But we don’t have any geese …. ?

2014 The Camdeboo

 

If you want to escape Joburg  while never leaving it – try the Peach Café at Camdeboo farm. Tucked away in the middle of suburbia, a mere 3km from the mayhem of Fourways Mall and the frenetic concrete highway, is a rustic small holding with sheep and geese and, in season, peaches for the picking.  The first blossoms were just bursting when we were there for brunch. The Peach Café offers a small menu  with good wholesome food from the farm (with lots of sustenance for vegetarians) and great flat bread freshly baked in the pizza oven.

It’s chilled and laid back with a real country feel.  (The service could do with being a little less laid back.) Don’t expect anything chichi or zhoozh (why do I have to choose words I really don’t know how to spell?) – it’s rustic, unpretentious and down to earth.  Described on its website http://www.camdeboofarm.co.za/ as:

Wonderful farm experience in the middle of busy Joburg – rustic surrounds, gourmet food, delicious wood-fired pizza, seasonal peach picking and a farmstyle shop filled to the brim with preserves and homemade goodies.

2014 Camdeboo menu

When one of our party said ‘And you can even buy goose food’. Her husband looked at her in a bemused fashion and said “But we don’t have any geese.”  We explained gently it was to buy for the children to  feed the geese.  Fortunately, these assertive animals are safely but very noisily constrained behind fencing – no terrified toddlers being chased by squawking feathered monsters with flapping wings, out-stretched necks and snapping orange beaks.

 So for a chilled week-end brunch or lunch make your way there – and there is a play area for kids too.

 

 

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Liz at Lancaster: ‘one of the most sought after & memorable destinations in Johannesburg’

Liz and her team are proud of the accolades from the AA Assessor .  Our service standards are recognized as ‘a benchmark in the industry’  which is high praise indeed. The full report follows below:

AA 2014 QACheck-in Once again, Liz at Lancaster is ranked #1 on Trip Advisor in a category comprising some 230 other establishments in Johannesburg – congratulations to the Team!  Excellent communications.  

General Efficiency   The excellent efficiency of Liz, Zac, Catherine and Thandie is best reflected by the review of an Australian guest: “Absolutely nothing is overlooked. I guarantee that if you need something, it will be in your room somewhere.”

Cleanliness   Overall of excellent levels – particularly when considering the extent of the guest suite appointments and the exceptional occupancies maintained at this establishment. Detailing includes outdoor doormats plus indoor dust-trapper mat, defrosted fridges etc.

Maintenance  New: Older-style security doors on each unit and main core access doors replaced with unobtrusive Trellidoors – excellent effect & functionality. All bathrooms fitted with extendable vanity mirrors. Excellent overall maintenance.

To Check: Earth – cornice above shower; any outdoor doormat wear; any light fray on selected bath mats; Coral – chrome shower stay – rust prevention? Ochre – wall mark to right of headboard.  [We are dealing/have dealt with these issues.]

Friendliness   Outstanding – the perfect balance between friendliness and professionalism.

Local Knowledge   Excellent. “Liz, a mine of information on where to go, what to do, a great help when it came to organising everything we wanted to do into two weeks, her advice is invaluable.”

Service Efficiency  Not an overnight stay, but Liz and her team’s unerring service standards – reflected in guest commentary – are a benchmark in the industry and a cornerstone of her exceptional success.

Bedrooms (Type 1)   Exceptionally well maintained and absolutely nothing has been overlooked in the way of appointments. However, layouts, storage and interior design preclude any unit seeming to be cluttered. Excellent in all respects.

Bathrooms (Type 1)  All fittings, fixtures, linen and amenities are top-drawer items in excellent condition.

Public Areas   Warm, wonderful main core interiors comprise Breakfast room and lounge – leading to the pool garden, or provide a refuge from the winter at one of the fireplaces. Lovely ambiance. Each unit has a charming private, secure courtyard – most with sun loungers – with dining table/chairs, ashtray and most attractive decor. Excellent.

Building Exterior   First impression of excellent attention to maintenance. The recent addition of a curtain of wired pebbles along the parking wall sets the tone of Liz’s attention to every detail of her guests’ experience.

Parking  Brick paving in sound condition – no oil stains; demarcated, shade-cloth covered bays; well lit, close to accommodation.  Zac’s business is to provide transfers etc. – and the guest commentary on this service is glowing – congrats Zac!

Grounds & Gardens   From the indigenous-focus verge, through to the unit courtyards with their potted plants and the charming access garden with water feature, the grounds are immaculately maintained and offer a sense of ease and tranquility.

Security   Every possible measure is in place – down to signage indicating any area which could be slippery when wet. Excellent.

Food Quality  Food not experienced, but quality cafetiere coffee served – thank you. Guest reviews reveal the highest satisfaction with breakfast service and quality. Each unit has extensive appointments for self-catering; units very neatly packed, all items and appliances in sound condition.

Overall  The proposed, unequivocal Superior endorsement is subject to the approval of the committee.

Commendations   Succinctly stated by Cath from the UK: “I could write for ever but still not convey how wonderful Liz at Lancaster is.  All I can say is stay there and find out for yourself – I can guarantee you will not be disappointed.” Superior in all respects, Liz at Lancaster continues to be one of the most sought-after and memorable destinations in Johannesburg. We are truly proud of your invaluable contribution to the hospitality industry Liz. Thank you.

Concerns  None.

Web Review  Outstanding web site!

So thank you to all our guests who keep coming back;  to those who refer us to their friends and colleagues; and to those of you who have written reviews on TripAdvisor. It makes a huge difference to get your feedback and for other travellers to get a sense (from a fellow traveller’s perspective) of what we offer.  Next year will be Liz at Lancaster’s 20th anniversary.

 

 

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Pick of the week- a Dlala Nje ‘immersion’

Amazing view of western and northern Joburg from Ponte apartment

Amazing view of western and northern Joburg from Ponte apartment

Rocky wasteland at the bottom of the inner core of Ponte

Rocky wasteland at the bottom of the inner core of Ponte

Drinking tea and coffee while gathered in a funky 2 bed-roomed 52nd-floor apartment (granite topped kitchen counter tops, tiled floor, the north winter sun streaming in through expansive windows),  it is hard to match this with the dystopian scene that hits us as when we descend to the deepest basement level in the core of the same building. This building is of course, Ponte.   As we duck under brut concrete lintels the jagged rocky landscape littered with the odd bit of detritus, confronts us like some apocalyptic wasteland.  It’s no wonder that this location is in high demand for film-sets  - a lucrative money spinner for Ponte’s owners.  In a nutshell, Ponte, built in the mid 1970s as a one-stop centre of residential apartments, shops and entertainment, degenerated from a sought-after location occupied by well-heeled non-suburbanites, to a no-go zone controlled by the underworld of drug-lords and gangsters.  From around 2009 to 2013, the current owners spent huge amounts of money on refurbing and upgrading the building so that in January 2014 it was fully occupied with a waiting list and strict tenant control including biometric security access (fingerprints).  

Today I joined one of Dlala Nje’s inner city ‘immersions’– no not a sudden Damascian moment with full body baptism – but an introduction by Loops (AKA Mike Luptak) to Ponte and its surrounding area.  Mike stresses he is not a tour guide and wants to give people insights into inner city living and culture. So he avoids the word ‘tour’ and rather wants his visitors to engage with and so immerse themselves in life around them.   

Dlala Nje House Rules

Dlala Nje House Rules

Dlala Nje’s website proclaims it is ‘a games and cultural emporium at the base of Ponte City in the heart of Hillbrow’.  While the pool tables,  gaming machines and soccer balls all attest to this aspect of Dlala Nje, the stocked bookshelves and bank of laptops, signal that it is not only a safe place to congregate and hang out, but also one where under-resourced inner city dwellers can ‘learn, develop and debate’.  While Dlala Nje’s ‘immersions’ help to fund this community centre, the broader vision is to encourage events and performances and so make it more self-sustaining.   Dlala Nje’s  innovative approach to inner city experiences is taken to new limits with the latest addition to their offering – a 2 day immersion where participants overnight at Curiocity Backpackers in the Maboneng Precinct.  Armed (forgive the pun) with one cell phone between the group and some money for food and transport, you self-guide yourselves through inner city Joburg using all forms of public transport – buses, mini-bus taxis, Rea Vaya  – interacting and engaging with those who you meet along the way.   There is obviously more to it than this – but it certainly takes the notion of authenticity of the visitor experience to new levels!

A few years ago this was a derelict building, now it is fully occupied with biometric security, parking and refurbed apartments

A few years ago this was a derelict building, now it is fully occupied with biometric security, parking and refurbed apartments

After telling us about the history of both Ponte and of Dlala Nje and then leaving our view from above across the west and north of Joburg  – expansive airy and light- for  the infamous enclosed rocky pit at the base of the central core of the building, we moved off to start our walk through Berea and into Hillbrow.  There was lots of reminiscing around Hillbrow and those icons of 70s’ and 80s’ cosmopolitan street life and culture – Café Wien, the Chelsea Hotel, Exclusive books, and Fontana for late night munchies.  It’s still vibey and cosmopolitan with lots of street life but now the wares plied are fresh fruit and vegetables, roasted mielies and I even bought a beautifully crafted Zulu hat, an isicholo. Really good to see were the several large blocks of flats which only a couple of years ago were derelict and either stood empty or were illegally occupied. Now, like Ponte, these buildings have been upgraded and refurbed and are fully occupied with paying tenants. Amazing how it seems Hillbrow is slowing turning around. 

We ended our ‘immersion’ with drinks in a bar where we were initially identified as Swedish or ‘maybe English’. Great surprise to discover that all but one were native Jozi-ites.  We were embraced (sometimes literally) by fellow patrons who were just  hanging out and shooting the breeze- and a bit of pool.  

So – all in all, highly recommended for an insider view of that distinctive marker on our eastern skyline and for some exposure to street life in Hillbrow.  Dlala Nje can be contacted through their website on www.dlalanje.org

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