I know that there are many out there who have a love-hate relationship with Johannesburg. She has the power to electrify you – hold you excitedly on the edge of her fingertips, but equally drain you and leave you feeling high and dry. She was my home for five years, and hardly a day or two goes by without me thinking of her. Memories of her warm and engaging people, edgy spaces where an integrated society was the norm and not the exception, and endless career opportunities and conversations.
My friend Andrew was someone who typified the Joburg spirit for me. All over the place, always with people, with an energy that left me both inspired and exhausted. Unfortunately, life threw a little too much at him and my friend lost his life in early January. I flew to Joburg for his funeral, and to grieve with my community: others who would feel the deep loss of this new absence.
On this occasion Joburg was a season of loss and pain, but she was able to hold me in that. Allow space for my unconstrained grief, and celebration of my friend’s life. I knew she held some healing spaces for me. Grief is an unpredictable companion – untamed and always changing. Similar to the nature of Joburg, which is perhaps why I knew the city would be able to hold me in the space I was in. I used the opportunity to meet my friends in some new spaces, but also eventually settle in my favourite Joburg spot. Here’s where we met over tears and laughter, storytelling and remembering.
Where is it Happening?
1. TONIC GIN BAR
Gin is in. As the G&T trend continues to gain weight in South Africa, Tonic in Linden will make sure to give you your Gin fix – and with possibly the largest Gin selection of any Gin bar in the city, you won’t be disappointed. Try the mother-fluffer – it’s an experience of note.
2. THE WHIPPET CAFÉ
Also located in what used to be a rather subdued Afrikaans suburb of Joburg, The Whittet Café is another example of some of the exciting developments taking place. It’s a thoroughly local affair, but made this Capetonian feel right at home. Especially with their mouth watering burgers – not to be missed.
3. THE MABONENG PRECINT
As urban renewal has crept into some of the fringe areas of Joburg, its brought exciting and eclectic new pockets of life. When I lived in Joburg it was New Town, but in my several years absence the Maboneng Precinct has become the new favourite child. Join the up-and-coming artists, bo-hos and urban dwellers and take a stroll down Fox street to indulge in some art, and for some sustenance try out The Living Room, Love Revo, or my favourite Pata Pata.
Meet The Four Seasons Westcliff Hotel
My stay at the Four Season’s West Cliff Hotel was however, the crown of this visit to Jozi. Years back when I lived in the city, the Westcliff was a place of refuge for me when I needed escape, and I knew it was where I wanted to end this Joburg trip. I was graciously invited to spend three days at the Westcliff, and it was everything I’d hoped for and more. The property was the perfect safe haven to rest and recover – whilst still being in the heart of the city. My spacious room had a Juliette balcony with garden views, and the ability to bath, for a Capetonian in the midst of a draught, was a rare privilege.
Both literally and physically, the Westcliff stands head and shoulders above the rest. This iconic five-star hotel sits high on a Northern suburbs ridge, giving expansive views of the second biggest man-made forest in the world, and also the opportunity to spot elephants and hear the occasional lion roar in the zoo below. Welcome to the Westcliff! Not only is its height an advantage, but also sits perfectly between the suburbs and the city, allowing for short transfers either way.
You’re spoilt with three dining spaces, and all strategically located on the top of the hillside hotel. An infinity pool and the animal sightings described above, only add to this unique experience. The pinnacle of the dining experiences is an evening spent at the View. A tasteful blending of cuisine and creativity stands at the heart of the View. Chef Farrel Hirsch and team are to be congratulated: not only does the eatery boast Joburg’s finest views, food artistry, but also impeccable service. A more casual dining option awaits at Pre View and then the famous Flames Restaurant out in the terrace for the perfect Jozi sundowners.
After one of my first major introductions to grief, a friend had warned me that it was 90% physical. That our bodies tangibly felt, held and expressed the effects of the grief. When I was offered a session at the spa I knew this would help, and my therapist Mary made sure I was well looked after. A relaxation room, sauna, spa and pool all aid the experience.
For ultimate luxury, and flawless hospitality, The Westcliff is the natural choice, regardless of how long you’re spending in this the remarkable Joburg. Thanks to the team for an unforgettable stay, in true Four Seasons style. Despite whatever season you’re in, or any reputation she might have, Joburg has enough on offer to make you feel at home… even leave you a little more energised than before.