Where to go on your next trip

I was recently asked where I want to travel to next. This question was difficult as, when it comes to travelling, any destination is an opportunity for discovery, inspiration, learning, adventure, relaxation or all of these combined!

As travel time is limited, the decision on where to go shouldn’t be taken lightly. Travelling Mystery Guest has compiled a list of criteria to help narrow down your options.

Consider your budget

Knowing how much you have to spend will help you decide where to go on your next trip. Considering what you want to spend your money on is just as important.  Some prefer to travel for longer rather than spending money on expensive meals and accommodation. Others will splurge on luxury accommodation and top restaurants even if it means a shorter stay. Only you can decide what is worth spending your hard earned money on.

Ask yourself why

Why do you want to travel? Do you want to learn something new or relax and get a tan? Do you want an adventure? Have fun with friends or travel solo? Have a break from work or reconnect with a loved one? Knowing why you want to travel makes the decision of which destination to go to much easier.

How far do you want to go?

Travelling doesn’t have to include long flights. South Africa is such a diverse country and if you do a bit of research, you’ll see that you most likely haven’t explored half of it. Decide whether you want to travel domestically, visit our neighbouring countries or go for something completely different abroad.

Decide on your preferred environment

City, beach or countryside? Cold or hot weather? Not everyone is enthusiastic about snowy, cold weather and are drawn to warmer climates. Think of the weather, landscape and style of the destination you want to visit to narrow down your travel choices.

Different or familiar culture?

It’s important to consider whether you want to visit a country that has a similar culture to yours or experience something different from what you are used to. Being in a country with an unfamiliar culture can be lonesome and stressful but it can also be incredibly exciting and inspirational. Do thorough research on the culture of the destinations you are considering before making a decision.

So much to do…

Time is precious when travelling, so plan your travel activities wisely. If you want explore the outdoors, think of travelling to a destination that is known for great hiking routes. If a great culinary experience is what you are after, look for destinations that have a reputation for excellent cuisine. If you are interested in art, consider travelling to cities with the world’s major art galleries. Decide on activities and organize your trip around them.

Wherever you go, make the most of the experience. Remember – you’ll only regret the things you didn’t do so have an open mind and broaden your travel wishes.

 

Written by: Katrien Nel

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New Year’s Eve

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New Year Traditions around the world

Since we are approaching the end of 2017, Travelling Mystery Guest decided to take a look at the traditions people have for New Year’s Eve around the world. For those of you who are frequent travellers, you might have the privilege to encounter some of these traditions. As for us here in South Africa, we will embrace our own traditions this year!

  1. Denmark

 

The people of Denmark save all their unused plates and dishes for New Year’s Eve where they then shatter these plates against floors or doors together with friends and family. This tradition ought to release all your frustrations built up through the year!

  1. Spain

Grapes

This beautiful country believes that their luck revolves around grapes. People would try to fit 12 grapes in their mouth and when this is achieved, it is believed that you will have good luck in the New Year. This seems like an easy way to improve your luck in 2018!

  1. Peru

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Peru actually has a festival where they fight with one another to settle any differences that they had. The Takanakuy Festival is held to ensure that everyone starts the New Year on a clean slate. This is certainly an interesting and unique way to forgive and forget.

  1. USA

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One of the most famous ways of celebrating the New Year is the Ball Drop in Times Square, New York. This tradition started in 1907 and every year a specially designed ball is dropped in front of thousands of spectators to symbolise the New Year.

  1. South Africa

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New Year’s Eve in South Africa is celebrated with friends and family, popping champagne when the clock strikes 00:00 and wishing everyone a happy new year! Most people will probably have a braai and prepare a festive meal and some will even have fireworks (where it’s allowed). When looking at what other countries think about New Year’s in South Africa, it seems we are quite popular for some of the biggest parties, especially in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

We hope you have some exciting plans for this upcoming New Year’s Eve, whether it’s at home or somewhere exotic. South Africa will always be special, with beautiful beaches and growing urban cities. There are a lot of opportunities to make this New Year’s Eve a great one! Cheers to the New Year!

WIN with HomingPIN

WIN a HomingPIN starter pack to the value of R200 by sharing the link of this blog post on Facebook and tagging @TravellingMysteryGuest and @HOMINGPINSA.

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The winner will be announced on 30 November 2017 at noon.

Desert Destinations

With all the possible holiday destinations, it can be quite overwhelming when planning your travels. Since we are entering warmer temperatures again, Travelling Mystery Guest took a look at some interesting desert destinations to visit. Some are in our neighbouring countries and some are very far, never the less, they do not disappoint:

  1. Canyon Lodge, Namibia

Located near the Fish River Canyon, not only does this lodge provide activities for all visitors, but their unique stone chalets will make you feel part of the beautiful Namibian desert. For South Africans, this lodge is not too far from home and for international travellers, this oasis is worth the distance.

  1. Alto Atacama Desert Lodge and Spa

Located in the lush Catarpe Valley of the Salt Mountain Range (in Chile, South America), this destination is for those looking to travel further than South Africa’s neighbouring desert. Similar to the architectural design of the Canyon Lodge, the Alto Atacama Desert Lodge blends in with its surroundings, making you feel part of the terracotta ridge that rises behind it.

  1. Kubu Island
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Baobab in Botswana

Though this island’s location may not be defined as desert, the Kubu Island in Botswana (in the Makgadikgadi Pan area), consists of dry granite rock that features some beautiful Baobabs. An interesting fact about this destination is that the entire island is a national monument and it is considered sacred by the natives living in the area.

  1. Salvador Dali Desert, Bolivia

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The name of this desert, originating from the environment’s resemblance to Salvador Dali’s landscapes, already paints a picture in our minds of what to expect from this desert destination. It consists of long stretches of rocky hills, sand dunes and lagoons. So if it’s really desert that you’re after, you’ll find it here. This desert is in South America (close to Chile).

  1. Luxury Desert Camp in Erg Chebbi

Erg Chebbi is one of Morocco’s two Saharan ergs (a sand sea), the other is Erg Chigaga. The Luxury Desert Camp provides a true Moroccan experience in the desert, with the culture adding to every aspect of this camp. Camping in tents completed with Moroccan décor whilst surrounded by camels and the sun setting behind a dune would be an amazing experience!

Written by: Alicia Redelinghuys

 

 

Hotel Verde

South Africa has many impressive hotels and among them is Hotel Verde. The hotel is situated in Cape Town near the airport and it is South Africa’s greenest Hotel. Hotel Verde has won many prestigious awards and is an inspiration to other South African businesses to go green. Travelling Mystery Guest did a short interview with them to share their story with the hospitality industry.

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“Verde” means green in Italian. Is this where the name, Hotel Verde, originated from? 

It is Mario Delicio, along with his wife Annamarie, who are the owners and directors of Hotel Verde. They are originally from Italy, so this is where the Italian influence comes from, particularly in our restaurant, called Nuovo. It was the Delicio’s daughter, Anika, who came up with the name, Hotel Verde, to pay homage to the family’s Italian heritage and the hotel’s sustainability concepts.

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Hotel Verde opened its doors in 2013 and you have already won a few awards. Was it difficult at the beginning to convince consumers to be more eco-friendly? 

Hotel Verde Cape Town has been designed green – we hold a double LEED platinum certification by the United States Green Building Council, which looks at both design and construction, as well as daily operation and maintenance. A guest’s carbon footprint is reduced simply by staying at our hotel, so it hasn’t been difficult to encourage guests to be Eco-friendly. In most cases the choice to stay with us is already a sustainable decision. If they wish, guests can make their stay even more sustainable by using our energy-generating gym equipment, opting to take the stairs over the elevator, or reusing their bath towels. We also have a guest incentive program that rewards guests for going the extra mile in this way. By making Eco-friendly choices during their stay, guests can earn Verdinos and each Verdino is equivalent to R5, which can be redeemed against purchases at the hotel during their stay.

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Being quite the trendsetter in South-Africa, are you planning to expand? 

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Our parent company, Verde Hotels, offers sustainable hospitality solutions with a turnkey approach. They currently operate within Africa and are developing a resort in Zanzibar, which will open in late 2017. This will be the second hotel under the Verde Hotels brand.

 

 

Was it expensive to start the hotel? Considering all the special equipment that you use?

The green budget of nearly 11% makes it possible that today, Hotel Verde Cape Town can operate the hotel at only 35% of water usage and a 35 % of power usage of a conventional hotel of the same size. It is therefore the best investment in the long term.

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Are you continuously adding new ways to preserve the earth? 

As technology progresses, new and more efficient practices are made possible. We are always on the lookout for improvements at Hotel Verde and continually strive to regularly review daily operations in an effort to go greener. An example would be our approach to the current water crisis in the Cape – we have created additional signage to encourage guests to save water and only refill conferencing water bottles on request, among other implementations. For our brand, the newest example would also be the new Hotel Verde Zanzibar, which in some areas have equipment even more efficient than what was purchased 5 years ago for Hotel Verde Cape Town.

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Who / what was the main inspiration for the start of Verde hotels? 

The Delicio family believes that we all have a responsibility to the planet and should live sustainably; it was this thinking that inspired them to conceptualize not only a hotel, but Africa’s greenest hotel. Each member of the family has had a hand in making Hotel Verde the way we know it today and our staff ensure that our values and sustainable practices work towards staying Africa’s greenest.

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Written by: Alicia Redelinghuys

A special thank you to Taryn Hickson, Marketing and Brand Manager at Hotel Verde, who agreed to the interview.

Die Kruger Nationale Park

Die Kruger Nationale Park is nog altyd ‘n baie gewilde toeriste aantreklikheid – nie net vir buitelanders nie maar ook vir Suid-Afrikaners. Een van Travelling Mystery Guest se mystery guests het onlangs by Satara gebly en ‘n staptoer in die park gedoen. Soos gewoonlik het die wildtuin, met sy verskeidenheid dier- en plantspesies, nie teleurgestel nie.

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Travelling Mystery Guest’s Favourite Coffee Shops

Given the nature of our business, we all obviously love coffee shops and restaurants. Travelling Mystery Guest consulted our mystery guests to compile our top 5 favourite coffee shops. We encourage you to visit these lovely places to see for yourself why we love them.

  1. Exclusive Books Hyde Park Corner

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Being a book lover and an old fashioned millennial, this shop offers something special. The book section is surrounded by a coffee shop and in between the shelves there are old couches where people can sit and read. You can buy a book and go and read it whilst enjoying some coffee. It’s a gathering of bookworms and the vibe is very welcoming to anyone who, like our mystery guest, is a book fanatic.

2. Afroboer 

This coffee shop is popular due to various factors; their quality coffee, the delicious cakes and fresh pastries. Our mystery guest especially loves the décor.  The inside of this restaurant is lovely, with high ceilings and wooden floors that creates a beautiful space. Afroboers location is also quite central, making it accessible for all their customers! Be sure to visit this place for a true African-Boer experience!

3. Woolworths at Menlyn Maine  

teapot-598122_1920Though we all are quite accustomed to Woolworths stores, our mystery guest enjoys this particular branch because of their wide variety of teas and their delicious white hot chocolate. Woolworths also has very nice food. Menlyn Maine is still a relatively new shopping centre with a lot of nice shops attracting customers, thus Woolworths is located in the ideal setting.

 

 

 

 

4. Pltfrm at the Pretoria Gautrain Station

This cute little coffee shop is located in Pretoria Central Business District near the Gautrain station. The layout looks very cozy and it’s a café type coffee shop. Pltfrm’s has a lot to offer, including craft beer, wifi, outdoor seating and live entertainment. This café has a rustic look and is perfect for delicious coffee and some yummy food before jumping on the Gautrain. Our other mystery guests are surely going to visit this restuarant!

5. Aroma Coffee in Lynnwood

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Image credit: www.aromacoffee.co.za

Most students and people living in the Brooklyn and Hatfield areas will be familiar with this coffee shop. Together with its adjacent attraction, the Aroma Gelato store, a dynamic duo is created. With the small street-like café vibe, it’s really cozy and the coffee is delicious. One will definitely be craving ice cream when leaving there, so why not pop in next door and grab a sugar cone! This place is very well suited for a casual gathering of a small group of friends.

Written by: Alicia Redelinghuys