Monday, 4 January 2016

Staycation in Jozi


Happy New Year to all! I hope that you all had a wonderful December and that all your hopes and dreams for 2016 are fulfilled. 


I know I have not been blogging much lately- I decided to take some time off, do other things and do some blog planning in the background. 

This December was the first time in forever that we all found ourselves at home for a week or two without any  pressing work obligations (A was on leave and December is quiet for me), and with no travel plans or renovations etc keeping us home. So we decided to be tourists in our own city.

Here are some of the things we got up to:

THE WALTER SISULU BOTANICAL GARDENS


If you live in Johannesburg and have not been here, this one is essential to add to your list. With exotic plants, waterfalls and eagles, it is difficult to believe this tranquil haven is in the city. Well, I guess not so long it was less urban- I can remember coming here for a school excursion back in the day and the entire area was still quite rural. Now it is surrounded by townhouse complexes and upmarket private schools but still feels like you are somewhere distant and exotic. This trip got a blog post all on its own- refer to the blog post before this one for more details!

P.S. We visit the Botanical Gardens next to the Emmarentia Dam, which is also lovely, very frequently throughout the year. This is often a quick stopover for the kids to ride bikes and feed the ducks.

A TRIP TO THE JOHANNESBURG ZOO

Both little ones adore animals so a trip to the zoo was sure to be a hit. We are lucky to have so many places to see animals close by but I must say the Johannesburg zoo is my favorite (the animals at the Pretoria zoo just look depressed to me and Lory Park, while seemingly better maintained than the state zoos, is a bit confined).

This time, we hopped on the Boomerang 'So Funny  Safari' tractor, which was awesome as it meant being able to see everything but with less walking while carrying two little ones most of the way (Noodle quickly gets tired when walking long distances and while Squish is still small enough for a pram, he refuses to sit in one). The 'So Funny Safari' is still on for a couple of weeks if you want to catch it. 


Noodle could not wrap her head around the idea that there were camels in Africa- she had been on a camel ride in the Middle East but could not believe they could be found here- out of their natural habitats. Squish was particularly fond of the giraffes and elephants.

THE LION PARK

  
Nature and wildlife featured strongly these holidays and the Lion Park was a definite highlight. The last time I was at the Lion Park in Lanseria, I was about Noodle's age.

This is apparently the city's top ranked  tourist attraction and I can see why. We got there at around lunch time so we first headed to the picnic area for a meal. (Warning: the picnic area, while neat, with benches has lots and lots of bees and flies, which can make mealtime a bit tricky). 

With our bags now significantly lighter after lunch was consumed, we went off to experience a lion cub interaction where were allowed to pet lion cubs in a safe and controlled environment. We had to queue for a bit as they only allow a few people in at a time (for obvious reasons) but it was worth the wait. The lion cubs chosen were the runts abandoned by their mothers at birth and 'saved' by the park. At five months old, they were a bit bigger than what I expected for cubs, which made me a bit nervous but, having grown up around humans and reared on special bottle formula, they seemed unphased by humans in their space. We were warned to only pet them on their backs and stomachs. What an amazing experience! 


Then the kids got to feed ostriches and giraffes and play peekaboo with the meerkats. I was glad to see taps and hand sanitiser close to the feeding station. 


Then we went off on a guided safari through the park in an armored truck. Our guide, Michelle was knowledgeable and informative. We saw various types of lions as well as cheetahs, wild dogs, zebras and various types of buck.
 
Afterwards, we enjoyed some ice-creams while the kids played in the play area, which has jungle gyms, jumping castles and some coin operated rides. i even did some gift shopping at the curio shop, which was quite reasonably priced and had some lovely goods.

MONTECASINO

This is a regular favourite place to visit (though we never set foot in the casino section). We did not go to the Bird Gardens section these holidays, but if you have not been before it is well worth it! This time, we enjoyed a meal and lots of arcade games with the kids (the kinds where you throw things into holes or stomp crocodiles). Then we went to the large outside piazza where there was an outdoor cinema theatre screening family movies and lots of families scattered on bean bags and picnic blankets. There was also a cute market set up adjacent to this and we had a nice evening stroll through the market.

SHOPPING

The few days after Christmas are a great time to be in Johannesburg. The city is quiet as many head to the coast and all the malls have great sales. As shopping is one of my favorite pastimes, I had to indulge of course (even if it was more window shopping than actual purchasing).

A lot of the malls have events for the kids over the holiday period- an added bonus! Our favourite was the set up at Mall of the South, which had a giant snow globe, a bubble machine, colouring stations, balloons, swings and a ball pit.



OUR OWN BACK YARD

The warm weather was perfect for outdoor play with bicycle/ tricycle rides, water play and impromptu picnics under the gazebo (which work great as it means less clean up after meals). 

NINTENDO WII

A bought a WII overseas just after we got married and it has been gathering dust for several years. These holidays, it was once again discovered and being a bit more interactive than other TV consoles, made for good family fun.

SOME CELEBRATING

There is so much reason for celebration in our home over the December holiday period. Besides the usual, we cheated and had a joint Minion inspired birthday party for Noodle and Squish. I also celebrated eight blessed years of marriage to my beloved best friend and confidante. How time flies!!!

NEW YEAR


We have not done anything for New Year's Eve since the kids were born. This year, we went for supper at our favorite Spur, returning home by sunset. Noodle had never seen fireworks before and was keen to see some but we are very nervous to attend any of the organised ones given all the drunk drivers on the road. We compromised and bought a few very tame, almost silent ones that would not disturb any neighborhood pets- sparkles, pop pops and the little ones with color but almost no sound. Despite the kids being up far later than usual, they were up for breakfast by six, just like every other day. 

This week is life as usual, but with plenty in store for 2016.

What were you up to this December/January?