Category Archives: Africa

Top 5 South African Cities

Planning a city break in South Africa and not sure where to head to? Never fear, help is at hand! I was in much the same boat as you when organising my first urban adventure in South Africa, but after buckets of research I struck upon the ultimate list of top five cities to visit. To help save you time on sorting out your travel plans, I’ve written out my suggestions of the top 5 South African Cities below – I hope you find them useful!

Cape Town

Before I dive into my top five, I’d like to point out that all of the below are great candidates for luxury breaks in South Africa, thanks to their combinations of attractions and simply stunning hotels. So, this list is perfect for anyone hoping for a high-end holiday.

1) Johannesburg

Let’s begin with one of SA’s most vibrant and well-known cities – Johannesburg. For me, this is one of the ultimate city break destinations in the country, largely because it offers that classic mix of diversity, important cultural attractions and an amazing nightlife. Things not to miss in Johannesburg include the Apartheid Museum, Museum Africa and the Mandela Museum, as well as slick bars like Rock. It’s also worth checking out the fascinating local markets; Rosebank Flea Market is one of my favourites, since it’s where you can pick up some impressive African art.

2) Cape Town

Next up is Cape Town, which I think is probably just as famous as Johannesburg – if not more so. Cape Town has a special place in my heart because it’s got a great selection of attractions that really cannot fail to appeal to you – particularly Table Mountain, which forms the backdrop of the city.

It’s well worth ascending its summit (at 1,085 m) on the Table Mountain Cableway to see the amazing views. I also recommend going penguin spotting on Boulders Beach and exploring the cobbled streets of Bo-Kaap.

3) Durban

Half sophisticated city and half luxury beach resort, Durban is the place to go if you’re keen to enjoy utter indulgence on your holiday. This destination sits on the edge of a coastline lapped by the warm waves of the Indian Ocean, so it’s not hard to understand why this is such an amazing place for sunseekers.

When you’re not stretched out on the sand feeling decadent, you can slip into something slinky or sharp and head over to Wilson’s Wharf, which in the summer months puts on theatrical performances and concerts. It’s also worth remembering that Durban is home to some impressive colonial architecture; visit Durban City Hall to see this at its best.

4) Hermanus

The ultimate place to go whale watching not just in SA but in the whole world, Hermanus is an absolute must for wildlife lovers. Now, technically this is a town rather than a city, but it’s such an exciting and important spot that I’m hoping you’ll let me off!

If you do want to spot whales, come here between June and December, when they flock to Walker Bay. The beauty of whale watching here is that you don’t even need to step on to a boat for great views (though you can if you want) since these majestic creatures are visible from the shore.

5) Sun City

The final metropolis to make my top five is Sun City – and I should probably admit right now that this is another place that is technically not a city! This sprawling destination is in fact a very large resort, but for travellers like you and me it feels very much like a city – hence why I’ve included it.

This is a good place to choose if you’re travelling with your family, since it’s home to attractions like the Valley of the Waves water park. It’s by no means a resort only suitable for families, though, with luxurious touches like two 18-hole golf courses and stunning hotels making it perfect for couples too. As a quick tip, because Sun City is next to the Pilansberg Game Reserve, it’s easy to combine a city break with a classic South African safari here.

 

Modern Marrakech and Spring in Morocco

Jardin MajorelleWhen most people go to Marrakech, they like to go to the touristic circus of Jmma al Fna to see the snake charmers, the monkeys, the fortune tellers, the henna artists, acrobats, and madness that is the most Moroccan place on the planet while at the same time being the biggest caricature of what Morocco and Morocco are.  If you come to Morocco and you don’t go to Jmma al Fna to eat in the food trucks, watch the transvestite dancers, get hustled by the touts, and laugh at the crazy antics there – you are missing out on an extraordinary experience….

Morocco ApartmentThe thing is…in my humble opinion – once is enough. I’ve done it four times now. So, when I took a little micro-break to escape to Marrakech before we emigrate to the USA next week – I was looking for something different. For that reason, I was quite happy to rent an apartment from Only-Apartments which was a good clip from Jmma al Fna – and, in fact, not in the old medina. I realize that not staying in the old medina violates some sort of Moroccan tourist convention and not sleeping in an ancient riad is a travesty against foreign riad owners – but, and bear with me here…I live in Morocco and I am so incredibly tired of sleeping in shared living space, traipsing through narrow alleyways to find obsequious hosts who don’t understand I’m looking for space and solitude, and  sharing breakfast with strangers who have nothing in common with me besides also being strangers staying in a fancy riad with a friendly family taking too much care of us.

Marrakech ApartmentSo, I was very happy to stay in Anas Majorel Apartment just a stone’s throw from the magnificent (but definitely overpriced) Majorel Gardens. The apartment was done up in modern Moroccan which can sometimes feel like a boudoir from a oriental love epic, but was perfect for my needs. Two modern grocery stores within walking distance, a complete kitchen so I could indulge in my guilty pleasure of frozen pizza and fresh orange juice, and a cafe downstairs with wi-fi that just reached the balcony so I could answer important emails but not get distracted by dirty movies.  The view from the balcony was urban, but the blackout blinds allowed me to shut out the glorious pink buildings of Marrakech’s ville nouvelle when I was ready to sleep or watch American films on the big plasma screen televisions.  An actual drip coffee maker completed my sense of comfort and American ease as I drank gallons of coffee and watched a seeming marathon of Owen Wilson movies on MBC-Action.

Jardin MajorelleOf course, I didn’t spend all of my days cocooned in the apartment.   I met with friends, took long walks, and drank coffee in the many cafe’s of modern Marrakech as well. The weather was astounding and beautiful. Early April weather in Morocco is almost impossible to beat. Wildflowers and endless expanses of green fields blanketed the nine hours on the train from Fez to Marrakech and for once, my first class ticket put me in a compartment with no companions so I was able to read, listen to music, draw, paint, and eat sandwiches without feeling like I should offer some to the other inhabitants or curb my gluttonous appetite for Sour Cream and Chive pringles. Yeah, I ate the whole 3 inches of them!

I did finally visit the Majorel Gardens and since I’m from Hawaii – the cactus and bamboo didn’t blow my mind – though, it was certainly someplace I was happy to be – until the two busloads of chubby tourists arrived – they all seemed to have eaten the twelve inch stacks of pringles…

Trucks in MoroccoGiven the number of visitors, I would never recommend that anyone pay the 50 dirham entrance fee to the Majorel…EXCEPT… that inside is the best museum I’ve visited in Morocco. The Berber Museum is an additional 25 dirham and while it is a small museum it is exceptionally well curated, fascinating, beautiful, and will give you a finer appreciation for everything else you will see in Morocco. I’ve been here for five years, I’ve read ravenously about the place, I’ve written books about it…and on my two hour visit to the Berber Museum, I learned a huge amount. The Berber Museum is worth the entire 75 dirham price tag (because you can’t go to the Berber Museum without going into the gardens – tricky).

Installed in the workshop designed by Paul Sinoir in 1931 to Jacques Majorelle, the personal collection of Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent is presented to the public.

 Since my arrival at Marrakech in 1966, I have never ceased to be fascinated by the Berber culture and art. Over the years I have collected, admired the art that spans several countries at once. Rightly, the Berbers have always been proud of their culture that have continued to claim despite the vicissitudes they faced. In Marrakech Berber country, in the Jardin Majorelle created by an artist who painted many scenes , men and women Berber, it is naturally the idea of this museum is imposed.    Pierre Bergé

Jardin de BalaI admit, I did pay one more visit to the old medina and Jmma al Fna. My friend Mike Richardson of Cafe Clock in Fez is building a new Cafe Clock in Marrakech. When it is complete, it will certainly create a new compelling reason to visit the old medina. We grabbed some Indian food at Les Jardins de Bala which turned out to be pretty delicious. I’ve had bad luck with non-Moroccan cuisine in Morocco, but in this case – the naan, chicken tiki masala, and saag were delicous. As for the restaurant and setting itself…just wow. Gorgeous.

Finally, for those who want to see modern Morocco and the creativity that lives and breathes – I might recommend a gallery that is not designed for tourists, not made for the public, and not listed in any guide book. The truck depot not far from Bab Doukala is a place to see and feel the real Morocco. The truckers were surprised to see me wandering among their rigs, taking photos, and looking at their art. Many of them were confused and began conversations with ‘No pictures” or “Go”. I was very grateful to be able to explain to them that I love their trucks and their art. My Arabic was sufficient to bring understanding and soon I was being led around, offered tea, and introduced to other truckers and shown more trucks.

I admit that in the hustle of touristic medinas, the glitz of posh hotels with submissive staffs, and the con of trying to buy any sort of handicraft or artifact – I have sometimes lost sight of what makes Morocco and Moroccans beautiful.  I am grateful for those awesome truckers for reminding me that the beauty of Morocco is of and comes from her people.

The Moroccan Spring is beautiful and almost made me wish I were staying.

Smooth Living

What am I doing here? Still here…in Morocco

Vago Damitio. What am I doing here?

Sefrou, Morocco
19 March 2012

I just want to check in and give you some idea of what’s going on, just in case you were wondering. Vagobond has been on hiatus for the past few weeks while I’ve navigated what may be the busiest and most productive time of my life – albeit – at the moment with the smallest payoff.

When 2013 began, I decided to personally name it the ‘Year of the Completed Projects’. I had a huge laundry list of unfinished projects from incomplete books to immigration paperwork and immigration itself. 2013, I told myself, would be the year of finishing these so I can move on to the future.

So far – I’m kicking ass and taking names. To get a sense of that, you should go to www.vagodamitio.com where I’ve completely redesigned my official writer website and re-edited, re-covered, and re-published all of my books. For the past few months, I’ve literally been that madman writer sitting in a closed room furiously typing, editing, laying out, and working with graphics, text, and print. The result of all of that hardwork is that yesterday, I clicked the final ‘Publish” button on the books I’ve been working on. I’d like to introduce them to you now.

Vagabond TalesRough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagabond - 2013 Master Edition
Print: $12.99
Ebook: $9.99

This is the 10 year anniversary edition of Rough Living. Updated and expanded with photos, stories, more tips, and more tales.

This is the book that started it all and it is available now in print or a wide varitey of ebook formats for a world that is entirely different than the one it was born in.

 

 

 

Liminal TravelLiminal Travel: The Spaces In Between
Print: $4.25
Ebook: $2.99

I don’t think this little book has ever gotten the credit it deserves. If there is a book that sums up my travel philosophy and the lessons I’ve learned on the road, it’s this one. Plus, I reveal the nature of God and how to enjoy your life without being a slave to the man. Now, it’s freshly edited and covered and finally, for the first time available in print and all the ebook formats.  It’s nice that this is called Liminal travel which literally means in between because it was written between Rough Living and my latest book….

 

 

Smooth LivingSmooth Living: Beyond the Life of a Vagabond
Print: $12.99
Ebook: $9.99

Smooth Living picks up where Rough Living ended in Hawaii and follows me from living in a van from 2001-2004 to riding camels (and getting married) in the Sahara, visiting the pyramids, flying in hot air balloons over Turkey, and visiting more than 40 countries. Want to know how I went from no star to five star? The secrets are revealed along with plenty more tips and tales. I’ve been working on this for a long time and it is nice to have it published in both print and ebook form just before completing my four year journey around the world.

 

 

Vagabond in MuslimlandNot My Morocco: A Vagabond in Muslimland
Print: $7.99
Ebook: $2.99

This is certainly my most controversial book. These years in Morocco have been filled with trials and tribulations – mostly the result of my own bad decision making and lapses in judgment, but also because this is a country that drives me completely insane. This is the book where I reveal that Morocco (and most likely that insanity).

But…that’s not all. I’ve also completely rewritten and edited my first novel Slackville Road: Two Lazy Dudes, a Dummy, and an Armored Car and republished it as a much better novella. I’ve revised and released Douchebags, Fags, and Hags into  print and a wide range of ebook formats along with my short story collection Meliptimous Taggle and my offbeat fairy tale The Princess and the Vagabond.

All eight books are now available in print and as ebooks. In addition, they are all edited and written in a way that I feel I can leave them behind and move forward now – which is a good thing because life is just about to become bizarrely interesting.

Today, my wife, daughter, and I head to Casablanca for what I hope will be her final interview for immigration to the USA. If you’ve been following me for a while – you are aware that we’ve been struggling to make this happen for years! This is a big, big deal! If the visa gods approve, we will be heading en famille to the USA next month and that will be the first time I’ve been in the United States in four years! For my wife and daughter it will be the first time ever. I never expected that I would get to live the immigrant experience when I read about Staten Island and the immigration waves of the 19th and 20th centuries but we will be heading from a land where donkeys are normal transport to a land that has changed so much since I left it that I wonder if I will be able to recognize it.

Oh, there’s more…much much more…but I wanted to let you know that I’m still here, Vagabond is still here, and we are going everywhere!

For the latest updates, check http://www.vagodamitio.com and my social media. In the meantime, we’ll bring you some interesting guest posts and fantastic features.

Wish us luck!