Johannesburg,South Africa: Rich History Bright Future! (Part I)

Ever been to a place that brims with so much culture and beauty that you find yourself overwhelmed but you can’t quite get enough?  Well, if you answered “yes”, then maybe you’ve been to South Africa.

I had the pleasure of spending nine days in the “Rainbow Nation” and during that time I visited three wonderful and distinctly different cities: Johannesburg, Hazeyview, and Cape Town.

Our first stop was the bustling city of Johannesburg, located in the eastern half of the country.  Many know this city as the place where Nelson Mandela began his adult life, raising a young family and becoming interested in politics.  Soweto, a township in Johannesburg, is credited with being the site of some of the most important anti- apartheid demonstrations. DSC_0171 (2) The city has such an inspiring history that one is forever changed after visiting.  During our three-day tour, we visited so many spectacular sites!  As soon as we landed, we hired a driver and we’re whisked off to the Cradle of Humankind   Cradle of Humankindthe museum showcases artifacts that support the theory that human life began in Africa.  A cast of the oldest human remains are on display at the museum along with many of the earliest remains ever discovered. Cradle of HumankindCradle of Humankind There are also tours of the caves where the remains were found.  Unfortunately, the caves were closed following several weeks of torrential rains.  If you would like to see the caves, call in advance to ensure that they are open to the public at that time.  Despite not seeing the caves, the museum was well worth the visit!
The following day was devoted to exploring South Africa’s more recent past.  It was only roughly 25 years ago that former South African President, Nelson Mandela was released from prison after serving 27 years for organizing against the apartheid regime.  At the beginning of the day, we visited the humble home that Mr. Mandela shared with his second wife Mrs Winnie Mandela prior to his arrest in 1968. The five room home constructed with bright red bricks is now the Mandela House MuseumMandela House Museum Soweto, South Africa  Visitors have the opportunity to view Mr. Mandela personal belongings such as his honorary degrees and letters exchanged between the pair during his unjust incarceration.  Mandela House Museum Soweto, South Africa Aside from the beautiful plaques behind clear glass cases along the walls, there were more sobering details that reminded me of how difficult life was for the Mandela family and all families who opposed the government.  On the exterior walls, our tour guide pointed out several bullet holes and fire damage markings.  He later explained that during Mr. Mandela’s incarceration, Mrs. Winnie Mandela was persecuted by police daily.  Their house was burned down by officials twice and police regularly fired bullets at the home to scare Winnie and her children into moving away.  Being there and reading Mr. Mandela’s biography inspired me to learn more about Winnie Mandela’s contributions and sacrifices for the anti-apartheid movement. Winnie Mandela: Mandela House Museum Soweto, South Africa

Interestingly enough, Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s home is located on the same street. Desmond Tutu's Home Soweto, South Africa Vilakazi Street is the only street  in the world that has ever been home to two Nobel Peace Prize winners. Desmond Tutu's Home  Soweto, South Africa

From there, we visited the  Hector Pieterson Museum.  The museum tells the chilling story of the uprisings that started in Soweto in 1976 and spread across the country.  On June 16, 1976, Hector Pieterson and  his classmates, along with children from several other townships left school and marched in protest against unfair education policies. Over 150 children perished during what began as a peaceful protest: twelve-year-old Hector Pieterson ,was the first to be gunned down by police.  Hector Pieterson Musuem Soweto South Africa The museum stands as a testament to the courage of even the youngest South African fighters in the anti-apartheid movement.  We also visited the Apartheid Museum which is a must see. Soweto, South Africa  Like the Hector Pieterson Museum, this museum provides a multisensory experience.  Aparthied Museum, South Africa One of the things that I really appreciated was the fact that the museum curators included an exhibit highlighting what was going on in other places in the world during the most gruesome apartheid events. DSC_0116Aparthied Museum, South Africa It demonstrated for me that we must be more knowledgeable about what is happening in the world around us.

I must admit, visiting so many places related to the atrocities of apartheid  in one day was overwhelming.  You many want to visit each site on a different day or take a break and decompress over a great lunch between visits.

Speaking of food, South Africa is touted as having one of the best culinary scenes in the world, so we wasted no time jumping fork first!  On our first night, we dined at Moyo in the upscale Melrose Arch community.  Despite Moyo being a local chain, we were delighted by the depth of the menu.  The restaurant offers traditional South African food with a modern twist.  With a delightful mix of game meats and traditional Indian dishes it was a great fusion of the influences all of the people of South Africa have had on the cuisine.    For example, my husband had the Springbok which is apart of the antelope family with mashed potatoes and a traditional African red sauce, while our other companions enjoyed ostrich and other exotic meats.

Moyo, South Africa

For dessert we had everything from traditional puddings to hand churned ice creams.

Moyo , South Africa

Needless to say, we left full but hungry for more great culinary adventures.

We had an amazing time in Johannesburg.  Then it was off to Hazeyview for a spectacular day a Kruger Park !

Be on the lookout for Part II (Fun and “Game”: Kruger Park and the South African Countryside)

 

How To Eat At A Bunch Of Awesome Restaurants On A Budget: Restaurant Week 2014! Let’s Go!

 

Want to try the country’s best restaurants for half the price?  Well then you have to get out to your city’s upcoming Restaurant Week!  stroy pic 3

Restaurant Weeks are hosted by cities all over the country. In Georgia, we host several  each year.

It works like this: a group of participating restaurants in a city offer a variety of 3 to 4 course prix fixe meals at a reduced price; for a period of time, usually seven days but some run for longer periods. Often, but not in every case, a potion of the proceeds from sales during this period are donated to a local charity. Interested diners can make reservations directly through the restaurant or by using Opentable.

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Below is a list of the popular Restaurant Weeks being offered in metro Atlanta and a few across the country.  Check with your local Convention and Visitors Bureau to find out about your specific location:

Atlanta Metropolitan Area

Inman Park Restaurant Week March 17-23 (Spring)

Buckhead : May 17-25

Downtown Atlanta-August 9-14

Midtown September 6-14

Inman Park (Fall) September-TBA

Vinings- October 5-13

 

Other Great Cities

Detroit, MI, April 11-20

Washington DC-TBD

San Diego, CA (fall) TBD

Dallas Fort Worth August 11-17

 

Check these out next year! We were too late this go round  Sad face

New York City, NY (January)

Savannah, GA (January)

San Francisco (January)

Charlotte, NC (January)

Los Angeles, CA (January)

San Diego, CA (winter) (January)

Baltimore, MD (February)

Chicago, IL (February)

Las Vegas, NV (March)

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Running, Screaming, and Playing At The Museum? The Children’s Museum of Atlanta

 

Are you looking for a place that is kid friendly, easy on your pockets, and educational too?  Well,  The Children’s Museum of Atlanta is the place to go!  Dedicated to making learning fun for children of all ages, this place is packed with things to see and do.  I started going to the museum with my nephew when he was about three years old.  At ten, he still loves going and has a new appreciation for the exhibits.  Moreover, I now take my two-year old daughter, Brooklyn, and she loves it!

From creating works of art on a whiteboard that spans the length of an entire wall, to fishing in a giant indoor pond, my daughter explores the museum by touching everything!  Fortunately, that’s the way it was designed to be enjoyed. Imagine It Museum, Atlanta, GA During our most recent visit, Brooklyn discovered the infant toddler area, complete with soft blocks and tunnels perfect for children 6 months-2 years old.  She spent quite a bit of time there.  Then it was off to the massive interactive Farm to Table exhibit. Imagine It : The Children's Museum of Atlanta

The exhibit explores how food goes from the farm, illustrated by a life-sized tractor and ceramic cow, to the supermarket, and finally to our homes.  Kids are able to fill shopping carts with plastic loaves of French bread, cartons of milk, eggs and everything in between. Imagine It Museum, Atlanta, GA

This exhibit is a crowd favorite.  There is also a train depot, a large sand box, and a huge exhibit dedicated to engineering and logistics.  But not to worry, it is big fun!  The exhibit uses colorful balls and simple machines to teach these complex principals in an enjoyable way.   By the way, don’t miss the dance parties and story time during your visit.  (See the activity schedule when you arrive for details.)

Imagine It Museum, Atlanta, GA

There are also temporary exhibits that come to the museum throughout the year.  Check out the current exhibit: Sonic Sensation, running now through June 1, 2014This new, highly engaging exhibit offers a fun and informative opportunity for children to understand the anatomy, measurement, and science of sound.

The exhibit features a variety of interactive, hands-on activities for children to see, feel, and hear sound. Visitors can experiment with pitch, test their listening skills, make a movie soundtrack and much more! As children engage with multiple learning stations throughout the exhibit, they will discover key listening skills through the science of sound and hearing.

Imagine It Museum, Atlanta, GA Imagine It Museum, Atlanta, GA

Visiting the museum is always a great experience…. especially when it is free!  Check out Target Free Second Tuesdays.  Thanks to the Target Corporation, admission for the museum is free from 1pm-7pm on the second Tuesday of every month.  Otherwise, tickets for visitors ages one and above is $12.75 per person.  The museum is also available for birthday parties and special events.

Tip: There are several paid parking options near the museum and the prices range from $5.00-$12.00 depending on the day and length of your visit. The lot located on Baker Street directly across from the museum is the most convenient.  On weekends, parking in this lot is generally a flat rate of $5.00.

Have a fantastic time at  The Children’s Museum of Atlanta.

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How Kayaking In La Jolla, California Saved My Marriage

Despite being married to the love of my life, our first year of marriage was rough!  We had petty arguments and some not-so-petty arguments.  Simply stated, we had a lot to learn about compromise and effective communication.

A few months into our marriage, I asked my husband to join me on a business trip to San Diego, California.  Neither he nor I had ever been, so we were excited about the trip.  Yet upon our arrival, disagreements ensued.   From disagreeing on what car to rent to where to have dinner in the Gaslamp District, I can’t say we were always on the same page.  Between visiting the San Diego Zoo and enjoying cigars at The Cuban Cigar Factory we quarreled.

On the last day of the trip, we decided to venture just outside of San Diego, to La Jolla, for dinner and to enjoy the famed beaches.  La Jolla is breathtaking, with dramatic cliffs jetting out of the Pacific Ocean, lined with awe-inspiring homes.

La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks

It is a fantastic place to shop, dine, and enjoy outdoor sports.  We decided to tour its famous caves and get a closer look at the sea lions that rest upon rocks close to the beach.

La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks

So we booked a kayaking tour through La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks and set out for an amazing adventure.  There was just one major problem: having only kayaked in calm waters, I was nervous about kayaking off the beach directly into the jagged waves of the Pacific.  My husband on the other hand, became increasing more excited at the thought of encountering such waves.  Before we set sail, I shared my concerns with him.  He reassured me that the trip would be great and that I had nothing to worry about.  I reluctantly adjusted my life jacket and took my place behind him in the vessel.  As we paddled out, the waves grew in intensity.  At the sight of rather large waves, I would close my eyes tightly as the kayak was lifted temporary and then abruptly returned back to a level position.  After a series of large waves, I opened my eyes to find that my husband had paddled us away from our tour guide and further away from the beach.  As we approached the buoys (which confirmed my fears that we had ventured too far) I nervously asked that we turn back.  My husband ignored my petition.  I then responded by attempting to paddle in the opposite direction.  My actions almost caused the kayak to flip over and after a few close calls, my husband decided to steer us toward the group.  He then said “he felt sorry for me because I was missing out on a great experience, all because I refused to let go and trust him.”  I was nearly in tears.  As we neared the group, I took a deep breath and began to relax a bit.  We entered the first cave and the cool breeze suddenly opened my eyes not only to the picturesque scenery but to who my husband is, as a man and as my partner.

La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks

He wanted me to be open to adventure and experiencing something fun and exciting with him, trusting that he would protect us and use sound judgment to keep us afloat.  This revelation allowed me to truly enjoy the second half of our tour, as well as the past four years of our marriage.  As we paddled along in sync we laughed, smiled and road the waves without fear.  We are still riding the waves and staying afloat by working together and trusting each other.

Have you had a travel experience that shaped your perspective on life? Share it here.

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Pictures courtesy of La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks http://www.lajollaseacavekayaks.com/

Relationship Drama At The Center For Puppetry Arts: Stan The Lovesick Snowman

 

Did you know that even snowmen and snowwomen experience relationship drama?  Well… I didn’t either until I took my family to see Stan the Lovesick Snowman at the Center For Puppetry Arts.  What better way to kick off the New Year then by visiting a new place?  Neither I nor my family have ever been to the Center, so it was a new and exciting experience for us!

The delightful production tells the tale of a hopeless snowman named Stan, who learns a thing or two about life and love when he falls hard for the endearing warmth of a wood-burning stove.  Center for Puppetry Arts, Atlanta, GA

I won’t give the ending away but let’s just say that Stan realizes that although love can sometimes hurt, it should never reduce one to mush!

 

Go see Stan the Lovesick Snowman this weekend.  It is entertaining and educational.  At the conclusion of the show, the immensely talented puppeteers give an informative behind the scenes look into how they make the puppets come to life.  We especially enjoyed seeing all of the different types of puppets and special effects.

The play is recommended for children ages four and over but my two-year old enjoyed the show and there were younger children in the audience who were also fine.

In addition to the show, a tour of the on site museum is also included with the price of admission.  The museum is filled with puppets that have been used in past productions.  It was interesting to see the different types of puppets used which vary greatly in size and style. Center for Puppetry Arts, Atlanta, GA

The show runs from now until February 2, 2014.  On weekends there are three shows (11:00am, 1:00pm, and 3:00pm) and on weekdays two shows are offered (10:00am and 11:00am).

Tips:

Seating is general admission.   There isn’t a bad seat in the place but if you want to sit near the front of the theater, arrive early.

Complementary parking is available at the center.

Have you been to the Center for Puppetry Arts?  Share your experience with me?

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The featured image was provided courtesy of the Center for Puppetry Arts.

 

 

Spending Christmas In St. Lucea, Jamaica: A Fabulous Way To Celebrtate The Season !

Gran Palladium Resort and Spa St. Lucea, JamaicaGran Palladium Resort and Spa St. Lucea, JamaicaMargartaville, Negril JamaicaMargaritavile, Negril JamaicaA year ago today the Suggs Family was basking in the warm sun enjoying Christmas in Jamaica.  We ventured off the traditional “home for the holidays” route and found ourselves 20 minutes outside of Montego Bay, Jamaica in the fishing village of St. Lucea, at the Grand Pallidum Resort and Spa.  When we arrived, we were greeted with umbrella adorned drinks and shuttled off to our room.  As our golf cart raced across the resort, we admired the perfectly manicured grounds, impressive swimming pools, and a variety of interesting restaurants.  Lush tropical plants cradled the campus at every turn and the beautiful white washed buildings were perfectly complimented by the illustrious blue sea, just steps from our door.

The Gran Palladuim is located along a rocky coastline. The majestic cliffs are breathtaking.  On our first full day, we laid under the protection of a comfortable cabana draped with white linen and were hypnotized as we watched the waves crash into the cliffs that trailed off into the horizon.

Although the resort had everything we needed, nothing says Jamaica, like the white sand beaches and crystal clear waters of Negril. So on day two, we spent a full day in Negril eating jerk chicken and racing around on jet skis. And what’s a trip to Negril without a visit to Rick’s Cafe for cliff diving?  While Xeric took the plunge, the rest of us admired the beautiful sunset.

The next day we were off to Ocho Rios to conquer Dunn’s River Falls, which is always an exhilarating experience.

For the rest of our vacation, we lounged on the beach and ate our way around the resort.  It was an amazing way to spend the holidays.

This year, we will in Atlanta, GA enjoying a quite Christmas at home making cookies and slowly sipping from mugs filled with piping hot chocolate around the tree as we sing our favorite holiday songs.

Regardless of where you spend the holiday season, enjoy every precious moment!

Have you taken a fabulous trip to celebrate the holidays?  Share your experiences here.

Amazing Southern Cooking With A Modern Twist: JCT Kitchen and Bar Atlanta, GA

I know I know…I’m the last person in Atlanta to try JCT Kitchen and Bar.  I will be the first to admit that despite hearing about this gem for years, I neglected to stop by.  But when I received word that I would be meeting the owner, Ford Fry, during Taste of Atlanta 2013, I decided that I needed to get over there.
So, I arrived at the restaurant on a sun-kissed Friday afternoon and found myself smack-dab in the middle of the lunch rush.  But not to worry, there were plenty of seats at the bar and even nicer seating at the bistro style tables that are issued on a first come first serve basis.  I was delighted to find that the bar patrons have access to the complete menu.  So I slid into one of the seats and quickly took it all in.  My waiter, Michael, was the perfect personification of the restaurant that employs him.  What says down-home country charm like an attractive man in checkered board shirt?  Throw in a trendy haircut, designer jeans, and an air of sophistication and you have JCT Kitchen and Bar.  Down-home southern cooking with a modern contemporary flare that starts with the food and spills over into the well-appointed farmhouse chic decor.
 
I had a “country girl” lunch complete with fried chicken and mac & cheese, JCT Kitchen and Bar, Atlanta, GAbut what set it apart was the splendid salad accompanying my meal which consisted of pickled watermelon radish, cucumber, and corn.  It was a delightful treat.JCT Kitchen and Bar, Atlanta, GA
 
After a splendid meal, it was time for an equally impressive dessert.  The salted caramel chocolate cream pie danced on my tongue.  The chocolate is so rich and it is probably meant to be shared.  But since I was all alone…I ate the whole thing by myself.  The decadent chocolate pudding is engulfed in a graham cracker crust sitting atop a graceful swipe of salted caramel. JCT Kitchen and Bar, Atlanta, GA It was the perfect ending to an amazing meal.
 
I plan to return to JCT Kitchen and Bar several times to work my way through the entire menu. 
 
Have you dined at JCT Kitchen and Bar?  Tell me about your experience.
 
Tips: JCT is great for lunch or dinner.  Parking is free and complementary valet is available.  If you head there for lunch, pack your patience because parking is a challenge due to the many popular shops and restaurants that share the spaces.
Make reservations if you can but if not, no fear.  There is seating at the bar and a section for dining that is unassigned and suitable for small parties (1-3 people).  So go right in and enjoy!

The Iberian Pig: Travel to Spain Without Leaving Atlanta

So my dining club “The Dining Divas” ventured over to the east side of Atlanta (downtown Decatur) to check out famed Spanish inspired restaurant The Iberian Pig and we had a fantastic experience!  As we escaped the crisp night air and stepped into the lively dining room filled with welcoming aromas, we were immediately transported across the Atlantic Ocean to Espana. Iberian Pig Atlanta, GA The dark wood and dim lighting were reminiscent of the restaurants that I frequented while studying in Madrid.  The owners Frederico Castellucci and Chad Crete successfully recreated that “old world” feeling through the menu and ambiance.  They captured the european dining spirit that makes it ok for people sit down for a meal with friends, order multiple courses, and stay a while.  One thing I love about european dining is the lack of pressure  to “eat and leave”.  Instead, patrons are encouraged to linger over wine and bread and savor fine cheeses while discussing the day’s events. 

My friends and I did just that as we tried fried pork belly, bacon wrapped dates, and slow roasted beef. 

Iberian Pig

Lomo Di Cerdo: Grilled Pork Tenderloin

We drank wine, shared small plates, and enjoyed each others company in the warmth of what I consider the closest thing to Spain in Atlanta.  Frederico stopped by our table to chat.  During our discussion he shared that his vision for the restaurant was not only to provide impeccable service but to get back to the basics of the dining experience, which equates to great food, amazing drinks, and plenty of conversation among friends.

Mission accomplished!

We enjoyed dining at The Iberian Pig and we look forward to visiting again. 

Tips:

Free parking in downtown Decatur is limited.  Be prepared to pay at least $5.00 in the surrounding lots Thursday-Sunday when that area is busiest.

Make reservations. 

 Have you been to the Iberian Pig?  Share your experience.

Website: www.eatbreathetravel.com

Twitter:@Suggstravel

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The Man Behind Five of Atlanta’s Best Restaurants: Ford Fry

On a chilly Friday evening with my hands stuffed in my pockets, I waited patiently to Ford Fry, Taste of Atlanta 2013 meet the man who I consider one of the greatest contributors to Atlanta’s culinary scene in the past decade, Ford Fry.  Fry is the owner of an impressive portfolio of Atlanta’s best restaurants to include:  JCT Kitchen, No. 246, The Optimist, King + Duke and St. Cecilla.  Both the Optimist and King + Duke have been listed among Esquire Magazine’s “Best New” with the Optimist being named as the 2012 Best New Restaurant in the country.  Food and Wine Magazine, Jezebel, and others have praised his establishments for being the new standard of culinary excellence.  With such an extraordinary list of accomplishments, I wasn’t sure what to expect from our meeting: would he be too busy to engage with me?  Would he be exhausted from all the fanfare and media requests?  Well, interviewing Ford Fry was like talking to an old friend.  His approachable personality helped me understand why his restaurants are so successful.  I asked him why he chose Atlanta as the home to so many of his restaurants.  According to Fry, he moved to Atlanta while working for Eatzi’s Market and Bakery and fell in love with the City.  The Texas native said that after the birth of his first child he started to see Atlanta as “home” long-term.

According to Fry, after making the decision to remain in Atlanta, it only made sense to pay homage to southern food and JCT Kitchen was born.  He admits that he sees southern food beyond just fried chicken and he expresses that belief through the seafood infused menu served at the Optimist.  With Gulf shrimp and oysters, southern food takes many forms that all begin with amazing flavors and a feeling of togetherness.

Fry has tackled many cuisines and done so seamlessly: southern, Italian, and now a Tex-Mex restaurant slated to open soon.  He also shared with me that he has set his sights on opening restaurants in his home state of Texas.  He is currently considering three sites and Houston and Austin are high on the list.   

I enjoyed speaking with Ford almost as much as I enjoy dining at his restaurants!  Ford Fry is definitely one to watch.

Have you dined at one of Ford’s restaurants?  Tell me about your experience.

Website: www.eatbreathetravel.com

Twitter:@Suggstravel

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Taste of Atlanta 2013: The Revival Kick Off Party Was A Culinary Delight!

I had a blast attending the Taste of Atlanta Revival Kick Off Party on Friday, October 25, 2013!  Held in Midtown’s Tech Square, the evening was jam-packed with fascinating sights, sumptuous bites, and electrifying sounds.  Filled with excitement and anticipation of culinary delight, I ate my way through Atlanta’s best restaurants.  So who were the standouts?  I’m glad you asked.  The Smoked Pork Wings with Calabrian Chili Sauce from No. 246 Atlanta, GA was amazing.  The chili sauce danced on my tongue as the tender pork fell off the bone and melted in my mouth.  The next dish that stood out for me was Rosebud’s Crispy Popcorn Shrimp with Smoked Old Bay Potato Puree Atlanta, GA.  If that wasn’t enough, the 7 Spice Tuna with Citrus Sauce and Jimica Beet Salad from Chef Eddie Hernandez was divine.  I also tried some hot chicken wings from Atlantic Station newcomer Chick-a-Biddy. Atlanta, GATaste of Atlanta   The spices sent my taste buds on a journey to a fiery pit.  When I make it over to Chick-a-Biddy for a complete meal, I will remember to order the mild wings.  Thankfully, not long after feeling the heat from the well seasoned wings, I stumbled upon Kevin Rathbun’s tent.  Rathbun’s Steakhouse was serving red velvet ice cream on the cutest sugar cones one could ever imagine. Atlanta, GA

Both The Optimist and The One Eared Stag challenged me to move beyond my comfort zone from chicken and pork to Grilled Octopus, and Char-broiled Squid with Tobiko. Taste of Atlanta 2013

By the time the night was over I was full and feeling great.  Taste of Atlanta is always a treat and this year was even better!

 

Did you attend Taste of Atlanta this year?  Tell me about your Taste of Atlanta Experience.

Website: www.eatbreathetravel.com

Twitter:@Suggstravel

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