Friday

Eyewitness Johannesburg. Heather Mason of 2summers

Photo: Tim Van Rooyen

The blogger Heather Mason moved in 2010 from the United States of America to Johannesburg in South Africa. 

She has been living there now for a while, and on 2summers she blogs passionately about her home town. It seems she is on a mission to show the world how loveable Johannesburg is. And she is brilliant at what she does ....

THE TOURISTIN: Three words that characterize Johannesburg?

Heather Mason: Evolving, quirky, and unpredictable.

THE TOURISTIN: How do you get around Johannesburg?

Heather Mason: I'm ashamed to admit that I've become a slave to my car in Joburg. I always used to hate driving but for some reason I really enjoy driving here. Which is strange because driving in Joburg is really a rather life-threatening activity (the minibus taxi drivers are insane) and the traffic is terrible.

THE TOURISTIN: What is the best kept secret about Johannesburg?

Heather Mason: Joburg's best-kept secret is that it is a fantastic place to live. This city gets so much negative publicity, but the truth is that quality of life here is great. The weather is sunny and warm (not too hot or too cold) all year-round, the cost of living is low compared to comparable cities in other parts of the world, the people are outgoing and friendly, and there are so many interesting and exciting things to do. The traffic isn't great (see above) but that's a small price to pay for the amazing life I have here.

THE TOURISTIN: What is your favourite borough/suburb/area in Johannesburg and why?

Heather Mason: Melville is definitely my favorite suburb (neighborhood) in Joburg. I'm biased, of course, because I live in Melville. But I love Melville's central location (10 minutes from downtown and less than 20 minutes from most of the other nice suburbs) and its quirky, bohemian vibe. 7th St., Melville's main drag, is constantly changing and yet somehow stays the same. I also love the fact that Melville has lots of great shops, coffee houses and restaurants that are all within close walking distance. Melville has tons of great B&Bs and guesthouses, too.

THE TOURISTIN: The best place for a coffee in Johannesburg?

Heather Mason: It's hard to pick just one place because Joburg has countless great coffee shops. But if I had to choose one it would be Uncle Merv's Original Shakes and Coffee in the Maboneng Precinct, which is really more of an outdoor stand than a coffee shop. Uncle Mervs makes the best Americanos in town, in my opinion, and I love the people-watching in that spot, especially on weekday mornings.

THE TOURISTIN: What is one restaurant we must try out while in Johannesburg?

Heather Mason: My favorite Joburg restaurant is the Leopard in Melville. Besides being in my own neighborhood, the Leopard serves imaginative, delicious food in a laid-back environment. The menu is constantly changing and it's best to call ahead.

THE TOURISTIN: Where would we meet you on weekends?

Heather Mason: I'm all over the place, really. But my favorite things to do on weekends are to go on walking tours in interesting parts of the city, or to take informal photo walks with my friends. My boyfriend is a graffiti artist so I like to watch him paint, which can happen anywhere. I also love Fordsburg, Joburg's Indian neighborhood, which has an amazing outdoor market on weekends. Fordsburg is my favorite place to go for weekend street food.

THE TOURISTIN: Do you have a favourite museum/gallery we all have to visit when in Johannesburg?

Heather Mason: I have many, but if I had to recommend one it would be Constitution Hill. Constitution Hill used to house a notorious prison, which has now been converted into a museum presenting an interesting historical angle on apartheid. Constitution Hill is also the site of the highest court in South Africa, which is open to the public. I also recommend climbing the ramparts around the old fort and checking out the amazing views of the Joburg skyline.

THE TOURISTIN: What are some of your favourite places to shop for A) groceries and B) clothes?

Heather Mason: For groceries, I love shopping at local fruit and veg markets. Nearly every neighborhood has one and they often offer more than just fruits and vegetables. My two favorites are Impala Fruit and Veg in Northcliff and Tyrone Fruiterers in Parkview. For clothes…Well the truth is that I'm not much of a clothes-shopper. But I really like The Space, Hobo Couture, and Big Blue.

THE TOURISTIN: What souvenir shall we bring back from Johannesburg?

Heather Mason: The quintessential Joburg souvenir is a rainbow beaded giraffe.

THE TOURISTIN: Thank you so very much Heather. Safe travels always.

Meet more eyewitnesses from South Africa, USA and Europe here.

From Berlin with love

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Greetings stranger. I always try to be myself and to be a tourist as often as I can. I would love to get in contact with lots of hard travelling tourists who love to be out and about as much as I do. I am looking forward to all your comments. Thanks so much in advance.