Sorry for the delay in posts, my internet went out for about a day, which was massively frustrating as that’s the only way for me to communicate with everyone in the states. Soooo, this post relates the activities of two nights ago.
I have a friend that lives here named Keri who I met last semester while she was an exchange student at GW. Keri was kind enough to invite me out last night for dinner and drinks last night, and I gladly accepted as it was my first chance to get off campus.
Johannesburg is definitely one of those cities where you need a car if you’re going to get around anywhere, so I had to impose on Keri’s hospitality and grab a lift from her to prevent spending $30 on a cab. We went to a very popular area of town for nightlife called Parkhurst and prepared ourselves for what was going to be a very entertaining evening.
This part of town is on one road that is basically one long line of restaurants, bars and home design shops (why not?). It’s definitely pretty posh, and the vibe was similar to that of Carmel, CA which may be a useful reference for some of you. It’s very open, everybody is out on the street with their kids and dogs, and basically all of the restaurants are open air because the climate is so mild. The parking situation is terrifying; all of the side streets go down hills, and everyone parks wherever they can that isn’t in front of a drive, and that will include pulling onto the sidewalk. I don’t think there’s a significant towing system in play so it’s really just do what you want.
Once we got parked, Keri had to hit the ATM. When we got there, the ATM was being refilled, which is an interesting experience here. A lot of the crime in Jo’burg is opportunistic, so one of the more common targets are armored cars. Each car and operator is accompanied by an armed guard with a semiautomatic rifle, which can be relatively intimidating to watch on the street. But everything passed without incident, and we were off to the bar. I met a lot of Keri’s girlfriends who were all really lovely and I can’t wait to get to know everybody better.
The place we were trying to get a table was called Espresso, one of the more popular eateries. The wait time was exacerbated by the fact that there was an event running in town last night: “Christmas in July.” It made for a very festive atmosphere; all the shops were serving drinks, meat was being barbecued on the sidewalk and the street was overrun with people. We had about a two hour wait in front of us for a table anywhere, so we squeezed our way into the bar and started drinking. I was very keen to try South African beers, so I started with one called Black Label. The bartender was a bit shocked when I ordered it; apparently girls don’t drink a lot of beer down here, and Black Label is considered one of the harsher “man” beers. However, I enjoyed it a lot. I also enjoyed the fact that beer is ridiculously cheap down here, as I only paid about 2 dollars. Awesome.
As we were still waiting for a table after an hour, Keri decided that I had to try some of the grilled meat that was being prepared next door. I know I keep talking about South Africa and meat, but it’s not a joke. You can get grilled meat just about anywhere, and everyone loves it. I had my first taste of boerewors, which is a traditional farmer’s sausage made out of beef. Delicious. We also took a couple of minutes to peruse a pop-up art gallery, which was fun.
We finally got a table and sat down to have a great dinner. I had a pizza, another South African beer called Windhoek, and an espresso as the night was still young. Everything was delicious except for the espresso, which was really awful. I found that chuckle worthy. Again, the bill was a pleasant surprise, as all of that plus tip was around $16. Also, there is no tax added to the bill which is AMAZING.
We ended the night a bar down the street called Jolly Roger. It’s definitely a dive bar; the ambiance consisted of a jukebox playing American music, African animal horns on the wall, plenty of old men and LOTS of smoke. Ah yes, I forgot to mention that everyone smokes. EVERYONE. Even if you don’t smoke all the time, you smoke when you drink. It’s pretty crazy. I smelled like the bottom of a beer filled ashtray by the time I got home. Also, all South Africans are attractive. Men, women, the whole lot. You walk into a bar and you feel like you just walked into an ad campaign. I tried my third South African beer here, called Castle. It’s pretty much the Budweiser of South African beer. It’s the most well known but certainly not the best.
That finished up our evening, and Keri dropped me back at the dorm. I had a great time with all of the girls, and will be looking forward to more chances to get out into the city.