27 January 2012

My South African gift guide

Before I spread the love here in Germany, I thought I'd entertain you with some of the things I stuffed my suitcase with. Note that this image is cropped. See the full image here.

First up, items procured at Local Works, Stellenbosch. I don't plug this store just because I worked there for a while, I simply find, time and again, that it has a great selection. A case in point is the blue necklace to the right. I actually bought this about a year ago, but so many people complimented me on it during my visit that I bought two more: the blue shweshwe one to the left, also with polystyrene beads, and the green and black one to the top, with a heavier bead for the inside. Besides these gifts from me to me, I also got the colourful flags there. They're intended for my husband's colleague's teenage daughter. I'm not sure what this flag obsession is—seen any wedding or party pictures lately?—but these are really sweet and I love the mix of African fabrics. Lastly I also got the Stellenbosch book there. This book is available in Afrikaans, English, and... German! Hurray!

Coming back to fashion: another thing that's clearly very much in at the moment is the paper bead necklace. I got this one at a store in Kalk Bay, but they're currently available pretty much anywhere crafts or clothing are sold.

Another excellent Stellenbosch store, is the famed Oom Samie se Winkel (a picture of it is here). This is one of the many stores that feature a wide variety of South African teas, and I selected that package of honeybush because it was produced in the area where my husband's parents live. (The Freshpak rooibos tea you can buy at any regular supermarket.) The small Amarula bottles presented a nice alternative to lugging back a large expensive bottle that can ultimately only be given to one person or family—although honestly, you'd probably end up drinking it yourself. I really like the Nice 'n Spicy spice mixes with recipes on the back, because they're flat and light, and because it seems quite meaningful to give someone a bit of your country's culture to try for themselves. Bobotie and biryani seemed the most South African choices to make—even if biryani is somewhat more international. I think the !ke Cape fynbos oils bath salts should make a good gift for any lady who'd like to soak away her troubles in a South African remedy.

I mentioned Cape Town's Imagenius in a previous post, and then when taking the above picture promptly forgot to feature something I got there: an actual "shit list" that my husband has already put to use—fortunately not by writing my name on it. The cheerful Africa colouring books are also from there. It seems that Putumayo have extended the illustrative identity of their CDs to make these adorable books.

Lastly, I bought the vintage postcards of South African fynbos at some other store in Kalk Bay that I don't remember the name of. Postcards like this can be found in stores dealing in nostalgia, antique stores, or at a market like the Church Street Antiques Market, right next to Imagenius in Cape Town.

Stores that I didn't revisit to buy anything—one can only take a finite amount of luggage afterall—but that did impress me, included the Mooiberge Farmstall and the Stellenbosch University Botanical Gardens BioBuild store. The Mooiberge store isn't flashy, but it has a very wide range of tea and other food or drink products at reasonable prices. They also seemingly carry every wine produced in the area. Biobuild has many products relating to South African flora, from food products, to books on wild flowers and gardening, to beauty products made from local ingredients.

25 January 2012

December postcards

I didn't send out the regular new year's card to two of my friends, for traditional Japanese reasons. So I made these instead. I got an email in reply to one of them, so I guess I can post them online now.

The picture of the Trundholm sun chariot didn't work in the end, but it's a very interesting object to read about. Something else that you can spy on left, are DECAdry transfers—oh how I love them.

24 January 2012

To do: Sort & edit all the things

My trip to Rothenburg may have taken place in December, before I went to South Africa, but a massive general editing and Photoshop touch-up mission is now underway. I hope you're all prepared for a visual onslaught, because editing down so many activities in a beautiful historical town is no easy task. There will be old-school lettering. There will be a lot of wrought-iron signs.

You have been warned.

23 January 2012

Farewell, fair Cape

I spent one of my last days on a favourite activity that I tend to revisit whenever I'm in South Africa—walking up Long and Kloof streets and browsing the various shops and other interesting things around there.

I was staying over at my aunt's house in Milnerton, so after stopping in there in the morning and wondering about the high cost of parking in the city, she convinced me to try the MyCiTi bus. This turned out to be very rewarding. It was only R10, comfortable, and fast. There are lots of people around the stops and stations to help you. Cape Town really is moving up! I did however hear some folks moaning about the card system that is being implemented. Please, fellow South Africans, stop complaining about such silly things. The card costs R22. That's about what a beer costs in some restaurants. That's much cheaper than say, the ¥500 you'd pay for a temporary Tokyo Metro card. And R22 for tourists? €2? $3? Small change.

I would offer one very different constructive criticism though—not complaining, just saying. The route map in the bus is clear, but if you don't know the city well you have to follow it very closely, because the stops aren't announced in any way. The LED display in the bus only shows the final destination, not the next stop, and there aren't any audio announcements. The sandblasted names on the sides of some bus stops can't always be seen from inside the bus, and the small signs that one finds in the city centre may also be hard to see from some positions. So for general clarity and also to help disabled passengers—especially those with sight problems—a clearer indication of what the next stop is could be made.

To end off my information design rant I should also say, and this doesn't just go for the bus system, that it's amazing how long-winded a lot of notices in South Africa are. In a country where so many people have to consume information in their second language, can't we dispense with sounding overly formal and addressing every detail, and rather be clear and concise? And where possible use a few more well-designed icons or illustrations instead of the endless flow of words.

But moving along to fun things. In shopping, I found some good souvenirs at Imagenius. And the famous Clarke's Bookshop didn't disappoint. If you're looking for books about Cape Town, South Africa, or Africa, and even if these books need to be related to these regions in some very particular way, like sustainable development, or the history of mapmaking, or beauty pageants, you'll find them here.

Being the girl that I am, I also looked at a lot of clothes. And what I have to say is: Dear South African designers, nice fabrics, nice ideas; terrible sewing. I did find a beautiful second-hand summer jacket at Stock Exchange on Kloof street though.

In churches, you'll see a lot of the Central Methodist Mission and a little of St. George's Cathedral. And remember, the Genealogical Society of South Africa has many more church photographs in their online collection.

Speaking of collections, I enjoyed getting out of the afternoon heat to see what the South African National Gallery had on show. I liked Peter Clarke's prints, and James Barnor's photographs were an absolute treat, amongst many other interesting things. You can also see this picture by my friend Daniel Naudé, because yes, he's so amazing, he's IZIKO-amazing.

Further in art, some friends and I attended an opening at the AVA in the evening. I saw another friend, Cinga Samson, though only as represented in a work by Vivien Kohler. My favourite works in the Tjorts! / Cheers! group exhibition were those by John Murray.

So after my endless flow of words let's close by saying that Cape Town and its people are totally awesome. This guy passed by me in the street, and then he doubled back to tell me that he loved my necklace, and he finds such simple ideas that are well executed to be very cool. I liked that he had dreadlocks but was also wearing a tie, while handing out pamphlets for a vegan and vegetarian restaurant. On Kloof street I had a chat with a car guard. He asked where I was from, I said Stellenbosch. He asked where my car is, I explained that I had taken the bus. We talked some more. He's from the Congo and is, unfortunately, divorced. Later another guy simply commented on my outfit and its breezy colours. Not because he was being weird or anything, just because he was being nice. I'll miss you Cape Town!


Almost finished with the South African posts for this season, as I should be, since I'm already back in Germany. In an ideal world I would have done the last updates while in transit, but why should any airport I use have functioning, free Wi-Fi? What a ridiculous expectation!

At the end of a previous post's picture set you may have noticed the monument to the French Huguenots, also in Franschhoek. This time around we happened to have a nice tour of the NG church, à la Japie Hugo.

15 January 2012

Robertson & McGregor

We visited Robertson and McGregor on Saturday. I enjoyed wandering the streets of Robertson and photographing some houses. By the time I found the Zebro's Chicken and the church I already felt right at home.

Speaking of churches, if you're interested in South African church architecture check out the Genealogical Society of South Africa's database of photographs. You can email Mrs Hobbie Stofberg with contributions. UPDATE: My contribution is online.

From the archive: A McGregor post from December 2010.

13 January 2012


As if life wasn't getting estatey enough, we also visited Tokara recently for my parents' 33rd wedding anniversary. We had a nice brunch at the deli, The Olive Shed, and also took a few minutes to look at some of the sculptures that are currently exhibited there. You might recognise some of the themes or materials from pictures in previous posts [ 1 / 2 ] that showed works from 20 Stellenbosch: Two Decades of South African Sculpture.

The pictures of the Chrysler at the beginning were an attempt to take some pictures for Chromeography, one of my more recent favourite sites.

12 January 2012

Taste all the things: Day 2

The summer heat has finally arrived, so any desire to stay up to date or do detailed write-ups is gone. This was day two of showing my friends around.

A brief stop-in at the Mooiberge Farmstall.

Olive tasting at Morgenster Estate. (R20 per person.)

Wine tasting at Lourensford Estate.

Lunch at the bistro and more wine tasting at Vergelegen Estate.

07 January 2012

See Stellenbosch: Day 1

We started our wine country tour at the bottom of Dorp street, mid-morning. Our first stop was at Oom Samie se Winkel, a famous curio shop. There is a lot to see and the rooms can seem a bit crowded, but no other shop in Stellenbosch is quite like it. Oom Samie really has an amazing variety of souvenirs to choose from and features many that are very true to the area, something which can't be said of all the tourist shops in town.

We continued up Dorp street, looking at the various architectural styles of the buildings and some of the 20 Stellenbosch: Two Decades of South African Sculpture works that I mentioned before.

When we were around The Braak area I noticed that the Rhenish Church was open. I think it's the first time I've seen its interior. On the topic of churches, you'll also notice pictures of the Moederkerk and St Mary's on The Braak.

After lunch we made a quick turn on campus and quickly popped into the Stellenbosch University Botanical Gardens before heading out to the Delaire Graff Estate. There we enjoyed the views, sculptures and other artworks, and of course some wine tasting. (R10 per person per wine.)

Most tasting opportunities close by 17:00, so after Delaire we headed over the Helshoogte Pass and drove to Franschhoek and back for some scenery. We made a quick stop at the Huguenot Monument, and really it's quite fitting to remember the French Huguenots after a day in the Cape Winelands.

Pardon the lack of flowery, tourist-attracting language, I reckon there's enough of that on other websites. I trust that the pictures convey that the outing was very enjoyable.

04 January 2012

The hunter

I've been having a great time showing some friends around the area and enjoying aspects of it that I've never really explored before. And by aspects I mainly mean tasting everything the good people around here care to put into the earth, harvest, and process into deliciousness. So there's more about our wine tasting and other explorations from the last two days soon to come!

Of course it's ironic that once you get into it you just hear of more and more great tasting experiences, so I'm willing to bet that there'll be some continuation of this trend in the two weeks that I have left.