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Tue Feb 28 05:17:06 SAST 2017

Come dine with the locals

Pearl Boshomane | 2012-10-17 00:20:11.0
Travel magazine AFAR treats its American readers to a glamorous evening of cocktails, DJs, cityscape views and a fashion show by designer David Tlale at the Shine Studios in Braamfontein as part of the AFAR Experiences tour Picture: MOELETSI MABE

City tours are usually predictable. Accompanied by a rambling guide, tourists visit famous historical monuments.

Sometimes they will visit a nightclub and a restaurant, where they will eat as many of the "exotic" local delicacies as possible.

What most city tours ignore is that a city is not just its monuments, its museums and its meals - a city is its people.

Travellers in our increasingly globalised world are demanding more unique experiences. International travel company AFAR Experiences is offering these.

Recently it integrated US tourists with Johannesburg locals for a week.

The second AFAR Experiences (the first was to Cairo last year) included the usual sights - monuments, museums and galleries - but with extra spice.

There was a visit to Constitution Hill, with an address by Justice Edwin Cameron; talks by former deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and struggle icon Denis Goldberg at Liliesleaf Farm, and strategist Clem Sunter at Northwards, the heritage mansion designed by Herbert Baker.

One of the best ideas they had was to get Johannesburgers to host a few tourists for dinner at their homes.

I attended the dinner held at Tessa Teixeira and Sven Richter's Parktown West home, which was built in the 1920s.

What better way to get to know people than to dine at their homes?

With a table set on the patio overlooking the beautiful garden, the guests experienced Johannesburg hospitality with a personal touch.

Robert Grunnah, a real estate broker from Texas, was in South Africa for the second time, having been here a decade earlier.

"This time around it is so different," Grunnah said as we socialised before dinner was served.

The inner-city rejuvenation that includes the Maboneng Precinct was a big talking point, and one question I was often asked was: "Have you been to the Rooftop [at Arts on Main]?"

Dinner at Teixeira and Richter's home was a delight, the company great and the food delicious.

Conversation flowed from architecture to politics, with the visitors keen to know what South Africans thought of their own country.

Afterwards, it was time to let our hair down the Johannesburg way: with a David Tlale fashion show and cocktail party at SHINE Studios in Braamfontein, the city lights and Nelson Mandela Bridge as backdrop.

"We wanted it to be a different experience for tourists," says AFAR Experiences executive director, Nina Dietzel.

What a way to show tourists (and remind locals) how beautiful this city is.

While the experiences are not something the average tourist would have (such as a bicycle tour around Alexandra), they are activities even seasoned Johannesburgers might not have done before.

  • The next AFAR Experiences will be held in Sydney, Australia. Visit www.afarexperiences.com for more information

THE AFAR Experiences Johannesburg itinerary included:

  • A visit to the Apartheid Museum (011-309-4700)
  • A bicycle tour of Alexandra (Mulaudzi Tours, 071-279-3654)
  • A tour of the Wits Art Museum (011-717-1365)
  • A visit to the Ububele Children's Centre (011-786-5085)
  • Liliesleaf Farm (011-803-7882)
  • Cradle of Humankind (014-577-9000)
  • Constitution Hill (011-381-3100)
  • A cocktail party with jewellery designer Eugenie Drakes (her Piece store is in Rosebank, 083-400-5126) - Pearl Boshomane

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