Reflecting on 2014, looking forward to 2015….

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Reflecting on 2014…. lessons and life skills

  • 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 learning
  • More traveling – and blogging, vlogging to accompany it
  • More unradio shows on CliffCentral.com
  • More love
  • More fun
  • More success
  • More personal change and growth
  • More exercise achievements
  • More partnerships with leading health, sports and wellbeing brands
  • More fun, engagement, debates and entertainment with you

I wish you and yours a very happy New Year. May 2015 be more amazing and your best yet! Thank you for making my year what it was. Let’s play again next year!

Traveling to Toronto – a little North American gem

Toronto, Canada September 2014Toronto 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.

Jason von berg, Niagra Falls September 2014

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.

My experience of Istanbul, Turkey with Turkish Airlines

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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*****

 

Traveling to Turkey – pics from day 1

 

Traveling to Turkey – we’re here

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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 a20140903-081625.jpg 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.

Traveling to Turkey – arm all doors and cross check

And here we are… A few minutes to go until all the doors are closed and we get ready to jet off to Istanbul, Turkey. What a crazy day. Squeezed in a 10km run, a load of washing, a radio show, a Travel Channel event, packing frantically, a cab ride, a train to the airport and admin with he bank. How was your day? 😉

Hopped on board the Turkish Airlines flight and I’m getting happily acquainted with my emergency aisle seat, happiness.  Now some chow would be good!

More from Istanbul in the morning. Adios!