What I Just love in South Africa- Drakensberg

Hi dears,

This lovely husband of mine got me a really sweet surprise and he took me to Drakensberg the weekend before the moving of apartments. I had not much idea what it was.. berg, mmm mountain in german, Drankens..mmm a mix of Dracula and Frankenstein.. Honestly I didn’t know what to expect.

Waking up in Drakensberg

We arrive well in the night and in South Africa places, whether cities or villages, are not too well illuminated. We were tired so khalas! We fell in the bed like a brick.. Chum! Zzzz.. In the morning, the light was coming through the window of the room and it woke me up. Then is when I saw the place.. and I am still in awe. This area is just so beautiful! (Please don’t mind my sleepy face.. It is my policy not to use make up while I am on holidays.. and when I am not, just to use the bare minimum.. lol)
DRAKENSBERG

 

Drakensberg is very impressive with mountains in funny shapes and very charming valleys with gracious rivers and dams. I felt so full of gratitude in that balcony early in the morning. God really did an amazing job here.

We were staying in a very nice hotel, it says it is 5 star, but it must be in african standards. I would give it a 4 and the location makes most of the 4 still. The hotel is called Champagne Sports Resort and has swimming pool, spa, golf course, a business center and a buffet restaurant. There are two main options in the hotel.. Hotel rooms and little cute chalets. If you are going there with your family pick the chalets, they are gorgeous and more isolated. The landscape there, the nature will inspire you for some good quality reflection time.

The hotel is very well located, on the main road.. you just have to go up or down to find most of the activities and attractions. Let me share with you my discoveries.

Activities in Drakensberg

There are canopy tours, abseiling, white water tubing, quad and mountain bike riding, scootours (like the fat bikes for the desert but you stand on them and with no motor), a reptile center, zip lines, king swing, flying trapezes, paintball, bungee bounce, falcon shows ( yes, here there are falcons too!) and even helicopter tours. There is a boy choir and a bakery that seemed to be very successful too. Well, I just wanted to go up and down the valleys like in my good old days.. by horse (no, no trekking this time, I was so unprepared). Of course there were also horseback riding tours. We choose the one departing from Dragon Peaks and it was very nice. Too bad the horses are all so trained they don’t follow your orders but the orders of the guide. I have done some horse riding before in my life – i’m not an amazon, but well, I know a bit- just trying to get the horse to stop to ride along my hubby was such a fight. The guide told me they are trained to go in a line and they know who is in front and who is in the back.. no changes allowed. After that, I decided to relax and just let the animal take me wherever.. The area around Dragon Peaks is very pretty and has some water ponds and little rivers. The views are amazing. Nature is really generous and the best decor of whatever picture you might think.

DRAKENSBERG SOUTH AFRICA TRAVEL

After the horse ride, we went up and down discovering Monks Cowl, Champagne Castle Hotel, up the mountain and later down the mountain.. Scrumpy Jacks, a place that says to offer the best cheesecake and honey products. I must say that to me, it was the most delicious cheesecake ever.. fresh and flavourful with some honey taste. If you go try it. Also I am in love with some other things we bought there.. Raw Honey, Propolis Balm and Propolis to take.. I am testing them and I can tell you so far all of it is positive.

DRAKENSBERG SOUTH AFRICA TRAVEL

Kwazulu Natal is the province or region where Drakensberg is located and it is very historical. The place is full of battlefields.. Here everybody fought everybody.. the british the boers, the boers the zulus, the zulus the british.. I lost track of all the battles but there are museums and some memorials where you can get explanations. I saw some poster with some battle reenactment that happened some months back.

I love history but this sounded a bit spooky to me, I decided for something totally different for our last day.

What about Ballooning? First of all, I must confess that I am scared of heights so it took me some swallowing before accepting. Now I can tell you that it is something you have to do, even if you are scared of heights, you don’t feel scared up there. The balloon glides, it doesn’t shake or anything.. It felt like if you were in an elevator raising smoothly.

Ballooning in Drakensberg: Best experience ever!

The views from there- we went over the kilometer high- are to die for. Luckily my iphone was fully charged and I took so many pics and videos that now I can share with you. There is a game reserve close by and we got to see animals roaming around, drinking water and running around.

DRAKENSBERG SOUTH AFRICA TRAVEL BALLOONING

Not sure if there are other companies but I can recommend you 150% the one we picked. It is called Drakensberg Ballooning and they know their thing. They even compete in Balloon competitions, Danie and Daniel, father and son, are the soul and hands, both pilots. There are other pilot too that took the other balloon you see on my pics. In that balloon very important things were happening, as the guy was proposing the girl to marry from the skies. Romantic or what! Danie told us they knew of a rejection.. It was some time ago another pilot proposing to his girlfriend in the balloon, the girl said no.. the situation was so uncomfortable, they had to do an emergency landing. Happily this girl said yes and I wish them lots of luck in their life together.

DRAKENSBERG SOUTH AFRICA TRAVEL BALLOONING

 

DRAKENSBERG SOUTH AFRICA TRAVEL BALLOONINGDRAKENSBERG SOUTH AFRICA TRAVEL BALLOONINGDRAKENSBERG SOUTH AFRICA TRAVEL BALLOONINGDRAKENSBERG SOUTH AFRICA TRAVEL BALLOONINGWhen coming down, we did a Truck landing, .. lol.. yes, we landed in the back part of the truck that came to pick us up and we got a cute champagne bottle to celebrate the experience.  after that a hearty breakfast prepared by the wife and mom of the house.. sausages, eggs, yogurt, I eat as if I wouldn’t eat any more in a decade. To go in the balloon you have to wake up very early, and so at 4.30 I was up (without wishing to set a precedent, I am not a morning person at all) but it is worthy to see the sun rising from the heights.

After the super powerful breakfast we said bye bye and drove back to the hotel, in front of the entrance there is a little shopping area and there I discovered two shops.. one of cheese (I love cheese!-called Macedonia Cheese and co, they have gorgeous cheeses and even locally produced halloumi!), the other shop is in the sweet business of Chocolate..The Drakensberg Chocolate Memories.. Run by a serbian married to a south african, they bring the chocolate from belgium to mix it with local milk and do their magic. I bought one bar of each “darkness” because I tried them all and I like them all.

This was my lovely trip to Drakensberg mountains, if you have the chance to go, do it, you will not regret it.

 

One love from Drakensberg,

 

Araceli Gallego

www.whatijustlove.com

What I Just Love goes to South Africa!

Hi dears,

 

This has not been my first time in South Africa.. It is like the third and I quite like it here. It is a nice place, full of history and great people. The food is amazing and I was lucky enough to come at spring time.. and I am a flower lover.. so you have a happy me!.. Let me share with you the highlights of this trip and hopefully it inspires you to go and visit.

Johannesburg

Probably you will be reaching South Africa from here. Sandton area is a must, you have the huge Mandela monument and the mall, with a theatre and plenty of restaurants and shops. There you have one of the Butchers -if you are from Dubai, you will know which one I mean.

Also there is a quite nice Library almost in front of the theatre.. I had to work and I am a bookworm, so my husband took me there and I spend good two hours roaming around getting excited about some findings.

Johannesburg is quite big, very spread city.. there are not many skyscrapers and I guess that is why it takes forever to cross.. you have a lot of 1 or 2 floor housing with a garden-something very british, I find. Johannesburg has a botanical garden and it is beautiful. I know it is not going to be in your tour guides but I quite enjoyed it. It has a huge pond- with ducks and guys kayaking – and areas to picnic. There is a Shakespeare garden and plenty of gorgeous trees, now in bloom.

You have to love Nature.. I do and I miss it very much in Dubai- at least until they finish whatever crime they are doing to Safa Park.

Here you have some pics

www.whatijustlove.com

To go out and dine there are some cool options. You have Melrose Arch area- where one Mojo is located- I tell you more about it later, you have also a Mall called Montecasino and another area called Melville. Let´s review one by one..

Melrose Arch is a mix of commercial and residential within one compound. There are restaurants and bars and one big screen in a  kind of square to watch the Springboks play ( Rugby is huge in SA!). With the security issue I won’t recommend you just to roam around freely in Jozi (nickname of Johannesburg). If the locals don’t do it, I won’t do it either but I must say, nothing ever happened to me here, I am just cautious.

Mojo is a one of a kind restaurant- high end african cuisine with great decor and service. Every single time I have been in South Africa I came to dine there…

Montecasino Mall is similar to Ibn Batuta in Dubai.. a Mall that has a sky painted ceiling and decorated like somewhere else.. In the case of Montecasino like old Italy.. It is very nice, has a casino- there you have the name- and they change the sky.. making it full daylight or starry night. There are many shops, a cinema and a hotel part of teh complex. There is a resturant there you shouldnt miss.. It is called Beira.. It is a portuguese ( or Mozambican) restaurant and the food there it is just glorious. Try whatever dish with Prawns and you will thank me later.

In Montecasino you can also buy crafts, there is a very cute store that sells pretty african crafts and not the customary “Made-in-China”, saying “Welcome to New York”.

Another place where you can buy pretty arts and crafts is at the Rosebank Mall.. There is an entrance to the specific area for crafts and arts and there you have so much choice.. For crocodile bags to african textiles, to Ostrich carved eggs to handpainted wood trays.. all there is beautiful and you will want it all. One rule though.. always negotiate with the vendors. We have a huge neon message in our foreheads saying “Tourist” and they will charge you more just because. Basically.. do and buy as if you were in the Souk.

The last two places I want to tell you about in Johannesburg are a bit hippie, rundown, uptown.. Melville and Millpark. Melville is today full of pretty restaurants and houses, it has a flavour of boho chic, you can tell the restaurants there have had a facelift but kept the hippie soul. I love it there! You have also some shops with books and antiques and african fashion.They say it is the gay quarter, well, we have Chueca in Madrid and I love it too.www.whatijustlove.com

Millpark looks like it was some sort of industrial center just few years ago and it would have been reconverted into a pleasant patio where shops and restaurants offer their best products. I has amazing decor shops but the entire thing is like a spotless cute little stage. The food was great and the strolling through the passageways deliciously pleasant. The weather was with us in this trip indeed.

There is also something you don’t want to miss.. and it is culture. The theatre freak in me wanted to go and see what was on offer and I couldn’t make up my mind between two venues.. One, called Raising Mandela in the little theatre in Sandton Square, the other a musical called Burn the Floor that seemed to be doing really good between the locals.

The dancing one won the bet and off  we went. The Joburg Theatre is pretty cool, has different sections for youth development,  2 stages and one restaurant. The show was really good with music and voices live. The dancing was spectacular with latino rhythms and english songs and with a pretty good looking singer (I think he was italian). The music was so good I was moving my feet and my hands “playing drums” in the air.. If I can make a suggestion for this kind of musicals, please allow one area where people can stand and dance if they can not hold it. To look too much civilized when you are not, it is so hard! lol

www.whatijustlove.com

Any ways, There are more things to do in Johannesburg. But It will be in another post, because this one it so long already!.

 

One Love from SA!

 

Araceli Gallego

www.whatijustlove.com

MANDELA, MADIBA

Today is a sad day.. I woke up and the first thing I hear on the news is that our beloved Nelson Mandela has died. I will miss your smile, the music behind your moves and words and that powerful energy that you represented.

Mandela’s legacy is a huge intangible.. how do you measure Forgiveness? How much can cost a reconciliation of an entire country? There is no words, no figures, to hold all he -and his followers- did. And not only for South Africa, they set an example and we should never forget that vengeance is not the way out.

I have been in South Africa twice and I loved it. It is a country with amazing landscapes, smiling and happy people, colourful contrasts .. When you visit the Apartheid Museum you realised how difficult was the situation, how terrible.. it was not easy task to change the minds and the consciousness of an entire country used to play certain roles and perpetuate them.

To my brave hero,.. Mandela, Madiba, 46664 Prisoner, .. Rest in peace. Now it is our mission to keep up what you started and as you said..

“It always seems impossible until it is done”.

www.whatijustlove.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

And because he was a music lover and so I am, I want to share this video of this U2 song that we are going to hear a lot as it is the soundtrack of the movie Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom that just released a week ago. The lyrics are just beautiful.

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Lots of Luv,

Lil

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