Well, we seem to be on a little patriotic roll here at the moment so I thought I’d continue with it for the time being. I was also recently reading a post on one of my favourite blogs, Glossary, about what foreigners can expect during the Fifa World Cup, and I thought we really should be highlighting the special things Durban has to offer. If I had my way, I’d never live anywhere else in the world, so I thought I’d share a few of my favourite things to do and see in and around Surf City.
1. The Durban Botanic Gardens are an oasis of lush beauty right in the heart of the city. I love whiling a day away here, taking in the tranquillity and gorgeous setting. It’s great for a picnic, or a spot of tea in their wonderful tea garden (and the proceeds go to charity), or even just lazing on a blanket reading a book or newspaper. They have a cute little gift shop too, and even host fabulous gigs from time to time. Just watch out for the very pushy ducks and a bevy of brides having their clichéd photos taken.
2. Just five minutes’ drive from my house, Ansteys Beach on the Bluff is another one of my favourite places to spend a day. Really, the whole stretch of beach from Ansteys to Brighton Beach is just lovely – it’s generally one of the cleaner beaches around and not often very congested. It’s great for swimming or paddling in the rock pools (just remember to leave the animals where you see them), and even has a tidal pool at Brighton Beach. The scene of one of my many head injuries as a child. Ahem. If swimming in the sea is not really your vibe, there are also paddling pools for the little and not so little ones, which to me have such a retro feeling – they don’t appear to have changed much at all since my sister and I spent our childhoods there.
3. Oscars started out as a video store, and still fulfils that function. It seems like a really random place to get a meal, but this is one of my favourite places for breakfast/brunch. Their food is delicious, the service is always great, and there is a languid Sunday morning atmosphere no matter what day of the week you visit.
4. Market is another one of my favourite restaurants in Durban – a pretty little courtyard tucked away from the street and giving patrons the sense of being completely outside the city. This is my first choice in lunch venues, and I always feel like a lady of leisure here. The menu is seasonal and relies on natural ingredients. They also do gigs every now and then, and supper and a gig under the leopard trees is just heaven.
5. When dinner time rolls around, Chez Nous is another great venue. Quite simply, the food is delicious and really reasonable. I strongly recommend the brandy mushroom fillet and the chocolate pot for dessert. This is a great restaurant for girls’ nights out as they have a warm atmosphere and always appear unphased by our overexcited chatter.
6. Since we’re talking about food, another favourite thing to do is a trip to The View in Botha’s Hill (about 30 minutes outside Durban). Nestled in the Valley of 1000 Hills, the view is absolutely spectacular, hence the name obviously. So much so that they have had to put a sign outside declaring themselves a restaurant rather than a mere viewing point. But the scenery is not all that’s spectacular. The speciality is pancakes, both savoury and sweet, and they are toe-curlingly good. Think lemon meringue pancakes….mmmm. Also, they have a cat named Montana who, if he fitted in my handbag, would be living with me and the Alzheimers Cat now. I think he’d be quite into that plan, based on how much time he spends on my lap, and it’s quite tough to know if I love the pancakes, the view, or the cat more.
7. All this talk of food is thirsty work and a girl needs a drink from time to time. Durban is blessed with such phenomenal weather, and one of my favourite things to do is sundowners at the waterfront, normally at Zacks. There’s nothing quite like watching the sun go down over the yacht mall and the lights of the ships in the harbour twinkle into life as you sip a cherry daquiri on a balmy evening.
8. Thanks to that balmy weather, one of my other favourite things to do is braai. Well, me and pretty much every other South African I guess. The beauty of Durban is that you can do it pretty much all year round. It seldom gets so cold that you can’t spend an afternoon around the pool and an evening under the stars. It’s not even really about the braaing is it? It’s that time spent with your people, just relaxing. And none of this girls on one side, boys on the other malarkey please.
9. I’m not really one of those girls who loves to shop, but I do love the I Heart Market. Held on the first Saturday of every month at the DLI Hall, it’s a treasure chest of quirky Durban designers and their wares. I always end up spending money I have no intention of spending, and thanks to I Heart Market I have discovered a previously unknown obsession with cute earrings. Really. Before they came along I didn’t even wear earrings…madness!
10. Of course, before I appear to be too much of a girlie girl, one of my all time favourite things to do is watch the Sharks in action. First prize is to watch them at the stadium, where win or lose, capacity crowd or not, the atmosphere is always electric. Love love love those boys. But if we can’t get to the stadium then it’s always fun to watch with friends, either at someone’s house or at Jack Rabbits (203 North Ridge Road), where they always have the game on the big screen.
11. It wouldn’t be fitting to talk about Surf City and not talk about surfing. Although the unreasonable demands of work make it a little hard to spend every day at the beach during the Mr Price Pro, I love that part of the Durban International Film Festival is dedicated to surfing movies. Where is Wavescapes Surf Film Festival hosted? Well, on the beach of course. There’s nothing quite like spending a crisp winter evening on the beach, sipping on hot chocolate and watching movies about Andy Irons and Kelly Slater.
12. The Heritage Theatre in Hillcrest is one of my favourite places to go and watch comedy. Of course, the important thing to remember is book early and keep the table numbers down. Why you ask? Well, big tables sit in front, as we discovered to the detriment of our poor friend the last time we went to watch John Vlismas. Never admit you’re from Zimbabwe either. Just a few handy hints. The Heritage Theatre is supper theatre at its finest, offering delicious meals to accompany their shows.
13..Just 45 minutes outside of Durban is Tala Private Game Reserve. This has to be one of my favourite places in the world. So close to the city, and yet you never fail to see a plethora of wildlife here, from buck to giraffe to rhinos to the cutest warthogs. And the very best thing is the swimming pool. Yup, right in the middle of the game reserve is a ‘rock’ pool and lush picnic area (which the animals also have free access to by the way). There’s nothing quite like lolling in the pool while looking out over meandering giraffes. Paradise. And if you’re feeling flush you can stay in one of the various accommodation options available. Even the rustic chalets are luxurious and simply divine.
14. So much running (or you know, lolling) around can be very stressful. Makaranga is another little slice of heaven a short drive away from the city. Their range of spa treatments is sublime, and the beautiful gardens that the facility is set in ease you into a sense of blissful relaxation before the therapists have even laid a hand on you. Definitely a favourite treat.
15. Durban city herself is not something to be sniffed at. I don’t get into the city centre as much as I used to when I worked there, but I love her architecture. The mix of modern and colonial buildings is gorgeous. And every day when I drive along the esplanade, I see my favourite building, Quadrant House (declared a national monument mind you), and think about how beautiful my city is.
Of course, I love my whole province and don’t just confine myself to Durban and her surrounds. My absolute favourite place in KwaZulu Natal (besides Durbs of course) has to be the Drakensberg. I love anywhere in the Berg – you can’t go wrong with that majestic scenery, crisp air, and easy way of life – but we normally go to Underberg just because it’s a shorter drive. Not to be missed is the Underberg Studio, where if you feel like adding to your art collection, you’ll be able to take a piece of the scenery home with you. Other places I love in KZN are the tranquil beaches of St Lucia, and the gems of the Midlands…everyone should do the Meander at least once.
I could go on forever. But I won’t. I’d love to hear what other people love about their cities though.