Tag Archives: tourist

Field Notes | Walking to Strand Campus

Time: (morning rush)

8:30am – 9:30am (typical London workday is 9-5 or 10-6);shops generally open between 10 and 11am; larger chain restaurants open between 7 and 9am, smaller cafes and restaurants may not open until 10 or later)

People and Activities: (varied by area)

St Katherine’s Docks – sparsely populated, mostly men and women on their way to the Tower Hill Tube Station (business professionals) wearing suits or business-appropriate attire, assumed middle class, many taking personal calls on mobile phones, most walking alone, occasional solo runners, little interaction with others, restaurant staff setting up chairs & table settings for the day, short queue at the pop-up coffee vendor’s stall

Tower of London – largely tourists standing at rails to photograph the tower and each other; some professionals entering/leaving Tower Hill subway to access tube/train stations; generally benign, but occasionally brusque, interactions between the two as tourists stroll or stop and professionals attempt to hurry; tourists are primarily individuals, couples, or small family groups (no large, guided tours, no students); conversation primarily around the poppies for the WWI display in the Tower moat

Financial District – almost entirely business professionals streaming out of the tube station and toward their offices on the streets opposite; 2 charity canvassers attempt (rather unsuccessfully) to stop and chat with passers-by (myself included, though I too ignore them). Two men stand amidst the crowd handing out newspapers and another distributes fliers, presumably for a special taking place at the restaurant in which he works (he’s wearing a white apron); mostly white, middle class, English-speakers (those who speak at all) traveling alone or in pairs as they seem to have met up with a colleague along the way

St. Paul’s Cathedral – at this time in the morning, St. Paul’s is still rather quiet; business professionals walk by. Similar situation to St. Katherine’s Docks re:professionals and occasional runners; a few more family groups of tourists but again no large groups as it is still early

Fleet Street/Temple – greater number of young people around (whom I assume to be students) and more casually dressed business professionals; shops are beginning to open up, and tourists stand in small huddles on street corners consulting maps

General – Driving traffic is moderate, we are a bit past the morning rush by the time I enter the city; mainly cabs, buses, and personal vehicles but occasional construction trucks pass by; about two dozen cyclists pass along the way (from experience, this number would have been much greater earlier in the morning) and these seem to be young professionals, and predominantly white men (equal parts wearing jeans or cycling gear and suits; all carrying bags)

Table Mountain

“It is not your mountain until you’ve conquered it” – Dragana

I proudly claim ownership over a small piece of the domineering Table Mountain. Mark, one of my Cape Town hosts, and I scrambled the Platteklip trail to the top on my very first morning.

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Fort Klapperkop

Amidst my visa woes (which are more of an expense and hassle than true tragedy), I have struggled to find a Pretoria routine. And routine, as previously mentioned, is critical to maintaining a sense of balance and direction. Naturally I have thus found myself unbalanced and directionless these past few weeks.

Yet I recently discovered a neighbourhood jaunt that has become my daily escape from the house. Even better: at the top of a hill along the scenic Johann Rissik Drive is a 19th-century fort called Klapperkop.

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Klapperkop is a fort built by the Boers in a German style (the last of 3 and a 4th was built in the French style) and completed in 1898 – just in time for the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War the following year. None of the four forts surrounding Pretoria was ever fully outfitted with artillery, due in part to the tendency for imported weaponry to go missing or arrive damaged. The Boers eventually fell to British troops, which occupied Pretoria until the peace treaty was signed in 1902, at which point the Boers were forced to cede control to the Crown. Fort Klapperkop in this time was used by both Boer and British soldiers.

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Now, admittedly, I knew next-to-nothing about the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902 (in fact, those dates I learned just yesterday and cannot claim even that much). It’s a sorry state of affairs when I can articulate nothing about one of the most important events in pre-apartheid era South African history. Fortunately, Fort Klapperkop cured some ignorance and inspired curiosity. At the very least, the fledgling museum has done its job and the views from the top alone make the visit worthwhile.

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Taster Trip 2014 | Swaziland in 24 hours

A mere 24 hours in Swaziland. Long enough to learn:

IMG_63911) Swaziland = Lesotho, but at lower altitude and with more trees

2) Swazi road signage is either missing or charming, which goes for the roads as well

3) Pancakes are for lovers

4) What is a ‘snood’

5) Swazi beer tastes much the same as Lesotho’s Maluti

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6) Swazi candles are awesome2014-04-22 09.42.442014-04-22 10.31.35

7) So is Swazi glass
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We are tourists. Guilty as charged.

Lourenço Marques: A walking tour of Maputo

Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique, grew from a colonial settlement in the 16th century after the arrival of Portuguese explorer Lourenço Marques. The land proved largely inhospitable to Europeans – marshy, muggy, and malarial, yet still of mercantile value. Sea ports seem often to have those qualities.

The city is sometimes called City of Acacias, for the many acacia trees lining its avenues, and sometimes the Pearl of the Indian Ocean.

In present-day Maputo, an eccentric expat named Jane Flood has organised an independent walking tour of the city, which we took on our last morning in town. The history of Mozambique, but especially of Maputo, is a fascinating tangle and one I wish I had known more about prior to visiting.

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Under Portuguese rule, the art and architecture of Maputo grew rapidly, mimicking the styles of its European overlords. Evidence of this era remains all throughout the city and continues to influence the modern art community. Community parks and luxury hotels sprang up around town

IMG_6323Famed revolutionary and politician Samora Machel led Mozambique to independence in 1975, when he became the first president of the Républica Popular de Moçambique. Honouring his ties to the Soviet bloc, Machel quickly reclaimed all Maputo’s streets by renaming them after prominent socialist and communist figures. Needless to say, the West was unnerved by this leftist leader in the Cold War era. The politics of Mozambique must wait for another post, however.

Both my stay in Maputo and the tour prompted me to read books set in Mozambique, and for a curious novel about the city’s Red Light district, I refer you to A Treacherous Paradise by Henning Mankel. Not exactly the height of fiction, and not entirely about Mozambique, but a diverting read all the same.

For another perspective, watch this video tour of Maputo featuring Europeans.

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Taster Trip 2014 | What I didn’t see at the St Lucia Estuary

Or, by it’s proper name as of 2007: iSimangalisa Wetland Park.

ISimangalisa is what is known as a ‘transfrontier park’ that spreads across international borders, as its name suggests, and spans 3280 km2 of ecosystem (land and water) in South Africa, Swaziland, and Mozambique. The park is South Africa’s third-largest nature reserve as well as its very first World Heritage site.

Known for its aquaphilic wildlife, iSimangalisa is home to hippos, crocodiles, flamingoes, ducks, waders, and dozens of coral reef fish. Between June and November, whales can be spotted off the coast; loggerhead and leatherback turtles can be found nesting on-shore between November and March. Of course, we arrived in April when the largest animal attractions are seasonally elsewhere. Other highlight stops among the 10 Jewels feature big game – buffalos, elephants, rhinos, leopards, giraffes, and (since December 2013) lions. We were holding out for Kruger Park, however, to see these landlubbers. It was water we were after.

After pulling up at long last to the Saint Lucia Estuary and Cape Vidal, our team took a quick trek to the sea. Yet as a massive storm rolled in, and the park hours threatened to close, our wildlife spotting was limited to this small band of pelicans against the gathering clouds.

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Better luck next time. This is only a Taster Trip after all.

Bunny Chow

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The legend:

During apartheid era, lunch break for the Indian caddies at the Royal Durban Golf Course were too brief to nip into Grey Street for a curry. These caddies commissioned friends to buy some for them, but the shopkeepers lacked disposable containers and so a hollowed out loaf of bread was used instead to serve as both plate and dipper. The shopkeepers, known as banias, may therefore have indirectly contributed to the curiously-named cuisine. [source, though this origin myth has its critics and naysayers]

In proper Durbanese, one refers to this dish as a ‘bunny’ but when ordering mentions only the size loaf and style curry desired. Quarter-loaf is standard, but for the ravenous, a half or even a full loaf is available.

My order: a quarter veggie.

As far as food-as-art is concerned, bunny chow ranks among the grotesque, and its straightforward preparation eliminates the skill factor:

1) Cut out loaf insides
2) Ladle in curry
3) Place loaf innards on top
4) Serve

That said, there are few things more delightful than street food and proper Indian curry consistently hovers near the top of the list. For those of us nowhere near Durban, we can of course make this chaotic culinary masterpiece at home – here or here or elsewhere.