REEDS Roadtrip – Fire & Ice! Melrose Arch

After getting a little lost on JHB’s highways i couldn’t have been happier to pull up outside the Melrose Arch Fire & Ice! Hotel. The sun was already starting to set and what little warmth was in the air seemed to be disappearing too. I was beyond relieved when i walked into the hotel lobby and was greeted with the biggest smiles from every single hotel staff member in the vicinity and a warm stone fire. Check in was a breeze and i didn’t even have to spell my name multiple times before they found my booking.

One of my favourite things about the hotel made itself evident in the first few minutes after i’d gotten my room key and we were heading up to the rooms in the lift – you need to swipe your room key in order to get to the floor you’re staying on. Now this might not sound life changing to you, but to me it was as close to heaven as i was going to get. When it comes to my personal safety (and personal space) i am a tiny bit paranoid… not without reason though. I’ve had my fair share of real stalkers, some scarier than others and quite a number of “close calls”. I knew that i’d be publicizing the fact that i was staying at the hotel and that it would make it very easy for anyone to come and find me… so this added security measure already put me at ease.

Walking down the corridor i had no idea what to expect from the room, i knew it would be beautiful, but i had no idea how beautiful it would be. Mixi and i got rooms next to each other and we both paused at the doors so that we could enter our respective rooms at the same time. Like a scene out of a teen movie where two normal girls get switched with two Princesses and get to live the glam life for a few days, we swiped our cards simultaneously and entered the rooms. As the doors closed behind us i swear i could hear Mixi’s squeals of excitement echo my own. Yes, i might have been a little delirious from the long drive and altitude sickness, but the room was more than i had hoped for.

At night:

In the room was a welcome tray of all kinds of fruit and sweeties, Lindt chocolates on the bed, a handwritten note from the Rooms Division Manager and a personalized banner that was hung from the roof with pictures from our roadtrip so far. You can see it in the room picture above 🙂 It was so thoughtful and so kind.

I don’t need to say it, but i’m going to say it anyway; the room was spotless, it had a massive flatscreen TV, salon-worthy hairdryer and the bed was ridiculously comfortable! As a shower lover, i fell in deep love with the shower in the room and there were always enough towels. In a previous post i mentioned that i am a bit of a hygiene freak and germophobe and the pristine shower and room made me feel more comfortable than i have ever felt in any other room besides my own.

In the morning when we went down for breakfast i was surprised that all of the hotel staff in the restaurant knew my name. I was more than a little shocked when one of the waiters said: “Good Morning, Stephanie”. I’m not sure how they knew my name, maybe it’s best that way 🙂 The breakfast spread was just insane, all kinds of food for every appetite. It doesn’t matter what you prefer for breakfast, they will have something for you. The chef also makes eggs any way you like ’em!

As mentioned previously, the staff were all amazing. There wasn’t one staff member that didn’t greet us with warm and welcoming smiles.

Mixi and Lillian

Mixi gets caught by Security

I do have to make special mention of Karen Battaliou (@kbattaliou). We’d been in communication on Twitter leading up to our arrival in JHB and she was always super helpful and interactive throughout our journey. When we arrived, Karen took us on a tour of the hotel as well as of the Melrose Arch precinct, immediately making me feel at home. Because of her sincerity and absolutely adorable personality, i would say that Karen was the first new friend that i made in JHB.

If you aren’t from the area, Melrose Arch is definitely one of the best areas to stay in as it minimizes the amount of travel you have to do. Almost everything you could possibly need is a quick walk away from the hotel. The Melrose Arch Precinct is also very safe, they have security guards and cameras on every corner and i never felt afraid walking alone. There are plenty of restaurants and coffee places; Moyo, Pizza e Vino, Tasha’s, Pigalle, Orient.. too many to mention/remember. You are also spoiled for choice when it comes to shops; from clothing shops like Adidas, Woolies, Edgars, Forever New, YDE andFabiani to shops like Clicks, Cellucity, Flight Centre, Exclusive Books and Europcar. You can find the complete list on: www.melrosearch.co.za

We had a few people over to the hotel for drinks on one of the mid-week evenings and reserved a section of the outside terrace area. Even though it was a chilly 1 Degree Celsius, the gas heaters did their jobs and kept us toasty warm. We also had 2 waiters assigned to cater to our every whim as well as one of the restaurant managers, Matthew Khoury (so cute). A massive thank you to the staff for putting up with the rowdy bunch that they turned out to be that night. You guys are rockstars!

The Fire & Ice! were also kind enough to provide welcome drinks and divine food platters for our guests. No one has stopped talking about the brownies since! All of our guests are JHB locals and for some of them it was their first time at the hotel, they all left very impressed and with only good things to say. I would love to come back to the hotel and do a bigger event in Summer when maybe we can make use of the beautiful pool and play out the Hollywood Glam theme that runs throughout 😉

Mixi, Stephanie B, Justin Lee, Ginger Dave and Jeemersan

Unfortunately Mixi and i spent way too little time in JHB and we didn’t even get a chance to try one of their famous milkshakes! Next time i’m going to make sure i order a milkshake upon arrival.

I was sad to leave Joburg behind and i can only thank the Fire & Ice! for helping me form such a positive opinion on JHB and it’s people. I hope to be back soon.

REEDS Roadtrip – Jozi

I’m a real Capetonian, yes, a real one. Not the kind who’s been living in Cape Town for 5 years and now they feel like they have the right to claim citizenship. No buddy, i’ve got news for you – to be a Capetonian you need to have been BORN here. No, you are not a true Capetonian if you were born in Jozi or PE or Durbs or Tweebuffelsmeteenskootmorsdoodgeskietfontein and then your parents saw the light when you were but an infant and relocated your entire family to the land of milk and honeys. I don’t care if you’ve been living in Claremont for 20 years, studied a BA at UCT, jog on the Promenade every morning and you’re a regular at both The Dubliner and Forries… it’s simple, if you weren’t born here, you aren’t a Capetonian.

So, coming from a real Capey, it actually physically pains me to say this: I LOVE JOHANNESBURG! I didn’t just say it, i shouted it…. that’s how much i love the mine dump. I generally hate generalizations, but i’m going there nonetheless… Capetonians are the most pretentious, stuck-up, cliquey, unfriendly, image-consious and judgmental group of people in South Africa. Yes, there are always exceptions to every rule and i am lucky enough to know a couple of them, but as a whole… we’re an unwelcoming bunch. I’m not even going to try and defend it or find reasons as to why we’re this way, but i’m sure it’s got something to do with the mountain.

From the moment i arrived in Johannesburg i felt comfortable. Even getting lost on the highways in the middle of peak traffic and almost ending up in Hillbrow wasn’t that bad. When i finally started driving through the nicer areas of JHB and pulled up to the Fire & Ice! in Melrose Arch, i felt like i was “home”. *groan* Did i just say that? Ok, so i might have a tiny (read: enormous) crush on Joburg and as a result am looking through rose coloured specs, but i don’t care. JHB is beautiful and so are the people.

From the hotel staff to the random people walking on the street and even to all the awesome Twitter people i met, everyone was miles friendlier, more open and welcoming than anywhere else i have ever been. It makes me feel like the dreaded move to JHB might be possible after all, even though i’d have to leave my home… my family, friends.

I do still love you Cape Town, it really isn’t you. It’s me.

Some of the awesome Jozi kids i met while i was suffering from serious oxygen deprivation:

@Sarahious What a cutie, she even got me a gift to remember Jozi by… Oh, and i also diagnosed her before Dr’s did, which means we now have a special sickness connection for life.

@kbattaliou One of the softest/kindest people i’ve met, originally from all over and has been living in JHB for 2 years now.

@JustinLeePhotos A super talented photographer and lover of tattoos (like me), he might look like a member of the Triad, but he has a heart of gold. His only fault is that he drives an Alfa 😉

@m0zase Mystery Mo, not such a mystery… it’s pretty simple: great taste in music, brilliant sense of humour, insomniac of note, good friend, great listener and the BEST FBF anyone could ask for 😛

@davethecarguy One of only 3 Gingers i follow on Twitter and one of the few people in the world taller than me. Always up for a laugh (mostly at his own expense) and allowed me to hide behind him a couple of times too 😉

@QQlessPLZ Infamous, nasty and dirty Tweeter but the CUTEST dude i’ve met in a while. He’s willing to take one for the team (much appreciated) and gives the nicest hugs 😀

@Jeemersan Fluffer for QQ and Ginger Dave, he also just happens to have the best accent i have ever heard in my life. Funny in a “laugh with him” not “laugh at him” kinda way.

@CrassTash Definitely one of the coolest mommies i have ever met, honest and a great listener. Some of the best advice i have ever gotten has come from this lady 🙂

@davegreenway Violent and sadistic dude, he got so angry that there was another “Dave” at the party that he cut @davethecarguy. With a knife. True story. Follow him though, he’s good for chuckles 🙂

@denzilnaggan Probably the only gentleman in his crazy circle of friends, and probably also the only one with a girlfriend. Regardless of that, he still collosseum’d me along with QQ, Ginger Dave and Jeemersan 🙂

@parisphilippou Hot guy named Paris, i don’t need to say any more than that… but i will. All round awesome dude, the kind of guy other guys wish they were.

@muttills Talented music producer and recording artist, down-to-earth and HOT to boot. Take a listen: http://soundcloud.com/realmaddubstep

@idale Hard Eddy‘s best friend, he also runs a brilliant blog: www.mojodojo.co.za and likes to take photos of dead people.

@spillly Some say he is Twitter royalty and that he owns an Achaar empire, all we know is that if you whisper his name 3 times in a row you will magically transform into a hairless unicorn.

@BarryTuck The Headboy of Twitter and one super chill Durbanite and when joined with @KirstyBisset they make one unstoppable (and incredibly cute) power couple 🙂

 

– more to come

REEDS Roadtrip – The Road To JHB

After our traumatic journey from PE to Durban i was more than a little nervous to hit the road again. The day before we were set to leave, the road was actually closed due to the extreme weather conditions and the heavy snow that had fallen on van Reenens Pass. We had no choice but to hit the road and hope for the best and the best is exactly what we got!

van Reenens Pass had been opened after the snow was scraped and it couldn’t have been any prettier! It was the first time that Mixi had ever been near snow, so it was an awesome experience to share… and dare i say *almost* made up for our harrowing experience 2 days before.

We stopped for a quick coffee break at the massive Harrismith (cute little town that looked stunning covered in snow) petrol station just on the outskirts of town. What a strange place, but with a great vibe. They have an Ocean Basket, Spur and a Mugg & Bean as well as a couple other little restaurants and cafes, and most importantly; loos!

Besides getting lost on Johannesburg’s highways, the rest of the drive to Jozi was pretty smooth. A massive thank you to my Pops and @BrentV_RSA for getting us safely to the hotel (and away from Hilbrow) with their clear directions!

I sent out a tweet that went something like this: “HELP! If anyone sees a white Opel Astra in JHB with Twitter branding and a CA license plate PLS tell us where we are! RT if you love me”. Because i have so many awesome Twitter friends (who obviously love me enough to try and save me from hijacking and death) it got RT’d by the following bunnies:

@AMG133, @Sarahious, @hennokruger, @conciergeryan, @jeemersan, @ronaldterblanch, @preneil, @richardatuct, @tigersgirls, @pierre_bellew, @beaulahp, @hemant_vallabh, @benedictcafe, @jjza, @MrGKruger, @Katjie24, @GerardRaphael, @arnoldsonkloof, @BrooklynB27, @BradleyMZ, @david_faux, @sammi_jcox, @angeliqueleroux – YOU GUYS ROCK. Steph loves you long time!

There were a lot more that RT’d the old school way so i can’t access that info now as well as those that BBM’d, SMS’d and WhatsApp’d the crap outta my phone trying to help me figure out where i was  😦 You know who you are though – THANK YOU for caring! 🙂

REEDS Roadtrip – Durban (The Car) & Near Death Experiences

Our drive from Port Elizabeth to Durban was challenging in every way imaginable. Firstly, i need to say that i am an excellent driver. Not an excellent driver “for a girl”, but an excellent driver for anyone. My dad started teaching me to drive the minute that i was tall enough to see over the steering wheel while sitting on his lap, i couldn’t reach the pedals but i could hold onto the wheel. By the time it came to me getting my drivers license at 18 i had already been able to drive solo for years. I’ve always been relatively fearless behind the wheel of a car as i’m confident that i know what i’m doing and would be able to get myself out of most bad situations, usually caused by people that don’t know what they’re doing.

We left Port Elizabeth in terrible weather; it was cold, wet and dreary and we were all too happy to leave the depressed looking village behind us. The drive to East London went pretty well and we arrived just before midday. Somewhere along the line i had gotten driving times confused and thought that the drive from EL to Durban was about 3 or 4 hours, not the 10 hours my GPS was busy telling me that it was going to take. A couple of calls to locals and parents were made and this is when we realized our mistake. At this point we didn’t realize how much that mistake was going to shake our entire trip up.

We filled the car in East London and hit the road again now knowing that the journey to Durban was probably going to take at least 7 – 10 hours depending on traffic and weather, etc. I had listened to numerous warnings from friends and family about driving through the former Transkei, but as usual i figured that everyone was exaggerating. They were not. I’d also like you to remember that throughout this entire drive from EL to Durbs, the weather was shocking. It was either storming or misty or both and as the day wore on and the sun started to set… it only got worse.

It started with the potholes, they are less like potholes and more like gullies, i swear that i will never ever complain about our little potholes in the Western Cape ever again. So you’re driving at a good 120km/h when you manage to spot a dark hole in the road just in time to slow down, the problem is that you never know how deep the hole is. Every now and again i over compensated and slowed down for a shallow hole, but most of the time it felt like the entire car fell into the hole and we re-emerged on the other end. The constant slowing down and speeding up didn’t help with the fuel consumption or the time it was going to take us to get to Durban.

Usually i am not a fan of generalizations, but this happened too much on the road for it not to be true… What is it with people driving on the wrong side of the road?!?!?!?!?! The last time i checked, the lines in the road were a RULE not a guideline. I’d be driving in my (single) lane and all of a sudden an Audi would pop out from behind a truck heading towards me and then just drive in my lane (the oncoming traffic) and force me off the side of the road. The yellow line at most points also didn’t have much space to spare and this happened too many times to mention. At least once every 30min and with varying degrees of danger.

If you have ever thought of driving through the Transkei, then i can bet that at least 3 people warned you about stray animals and livestock running across the road. I had at least 13 people warn me about the animals. As i mentioned before, i thought that they were exaggerating… they really weren’t. Except for the fact that the animals don’t really run across the road, they walk/stroll/amble/meander across the road. Often pausing in the middle of the road to give the cars speeding past a good glare. We had cows, sheep, dogs, goats, you name it cross our car. I was alert and we didn’t have any close calls but that is because i was over cautious when it came to approaching animals on the side of the road – they are so unpredictable and can change their minds on a whim.

Unfortunately my caution wasn’t shared by all the motorists on the road and we drove past our fair share of knocked over animals – a terrible thing to see so much of for anyone that has half a heart. I was also unlucky enough to see a dog get mowed down by a Venture right in front of me. The Venture, upon impact, lost control and went off the side of the road. Later that night when we had eventually arrived at the hotel, i was busy describing the days events and broke down in tears while trying to describe the scene. It was something i wish i had never seen.

Before the sun set we drove through a town that looked like it was seconds away from a riot – complete with closed roads, armed police and an angry mob. At one point there were also 2 cars that were driving very suspiciously, one in front of us and the other behind. They sped up and slowed down together and forced us to do the same. When both cars slowed to around 38km/h i realized that something wasn’t right, both cars were fully occupied and every single one of the occupants either had a balaklava or a beanie or a hoodie on. I decided to drop a couple of gears and speed away and eventually managed to lose them. Not before they chased for a little while too. It semi confirms my theory that they were trying to get us to stop because why would they have been driving so slowly and then as soon as i let the Turbo do its job, they sped up too and tried to catch up again.

By this time i was shaken and just wanted to get the journey over and done with. I overtook a massive truck on a solid line, but there was no one else on the road and i could see for quite a way ahead. A traffic officer saw and pulled me over, dodgy as all hell. He wanted me to get out of my car and come and sit with him in his patrol vehicle. Uhm… NO THANKS! At this point i was starting to question whether it was such a great idea to have 2 Cape Town city girls driving through this area alone. We were kept on the side of the road for about 30minutes.

By this time, the sun was already starting to set and the weather was starting to worsen. Words can’t even describe how bad it ended up getting. Put simply, i couldn’t see anything. I’m really not exaggerating, i couldn’t see anything out of the windshield. At all. The windscreen wipers were going at full speed and the lights weren’t penetrating the heavy fog and heavy rain. At one point, we were driving around 32km/h because we couldn’t even see which lane we were in, let alone where the road curved. I cannot even begin to try and describe the sheer terror of having your foot on the accelerator pedal and moving a car forward into nothingness… i might as well have been driving blindfolded. The only way i could guesstimate where the road was leading us, was by watching the GPS screen.

Hours later we arrived safely in Durban. Very shaken up, but in one piece. There is no way that i could write down absolutely every detail of the day that made up my worst driving experience of all time, but trust me when i say that my words don’t even come close to describing it. Mixi and i are lucky to be here.

REEDS Roadtrip – Durban (The Hotel)

We stayed at the Protea Hotel Edward on Durban’s famous “Golden Mile”. Locals might have noticed that the hotel recently underwent a refurbishment both inside and out… it is looking better than ever! They were able to keep the old-world charm but spruce it up so that it is still relevant in a modern era.

All the rooms’ carpets, wall furnishings and decor have been redone and each room has an LCD flat-screen TV and super comfortable bed. The breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant was amazing, the waitstaff were very attentive and the chef was very friendly. In fact, The Protea Hotel Edward’s main stand-out feature was definitely their staff.

There's a Mixi in my cupboard!

The Porter was eager to please and always up for a chat and definitely one of the friendliest hotel staffers i’ve ever met. The receptionists always had massive smiles on their faces and the rest of the hotel staff didn’t disappoint. Our car was always brought around for us without having to wait for very long and whether it was their job or not, there was always someone offering to help us with our bags.

The Protea Hotel Edward didin’t disappoint and i would definitely recommend it to anyone thinking of traveling to Durban. In Summer it would be the perfect base for a Durban holiday – it is right on the beach front and central to all of the cities attractions.

REEDS Roadtrip – Durban

To say that our journey to Durban was an ordeal would be an understatement, but more on that in a later blog post (yes, it was so bad that it deserves its own post). However, now that i’m safe at home in Cape Town i can say that it was all well worth it. Our roadtrip would never have been complete without a visit to Durbs.

Even though the weather was less than ideal and downright frosty, Mixi and i had a wonderful time. We were lucky enough to have Amith (@AMG133) for the day and he made sure that we got to see everything we wanted to see… he deserves some massive respect for putting up with us for an entire day! First stop; Vida (at Mixi’s insistence) where i got my first “I heart U” written on the cappuccino froth 😉

Then we went on a bit of a tour around the city, ended up at Gateway (awesomest mall everrrr) and spent a couple of hours walking around and checking out all the cool (cheap) shops. Next stop was Moyo on the Pier where more cappuccinos were consumed and then onto the Spice Emporium where i bought some authentic Indian spices and sweeties. We ended up having an early dinner at House Of Curries and words cannot describe how amazing the food was. If you are ever in Durban, you need to make a trip down to Florida Rd and have a Chip&Cheese Roti… BUT be warned: share it! Mixi, Amith and i split it 3 ways and it was still a ton of food. The little coffee shop next to House Of Curries (it was closed when we were there) also sells Macaroon Milkshakes and i’ll have to come back to sample one of those.

That night we went to Livingstones (great little restaurant/pub) and i was lucky enough to meet; @askashe, @ShansDBN, @LizLaughalot, @waewest, @NevinSP, @coaxel@iAvish_Karr, @shaunie2fly and @madammichelle for the first time. Apparently the “Chuhcken Pot Paah” is amazing 😉

I know that it’s wrong to generalize, but Durbanites are such awesome people. Down-to-earth, friendly, super chilled and with a great sense of humour! I can’t wait to go back and visit DBN when the sun is shining and i can test the beaches out 😉 The city has an awesome vibe and i can see why the people who live there are so full of life – their hometown is truly beautiful. Next time i would like to stay longer so that i can go and explore the surrounding areas a little more… do the Midlands Meander, see the Drakensberg, all the touristy stuff.

REEDS Roadtrip Day 2 – The Car

On day 2 we spent a considerable amount of time inside the car (read: 8 hours) and so we became pretty accustomed with the interior. The first thing you’ll notice, either as the passenger or the driver, is the space… there is a lot of it. Mixi might be a tiny human being, but she had more space in the passenger seat than what most people have in their designer Bachelor flats in Sea Point.

Not only is the space amazing, but the comfort of the actual seats was surprising. Sitting in a car for 8 hours is bound to make even the most comfortable of seats feel like a Chinese torture device. I only started to get uncomfortable 7h30min in to the drive… and that has nothing to do with the car and everything to do with the fact that a human body isn’t meant to be in one position for that long.

The centre console might look a little overwhelming at first, but i have never encountered such a user friendly car in my life. I had it all figured out in less than 20 seconds and i’m sure that even the most technologically retarded person wouldn’t struggle. Not only is it easy to work out, but it is also very pretty. It reminded me of a dash/console that one would find on an Italian car rather than in an Opel. The Astra also boasts a multifunction steering wheel where the cruise control and radio/cd volume and controls are housed, super convenient.

I’m also a fan of the red glow that emits from all the lit up places inside of the car… a nice change to the run-of-the-mill white or green. A small touch that made a big difference to me was that the needle on the speedometer throws a tiny point of light onto the dial… so if you’re driving at 123km/h, you’ll know.

As a girl i do tend to treat my car a little like a handbag and i always seem to have emergency supplies of everything stored in my car. The Astra is perfect for this as there is place for everything – plenty of drink/cup holders and even a storage facility that you pull out from underneath the passenger seat.

All in all, the interior is great… they got everything right. I wouldn’t mind being stuck inside that car for 7 hours straight again. Oh wait, i will be again in a couple of hours’ time.

Thank goodness for those comfortable seats! My saving grace.