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‘Immerse yourself in the local culture’

Travel Tips

Johannesburg - Johann Strydom is the managing director of MSC Cruises South Africa. Here he chats about his most memorable travel experiences.

 

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Johann Strydom

First holiday memory?

In my childhood, Durban was a favourite, the hotel on the promenade was the first of many experiences and a real spoil. I recall the extra puddings at the hotel and the warmth of the Indian ocean. Body surfing was also a favourite. April was a great time of the year.

 

Favourite place in SA?

Cape Town. My wife is from there, hence the association. I grew up in Wellington and my wife studied at Stellies. I have fond memories of wine farms, fish braais, cultural memories and experiences. Sunsets late in the winter were beautiful.

 

Best holiday?

I have been very fortunate - so many great experiences through the years. One of the most memorable would be the charter cruise in the south of France over seven days. You get to be the skipper of a 7-ton boat negotiating the locks. Magnificent - on your own and pure relaxation on board, then you stop off and bike around, sightseeing. Great food and wine and a lifestyle experience.

I have memories of fresh croissants and local delicacies. The kitchen on the boat allowed for cooking on board - and all cooked and shared the dinner table. The route was planned according to restaurants along the way. Getting immersed in the local culture is a must.

I have been so fortunate to be able to travel a lot. You could say I was born under wandering stars.

 

What have you learnt from your travels?

There is a cliche of travel broadening your horizons - but it is true. Learning different cultures, courtesy, tolerance and understanding.

We are all people, but a colourful arrangement of beliefs and understandings is like a woven tapestry.

I hate flying and spending long periods in one place so I refuse to spend more than 5 percent of my time in the air.

As a tour operator, I have tried to make that a philosophy.

 

Ideal travelling companion?

My wife loves to travel but I am the adventurous one, she likes to plan! So it’s all about compromise. Greece was a great holiday - and we didn’t book anything; just took it as it came and made it an adventure. Part of an ideal companion is to do things within the context of the environment. You must adapt to the lifestyle of a particular place, adapt to where you are.

 

Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

Beach bum and I love to sail.

 

Greatest travel luxury?

Unexpected upgrades.

 

Holiday reading?

I am a compulsive reader and love current affairs. Novels - Robert Goddard, etc and non-fiction - biographies.

 

Where has seduced you?

The beaches of the world. Fortunate to have experienced many!

 

Worst travel experience?

I was heading to Malaysia for the Grand Prix, only to find the flight was sold out and I missed the race, a total non-starter.

 

Best hotel?

Shangri-La’s Le Touessrok in Mauritius.

 

Favourite walk, swim, ride or drive?

Swim.

 

Best meal abroad?

A family-owned restaurant that looked nothing special, a shabby old house with cafeteria tables in a quaint village in the south of France. It had five or six options on the menu.

The cassoulet (meat dish with beans) came in a potjie dish with sides that were just delicious. The restaurant owners gave us the recipe and to this day we still cook it!

 

Favourite city?

Amsterdam in the winter with its frosty trees, winter glow and people skating on the canals, London and New York are also out of this world with their white Christmases. Unforgettable is Paris - such a wonderful city. You cannot eat bad food and you can follow the music wherever you go. Last, but not least, South Africa is a must. Explore, explore, explore!

 

Where to next?

Cruising, sampling the cruises of the world. The MSC Sinfonia arrives on November 3. International cruises are a must!

Saturday Star

* Johann Strydom is the managing director of MSC Cruises South Africa

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