Tshwane has so much to offer, in history and leisure.
Tshwane has so much to offer, in history and leisure.
There are a number of restaurants to enjoy some good food.
There are a number of restaurants to enjoy some good food.
The inviting pool at the Southern Sun Hotel in Arcadia was calling to us to come and have a dip. Pictures: Mantombi Makhubele.
The inviting pool at the Southern Sun Hotel in Arcadia was calling to us to come and have a dip. Pictures: Mantombi Makhubele.
MAYBE politics and pleasure are not supposed to mix. It would seem some people think there is not much to do in our capital city, Tshwane.

They think it’s where the Union Buildings are situated and it should be known only for that.

I was pleasantly surprised when I had a short holiday in the Jacaranda City. We arrived just after lunch at the Southern Sun Hotel in Arcadia for our family break. 

My two teenaged daughters were born in Tshwane, when it used to be known as Pretoria, and they too were fascinated about the concept of going for a weekend getaway in that “boring city”.

Our family room was spacious enough for the three of us. We quickly changed into our poolside gear to catch the the last rays of the winter sun, before it disappeared.

Before long, the chill had settled in. The turquoise-blue water was still seducing me, but I couldn’t take the cold any more.

We decided on an early buffet dinner as we were itching to hit the streets. We were fortunate to catch the opening night of the multi-award-winning production, The System, at the State Theatre.

The five-person physical theatre piece follows three men after their escape from prison as they desperately try to avoid capture, while agonising over how to clear their names. I was thoroughly impressed by the turnout.

Theatre is still a popular pastime. Look out for the another award-winning play, Marikana, opening on July 11. After breakfast on Saturday morning, we hit the road again. I was determined to prove that Tshwane has some personality and could be fun.

The first part of the morning was spent at the newly launched National Heritage Monument at the Groenkloof National Park.

The site honours struggle heroes of South Africa’s liberation from as far back as the 16th century.

Life-size bronze statues have been erected on The Long Walk to Freedom green path.

Walking through the nearly 100 statues and reading the biographies of these heroes was a fun experience for the girls.

I think their history lessons came to life. We learnt of the many who were behind the fall of colonialism and, later, the fall of apartheid in 1994.

On this journey you start out with King Tshwane and author Alan Paton until you get to the forefront with Nelson Mandela, the Tambos and the Sisulus.

Before we knew it, our tummies started signalling the need for food so we went to the recently completed eco mall, Menlyn Maine.

The courtyard of this modern, sleek mall is decorated with artwork. We took a mini tour and admired the installations on display.

There is still an opportunity to view Anton Smit’s solo exhibition of sculptures until September. The Spirit of Tshwane showcase comprises 33 pieces in and around Menlyn Maine.

There are so many new and exciting things to experience in Tshwane.

Something’s Cooking, by J’Something, is also now on the Tshwane tourism trail. The new restaurant, owned by Mi Casa’s lead singer, is across the street from Menlyn Maine. It is nestled upstairs at the Sunsquare Casino. The ambiance is upbeat and not pretentious at all. I guess it fits in with JSomething’s approachable and free-spirited character.

The manager, Lauren, welcomed us and gave us a table on the balcony, which overlooks the eastern Tshwane skyline.

Because of the stunning mural of J'Something and his father inside the restaurant, we asked to be moved inside so we could see it properly.

While you sit and wait for your food, you also get to watch the preparations on the screen that are lined up against the kitchen wall.

If, like me, you love your starters, you need to try the deep fried Mac and cheese and Korean chicken wings.

I had fish and salad for lunch, while Chloe had Bra Hugh Masekela’s burger and Shanti had a steak on a bed of rice with black beans.

Dessert left us speechless, like literally speechless. The deep fried apple pie and Coco’s flourless chocolate cake hit all the right notes.

It was so difficult to leave the place but it’s so busy that you feel guilty for prolonging your stay, especially when you see the queue of people dying for a seat.

We also discovered that Tshwane has some great markets. We visited two - The Hazel Food Market in Pretoria East and The Social Market in the city centre.

If you go to the Hazel Market, try the pulled pork rolls at the Pink Salt stall and some artisan churros at the MC Churro trailer.

The Social Market, on the other hand, is young and super-cool, although I must warn you that the cool factor is not negotiable at this rustic warehouse set-up.

The Social Market has been running for three years. It is on Paul Kruger Street in the city centre.

It's a true entrepreneurial hub with an arts exhibition atmosphere of a vintage backyard with jam tins for cups. It attracts visitors from as far afield as Germany, New York and most African countries.

This market is the ultimate fashion meet-and-greet for the most liberated walking artworks. It’s also the kind of place where you will find jewellery that is made out of the cutlery.

After spending time at this market, I was fully convinced that Pretoria is a misunderstood city. It’s not boring if you take time to get to know it.

* Mantombi was a guest of Southern Sun.