Do you remember the entertainment centre at the Sun City Resort ? It used to be the hub of a lot of activity. There was a casino in the centre many years ago. It then became the centre of all things fun, and the are was filled with restaurants and pubs, a movie theatre and retailers alike. I remember spending many an evening after the Miss South Africa pageants or SAMAs, standing in the Nandos queues to get some well-earned dinner after a busy working evening. Sometimes when the work was done and we felt like letting our hair down, we’d head to the clubs there for a couple of bevvies.
But even before the clubbing days, I remember the arcade games, the hippos and crocodile games that used to keep me company for hours on end. In short, the entertainment centre was exactly that, and it appealed to young, old, the hungry and the party animals 🙂
Well, it hasn’t been around for a few months now and that’s because it’s getting a major facelift. This is part of the resort’s overall revamp, which should be wrapped up and ready to be revealed later this year. I went through to Sun City recently for the MiWay Sun City Ultra. So because I’m curious, I managed to get a sneak peek at what’s going down as far as the #NewSunCity is concerned. Check out some of the pics below.
I think this new entertainment centre is going to be quite something. It’ll still have that iconic Sun City look and feel, but just newer, fresher and a lot more modern. For one, the skylight in the centre is going to be incredible. No more artificial lighting during the day, but rather the natural rays from the sun will beam its pretty self into the centre. The restaurants, movies, retailers will all return. The Sun City Superbowl remains, which is great news. There are going to be some awesome new additions in the form of the ‘Walk of Fame’. I was told about this last year, but to see where it is going to go and how it will roll out is really exciting. I’m pretty damn broody at the moment, no lies. Seeing how they’re catering for the kiddies makes me even more ready for little VB’s, but while I wait for that stage of life, I think I might just bring out my inner child again. The new designs include a ten-pin bowling area, right next to the magic centre. So you can imagine how much of a jol the young and old are going to have there.
From a corporate perspective, the first floor will have a lot of conferencing facilities. Work hard, then play hard and boy is there a lot of playing to be done. The shebeen restaurant, the amphitheatre for some acoustic music sessions, the Valley of the Waves, the golfing… It’s all there, so it’s actually great for a team building or conference venue. I asked the team if they’d experienced a drop in reservations or visitors since the plans for the revamp were initiated. Not at all. In fact, they were at capacity from a reservations perspective was concerned, and the resort was buzzing with tourists and day visitors. I guess the warm weather and close proximity to Jozi and Pretoria helps a lot too. It’s also perfect for the whole family. This time, I stayed at the Vacation Club, which is perfect for the family or for a bunch of mates.
I hadn’t been to Sun City in a couple of months, and to see how much work they’d done in that time is incredible. The chances are the next time I head up there will be for the unveiling of the #NewSunCity and I cannot wait. Fun City… Obviously, I’ll probably do another triathlon while I’m there too, haha. Stay tuned, more on this to follow.
Do you have a place that takes you back to your youth, or brings back good memories? Be it a resort, a beach house, or say a trip to the bush that always takes you back to a time where you were relaxed, calm, and that always make you smile when you reminisce? I have a couple, but one that I still seem to visit a lot is Sun City up in the North West Province. The resort has been around since the 70s. I’ve been going there since I was young, and if you’re trying to do the math, I’m not that old.
I remember going to Sun City when I was around 9 or so. My mom, my uncle and aunt decided the beach was too far, but Joburg’s answer to the beach aka the Valley of the Waves was well worth the trip. The Lazy River, the Temple of Courage and some of the other rides were a perfect way to enjoy the warm weather and to keep them/ me busy. At the end of the day, we went and chowed some deliciousness at the entertainment centre and that would be followed by some fun at the arcade. Who remembers those crocodile games? Such fun – and such grand memories too.
In more recent years, I’ve been going to the resort in a working capacity, be it Miss South Africa; Kylie Minogue, Kelly Rowland and Marcos Hernandez at the Sun City Superbowl, or the South African Music Awards and each and every time, the fun in Sun City was had. So recently, I went through to the resort again. Only this time for a slightly different occasion. I was there for a triathlon – you know, my new life and all. It was my first 11Global triathlon. I decided to make a weekend of it because well, you know… Fun City. I left Joburg at around 3pm and after hitting peak hour traffic, I finally made it through to Sun City by 6pm. Immediately I felt a sense of relief to be out of the hustle and bustle that is Jozi, and it was great to be back in a place I really enjoy. My room in the Sun City Hotel was one of the luxury rooms. It had been a long day and a long week, so I decided to kick back and relax for a few minutes. That bed is so comfortable. So comfortable in fact that I almost fell asleep, but being an athlete now, the body must eat and so I headed downstairs with the intention of going to the entertainment centre, where a lot of the restaurants are. I saw the new Mugg & Bean in the restaurant, so I decided that would be perfect for the evening. That is just one of the many new additions to the resort by the way. There’s a helluva lot of construction and refurbishment going on at Sun City, but I’ll chat about that in a bit.
I kept the evening calm and headed to bed quite early – and luckily so. The next day was a lot busier than I had actually planned. I went to cheer on my family friends participating in the triathlon in the morning, and it was good to see what was in store for me too. A few friends and I then headed into the lake for a practice swim, which was too rad. A good warm up and a nice way to ease into the day too. I retreated back to my hotel for breakfast, and besides The Palace breakfast which is amazing, the Sun City Hotel breakfast is awesome too. If you’re heading through soon, try their home-made carrot muffins and/ or the crumpets. Deliciousness!
Sun City is one of those places that honestly just functions like a city. It’s a lot smaller, but obviously it works. The buses come regularly – the signage around the resort ensures that you get to the destination you’re wanting to go to etc. Take my situation for example. I wanted to go see my friends at Vacation Club. We decided an afternoon drive in the Pilansberg would be a good idea, so the bus took me from the entertainment centre right up to the Vacation Club. Look, I could’ve walked but it was hot out there, so I opted for the AC’d bus instead 😉 This year, my love for the bush was reignited when I went off to the Kruger National Park in April. So any excuse I get to into the bush is one I’m willing to make. We saw a lot of elephants, several rhinos and then the regular impala, zebra and giraffes. I would’ve loved a leopard or a lion, but a break in the bush is good enough to make the soul feel content. It was also a great way to clear the head of the week gone by and prep mentally for the triathlon the next day.
The triathlon itself went really well. I mean don’t get me wrong. The heat was intense, as was the wind, but I managed a good time and a podium spot for coming third in my agegroup. I had no idea that I’d actually got a podium spot, so luckily my friends were around to accept on my behalf. I missed my one shot, haha. After the triathlon, I took some time to lap up the Sun City lifestyle. We’re now into the last few weeks of the year, and I could definitely feel the holidays, the good times that await us when I absorbed the Sun City fun. People are chilled, happy, laughing, drinking, relaxing at the various pools. It’s a good place and a good time of the year. It’s also perfect for those wanting a weekend escape. It’s quick enough to get there. So you really should utilised this opportunity if you get the chance. Moms and dads can enjoy the Nedbank Golf Challenge, which kicks off very soon, and of course the kids can enjoy the Valley of the Waves and some of the other attractions among the four hotels.
I mentioned earlier that there was a lot on the go at the resort. Besides refurbishments at the Cabanas and the Vacation Club, there’s some major change to come in 2016. So big, they’re investing R800-million to make sure the resort is in exceptional knick and perfect for both local and international guests. For starters, the Santori is no more, but don’t fret there’s a new Mediterranean restaurant called Bocado, which opened in August this year. The resort now also boasts a new steak restaurant called Harvest Grill and Wine in the Entertainment Centre. Families frequenting the Vacation Club will also be glad to hear that there is now a Spur on the resort too… Best burgers, and a great place for the whole famdamily to to enjoy. There’s also an adventure hub called Adrenalin Extreme, which is targeted at the teenage market (not limited to them only I hope, haha). Why? Well because there’s a Human Sling Shot, a quad 4×4 challenge and Hovercrats to name a few things. The Valley of the Waves will offer two new rides in the next couple of months.
There are two things I’m particularly keen to see next year. The first is the Sun Park, which will be a multipurpose facility for events and music festivals. I know a couple of artists have already been booked to attend several events this holiday season, so check out the site to find out more, but Sun Park is going to be such a jol when it’s open. The Entertainment Centre will undergo a massive renovation. It’ll close very soon, and it’ll be making room for a full Experiential Centre in 2016. There will be a South African Hall of Fame, which will honour the country’s top sportspeople, as well as performing artists. There will be a lazer tag game, a ten pin bowling ring, the arcade will still be there and there will be plenty more. I have no doubt in my mind that I’ll be back at the Sun City resort in 2016, and I cannot wait. If you’re not heading down to the coast this December and you’re in the North West, Gauteng or MP, you really should consider a trip to Sun City. It’s relatively close by, and everyone can something on the resort!
On a random Tuesday evening last year, I saw an advert on TV that caught my attention. It was for a competition called Ranger Odyssey. The advert was looking for those in search of an adventure of a lifetime and for those who was bogged down by a pretty dull and boring routine. It kinda lit a fire under my ass, but as fate would have it, I missed entering because of this routin and stalling. I kicked myself when I realised I missed it, but that’s just the way the cookie crumbles really. It wasn’t meant to be… Or so I thought. Fast track to May, a new job and a new adventure ahead. Luck was on my side and it looked like I would be involved in the Ford Ranger Odyssey, but just from a different angle.
After some initial preliminary judging, I thought that was it, but then I was asked to head to the Karoo to be part of the Bootcamp experience. That I did happily, obviously. It was there that I got a crash course in 4×4’ing and I got a little taster on what the would-be contestants would be doing in Namibia. I spent four days there and helped choose what I thought was a very strong group of twenty contestants from South Africa, Angola, Mozambique, Nigeria and Ivory Coast. I really thought that was that. To my sheer delight, I was asked to attend the actual Odyssey… for eight days… What? Really? From being a hopeful contestant to actually driving the route and being part of this experience was pretty damn cool to say the least.
My long weekend in the African bush was replaced by eight days in the Namib desert; in tents, a Ford Ranger and an awesome group of people. Sounds awful right? 😉 I am often reminded how lucky I am to do what I do – and this experience was just another one of those reminders. I set off for Windhoek in the wee hours of Monday morning. A quick two hour flight and we landed in the Namibian capital. Customs officials were on as usual on ‘fine form’ making us feel uneasy and somewhat unwelcome, but whatever. We made it through. The nine of us then headed north-west to the camping spot of Purros in a very small and dinky plane. Not my favorite pastime, but the two-hour trip allowed me to catch up on some sleep, which was very necessary.
The experience itself was incredible -exactly what I imagined it would be. The scenery, the various locations we found ourselves in, the food, the content we produced, the people… This really was a career highlight. I think I’ll stop rambling now because I want you to see what I saw.
The winner of this year’s Ford Ranger Odyssey will be announced tomorrow evening. Can’t wait to see who takes top honours.
At 15 years old YouTuber Nadav Ossendryver created something a lot of you may have heard about if you’re a bush/ wildlife lover. It’s called “Latest Sightings”. His channel has been viewed over 190 million times, and he has over 166 000 subscribers on the channel. It’s safe to say he’s a YouTube star… So much so he caught the attention of National Geographic Channel Africa.
The channel will be collaborating with Nadav for three months, in which they’ll be sharing each other’s content on their respective platforms. Nadav’s app gives fans real time access to wildlife sightings in specific locations… Except for rhinos of course, which is for obvious reasons. Those updates will then be shared on the channel and through their social media platforms.
On partnering with NatGeo, the young teenager said, “Growing up, unlike other children whose favourite channel to watch was probably Cartoon Network, mine was undoubtedly National Geographic. I loved (Still do) watching all the incredible wildlife footage that the channel always showed. So now being associated with and working with National Geographic, is something that I am extremely proud of and this is a collaboration that I don’t think can be any more perfect, since both brands’ vision includes wildlife.”
I recently decided to leave my job of five years. It was never going to be an easy decision to make because of the nature of the company and the work I was doing, but after five years it was definitely the right time to move on. I leave with fond memories, but a new outlook on what growth, development, challenges and change await me. It’s very exciting, daunting too, but more positive.
I thought before I go straight into the new job, I’d take some time out and with us having so many public holidays in the month of April, it was the perfect opportunity. I looked at taking a trip to Thailand, a trip to Zanzibar… I spun the globe around and landed on South America, Chile to be precise, but after closer inspection, I really the costs attached to such weren’t favorable. So I decided a bush trip would be best. If you haven’t done the bush in a while or you’re from a different part of the globe, in which case you might be considering a “Safari”, do yourselves a favour and BOOK it. It is good for the soul, the mind. You will have no other choice but to enjoy the peace and quiet, the tranquility, reflect on what really matters and enjoy the beauty that you find yourself in.
I booked at two camps in the incredible Kruger National Park, two nights at Satara and two nights in Skukuza. Satara is pretty much in the middle of the park, while Skukuza is a little further south and the biggest camp in the park. I haven’t been here in years, but it’s just still as awesome. Satara is a small, well run camp. I booked into my bungalow, which is perfect for two people. It’s comfortable, fitted with AC and has all the utensils you need to enjoy your self catering unit. I also managed to see all five of the big five in one day… That is pretty much unheard of, but it can and clearly does happen. Check out the pics below.
Skukuza is about 96kms from Satara. Take into account that you will need to stick to the speed limit of 50km/h, so it will take you time to get there. In true Virgo style, I was worried that I wouldn’t make the gate closure times, so I set off early. Needless to say I made it with more than enough time. In fact I had six hours to mill around before the gates closed, so don’t be a nerd like me. I actually enjoyed seeing all five of the big five again, crazy and I had the most spectacular leopard spotting. Check out the leopard shrine below 😉
I used to come to Skukuza when I was younger. I remember it being big, but not this big. Airport, golf course, convention centre… What??? Yeah, it’s huge. Satara has a Mugg and Bean and a Debonairs, so I thought the biggest camp in the park would also have these chain restaurants. Apparently not, which isn’t a bad thing. It still is a little weird to me that they’re in the park in the first place. Again the facilities in each bungalow are perfect is suitable for a couple. The unit was also a quick walk to the river, which is great. You can grab a book and sit on the benches, chill and enjoy the peace and quiet. Apparently you should take your binoculars too because there’s a resident leopard nearby. If I had an extra day, I would’ve done that for sure.I also did another night drive, which was super quiet. There were impalas, impalas, ellies, impalas and then some more impalas. Not as rewarding as the first night drive, but it was pleasant none the less. The only thing I would prefer is if we went off road and the ranger did some spoor tracking. That is always fun and exciting. Next time.
If you’re not into the basics, you can upgrade to one of the more luxurious camps and on the contrary, if you’re into roughing it, then bring your tents or caravans and check into the camping the site. Just come. The bush is one of the most special experiences anyone can ever have. Trust me when I say this. I’ve traveled a lot and this, next to NYC of course, will also be one of the best getaways I’ve invested in and will continue to do so in the years to come. The Kruger National Park is a national gem and I highly recommend it… Go on and #VonVoyage
Would you like me to review or visit your resort, camp, tourist destination? Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a vision board, or take a nice big piece of paper and write down your plans for the year. I did that on the advice of my friends and I’m happy to say I ticked off all but two of the things I wanted to. One is slightly delayed and may become a reality at the end of Jan, let’s see. The other is a work in progress and that will resume in 2015.
Empower yourself. If you feel like you aren’t learning, growing or being challenged enough, do something to change that situation. I enrolled to do a nutrition course through the Sports Science Institute of South Africa and it opened me up to a whole new way of thinking and also in terms of my next career path. In addition to the nutrition course I enrolled to do a German course. While I’m not fluent, I am on my way to conversing and hopefully come this time next year things will be quite different when it comes to my international language skills. I haven’t had enough studying though. There will be more and if it helps my earning potential, my job satisfaction and the like, I’m all in 🙂
I’ve learned that in order to do the things you love, you need to DO THE THINGS YOU LOVE. It sounds obvious, but how many of you are actually following through? Take a second to think about that and then make a plan of action and DO IT! I work with some amazing people at Cliff Central and at Futurelife and I’m honoured to be associated to such powerful brands. I turned thirty this year, a massive milestone and it’s strange to say, but I love it, despite what many may say. I decided to let go of a lot of crap, keep those nearest and dearest close and to let the rest go. I love New York City, as I’m sure many of you know by now. So I decided to go there for my birthday. It was everything and more and my relationship with that city is very much alive. It will happen, I know it will!
Do something to help someone or something. I ran the Old Mutual Two Oceans Half Marathon for the Put Foot Foundation and in doing so, I raised over R12,000.00 for them. I then participated in my second 947 Cycle Challenge and this was done in aid of the amazing Smile Foundation. R20,000.00 is what I raised for them and I couldn’t be more proud to be associated with these two organisations. Their work is incredible and if I can do my bit to change the lives of some of our youngSTARS in SA, I’ll climb Everest or ride and run many more races to do so 🙂
What I look forward to in 2015:
More traveling – and blogging, vlogging to accompany it
Toronto is one of those underrated traveling cities. Perhaps underrated is the wrong word to use. Maybe it just isn’t marketed a lot in my part of the world and I don’t why that is, but it really is a great city to visit. The customs officials are grumpy and miserable, not very friendly, but that is to be expected… A global phenomenon really. Once I’d cleared customs and headed through to the information desk, I encountered the friendly types and quickly my initial view of Canadians changed. There’s a quick bus transfer to the subway and from there, getting around is very easy (if you get the subway systems – I’ll explain later). It took me just under 45minutes to get to my friend’s place in Spadina Road, which is great.
Unlike most cities, this one is super clean. I don’t know if I just avoided the grimmy, dirty parts of town, but I honestly was amazed at how clean it is. Plus the air feels clean too. I believe the city has over 6million people living in it, but never once did I feel like it was an overcrowded city. That might seem a tad random, but in some cities it becomes overwhelming and sometimes annoying when you’re queuing for everything – and that’s from a tourist perspective, I can only imagine how the locals feel 😉
I did my usual walking around mission. On my first day, I made my way towards the CN Tower and then worked my way around from there. If there’s one thing I’ve done a lot of while I’ve been in the US and Canada, it’s walk. Imagine if I’d logged all the miles, I would probably shock myself with all the distance. When I was a tad buggered, I’d just hop on the street car and make my way uptown or to the next part of my excursions around town. I’m one of those travelers who likes to see the touristy bits, but I love to live it up or experience a city through a local’s eyes. So having a friend here was superb. She has been in the city for about six years now and so she knows it very well. She joked with me last night because she couldn’t understand how I could be so clueless when it came to the subway and how “confusing” it was for me. Coming from a city where we drive everywhere and where we don’t have a fully fledged subway/ public transport system, you can begin to understand why I was confused… Not so? Ha.
On Saturday evening, we went out for some pizza and then hit up a club in Kensington. There was what the locals call a “lineup”. For me, that means entertainment… you know seven Djs on the lineup or so. For them, it means you’re in a queue and the line up to the front is pretty long. We didn’t wait too long because Deb’s friend is the dj’s boyfriend, so he hooked us up. I must admit I don’t go out a lot anymore, so getting to a club at midnight was interesting, but the music was great and I love people watching (it’s part of my job) so we had a great time. On Sunday there was this little market in the park, so I went to see my friend there. She had a stall there, so I went to show my support, but girl didn’t need it. She was on fire, selling art pieces and pedants left, right and centre. It was a beautiful day in the city and so to sit and chill in the park, eating some local food and enjoying some of the music was exactly how a Sunday should be spent. Great vibe and something us South Africans don’t do enough of.
Our next adventure saw us getting in the car and heading off to Niagra Falls, which is an hour or so drive away from the city. It was a little chilly out, but it didn’t rain thank goodness. What I thought was just going to be just a trip out to see one of the world’s most revered sights, actually turned out quite differently. We did some wine tasting at some of the vineyards in the greater Niagra area. Maybe I just missed the bit about this part of the world having such a big wine culture, but I honestly had no clue. What a great way to spend a day. Some of the staff at the vineyards are more knowledgable about the wines and so the experience at such institutions was a lot more enjoyable then at the ones where you felt like you were asking for a favour. My favourite spot was the Megalomanic vineyard. Not only was it in an exquisite location, but the team working there were so passionate about the brand and the wines. Their branding is interesting too. For each bottle there is a custom made label that mirrors the quirky brand, while creating its unique identity for that specific type of wine. They have the most delicious ice wine there too. If traveling such long distances wasn’t such a mission, I would’ve bought at least two or three bottles. Alas, I’ll have to come back and enjoy those soon.
On my final day in Toronto, I once again did my usual morning run, which is also a great way to see the city by the way. I then made my way down town again, to a spot called St Lawrence market. It’s a food market with anything and everything you want to eat. We decided a bit of tapas, crackers overlooking Lake Ontario would be the best option and man of man was it great. I can see why people downtown come and grab a bite to eat here during their lunch breaks. It’s quick, easy and so yum. Highly recommended.
I’m now on my Porter Airlines jet en route to New York City. Porter is located in an airport just off the mainland. It’s offers an awesome view of the city skyline. They also have a great lounge for you to kick back and enjoy complimentary tea and coffee, biscuits and soft drinks. If you’re looking for a more substantial meal, you can order sandwiches there too, but you’ll have to pay by card for this. Pretty weird if you ask me. I have over CAD$40 in cash and I wanted to get rid of them, but clearly this wasn’t an option so just be aware of that if you’re flying out of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. Also, some might not know this but the airline offers a complimentary bus service from York Street, which is west of Union Station. It’s free and easy.
Some other Toronto, Canada observations:
– I find food and drinks rather expensive. I went to the grocery store to get some basics. A ready made salad was going to cost me CAD$5.99 excluding tax. Chicken breasts will cost you in the region of CAD$9-11, which is mad expensive. And that’s just for two… I bring this up because some of you reading this will be renting apartments using sites like Airbnb and so cooking is an option for you. Eating out, healthily is expensive too so take your pick 😉
– be prepared for queues around the CN Tower, it’s a tourist jaunt so it’s to be expected. It’s cost you about thirty bucks.
– if weather permits, go to the island and have a couple of beers. It is said to be really nice.
– done wine tasting tours. Not only is it beautiful, but fun too. Wine tasting generally costs CAD$5 for three to four tastings. They will more than likely waiver the fee if you’re purchasing a bottle or seven there. Also, look out for specials during special holidays. A lot of the wineries offer a package deal of around CAD$40 for tasting at several wineries and they offer food too. You can do that and then stay over in one of the bed and breakfasts in the area. Sounds romantic.
– I think five days is all you will need in the city. Anything more might become a bit much.
Thanks for your hospitality, Canada. Next visits will include Montreal, Vancouver and definitely some snowboarding in one of the resorts too.
Last week I made my way to Istanbul, Turkey as part of a media trip with Turkish Airlines. It’s actually quite bizarre how this happened. I get a lot of invites to events and in more recent times, I’ve declined many of them. Some because I just can’t make it and others because there really is no real benefit for me or my readers or followers. About five weeks ago, I got an invite to a Turkish Airlines event and the invite grabbed my attention right from the start. The invite was a puzzle and I had to put the pieces together to figure out when the event was happening and what it was all about. I’ve flown the airline once before on a trip to Germany and I was bummed that I never got to see Istanbul, so I thought let me go and see what was happening with them now. I also thought because I find myself in a traveling state of mind, that this would be good especially since I’m trying to do a lot more travel and lifestyle pieces now.
Before we left, I asked my Facebook friends for tips, tricks and places to visit ahead of the trip and I got some great feedback and suggestions. Turns out a lot of what we were already going to see and do was already included in our itinerary, so that worked out well. I’m also one of those people who likes to explore, get lost and see new places through the eyes of the locals, so I’m open to all suggestions but also to the experiences that await me and that’s when you generally find the gems. So on Tuesday the 2nd of September my media friends and I boarded our Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul. Look, flying isn’t the most comfortable mode of transport ever known to mankind, but I did have an emergency exit seat, which is always great. I didn’t get much sleep on the flight, but the in-flight entertainment was on point and it made up for the lack of sleep. If we’re talking ‘first world problems’, I was a little bummed I didn’t get to taste the homemade lemonade that was on the menu. I think the airhostess didn’t quite understand my request, but really it didn’t ruin the experience.
After clearing customs and a long wait for our luggage, we made our way to the hotel where we had breakfast, freshened up before heading out for our first sightseeing experience of the city. Our tour guide for the week goes by the name of Hakan. What a great, knowledgeable guy. I knew Turkey was a very historical city, but I didn’t know to this extent. Hakan’s stories of the city were both useful, and very informative. We got to see the Blue Mosque, before heading off to enjoy a traditional lunch and then we made our way into Sophia Hagia (Aya Sofya), which is absolutely incredible. My grandfather always says how the builders of today aren’t as thorough and pedantic as they used to be, but this is on a whole other level. The vision these people had way back when was something quite special. While their ways and means of building might be questionable, the fact that such beautiful structures exist is actually quite ‘divine’. After that we went through to Topkapi Imperial Palace, which was great but packed. It’s still high season over there, so you can expect to stand in queues to see some of the more historical artefacts. The queue moves, but because this was a quick trip, a few of us decided to venture around and explore some of the other areas of the Palace. We then took some time out to enjoy an ice cream overlooking the Bosphorus. Plus we got to see the different levels of selfie-taking, from models to wannabes, try-hards, monopods and the “HUH? Are you for real?” I’m telling you there’s a TV show just waiting to be made for people watching and watchers 😉
On Thursday we got to meet the team from Turkish Airlines at their headquarters. It was there that we also got to enjoy a traditional Turkish coffee with the CEO of the airline. What a nice man and I say this with the utmost respect. It’s not often the CEO of the top airline in Europe makes time for you, engages with you and shares some of his successes and future plans for the airline with you – and to do so in such a humble manner. He wanted to know about our experience with the airline and suggested that we call him (yes, he gave us his number) for occasions when there is something wrong or if we had any feedback for him and the team. One of the many wise things he said, “We are not the best airline, but we have a heart,” and how true is that?
Our meeting with Temel Kotil was followed by a tour and a demo of the flight simulators. It’s actually scary how real it is in there. Check out this little video to catch a glimpse:
And then we got to enjoy a ‘business class’ lunch at Do&Co, which is the official catering service for Turkish Airlines, as well as many other big brands in the market. You can understand why people fly business class and why the airline has won several awards for its ground and in-flight services. It makes me want to travel business class – one day when I’m big 😉
On Friday, we hopped on board a ferry, where we enjoyed a tour of the Bosphorus. It’s interesting to note that one side of the Bosphorus is Europe and the other is Asia… So I straddled two continents on that day. Weird, but in a nerdy kind of way cool too. I was a little worried about my ‘sea legs’ but I handled it well and coped just perfectly. So if you’re worried about that, don’t be. You’ll be just fine. It’s also a great, alternative way to see the city, but don’t expect to wonders from the on-board city information. It’s not clear, but Hakan was with us so that helped. After that, we headed off to the Grand Bizarre… epic. We didn’t have nearly enough time, so I’m pretty sure I lost out on good deals. In fact, I probably got screwed over, but hey I put it down to experience really. If you’re heading to the Grand Bizarre, you should give yourself at least half a day, if not more. There are so many stores and if you’re looking to find the best deal, you will need time. If you want traditional Turkish delight, then you’ll definitely find some there. Trust me I smashed a lot of tasters in my face, nom, nom. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay long because we had to make our way to the airport and peak hour traffic was looming, but when I go back, I’m definitely heading straight there. There are so many places many of you recommended I go and see, but timing didn’t allow it, so it really is just an excuse to go back.
I’m doing a fair amount of traveling at the moment and one of the deal breakers for me is the visa situation. I was lucky enough to get a 10-year visa for both the USA and Canada, which is extremely helpful, but for me Europe is a giant pain. They only give you a visa for the amount of time you’re in the country, and it’s really expensive for us South Africans to constantly pay the visa fees. The same applies to the UAE (I tried with Emirates and Dubai but apparently I’m not eligible for their complimentary visa). Turkey isn’t like that. I applied for my visa online and within ten minutes it was in my possession. I didn’t have to pay either, which is such a bonus. So if you’re looking at flying Turkish Airlines, take note of this. If your layover is long enough, the airline offer a free city tour, valued at 100 Euros. #WINNING! Plus, if your budget allows, do yourselves a favour and try and get into the CIP Lounge. What an incredible experience. From showering to delicious food, drinks, coffee and water on tap; a movie theatre to enjoy some music concerts, it’s just the bomb. Some of my colleagues encountered some rude staff there, but I didn’t so my experienced was nothing short of amazing. How does one ever travel normal again? Click here for my Instagram video… a taster of what you can expect. My trip to NYC via Dubai is going to be very, very, very long… No special treatment with the Emirates folks sadly, such is life.
***** Thank you to Turkish Airlines for making this trip possible*****
We left Jozi a little after 7pm last night. Once we were in the air, I decided to get acquainted with my surroundings i.e. my inflight entertainment. The entire offering on board Turkish Airlines is really great. In their blockbusters section, they’ve got some of the movies that haven’t even reached our shores yet – always a perk of flying internationally. In addition to the blockbusters, the airline offers a comprehensive library of other movies across all the major genres (comedy, action, drama). This isn’t a new feature, but it’s always a bonus to have a wide range to choose from. And that’s just the movies section. There’s a TV bouquet, a very awesome audio bouquet and of course the games section – Tetris had me hooked for a good hour 😉
The food on board was great. Usually the chicken breasts are tough and dry, but this one was delicious, as was the salmon and yes the sweet treat too. I snacked on dinner while watching Divergent, which is a really good films by the way. One down side, the basin I one of the restrooms wasn’t working – found out the hard way with all the soap in hand. The air host didn’t seem to understand me, so I thought at 30 000 feet, there want much I could do anyway. I didn’t have the most restful night sleep, but who does on a plane really? Hey, the plane got me to Turkey in one piece and it was comfortable for the nine hour journey, so that’s what counts.
After a long wait for our luggage and drawing money, we made our way to The Cinar Hotel. Thank goodness for an early check in – ain’t nobody got time for smelly plane folks. It’s always nice to have some time to get to know the people you’re traveling with and sharing this with and that was done over breakfast and sunrise over the sea. A great start indeed. We’ve got some downtime now and then we’re off to explore the city, humidity and all. More of my traveling to Turkey to come.