 12 hour journey. The border post was quick and easy. The little office on the Mozambican side brought back memories of the old post office system when I was a child. Standing in the queue we listened to officials stamp, stamp, stamp , the passports. The sound of the stamp moving from ink pad to passport gave one a warm, fuzzy nostalgic feel. The lack of the computer system makes the process quick and easy.

Sitting at the back of the bus we made fiends with Hazel, a young widowed Mozambican mom who works in JHB weaving ladies hair and returns home every 30 days. What a character, she had bought two cakes at one our stops to celebrate her child’s birthday when she got home. On arrival in Maputo her boyfriend collected us in his car with loud thumping music while we balanced cakes and bags on our laps he dropped us off at our hotel.

Saturday morning saw us jump out of bed and rush down to the Ferry stop. We had plans on doing a day trip to Inhaca Island. No signage and little to no order, some how everyone knew what to do. First class and second class was now one, for 200 Metica’s we were off at 7h30. The boat made me think of what it must be like for refuges, packed like sardines, not enough life jackets, no toilet and no food and rough seas. Not suitable for children or the elderly it was a true African adventure with the wind blowing through our hair, even if I looked as pale as a ghost.

Landing at the island that is flanked by long stretches of beach after 3 hours of being rocked back and forth on huge swells was not as easy as you would expect. The pier was built by the government but is not used. So little boats come and collect you from the ferry, they collect their 20 Metica’s a person before getting you to land. You wade through the water so its not advisable to wear any fancy pants or shoes. Once on dry land you pay another 200 Meticas for conservation tax.

We then met up with Paul and Thandiso who had also decided on a weekend in Maputo. It was Paul’s birthday. So we joined up, Paul was from Mozambique, having someone who could converse in the local language was an enormous help. We found Fernando’s who comes highly recommend and off we went on a 20 minute drive to see the light house. We climbed up with the help of Lettuce, he was our unofficial guide. What a beautiful view, the Portuguese islands are just a stone’s throw away.

This finished we had to brace the 3 hour ride back to Maputo on the ferry. As the sun set we sat back quietly and admired the beauty of the orange and yellow sky with the beautiful skyline of Maputo. This was an unofficial sunset cruise minus the champagne and strawberries but the simplicity made it surreal.

That night saw us join up with our new found friends and do a walking tour of Maputo. Our guides were Sheldon and Herminho from Maputo a Pe ( Maputo on foot ) We were introduced to a well know jazz spot, the Mosque all lit up in green lighting, a theatre, the red light district which by day is offices. The name of the road, Rua do Bagamoyo translates loosely “ Where I left my heart “. How sad that is but such beautiful words. We went to the historic train station, the Cathedral and ended off in a beautiful 4 star hotel on the balcony looking out on the city lights. In my opinion walking tours are the best way to see a city and the locals.

Sunday was when we let the Mozambican charm rub off on us, we felt it was mandatory to spend the day lying at the pool at the world renowned Polana Hotel looking out at the turquoise waters in the distance. Women clad in bikinis sipping on cocktails, men reading newspapers made me realise this was a real happy spot. The warm Indian Ocean breeze helped us forget that in actual fact it was winter in Johannesburg.

Sadly all good things come to an end and that evening all four of us where back on the bus after our whirlwind weekend in Maputo heading home. We arrived promptly at 4am on Monday morning at Park Station to a very chilly Jhb.

Plan your trip

Book your ticket online with Intercape Bus. We went on the sleep liner. Cost was R290 going and R350 return on the cheapest option. For those who need visa’s make sure you have them before buying you ticket, the bus does not wait for you at the border. There are also other companies that do the route.

Moving around

We walked a lot, it was perfectly safe. Taxis are green and yellow in colour and seemed to cost 300 metica’s wherever we went. The taxis are all over and easy to spot. They have limited English, Portuguese is the language of the country but they seem to manage.


At the time the exchange rate was 4,65 metica’s to a Rand. Money can be exchanged at the border, there are people all over selling, just check your notes. In the city there are plenty of different ATM’S to draw money but be advised that 90% of the machines do not allow you to draw from Mastercards, only Visa cards. All major stores accept card payments. The ferry ride only accepts cash. Rand’s are widely accepted.

Where to sleep

For an economic sleep, Fattima’s backpackers is a good choice. Bright and colourful this spot is well known by international tourists so best to book.

Middle to upper stay ( 4 star ) The Maputo Hotel is well located, with a buffet breakfast and unlimited wifi and very large rooms, this modern style hotel is good value for money.

A five star hotel, nothing beats the Polana Hotel built in 1922. This historic hotel with its Spa, beautiful grounds and restaurant is worth every cent. www.polanahotelmaputo.com


Maputo a Pe walking tours is a company that provides walking tours of Maputo. Jane Flood and her 10 Mozambican guys provide tailor made walks. They can be found on Facebook. They offer day and night walks.

Georgia captivated my heart

I went to Georgia 2 years ago, it was a brief trip but it left me speechless. I Knew I had to return.

Well it was the best decision ever. I decided I wanted to spend my Christmas and New Years in Georgia. It started out like the previous trip, I travelled to Turkey, holidayed there a bit then caught a bus to the border. From there a taxi to Batumi. There is some kind of magic in the air that sucks you in, sends you out spinning with awe and wonder. The combination of the old and new architecture is breath taking, where in the world does a person say to you “ you must go and see the Macdonald’s building “ for starters.

We stayed in The Colosseum Hotel, built just like the Colosseum in Italy and located on the beach front of the Black Sea. We were amazed by the surrounding high rise hotels and buildings that were just as unique and modern. Just down the road is the White Restaurant, truly weird by any standards,it is built upside down. It looks like a small version of the US White house resting on its roof at a jaunty angle. You must visit the toilets, there are two floors and on both it looks like you are walking on the ceiling.

There is so much to see in Batumi and it has been made easier for tourists to get around, there are green bicycles located all over the city and you pay at the machine and take your bicycle for the day and follow the various mapped out routes. We soon found ourselves strolling along the Batumis boulevard, the park strip fronting the main beach ( although stoney ) it was still good to walk along. At the end is a large ferris wheel and the Alphabet tower. A personal favourite for me is the Sheraton Hotel, the views from the 20 floor of the city and the Black sea are beautiful and in December you can see the snow on the mountains, there is no better way to enjoy a sundowner.

Georgia is a journey in humanity and friendliness. It has the unspoilt natural beauty that city people seldom get to see and experience. We got to enjoy the authentic experiences like the food and the people and didn’t have to pay for a tour, instead we did it on our own and it was the genuine hospitality of the people that made it so worth while.

We left Batumi and travelled to Kutaisi by train, we spent a night there. The most beautiful sight is the Bagrati Cathedral. We walked up the cobbled streets, half way up we met an old lady who showed us a picture of her son in a wheelchair. We couldn’t understand her but she chatted away to us and accompanied us all the way. Bragrati was built in 1003 and is now on the UNESCO Danger list. Just 6km from Kutaisi sits Little Motsameta Monastery, after much deliberation we decided to hire a taxi driver to take us to see it and the next monastery. The sun was starting to set but we knew we couldn’t miss seeing them. Little Motsameta sits on a spectacular clifftop promontory above a bend of the Tskhaltsitela River, meaning “ Red Water “ .The next Monastery complex Gelati was situated on a wooded hillside, it was founded by King David the Builder in 1106. The interior of the main Cathedral of the Virgin is among the brightest and most colourful in Georgia. Both sights were breath taking and such a humbling experience. The snowy surroundings gave it the extra magic that only a person from Africa can dream of.

Next morning we were of to the destination that my trip had been about all along, Mestia in Svaneti. “ Svaneyians have come down to the lowlands, give us some land to look after and plough ! “

The poem was composed when Svanetians came down the flat lands of Georgia as seasonal workers. In all regions of Western Georgia, hard-working Svanetians are consider to be the best hired men.

We took a 12 seater taxi on a very long and arduous drive, we had an Orthodox priest with us and some other interesting locals that made the trip even more enjoyable. Four hours were spent in the mountain range, driving on winding roads that were covered in snow and at some points in the tunnels the ice had not been cleared away. We arrived eventually and we delivered to the front door of our guesthouse. The town does not have many hotels ( 9 to be exact ) there are plenty guest houses though. The lady that ran our one, was 60 years old and delightful. She couldn’t speak english but made a delicious breakfast. To our surprise we found her chopping wood in the the morning.

Svaneti really makes a spectacular sight, its gorges are surrounded by high summits and glacial lobes. In summer time you can take a 9km hike to see Shkhara glacier. There are mountain rivers, woodlands, vast meadows and Svaneti towers that were used to protect their patrons from inner and outer enemies. The people of Svaneti have their own language, different to the rest of Georgia.

The highlight of staying here , besides skiing is to take a jeep and its driver to the town of Ushguli. Its a 47km drive from Mestia and reaches 2100metres above sea level and is claimed to be the highest permanently inhabited place in Europe. With more than 20 ancient Svan towers , it has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1996. Set in the topmost reaches of the Enguri valley beneath the snow covered massif of Mt Shkhara (5068m), Georgia”s highest peak, its a superbly picturesque spot. We had lunch at a locals house where they made us the famous Kubdari, a pie type food filled with chunks of beef . We drove back down to Mestia and enjoyed supper at our local spot, Lailas Cafe where we could make use of the wifi and and pick her brain for more good spots to visit. There is an airport in Mestia but flights are unreliable in winter because of weather conditions. While we were there temperatures dropped to minus 16 degrees celsius at night and during the day that sat at minus 4 degrees celsius.

As much as I loved this town and I was so happy that I had got to spend my Christmas here the time had come for us to leave and travel to Tiblisi. We took a 12 seater taxi again, this time it was 12 hours. But we eventually arrived. The city life of Tiblisi is electric like any other modern city of the world, and with the Christmas spirit and markets everyone was in a happy mood. Peace Bridge, the cable car , old clock tower and The Holy Trinity Cathedral are some of the sights that you must see. You will find all the big names here, Dunkin Doughnuts, Burberry, Nike etc.

Christmas trees were everywhere and Georgia has their own tree called a chichilaki. It is a traditional Christmas tree made from dried hazelnut or walnut branches that are shaved to form a small coniferous tree. I love Christmas and decided to photograph as many Christmas trees as possible, well what a collection I had by the time I left Georgia. I also found out that about 45 million Norman firs – the most popular type of Christmas tree – are sold across Europe. More than 80 % of all seeds for these trees come from Georgia.

We left Tiblisi and headed for Batumi as we had decided we wanted to spend New Years Eve there. The Georgian Railway now has some new trains that travel between the two cities, making the trip a lot more comfortable than the first time I went. We travelled first class and had wifi all the way. We were at The Hilton Hotel that is centrally located. News Year in Batumi was amazing. The fireworks display was breathtaking and the singing of Christmas carols in both English and Georgian made it a moment to never forget. This was a New Years that ranks in my top 3 for sure.

I will most definitely be returning to Georgia again.

The friendliness and the warmth of the Georgian people combined with the magnificent beauty of the county side and to top it off the delicious food there is no reason why every person should not visit Georgia at least once in their life time.

Bus trips are still fun

A spur of the moment weekend road trip is always fun but what makes it even more enjoyable is when I can hop on a bus. I am a huge bus fan, I love sitting back and starring out the big window watching the country side and people go by and loosing track of time.

The decision was made, my son and I would take a bus from Park Station to Mooi River and back for the long weekend. I admit I am guilty of comparing our busses to overseas bus trips and I am always sorely disappointed however this time I was pleasantly surprised. We had a friendly attendant who came through with coffee made with creamer and a biscuit what felt like every 2 – 3 hours. This was a pleasant surprise that I will look forward to next time.

The pit – stops always surprise me, why are the small towns with toilets that need to be paid for chosen? But if the bus never stopped here you would never get to experience these towns because they are after all just pass throughs.

It is a day trip, not something recommended for small children. We left at 8am and only arrived in Mooi River after 5pm. This is normally a four hour car drive but then, you don’t get to sight see the way we did. South African’s have one of the most diverse and beautiful country sides in the world. From children running around in the dust rolling tyres, to people cooking and selling food on the side of the road and then there was the annual festival in Giants Castle there can’t be a better way to enjoy this than from the comfort of a seat raised above other motorists.

A piece of history

The first European Settlement in the area was at the Mooi River Drift in 1852. This was formally named Weston in 1866 after the first governor of Natal, Martin West. In 1879, an Irishman named Alexander Lawrence purchased the farm “Grantleigh” upstream from Weston, on the banks of the Mooi River. When the new railway line was built across his land, the village of Lawrenceville on his farm “ Grantleigh “ it was renamed Mooi River in 1921 when it was declared a town.

What to see and do

Much to my son’s dismay, I fell in love with the town of Mooi River. I spotted the quaint church on the side of the road and was immediately drawn to its simplistic beauty. This was the first church of the town, St John’s Anglican Church was built in 1872 and is still standing, the original wooden gate from the entrance has been moved to St Paul’s Church in the main town.There are graves of the British from the Boer war to be found in the cemetery. The church is now being used as a creche and is in still in a very good condition.

Across the road is the original bridge that was built over the Mooi River . It was named the Helen Bridge by Colonel J.J Bisset who named it after his second daughter on the 19 November 1886. I stood in the middle up the bridge looking both upstream and down stream while admiring the waters of The Mooi River, lined by a vast array of landscapes and communities, it’s waters run in different shades of sparkling blue or even muddy brown after heavy rains. Make sure you take the time to listen to the birdsong in the trees and the sheep bells as the local shepherd herds them out too eat, this is not the place to be in a hurry but to enjoy the tranquility of country life.

Drive back into town and stop at the Rhode House Museum. Small but interesting it gives a person the knowledge of the Rhode father and son team who became prominent business men from around 1906.

Mooi Loft on the far side of town is open 7 days a week, a large textile factory runs alongside it .The drive over the old metal bridge amongst the beautiful forest of trees makes the factory almost seem attractive.


Nobody should pass through this town without stopping at the Biltong Shop at the Engen Garage next to the highway. The constant flow of feet in and out of tis shop speaks for itself . They have a wide range of traditionally made South African biltong of outstanding quality.

Station Master Arms on Station road took the owner Godfrey 2 years to renovate and it is been open for 3 years now. This pub style restaurant is well worth a visit. Housed in an old railway building at Mooi River railway station, patrons can enjoy watching the trains while sitting outside on the platform and ordering something from the menu. Live music adds to the ambience on the weekend.

Where should you sleep?

Towns of this size don’t offer much variety when it comes to accommodation. The most known spot in the town itself would be Glen Eagles.

Sierra Resort set on 935 hectares of farmlands was a single story outpost affectionately known as The Grove when it was first established back in the early 1900’s. It has now grown to be a very popular destination.

Just outside of town lies Hartford House , a country lodge renowned for its beautiful decor and one of KZN’S most famous gardens, its an absolute spoil.

My best discovery

Nothing makes a girl happier than finding a barn full of antiques so when I discovered this spot I was in heaven. I have always dreamed of having an old stone house with wooden floors dressed with antiques. Just outside Mooi River on Old Main Road is Hey Jude’s barn. This is a treasure trove of of furniture, crockery, silverware, old furniture and so much more. Shelves adorned with a mismatch of teacups and saucers made me realise this was the perfect stop for someone wanting to open a coffee shop. A lick of paint would give new life to some preloved goods. The enormous trees outside welcome visitors onto the farm and Jude’s signature pink vehicle will probably be parked under them.

What was most amusing during my weekend getaway?

This moment had to go to the lady who got off the bus at the garage in Mooi River even though it wasn’t a designated toilet stop and went inside. The driver dropped us off then left, the lady came out the toilet and asked me with a very surprised look on her face “ has the bus left ?” we had to jump into the car of our lift and chase the bus . They hadn’t done a passenger count so were oblivious to the shortage of a passenger. We caught the bus after phoning head office and having them call the driver. I doubt that lady will ever get off a bus again.

Best time to visit

I love the cold so winter time for me always has me hoping I will catch some snow fall. However in summer time with the beautiful colours of the landscape and the sparkling river this is when most tourists will go and enjoy the Midlands Meander area.

Did you know?

Candice Swanepoel the model best known for her work with Victoria’s Secret was born and raised in Mooi River. In 2012, she came in 10th on the Forbes top earning models list.

Was it what I had expected?

I was pleasantly surprised, I have been passing through this town since a small child on our annual holiday going to Durban and it never occurred to me that it had so much to offer and its definitely growing. A town worth watching in the next few years. A new shopping centre is being built with some big retailers and this is a sure sign of growth for a small farming community. The town emanates pleasant, relaxed vibes and the people are friendly. It felt good to be there and I cant wait to return.

We returned on the bus with no serious adventures like loosing passengers. On arrival to Park Station we called for an Uber, this proved to be more difficult than we had anticipated as they are not to keen to pick up passengers from the station so three Ubers later we got home. Bus travel is affordable and fun and with reputable companies this is a mode of transport more travellers should consider.

48 hours in Istanbul

The Turkish Airways lounge at Ataturk airport was filled with the joyful and excited sounds of men and women’s laughter.

The location was Turkey, the occasion was to add to my list my list of memories in Turkey, the gift was the luxury and comfort of travelling business class and staying at the fine establishment, The Radisson Hotel.

The atmosphere in the room was electric as everyone chattered amongst themselves. We all had one common interest, travelling and that was enough to get any conversation started.

The role of Istanbul, a wonder of history and culture, has always been as a mediator between work civilisations and religions. Thanks to its geographical position as a midway point between east and west, it is one of the most popular cities in the world.

Journeying through the rich weave of history and geography that is Turkey, I did go to a wedding, to mosques and to the Grand bazaar as well as a street market. The cosmopolitan cultural influences accumulated over the years adds to the variety of tastes that you find in the food. In fact, you can find almost every type of local food possible. In addition to restaurants offering Otoman Palace cuisine, the street food is also worth a try. Fast food such as doner kebabs, lahmacun, meatball sandwiches, and pide are also very tasty. My favourite meal is the Iskender kebab and Kunefe for dessert. If you like fish you should defiantly try one of the many seafood restaurants along the Bosphorus. Get a fish sandwich from one of the boats docked on the left side of Galata Bridge and enjoy it with a pickle juice from street vendors in the square.

In recent years, Istanbul has become a major shopping destination, the ever growing metropolis, which many mistakenly take to be the Turkish capital is also a busy business centre. In many of the city’s districts, large and luxurious shopping centres have opened. You find internationals brands ranging from Victoria Secrets, GAP, Guess, The body Shop and many more to local brands like LC Wakiki, Koton, Mavi and even the Genuine Fake brands can be found at the large outdoor markets and the world famous Grand Bazaar.

The Spice Bazaar ( also called the Egyptian Bazaar) across from Yeni Cami ( New Mosque ) is another popular tourist destination. The smells of the spices, teas and variety of dried fruit make one drool as you fantasise about the delicious meals that you can cook using these simple and yet food altering ingredients. The store owners are eager for you to test their goods, each one greeting in English and offering a test of their delicious Turkish delight. The best Turkish delight is made from honey, they are rolled and include a variety of flavours from pistachio, pomegranate and even nutella.

In a city surrounded by water , one of the easiest and certainly most pleasant ways to get around is by boat. On Fridays, touristanbul service offers Golden Horn cruises. Travel aboard Istanbul’s iconic ferries from East to West and if you have time for a day trip, the Princes Islands one of the gems of Istanbul are a must with their horse drawn carriages. Sight seeing from a ferry is one of the best ways to view the palaces of the Bosphorus, such as Dolmabahce Sarayi on the European side and Beylerbeyi Sarayi on the Asian side. As you are enjoying the sea breezes and the smell of the sea salt, watch out for dolphins swimming by and an abundance of jelly fish. On your trip you will pass the Maiden’s Tower made famous by the Bond movie The world is not enough.

It is safe to say the Turkish people love children. Dont be surprised if your young ones are the centre of attention at any given restaurant or shop. But pinched cheeks and ruffled hair are not all that Istanbul has to offer children. On the Turkish airlines flight your children can expect to be well entertained with the games and children movies on board . Once in Istanbul, take them to the Sapphire 4D Skyride with a platform at 236 metres this is the perfect introduction to Istanbul’s most important sights. Another fun day for children is Miniturk, this park shows Turkey’s most popular sites in miniature version and has an amazing selfie spot where children can feel like giants! Even as an adult I have found some great photo spots in this park. Galata Tower may only be 70 metres high, but it offers a commanding view of all major monuments of the Historic Peninsula. On a day when the weather is not so good why not visit the historical collections of industrial and engineering times at the Rahmi M Koc Museum? I don’t know what I loved more, the collection of old cars like Cadillac’s, Mustangs and Jaguars or the delightful doll houses that pulled me back to memories of my childhood.

A firm favourite with children is always the Istanbul Sea Life Aquarium, the 80 metre underwater tunnel will stun your kids with hug numbers of fish, sharks, and stingrays.This is a great way for children to discover life under the surface.

Turkish ice cream went viral with a video of a Kahramanmaras Ice cream seller making fun of tourists. If you think you’re too smart to be tricked, accept the challenge and get yourself a portion !! I love this ice cream and can’t resist the pistachio flavour each time I travel to Turkey.

On the Asian side you will find Sakirin Mosque, this is the first Mosque in Turkey to be designed by a female architect.While on this side of the Bosphorus stop at Ciya Sofasi for delicacies from all over Turkey and the region. This restaurant draws many diners from the European side, proving the authenticity of its dishes.

For history buffs, Haydarpasa Train Station is a treat. This was the Western terminal of the Baghdad Railway and once the busiest station in the Middle East. The German designed building is like a castle, while the interior is Oriental.

Turkey’s outlandish culinary riches are best savoured at Mikla or Alancha, two of Istanbul’s swankiest dining spots for modern Turkish cuisine. Book a window table at Mikla for a breath taking view of the Old City and Beyoglu,or surrender to a nerve ending dance of dishes at Alancha’s sumptuous tasting menu.

Istanbul is a city that stands for everything you can look for in a travel destination: centuries of history, wonderfully rich cuisine, noteworthy shopping spots, a vibrant arts and culture scene and a booming night life.

48 hours is nowhere near enough time but it will definitely tease you and you will leave this amazing city wanting more.

Must sees for an 8 hour visit.

Luckily, many of the city’s must – sees are located on the Historical peninsula. The fastest way to get there form Ataturk airport is by taking the metro form the arrivals terminal to Aksaray, then changing to the tram that takes you directly to Sultanahmet district. Make sure you add at least 2 hours of comment to your itinerary and minimum one hour for passport and security checks before you boarding time

If you start sight seeing at the Blue Mosque and continue touring in a counterclockwise route, your trip will end very close to the returning tram stop. After exiting the Mosque walk across Sultanahmet square until you see Topkapi Palace gate infront of you on the right. Buy your ticket online at muse.gov.tr to skip the queue.

Exiting the palace, continue the tour to you right until you see the queue infront of Hagia Sophia. If you didn’t get a ticket in advance, you can still avoid the line with the help of a certified tour guide.

Next cross the street and go quickly to the Yerebatan Cistern. this hidden underground gem cannot be missed!!.

You can also see the Hipperdrome in the square while walking.


12 hours in Istanbul

You can add this onto your 8 hour trip.

Between visits to Topkapi Palace and the Hagia Sophia, take a stroll along the picturesque back streets of the neighboorhood, which take you to the courtyard of the Istanbul Archaeological Museums. To enjoy the full collection you will need at least half a day .

Follow the tramline which passes by Gulhane Park and continues towards Eminonu, where you can visit thE centrally located New Mosque. On the left side of the main enyttuance you will see bird food sellers.

Try Turkish coffee from Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi in Eminonu. In the stalls nearby you can also find other coffee – making essentials, such as cezve and tiny cups.

Take a stroll along Galata Bridge, occasionally stopping to take a look at the fisherman trying their chances with little rods. Next stop: Galata Tower , which is located right ahead of you. If you have enough time at the end of the bridge turn right ands explore the hip Karaoke neighbourhood, some of the trendiest neighbour hoods are there.

48 hours in Istanbul

You can add this onto your 12 hour trip.

Take a cruise down the Bosphorus on the second day, hop on and hop off as you zig zag between Europe and Asia. Staring at Cengelkoy pier on the Asian side, you will head north up the strait until you reach Istinye on the European side.Before hopping on one of the Sehir Hatlari ferry boats in Cengelkoy, enjoy a classic Turkish tea at the Tarihi Cinaralti Cay Bahcesi. This family tea garden is right on theatre overlooking the traditional fishing boats, has a view of the Bosphorus bridge and is aired by a sycaore tree. The further North you go, the greener the shoreline becomes. Look out for the pristine traditional Ottoman mansions called yeller. If you crave a coffee break hop off at Bebek for a couple of hours.


Turkish Airlines is the only airline to offer direct return flights to Istanbul from Durban four times a week a week, and daily from Joburg and Cape Town. It has been voted Europe’s best airline for five consecutive years in the Skytrax Passengers Choice Awards. From Johannesburg this flight is just over 9 hours. They now offer 10 weekly flights and the best part is they fly at night so you wake up in the morning in Istanbul. South African passport holders can apply for the e-Visa online that takes less than 3 minutes. We can stay for 30 days in Turkey and the visa is free of charge. With strict security measures in place this country is well worth the visit and won’t do any serious damage to your credit card. Visit www.turkishairlines.com for more info.

The Doll House Roadhouse - End of an era

No 377 Louis Botha Avenue, Erf 23 Hawkins Estate ext 1.

On a sunny afternoon in July I decided to take a step down memory lane with my oldest son and go and eat at the landmark where my dad worked in 1972. At the time it was open 24/7. Some would consider the exterior as having a spooky appearance but with the neon lighting at night it’s anything but that.

Rewind a couple of decades and the parking lot was so full, people struggled to find parking. With the “ jols” taking place in the cosmopolitan Hillbrow and Rocky street this was the meet up spot before dragging a sluggish, beaten body back home.

The rather dilapidated building with the “w” missing from the waffles sign still made the good old greasy and tasty fast food one would expect. It was delivered on the original metal trays that clipped onto our windows. The signature “blondie” which was patty, steak, bacon and eggs stacked between toasties and double thick milkshakes where still available.

A handwritten receipt was still proof of a bygone era, but then out popped the credit card machine to make payments.

Inside the kitchen hangs a black and white picture in its hey day, the owner , Tony Leca told me the older picture he had went missing when he sent it off to the printers. This image is the one that is printed on the menu’s. The cars were parked in a dusty parking lot, one can only imagine how many relationships where saved over a banana milkshake.

No one seems to know the real age but with photos dating back to the early 1940’s it definitely has a lot of memories. Known as the oldest roadhouse in Johannesburg it seems to have finally got too tired to continue. Notice was given in July 2017 by the Gauteng Provincial Heritage Resource Authority announcing the proposed demolition of the property.

On a final visit back at the beginning of August 2017 the doors are already shut.

10 Reasons to love Georgia

The views of the Causicaus mountains must be the most beautiful I have ever seen. I knew this was going to be a holiday dreams are made of.

From Batumi to Kustasi to Mestia to the pumping pulse of the capital of Tiblisi, I can say I loved every village, town and city that I saw. It may be a small country but the people have a heart twice the size, they are warm, friendly and kind people.

Georgia is not only beautiful in summer with brooks and meadows but also in winter. With amazing ski resorts and villages set in post card perfect settings, the snow- laden trees and pristine alpine slopes are enough to make you want to return again and again.

So if you are looking for some adventure at a fraction of the price hop into a creaky minibus and crawl along the breath taking mountain roads, enjoying the journey as much as the destination.

  • Visit the Sheraton Hotel in Batumi – even if it’s just for a walk around the lobby and adjoining casino, go up to the 20th floor, and take in one of the best views in all of Batumi while sipping on cocktails and watching the sunset over the black sea.
  • Take a photo, or lets say a “ selfie “ at the Alphabet Tower on Batumi Boulevard. This is the main sea side city , with its electric atmosphere from gambling to the modern architecture you can be forgiven for thinking you are in Vegas by the sea
  • Grab a bite at the upside down restaurant , designed by a 24 year old and built like the White House, 200m from the Colosseum Hotel. The location is great, on the Boulevard and looking out onto the Black sea. Even if you only go to see the upside down toilets make sure you instagram the moment.
  • Drink Georgian wine as often as possible, with over 500 varieties of grapes and the heritage of wine making that dates back over 8 thousand years you cant pass on one of the oldest Georgian traditions. Get addicted to the local sweet made from wine juice and take as many photos as your phones memory can hold. This country is truly beautiful.
  • Eat the calorie induced Khachapuri, a cheesy bread of multiple varieties and khinkali, huge broth filled dumplings with meat, cheese and mushrooms.
  • Take one of the new trains acquired by the Georgian Railway from Batumi to Tiblisi. First class has unlimited wi-fi, power points and very comfy chairs. If you love train travel then this route is a must as it winds through the country side.
  • The adventure seeker can’t leave Georgia without going to Ushguli in Svaneti region. The highest inhabited European village, 45km from the town of Mestia, this is a slice of medieval heaven. A 9km hike in summer time takes you to a glacier for the energetic crowd. Watch towers dot the horizon and are the centre of many heart warming folk tales around the fire.
  • The hop on Hop off Bus in Tiblisi is good way to see the capital city. But not to be missed is the Holy Trinity Cathedral sitting up on a mountain over looking Peace Bridge, the third tallest Eastern Orthodox Cathedral in the world. Tiblisi is the heart of the country for the young crowd with parties that go on until the early hours.
  • Get your dancing shoes on, with no less than 16 different styles of Georgian folk dancing you can’t leave Georgia without having experienced at least one of these. Different dances originate in different parts of Georgia, the Partsa comes from Guria and is characterised by its fast pace, rhythm, festive mood and colourfulness. This dance mesmerises the audience with not only speed and gracefulness but also creates a desire to party. Costumes add to authenticity of the show.
  • Bagrati Cathedral stands proudly, high on the hills above Kutaisi. It is a magnificent 11th century Cathedral, with its floor being laid in 1003. With stunning views of the old city a slow amble up the steep cobbled streets takes you back in time as you wonder what it was like in when kings and Queens ruled these beautiful surroundings.

Getting there:
Both Turkish airlines and Qatar have flights to Tbilisi. The easiest is Turkish airlines. The Qatar flight goes via Baku in Azerbaijan ( but you don’t disembark it is just a quick stop ) Currently both flights are around R10 000 taxes included, this can be cheaper depending on dates. South African passport holders receive a visa on arrival in Georgia, free of charge. The tourist visa is valid for 365 days.

The Church on the Hill

A cold winters day always get’s me excited. I can’t lounge around, instead I become super energised. So with a spring in my step and the smell of rain in the air I set out early on a city adventure.

For a long time now I have driven past the church on the hill and wanted to go and see it. Driving down the road past Egoli gas you can see the steeple of the church on your right hand side.

Today was my chance, with the grey clouds, and the soft drizzle I found my way up the hill to the entrance of The Dutch Reformed Church on Cottesloe Ridge. The grand church stands proudly flanked by two big plain trees showing off their beautiful winter colours.

This area is known as Vrededorp, it was also known as Fietas. It was an area of forced removals during the apartheid era. In 1904 the area was struck by bubonic plague and on the 20 March the mixed population was evacuated and the area burnt to the ground. By 1940 the population of Pageview was predomentlely Indian and the area started developing characteristics as such. Mosques, temples and churches where established and the 14th street shopping mecca began.

On the 23 February 1943 the area was officially named Pageview in honour of the then Mayor of Johannesburg, Mr. J.J.Page. Up until this point it had been known as Fietas.

By 1962 there were 177 shops in the area, the Oriental Plaza was established in 1974, but it stayed virtually empty until 1976 when unwilling traders were forcibly removed from their shops in Pageview.

All that remains for the well known 14th street is a small Plaque outlining what this area once was. It is now strewn with rubbish and homeless people loitering around begging from passers by.

I was fortunate enough to find Wynand, the caretaker of the church at home. He stays a few houses away. He tells me he has been living in the area for about 43 years now. He wonders how long he will be able to continue taking care of the church, he is 73 years old already but is still active and eager to share a story or two.

The church can house between 300 – 350 parishioners but these days only around 100 – 150 attend the one Sunday service at 9am. The numbers are diminishing as the local community changes to young students who attend the two universities. The priest who gives the service drives from Pretoria every Sunday. On the walls outside the church are plaques for churches in the area that have already closed down.

This church was designed by Gerhard Moerdijk in 1935, it has the Cape Dutch Style Facade and tower. Gerhard was also responsible for designing the new Park Station together with Gorden Leith in 1927 and he designed the Voortrekker Monument in the late 1940’s.

On the hill next to the church are the remains of a monument for the soldiers who died in the Boer War. Sadly it has been damaged and not much has been done to preserve it.

Just a few hundred meters down the road I come across the Buddhist Temple. The mosaic sign on the wall is in need of some new letters, one can only imagine that the local children have been peeling them off. Lovemore was standing guard at the gate as he let out some visitors, I asked him if I could have a look around. He willingly let me in and showed me around telling me how they had just had some recent guests from Bangladesh. I took off my shoes and went into the temple.

It was not what I was expecting at all. From the outside appearance which was fairly bland and run down, I was now faced with the sudden contrast of bright and vibrant colours which immediately carried me to far off lands. The peace and tranquility I felt in the room with the light sneaking in through the beautifully shaped windows made me want to sit down and enjoy it for an hour or two.

The beautiful wooden floors creak as you walk over them in the library taking you back in time. Allowing you to appreciate one of the many old properties of Johannesburg.

This town has so much history to it, a lot of the houses are now rented out as student accommodation and others are terribly run down. History has a way of repeating itself and maybe this will be the next urban renewal project.


Source: http://www.sahistory.org.za/article/fietas-pageview-timeline-1880-1988

A journey back in time

“Quick darling come and look at these goggles what could they possibly be for?” We both stood in our Deluxe suite on board what has been dubbed the most luxurious train in the world trying to ascertain what two people would do with a single set of goggles.

Within minutes our hostess Celine arrived to give us a run down of our room and its contents and explained the goggles were to prevent bugs landing in our eyes should we choose to stick our head out of the moving train and feel the warm African air on our face.

A journey on the Pride of Africa – the name of the train – is as much a journey into a grand colonial past as it is a geographical one. The rooms are furnished with fine furniture, wall to wall of a shiny wooden interior, and a bath room with victorian taps in the shower. Your every need is catered for, from bath robes and slippers, to a miniature kettle with an array of tea and coffee to choose from. During turn down we were surprised to find that Celine had taken the time to complete a small weather card for the following day so that we knew what to expect in terms of temperature for our off the train excursions.

In keeping with the nostalgic atmosphere, guests are encouraged to only use their cell phones and laptops in the privacy of their rooms. There are no televisions on board either, one can enjoy playing a board game or just sitting back in the lounge and enjoy chatting to the other guests.

Meal times are set and dinner is a 5 star affair with formal attire being worn.

Yes, you can drink too much wine, my Fiancé and I learned very quickly to smile and say “no thank you” as the waitron approached with yet another bottle of Cape wine saying to us “this is best coupled with the duck that you are eating:” Each course comes with a recommended wine and while wine coupled with the correct food gives the perfect touch to ones palette, it does become a little bit difficult to stand up on a moving train and walk back to your coach while trying to look poised.

We had set out on a three day journey from Durban to Pretoria. The first question on anyones lips was “ how could it possibly take three days to travel this distance” well its quite easy. There is no rush. In keeping with the Victorian era the train does not travel faster than 60km per hour. It stops so that everyone can disembark and enjoy the various excursions.

When we pulled out of Durban station we rushed to the observation car on the train where one can sit outside and listen to the sound of the train on the tracks and smell the warm, humid air that KZN is so well known for. After a while the novelty wears off as your ears start to ring and we moved inside to the lounge to enjoy the air conditioned environment while drinking the first of many Amarulas.

The train travels in a north westerly direction towards Pietermaritzburg. We enjoyed lunch in the dinning car while the train traversed the spectacular Valley of a Thousand hills. The first stop was at Lions River Station where we disembarked and went to visit the Ardmore Ceramics gallery. Fee Halsted moved to Ardmore Farm where she met Bonnie Ntshalintshali who was unable to work due to her polio they developed an instinctive working synergy and under Fee’s mentorship, Bonnies natural creative skills as an artist blossomed. Five years later, in 1990, Fee and Bonnie were jointly awarded the prestigious Standard Bank Young artist award, the first such artistic partnership ever to be recognised. We walked around the farm and enjoyed listening to the stories about the different artists and their areas of expertise. The afternoon ended with tea out on the lawns over looking the river that runs through the farm.

Day two saw us wake up full of energy eager to see what the day would produce. We were not disappointed. Early arrival at the dinning cart meant that we could eat some of the very tasty figs that were layed out for breakfast. We made our way to Ladysmith station where we disembarked, our shuttle bus was waiting for us and drove us to the Foothills of the Drakensburg. We arrived at Spionkop Lodge where owner and Historian, Raymond Heron welcomed us. He lead us to the lookout point where we could see the Tugela river flowing in the distance. After our photo moment we where seated under some indigenous thorn trees where Raymond conveys the story of what he has dubbed ‘ The South Africa War”. We hung onto every word feeling as enthusiastic as Raymond about our heritage. For a brief moment I was taken back to the history lessons at school that I so enjoyed. We then proceeded down to the lodge where we could amble around and enjoy the tranquility of the lodge and its surroundings. History lesson over, we traveled back to the train to indulge in our four course meal for lunch. We are served roast duck breast with galette and fresh ribbon vegetables as the main meal and finish off with baby pears poached in a sweet red – wine reduction served with vanilla -bean ice cream and mint garnish.

After such a scrumptious affair the temptation to retire to our room and lye down was great. After some freshening up we joined everyone else and disembarked at Elandslaagte Station where we were met by game rangers ready to whisk us off to Nambiti Game reserve, a private Big Five bush retreat set on 20 000 acres of malaria free bush veld. We spent three hours driving around in pursuit of the ever evasive lions. They were eventually spotted by our game ranger at a distance. Next on the list was the Rhino, heading in the opposite direction we encountered the oldest elephant bull in the reserve, he was walking down the road in front of us and adamant that he was not moving. The slow movement of the vehicle allowed us opportunity to revel in the magnificent African sunset and take some beautiful pictures. We never got to see the rhino but did see hippos peering out of the dam, plentiful specifies of buck and my favourite the giraffe and zebra. Exhausted we returned to the train to be met by the staff with hot face clothes and champagne and orange juice.

Dinner that night was seared springbok lion with port and black cherry demi-glace set on stir fried vegetables and a creamy Parmesan cauliflower mash. Stomachs full and lots to speak about, the guests gathered in the observation lounge for drinks. The night was enjoyed by all and slowly people retired to their rooms.
Next morning we open our eyes and realise that this was our final day aboard, we quickly opened the shutters and enjoyed the crisp morning air. A day cannot start for me without a cup of coffee. I chose the Kenyan coffee and my zealous fiancé made me a cup. We sat together and savoured the moment wishing it would last forever.
Nothing lasts forever as we suddenly realise when we heard the chimes moving down the passage reminding us that it was breakfast time. We found our favourite table in the dinning car and sat down and enjoyed breakfast. The train departed Voortuitsig and continued Northwest across the Highveld towards Balfor and then on to Heidelberg. After lunch we started packing our bags, the final scuffle to ensure we have everyone’s contact details and Facebook names. Then in great anticipation we stood on the observation deck to see the steam locomotive named Shaun attached to pull us into the private Rovos Station in Pretoria. We had arrived at our destination. I was slow in leaving the station to get to the Gautrain so while I waited for our Uber to collect us we had the privilege to meet Rohan Vos, what a warm hearted gentleman he was. We were extremely happy that we got to meet the man with so much vision and passion. What a memorable experience it had been. With hugs and waves goodbye to new found friends the glamour and old world charm had come to an end. The experience will forever stay high on my list of favourite adventures.

Experience the dream!!