Replic Awin Media Thu, 03 Oct 2019 06:53:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How to Get Creative with Your Surprise Wedding Fri, 19 Jul 2019 18:51:34 +0000 Once you’re set on the idea of a surprise wedding, do your best to connect with a celebrant that has performed surprise weddings in their career. They’ll know exactly when to arrive, how to look inconspicuous, and might even have some tips on how to best carry off a surprise wedding!

Celebrants who perform surprise weddings are usually modern by nature, so they might even be open to dressing up or playing a particular role at your event before the big “Surprise – we’re getting married!”

For instance, we here at Easy Weddings have heard about celebrants disguising themselves as janitors and waiters before revealing themselves as a celebrant!

Create a Cover Event

Once you have your celebrant and they’re given you tips on how best to carry out your surprise wedding, begin planning your cover event. Surprise weddings work best when guests believe they’re celebrating something else – a birthday, for example.

Once you have an excuse to invite all your family and friends to be in one particular place at the same time, go ahead and do it!

Decide on an Appropriate Venue

If you’ve decided to use the ‘birthday party’ cover, it not only would not make sense but it would spoil the surprise if you invited your guests to meet you at a church. Explore venue options that appropriately suit the cover event you’ve created, and roll with that.

You’ll need somewhere that has enough space for your guests AND for your ceremony to take place. You don’t want to be pressed up against your guests while you exchange vows!

The Invitations

If you send out invitations, make sure you specify a certain time for guests to be at the event. If your cover event is a birthday party, perhaps make it know on your invitations that very important speeches (or maybe even cake!) is going to take place at a certain time, so nobody is late, misses out, or leaves before the surprise has even happened.

Be Selective about who You Tell

The less people you tell, the better! The element of surprise only works if nobody has been let on the secret before hand, and you can’t trust a group of people to keep something as big as a wedding to themselves.

Of course, some overseas or long-distance family and friends may need some convincing about why they should make the journey to attend your “birthday party”. For these guests, you may need to use carefully suggestive language and perhaps even hint that a special ‘announcement’ will be taking place on the night. If you do end up cluing them in, just make sure you tell them to keep it a secret so they don’t ruin the surprise!

Since you’ve decided to have a surprise wedding, you should already be okay with forgoing some traditional wedding formalities. Your friends didn’t even know you were getting married until a minute ago – you can’t really ask them to give a speech on the spot!

If you did want to include speeches however, maybe this is something to consider when deciding who to tell about the surprise. The people you would have chosen if you were to have a bridal party are usually the ones who perform speeches, so if you want speeches at your event, you may want to let them know your surprise wedding plans beforehand.

The Coolest Tips and Ideas to Choose the Wedding Reception Venues Fri, 19 Jul 2019 18:48:20 +0000 Wedding Reception Venue – One of the most consuming parts of preparing a wedding is finding and choosing which wedding venues meets our dream. Sometimes it feels easier planned than done. Every married-couple to be might has their own problem from the size of the venue, the kicking-out time, the budget, or the distance. Moreover, some couples want extra ordinary venues more than a hotel function room. They want a wedding reception venues that will set a wonderful scene for them and the guests will always remember.

We know that some couples prepare different venues for the ceremony and reception. However, having the same venue for both ceremony and celebration is much more advantageous and pleasing. And of course it will be easier to be prepared and save your budget; you don’t have to pay two separate location fees. In addition, the guests will love when they do not have to go from the ceremony venue to get to the reception.

Will set the stage for the entire celebration. Your wedding theme, wedding concept, and your guests list are some of the main considerations to choose the right wedding reception venues. Therefore, see our tips, ideas, and recommendation to make your dream wedding venue comes true.

Tips to choose Your Wedding Reception Venue

Set up your wedding concept and theme

Of course, if you have any specific theme, you can just book a hotel ballroom and use service from a wedding organizer to prepare it. But some couple need more and want special concept. So you can start by deciding whether you want outdoor or indoor venues and if you want a specific theme or not. For example, you can have a beach wedding or vintage wedding.

Plan your budget

After you know your wedding concept and theme, make sure you know how much you have the budget. By having a good plan of this, you can narrow the option list so you don’t have to check a lot of places. Planning your budget also means focusing your priorities. What are the main items you want in your wedding reception venues? If you hold a wedding party in a beach or museum hall, you already save your money for decoration since you already got stunning background from your wedding. Think of what is the most essential thing to splurge in your wedding reception venue.

Check the facilities

Some places have been wedding reception venues for lots of times so they might provide some facilities. You can specifically check what facilities are offered there. And if you have a big guest list, make sure you choose a venue with large parking lots.

When to book a wedding reception venue

If you already found your dream venue, just book it as soon as possible. The soonest you book your wedding venue, the more possible you will get it in the date you want. Moreover, It will make you have more time to plan and prepare all the wedding things.

Be informed about everything

Ask every detail you want to know. For instance, whether the date you choose to hold a wedding is still empty? Are there any other additional fees that need to be paid? How long does it take to prepare the wedding decoration? Moreover, do not forget to question and discuss a back- up plan. Back-up plan is not only planned for couples using outdoor concept, but also the indoor concept. For example, if the power goes out on the day, is there any available power plants that can be used? If you use outdoor concept, is there a place that can be used if it rains when the D-day? Do not be embarrassed to ask about all the things you need to ask. It’s your day and you have the rights to know about it.

Wedding Reception Venues Ideas

Museum Venues

Having a wedding in a museum sounds classy and unique choice. It doesn’t have to an art museum, you can also try Natural History Museums, City Museums, or even Children’s museums. Furthermore, you can ask whether the staff can provide guided tours or open certain exhibits for your guests to explore and enjoy during cocktail hour.


If you want something more casual or having a country-themed wedding, you can use a barn as your wedding reception venue. There are lots of barns that have been a wedding venue for many times.


Beach is one of the most favorite outdoor wedding venues. If you want both romantic and intimate wedding, you can choose beach as your wedding venues. Those stunning things like the song from sea wave, calm oceanic breeze, warm air and the beauty of sea scenery will compliments your wedding.


The classic and colourful interior, furnishings and fairy-tale setting will absolutely make any bride or groom feel like royalty. There are some rooms you can use for both the ceremonies and the reception.

5 Things That a Bridesmaid Has to Get Perfect Fri, 19 Jul 2019 18:47:24 +0000 So, your dear friend is getting married and you are the chosen one to be her bridesmaid? Well, congratulations! Being the bridesmaid to your lovely girl and getting the chance to stand by her side when she walks to the altar is indeed a surreal experience, but it can easily go wrong by one immature act of yours and prove to be a disaster, if not for the wedding but for the bride at least.

Being a part of a wedding is a wonderful experience, not just for you but also for other bridesmaids. If you are a part of the hen do, you must be aware of all the implications that you might face. But you must always remember that these are the days that your bride to be a friend will always remember all her life and just for this reason, you must keep everything aside and put in all your efforts to make these days the best days of her life.

We bring to you a few suggestions that might help you to do the same with perfection.

1. Be there for her, for everything

Wedding preparations are one hell of a crazy ride. From buying the wedding gown, till deciding the guest list, to choosing between the lavender and lilies for the decorations, it is all too taxing for the bride. This is where you have to be with her. Stand beside her rock strong so that if she has a slight moment of weakness, she knows she can lean on you. Become the person in front of whom she can vent out all her fears and also sit down and decide her wedding dress. Be her best shopping buddy, help her choose her accessories, pamper her and do everything that will make her a little less nervous before the big day.

2. Make sure everything is about her and not you

Remember it is her wedding and her preparations, so she must have the final say in all the arrangements. It is her opinion that matters the most and not yours. Even if you are not aligned on some particular issue, keep it to yourself. In the end what matters is what is making her happy. If by making a few adjustments you can give her what she wants, then that be it.

Respect her opinion. Everyone has a different taste and it might not always go well with you but if she wants blue to be the dress code for the evening, then be it. This is how she must have envisaged her wedding ever since she understood what it is to get married. Give her all of that.

Help her to fulfil all her dreams. Your time will come later on and she will return back the favour.

3. Respond to the preparation

It is the last thing that a bride wants to do, reaching out to all her bridesmaids individually and making sure they are a part of all the preparations. It is your responsibility to be active during all the discussions on the WhatsApp group and give your inputs wherever required. Don’t be the one to read all the messages and not reply and then pretend not to be aware of anything. It is a big NO.

4. Cover up any arguments with others

It is true that whenever a bunch of girls sit down to decide, there is always a confusion and disagreements. It might be possible that any such situation may lead to an argument. But it must never reach the bride. It is a matter of a few days and then everything will be a done and dusted affair! Never bitch about any fellow bridesmaid to the bride. She has much more stress to handle. Do not make it more difficult for her!

5. The little things that matter

You know what sort of a frenzied state your girl may be in. So, it is your duty to get her relaxed. Make sure you are present when she is doing the final preparations. Keep a checklist ready so that she has everything. Remember she once talked about her favourite wedding songs. Make that playlist so she smiles at each of that song. From her heels to the lipstick, keep everything in your mind even if she forgets. Be her superwoman!

Matching Your Bridal Hairstyle to Your Face Shape Fri, 19 Jul 2019 18:45:40 +0000

A wedding day is a momentous event in a person’s life, especially for a woman. On that day, you’d want to look your best, from your makeup to your hair. Maybe you think nothing but the most glamorous hairstyles will do. However, what most of us don’t consider is we all have different face shapes, and not just any particular style we choose may be suitable for it.

Your wedding look is one that will be immortalized in pictures and that you and your loved one will remember for the rest of your lives. As such, you’d want to make sure that your hairstyle flatters your features. Here are the five main face shapes and what kind of hairstyles would go well with them. Maybe you can find one that suits you:

1. Oval

This is the most common face shape of all. With an oval face, the key features are a large forehead and a prominent chin. It is longer than it is wider, so you need a hairstyle that creates a sort of balance if you have this kind of face. You can go for thick, blunt bangs to help break the length of the face and add more width. Avoid hairstyles that add height, as they will only make your face look even longer.

2. Round

With round faces, there’s always that sense of youthfulness to your look, owing to your full, cherubim-like cheeks. But this is also one of the hardest face shapes to find suitable hairstyles for. But don’t fret; there are certain techniques you can try. With this style, you’d want to create a lot of bounce and texture to make your face look slimmer and break up its shape. Try hanging your locks in a loose style, with a few strands framing your face. Overall, your aim should be to go for a look that adds length to your face. But avoid straight, sleek styles or blunt fringes that will only make your face look even rounder.

3. Square

Because square faces are known for their strong and angular features, what you need is a soft hairstyle that counters these hard qualities. Go for lots of waves, curls, and textures to add softness and a feminine touch to your look. You can try a side part, as this will help make your face look a bit less wider. A tight updo that will only emphasize your wide jawline is something you should avoid.

4. Heart

Women with heart-shaped faces are the luckiest in the world because almost all kinds of cuts and styles flatter their shape. What this means is that you have more options and a lot more flexibility when it comes to choosing a style. However, try to avoid any styles that add height as this will make your face seem longer. Also, focus on creating volume around your jawline area by having your hair hang loose around your face and avoiding any style that’s too slicked back.

5. Diamond

A diamond shape is unique because it is a combination of the features of the square and the heart-shaped faces. If you have this kind of face, you have wide cheekbones and your forehead and jawline are narrow and similar in length. Like a square face, this type is also angular so what you should be looking for are styles that add femininity and softness. The best style for you is to hang your hair in a loose style as this will add a softer angle to your jawline area.

Whatever hairstyle you choose should fit with the rest of your features. Moreover, considering playing around with accessories such as extensions from Human Hair Extension Online, flower crowns, or even tiaras to add more drama to your special, once-in-a-lifetime look.

7 Best Wedding Gifts the Bride and Groom Never Knew They Needed Fri, 19 Jul 2019 18:44:39 +0000

A famous writer Paulo Coelho quotes, ‘Love is just a word; until someone comes along and gives it a meaning’. Indeed true! Marriage is the start of a new life for a happy couple, who has decided to stay together forever. Along with the required blessings, gift the soulmates something genuine which stays with them throughout. It would be a wise thing to invest money in some useful rather than following the crowd with the same clichéd gifts.

1. Classic kettle style charcoal grill

This could be an extraordinary gift for the newlyweds. A charcoal grill can be used during a feast or occasion. Gift them a Weber Smokey Joe Premium Charcoal Grill available on Amazon. The porcelain enamel coating protects against rust while the plated steel cooking grate is easy to clean. The portable grill is best for camping, picnics or during an anniversary treat.

2. An artful bakeware

For the couples who love baking! Gift the sweet duo with an artistic bakeware. Get a magnificent set of glassware from Pyrex that might be essential to bake cakes, cookies together, weaving passionate memories for the couple. Pyrex offers a deceitful set of one-of-a-kind watercolor effect that will beautify your kitchen.

3. Classic, durable suitcase

Samsonite offers lightweight and stylish sideways suitcases for honeymoon and other future trips. Made of polycarbonate, the suitcase is wide enough to fit all the necessities of the couple. The suitcase has a low center of gravity making it stable and is highly durable.

4. Kitchenware

The couple has bought a new house, help them with essential kitchenware that can help them save some money on doing their kitchen. A perfect kettle for their daily coffee or handy cookware set and even a shining sharp kitchen set for the couple who loves to cook. A cooking crash course or a cooking tip book will work wonders during a family event. This will surely be appreciated by them and will stay quite a long time with them.

5. Monogrammed gift

Engrave the wedding date or the name on dual towels, cups or a personalized cutting board. The initial name dug over a collage or a photo frame would surely be most appreciated and memorable. Add the best photos of their ‘Journey of Love’. A customized pillow that adds a modern personalized element to their bedroom.

6. Envelope wrapped with blessings

A decent wedding envelope with a desired amount for the lucky couple is good option too. If you fail to decide on a great gift for the love birds, then some cash would be good for the couple that will aid them after the heavy expense of  marriage. An adorable card with some thoughtful words for the partners.

7. An ethereal portrait or landscape

A wall filled with elegant photo frame will be admired by the artist couple. A classic portrait of the best wedding day pic or a mind boggling piece of art would surely act as a great wedding gift. A perfect piece of art hanging over the wall will give a classic look to the hall room.


It is the special day for the couple and make it more unique with your thoughtful gift ideas that would be remembered forever. These wedding gifts fulfill the basic necessities and thus saving money after the gala wedding. Spread your blessings in the form of these decent yet useful gifts.

9 Reasons why You should Visit Port of Spain Fri, 19 Jul 2019 18:42:19 +0000 For food, fun and festivals, Port of Spain, the capital city of Trinidad and Tobago, is your ideal Caribbean location. The country’s complicated history connects indigenous, Spanish, English, French, African, Middle Eastern, Chinese and Portuguese cultures — and this wide array of influences is reflected throughout the city. There’s always something going on in ‘Town’ as Trinidadians call it.

Queen’s Park Savannah

Smack in the center of Port of Spain, the Queen’s Park Savannah is 260 acres of rolling turf. The perimeter’s 3.5 km long and dotted with fresh coconut vendors — perfect for a stroll or a run. The Savannah is next to the Emperor Valley Zoo and the Royal Botanic Gardens. It’s surrounded by the Magnificent Seven, fanciful Victorian mansions that harken back to the days when Trinidadian cocoa was king.

Greatest Carnival on Earth

There’s no Carnival like Trinidad and Tobago Carnival and Port of Spain is its focal point. Exhilarating pre-season soca fetes (dance parties) start as early as August as excitement slowly builds towards the annual spectacle. Two days before Ash Wednesday, the capital’s streets are crammed with mas (a collective name for Carnival costumes), calypso and steel pan. Spectators and participants are welcome.

History and leisure ‘Down the Islands’

‘Down the Islands’ is what Trinidadians (Trinis) call the rocky islets in the jewel-green sea around Trinidad’s northwestern Chaguaramas peninsula. Board a motorboat shuttle just outside Port of Spain for a short historical tour to a former leprosy asylum, a 20th-century sedition internment camp and a former whaling station. Swimming, diving and fishing are options for more leisurely day tours. You can book tours through the Chaguaramas Development Authority.

True Trini breakfast

Trini food largely blends African  — with pepper. The Femmes du Chalet Breakfast Shed on Wrightson Road, Port of Spain, is an informal buffet serving up the best of Trini breakfast and lunch to eat in or take out. A local favorite is sada roti (flatbread) filled with choka (seasonal veggies roasted, seasoned and whipped with oil). It’s on the Waterfront, so you can also take in the view of the city’s port.

Tassa drums of Hosay

Who would have thought that a commemoration of the martyring of Shia Islamic saints would be the basis for a street celebration? But that’s Hosay, an annual procession that takes place over three nights in the Islamic month of Muharram. Elaborately decorated tadjahs (floats), which can measure up to 30-feet in length, represent the tombs of the martyrs. Processions are accompanied by rapid-fire tassa drumming which draws thousands to St James, a town on the western side of Port of Spain.

Bocas Lit Fest

The NGC Bocas Lit Fest is a five-day event held at the end of April and features daytime and nighttime readings, screenings, discussions, workshops and street performances. Internationally prominent writers like Mann Booker winner Marlon James from Kingston, Jamaica, appear with local scribes. Penguin Random House named it one of the best literary festivals in the world. All events are free; daytime events happen at the National Library, a modern architectural treasure in downtown Port of Spain.

The trinidad+tobago film festival

For two weeks in September, filmmakers descend on Port of Spain drawn by The trinidad+tobago film festival (ttff), an annual international event which hosts most of its screenings in the city. Named one of the coolest international film festivals by Movie Maker Magazine, the ttff includes screenings of cutting edge local and Caribbean diaspora films, workshops and a film marketplace.

Celebrating Emancipation

Emancipation Day, Aug. 1, commemorates the end of African chattel slavery. Port of Spain hosts a Pan African Festival that peaks in the moving and vibrant Emancipation Day street procession. At the festival’s Lidj Yasu Omowale Emancipation Village in the Queen’s Park Savannah, you’ll find African and local folk food and goods and nightly cultural shows.

The Sweetest Lime

Liming (hanging out) is a Trini specialty. Trinis have perfected the lime on Ariapita Avenue, a Port of Spain street where you’ll find restaurants, bars and nightclubs of all kinds. Start with an after-work drink at The Hog & Whistle and you might find yourself still there liming late into the night.

5 Best Places to See Cherry Blossoms in Japan Fri, 19 Jul 2019 18:40:40 +0000 Springtime in Japan and the country watches and waits for the first sakura (cherry) trees to burst into bloom. Once they do, people flock to parks and squares for hanami (cherry-blossom viewing). The romance is passionate but fleeting, lasting only a week or two.

Starting from Kyushu in the south some time in March, regular blossom forecasts keep the public updated as the sakura zensen (cherry-tree blossom line) advances northward, usually passing through the Kansai and Kanto regions of Honshu in early April. Latecomers can catch the blossoms in late April and sometimes early May in Tohoku, the northernmost region of Honshu. Here are just five of the top spots across Japan to join the hanami party.

Yoshino, Kansai

Yoshino is Japan’s most famous cherry-blossom destination, and for a few weeks in early to mid-April, the blossoms of thousands of cherry trees form a floral carpet gradually ascending the mountainsides. It’s definitely a sight worth seeing – and one that many Japanese long to see once in their life – but this does mean that the narrow streets of the village become jammed tight with thousands of visitors. You’ll have to be content with a day trip (doable from Nara, or even Osaka) unless you’ve booked accommodation long in advance. Once the cherry-blossom petals fall, the crowds depart and Yoshino reverts back to a quiet village with a handful of shrines and temples.

Maruyama-koen, Kyoto

This one is a tough call – Kyoto has so many fantastic places to see the blossoms. But it’s safe to say that the most iconic hanami spot in the city is Maruyama-koen (Maruyama Park). In the middle of the park is the Gion Shidare-zakura, the ‘Weeping Cherry of Gion’, named for its proximity to famed entertainment district, Gion, where geiko (Kyoto’s geisha) still perform. The over-10m-tall tree, whose blossom-fringed branches arch gracefully almost to the ground, is illuminated in the evening, from dusk until midnight. Oh, and there are some 680 other cherry trees in the park so you can bet on lots of picnics taking place here. Come early to grab a good spot. And later on, take a stroll along the nearby canal, the Gion Shirakawa, lined with cherry trees and and also lit up at night.

Yoyogi-koen, Tokyo

Like Kyoto, Tokyo has many popular cherry blossom spots. While it’s not the most historic – that would be Ueno-koen – or the most picturesque – that would be Shinjuku-gyoen – we’re doubling down on Yoyogi-koen (Yoyogi Park) because it is just the most fun. It’s a huge, sprawling park with tufty grass and plenty of cherry trees, with room for everyone and yet it still becomes a sea of people growing more and more unsteady as the day gives way to night. We’ve seen barbecues here, turntables and portable karaoke machines, more selfie sticks than we care to count and the odd guy in nothing but his shorts. The only thing Yoyogi-koen is short on is public toilets (prepare to queue).

Arakurayama Sengen-koen, Fuji Five Lakes

The view from the Chureito Pagoda here is the ultimate sakura money shot: in one frame you get a classic five-storey pagoda, with curving eaves and vermillion accents, a frothy sea of cherry blossoms beneath it, and on the horizon, triumphant Mt Fuji still draped in snow. (Odds are you’ve seen the image on a guidebook cover or two.) So what if the pagoda itself isn’t actually old (it’s a war memorial from the 1960’s) and you have to climb 397 steps to get here? Arakurayama Sengen-koen (a park home to a not-so-shabby 680 sakura trees) is in Fuji-Yoshida, a city at the base of Mt Fuji. It’s just about possible as a day trip from Tokyo, but you could also budget an extra day or two for hiking in the foothills of the Fuji Five Lakes region, for the chance of even more Mt Fuji views.

Hirosaki-koen, Tohoku (Northern Honshu)

Hirosaki-koen (Hirosaki Park) is a huge green space (nearly 50 hectares!) covering the grounds of what used to be the castle Hirosaki-jo. All that remains of the actual castle is a 200-year-old keep, but the park is marbled with the old moats, which are now flanked by sakura and criss-crossed with photogenic arching bridges. There are over 2500 cherry trees here and given that Hirosaki, way up north in Aomori Prefecture, is not the population centre that Tokyo (or even Kyoto) is, you can expect a bit more room to move around. Bonus: you can rent peddle boats to take out on the moats, which are invariably covered in pink petals.

Two days in Johannesburg: Start Your Safari in City Style Fri, 19 Jul 2019 18:37:24 +0000

Johannesburg, one of the largest cities on the continent and South Africa’s financial capital, is a stopover point for most visitors travelling in or out of Southern Africa. Many head straight out of town for a safari, but don’t make that mistake. In just two days you can take in some of its rich and tumultuous history, fantastic arts and culture, and the developing foodie scene.

Day One


Ease into things with a quiet breakfast in one of Jo’burg’s leafy suburbs. Croft & Co, a coffee shop on Tyrone Ave in pleasant Parkview, is a great choice. Croft serves some of the best scrambled eggs and sausages in town, service is friendly, and wi-fi is fast. Grab a table outside if the weather is nice, which it nearly always is. Catch a taxi to nearby Rosebank and board the hop-on, hop-off CitySightseeing Bus. The double-decker red bus is a particularly effective way to get around in Johannesburg, where public transport is tricky for tourists to figure out. The top of the bus is a perfect vantage point for photographing the busy downtown streets.

Hop off the bus at Constitution Hill, one of the most significant historical sites. Once the site of a military fort that later became a notorious prison, Constitution Hill is now home to a museum, a restaurant and South Africa’s highest court. The museum tells a powerful story about what life was like at the Old Fort Prison, where many prominent anti-apartheid activists were held. The court is always open to the public, and is worth visiting for the beautiful works of art on display in the hallways. And be sure to take a walk around the ramparts of the Old Fort, which has beautiful views of the city.


Braamfontein, which is adjacent to Constitution Hill and also a stop on the CitySightseeing Bus route, has several good options for lunch. Try 86 Public, a pizzeria at the corner of Juta St and Melle St, or the Immigrant Bar on the ground floor of the Once in Joburg hostel. African Flavour Books on Melle St is an independently owned bookstore with an excellent selection of South African and African titles. Braamfontein also has several hip clothing shops and quality art galleries, including Stevenson Gallery and the Wits Art Museum.

Be sure to make time to ride the bus across town to the Apartheid Museum, which offers the most comprehensive history of South Africa’s apartheid era. A visit can be overwhelming and very emotional; most visitors need at least two hours to take enough of it in.


Melville, a suburb just northwest of downtown, offers some of Johannesburg’s best nightlife. There are many popular restaurants to choose from, including the Lucky Bean and the Great Eastern Food Bar. Drinking holes also abound – try Hell’s Kitchen for whiskey and beer, or Mooteebar for exotic, South-African-themed cocktails.

Day Two


Have breakfast at the Salvation Café in 44 Stanley, an industrial complex converted into high-end dining and retail space. Allow some time to browse the shops, which have plenty of authentic South African gifts, clothing and souvenirs. Next, enjoy a walking tour through the Johannesburg central business district (these are best booked at least several days in advance). Past Experiences offers a range of cultural and public-art-focused tours, and JoburgPlaces’ tours provide excellent historical context on the city.


Spend a few hours in the trendy Maboneng on the eastern side of the city, where artists’ studios, shops, cafés, and theatres have transformed abandoned warehouse spaces. Grab a plate of cheap but delicious Ethiopian Food at James XVI Ethiopian or a burrito at Mama Mexicana. Street vendors and musicians set up shop along Fox St on weekends, and Market on Main, which is popular for food, kicks off every Sunday at Arts on Main. Take a quick taxi ride up Commissioner St to the Carlton Centre, Africa’s tallest building, and ride the lift up 50 floors to the Top of Africa. The windows may be smudged, but this top-level viewing deck provides incredible 360-degree views of Johannesburg and the surrounding areas. Gaze out over Soweto to the southwest, Hillbrow to the northeast, and the Magaliesburg mountains in the far north. Note that pick-pocketers and muggers frequent the area around the Carlton Centre, so be aware of your belongings. Ask a security guard on the ground level of the building for directions to the Top of Africa lift.


Make a booking (essential) for dinner at Urbanologi, a spacious, beautifully designed restaurant in the city’s newly revived Ferreirasdorp neighbourhood. Urbanologi serves innovative small plates and adjoins the Mad Giant Brewery, a key player in South Africa’s evolving craft beer scene. Watch a play at the historic Market Theatre in Newtown – it was Jo’burg’s first integrated theatre during the apartheid era, and continues to be a leader in groundbreaking, innovative small-scale productions.

Where to Stay

Once in Joburg is an upscale hostel, or poshtel, centrally located downtown in Braamfontein. Dorm rooms for up to four people are an option, as are well as en-suite singles and doubles. The hostel staff offers many fun group activities and there is a restaurant/bar on site. The Four Seasons Hotel the Westcliff is Johannesburg’s best luxury hotel, with two restaurants, a spa and the added benefit of being just a ten-minute drive from downtown. Melville has dozens of popular guesthouses and B & Bs, including, Motel Mi Pi Chi, Ginnegap, and the Lucky Bean Guest House.

Best of Yorkshire – Highlights of God’s Own County Fri, 19 Jul 2019 18:14:15 +0000 Yorkshire, or God’s Own County as locals like to call it, has long played the muse for writers, painters and film-location scouts, as well as being an industrial powerhouse that helped shape modern Britain. Dramatic topography, stunning heritage sites, urban regeneration areas and world-renowned walking trails are only some of the things that make this one of Britain’s most appealing destinations today.

Don’t be surprised though if it’s the clink of pint glasses in a country pub and broad-accented, straight-talking locals that make the biggest impressions.

The Great Outdoors

Yorkshire has some of the most evocative landscapes in England. It was out on the wiley, windy moors that Heathcliff and Cathy of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights roamed. It was the dales’ limestone scars that supposedly gave Tolkien (a professor at the University of Leeds in the 1920s) inspiration for the fortress of Helm’s Deep in Lord of the Rings. And it was the waterfalls of Aysgarth and Thornton Force that brought Turner and his paints here in the 19th century.

There are three popular ways to immerse yourself in all this countryside: on foot, on two wheels, and from the comfort of a vintage steam train. Historic village coaching inns cater for hikers on the long-distance Pennine Way and Coast to Coast trails, and cyclists inspired by the region’s challenging ascents and annual Tour de Yorkshire, which launched after the Tour de Francestory Galore

York’s lineage as the Roman city of Eboracum and later Viking settlement of Jorvik makes it one of Europe’s most interesting cities for history-lovers and archaeology buffs, yet it’s York’s surviving medieval remains that usually ensnare visitors. Many don’t make it beyond the minster and city walls, which is a shame given that the surrounding area contains some of the UK’s most impressive attractions. The spa town of Harrogate, for example, still has its original Victorian Turkish Baths and they’re in perfect working order. Take the 30-minute train from York and book in for a steam and scrub amid the surreal mock-Moorish splendour.

Elsewhere, castles, country estates and abandoned abbey ruins lurk down every country lane. Castle Howard is one of England’s finest examples of baroque and Palladian design. It was the first domestic building in the country to have a domed roof – put there by Nicholas Hawksmoor, one of the architects who worked on St Paul’s Cathedral in London, after which it was modelled. The giant ruins of Fountains Abbey and whimsical Studley Royal gardens are equally astounding. On the coast, Whitby is famed for its haunting abbey and literary cachet as the landing point for Dracula –bemused officials at St Mary’s Churchencounter so many fans on a fruitless hunt for the vampire’s grave that they’ve had to put up a notice explaining that it doesn’t exist.

From Industrial to Chic

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Yorkshire was the hammering heart of England’s industrial revolution. Coal soot blackened the stone facades of its urban manufacturing districts as mills, forges and belching factories churned through metals, wool, corn, flour and malts. These days those same districts are in the throes of regeneration with independent businesses clamouring to rent space in now-fashionable industrial spaces. In West Yorkshire’s offbeat arty community of Hebden Bridge The town’s old red-brick mill has become a hive of vintage stores and small-scale designers. In Leeds’ Holbeck area there’s Northern Monk, a craft brewery and taproom wedged into a 19th-century flax mill. Visit Hull, from where whaling fleets once sailed, and you’ll find the marina area has been reborn as a restaurant and bar enclave since its year as UK Capital of Culture in 2017.

Vegetable Gardening for Beginners Mon, 08 Jul 2019 05:35:32 +0000 Growing your own vegetables is both fun and rewarding. All you really need to get started is some decent soil and a few plants. But to be a really successful vegetable gardener — and to do it organically — you’ll need to understand what it takes to keep your plants healthy and vigorous. Here are the basics.

“Feed the soil” is like a mantra for organic gardeners, and with good reason. In conventional chemical agriculture, crop plants are indeed “fed” directly using synthetic fertilizers.

When taken to extremes, this kind of chemical force-feeding can gradually impoverish the soil. And turn it from a rich entity teeming with microorganisms insects and other life forms, into an inert growing medium that exists mainly to anchor the plants’ roots, and that provides little or no nutrition in its own right.

Although various fertilizers and mineral nutrients (agricultural lime, rock phosphate, greensand, etc.) should be added periodically to the organic garden, by far the most useful substance for building and maintaining a healthy, well-balanced soil is organic matter.You can add organic matter to your soil many different ways, such as compost, shredded leaves, animal manures or cover crops.

Organic matter improves the fertility, the structure and the tilth of all kinds of soils. In particular, organic matter provides a continuous source of nitrogen and other nutrients that plants need to grow. It also provides a rich food source for soil microbes. As organisms in the soil carry out the processes of decay and decomposition, they make these nutrients available to plants. For more on this subject, read Building Healthy Soil.

Make Efficient Use of Space

The location of your garden (the amount of sunlight it receives, proximity to a source of water, and protection from frost and wind) is important. Yet just as crucial for growing vegetables is making the most of your garden space.

Lots of people dream of having a huge vegetable garden, a sprawling site that will be big enough to grow everything they want, including space-hungry crops, such as corn, dried beans, pumpkins and winter squash, melons, cucumbers and watermelons. If you have the room and, even more importantly, the time and energy needed to grow a huge garden well, go for it. But vegetable gardens that make efficient use of growing space are much easier to care for, whether you’re talking about a few containers on the patio or a 50-by-100-foot plot in the backyard. Raised beds are a good choice for beginners because they make the garden more manageable.

Get Rid of Your Rows

The first way to maximize space in the garden is to convert from traditional row planting to 3- or 4-foot-wide raised beds. Single rows of crops, while they might be efficient on farms that use large machines for planting, cultivating, and harvesting, are often not the best way to go in the backyard vegetable garden. In a home-sized garden, the fewer rows you have, the fewer paths between rows you will need, and the more square footage you will have available for growing crops.

If you are already producing the amount of food you want in your existing row garden, then by switching to raised beds or open beds you will actually be able to downsize the garden. By freeing up this existing garden space, you can plant green-manure crops on the part of the garden that is not currently raising vegetables and/or rotate growing areas more easily from year to year. Or you might find that you now have room for planting new crops — rhubarb, asparagus, berries, or flowers for cutting — in the newly available space.

Other good reasons to convert from rows to an intensive garden system:

Less effort. When vegetables are planted intensively they shade and cool the ground below and require less watering, less weeding, less mulching — in other words, less drudgery for the gardener.

Less soil compaction. The more access you have between rows or beds, the more you and others will be compacting the soil by walking in them. By increasing the width of the growing beds and reducing the number of paths, you will have more growing area that you won’t be walking on, and this untrammeled soil will be fluffier and better for plants’ roots.

Grow Up, Not Out

Next to intensive planting, trellising represents the most efficient way to use space in the garden. People who have tiny gardens will want to grow as many crops as possible on vertical supports, and gardeners who have a lot of space will still need to lend physical support to some of their vegetables, such as climbing varieties of peas and pole beans. Other vegetables that are commonly trellised include vining crops, such as cucumbers and tomatoes.

The fence surrounding your garden may well do double-duty as a trellis, so long as the crops grown on the fence can be rotated in different years. Other kinds of vegetable supports are generally constructed from either wood or metal. However, no matter which design or materials you use, be sure to have your trellis up and in place well before the plants require its support — preferably even before you plant the crop. With some vegetables, such as tomatoes or melons, you may also have to tie the plants gently to the support, or carefully weave them through the trellis as they grow.

Keep Crops Moving

Crop rotation within the vegetable garden means planting the same crop in the same place only once every three years. This policy ensures that the same garden vegetables will not deplete the same nutrients year after year. It can also help foil any insect pests or disease pathogens that might be lurking in the soil after the crop is harvested.

To use a three-year crop rotation system, make a plan of the garden on paper during each growing season, showing the location of all crops. If, like most people, you grow a lot of different vegetables, these garden plans are invaluable, because it can be difficult to remember exactly what you were growing where even last season, much less two years ago. Saving garden plans for the past two or three years means that you don’t have to rely on memory alone.