Username:

Password:

Fargot Password? / Help

Archive for January 2011

0

Welcome to the second part of the 1st Anniversary mini-series!  News and Reviews in my Shoes celebra

Welcome to the second part of the 1st Anniversary mini-series!  News and Reviews in my Shoes celebrated it’s first anniversary yesterday, and to celebrate, I’m recounting the trip that started my love for travel blogging.  <3 

My roommate, photographer Gillian Foster, and I went from Johannesburg to Magaliesberg for the second leg of our epic South African adventure…

Day 2 - Joburg/Magaliesberg

Our second morning, our tour guide from JMT Tours, TK, came to get us at 10am.  Our first stop was Soccer City!!!  AKA, Joburg’s massive (93,000 capacity) soccer stadium for the World Cup in 2010!  It’s actually HUGE.  And not yet open to the public as it is a construction site.  lol  But, we pulled over to see it and take some pics.  Awesome.  Then, we headed to the Apartheid Museum.  Honestly, Joburg GETS museums.  SO much info, clever layouts, interactive displays…Awesome.  And the temp exhibit while we were there was on Nelson Mandela!  So cool.  He’s a real hero, man.  I have crazy respect for him.  Again, crazy heavy morning (Kirsty even broke down after one of the video exhibits), but by the time you leave, you’re uplifted by promises and proof of forward motion in the South African society.  I was surprised to learn that more people died AFTER Apartheid was abolished than during.  But luckily, full-scale civil war was avoided and it went relatively peacefully.  Relatively.

The best way to lift your spirits after the Apartheid Museum, is to cross the road to the amusement park.  haha!  Gold Reef City, here we come!!   We went on the gold mining tour first.  The park is situated on an old gold mine and they actually take you down into the mine for part of the tour!!!!!!!!!  Outstanding.  Possibly the toughest half hour of our lives.  Donning hard hats, we descend in the elevator down 3000m of mine shaft into the musky level 5 (of, like, 45+…yikes).  Gill’s Claustrophobic, Steve is too tall to stand up straight, and I’m panicking that the supports won’t hold.  lol  But half an hour later, we can all say we’ve been into a mine - and that none of us could ever do it.  Kudos to miners, man! 

126

Gold Reef City!

Great museum!  Then we saw a gold brick be poured and learned about the extraction process.  We also saw a coin get stamped!

As we walk out of the gold pouring exhibit, we walk directly onto the Tower of Terror roller coaster.  All we know is it’s a mine rig with a roller coaster in it…lord knows what it actually DOES.  But we get on anyway.  BOLD move.  So, you get to the top of the rigging via pulley system, and lo and behold, the whole bloody seat/car tilts 90 degrees so that you’re looking straight at the ground and drops you down the mine shaft!  *dies*  Brilliant.  Pictures were most definitely bought - and I recommend the ride to EVERYONE.  Amazing rush.  Next stop: the double-looping, twisting, feet-dangling Anaconda!!!  We were feeling unstoppable!  I loved it.  But Gill is getting old (lol) so our last ride was the Ferris Wheel.  Not that I’m complaining - great views of Joburg from up there!

We then grabbed some fries and water and headed for our next lodging, the Forum Homini Boutique Hotel .  Actually. Unbelievably. Stunning.  I walked into my room and had to take a moment to stream profanities.  lol  Everyone should go there - if only for the 6 course set-menu dinner!!  It’s a game farm, so there are HIPPOS roaming!!  Nothing quite like listening to the snorting and splashing of hippos as you fall asleep…nor the impending danger of being charged by one should you leave your room after 7pm.  lol  Loved it.  I changed into something a bit nicer, and we all met for dinner and drinks.  Ok: dinner.  Wow, man.  The Roots restaurant is a lifetime MUST.  It’s a 6-course predetermined menu expertly paired with exquisite South African wines.  A Sommelier comes to the table to explain the wines - our Sommelier was West :)   He was amazing!  As were all of the staff, really.  The service in SA is absolutely impeccable.  We were joking that our tourism and service students should all do exchanges in South Africa.  (really only a half-joke: they should)  After dinner, we were fortunate enough to give our compliments directly to the chef!!  That night, the chef was Raymond Kokota.  After dinner, Gill and I hung out with the staff for a bit before heading back to the rooms.  Each room has a HUGE bathtub and salts, so we went to Gill’s, put on our bikinis, and watched VH1 in the bath with beers.  Priceless.

178

Forum Homini Boutique Hotel lounge

Day 3 – Magaliesberg

After breakfast, we left for our next lodging in Magaliesberg.  When we got to the Valley Lodge, our rooms weren’t quite ready but no worries - we put on our bathing suits and headed to the pool for a dip and some serious sunbathing!!  It was MARVELOUS.  They have a really nice set-up here and the pool area is stunning.  Then, if things couldn’t get any better, we had SPA TREATMENTS!!!  We got full-body hot stone and aromatherapy massages courtesy of South Africa Tourism, and then Gill, Kirsty, and I sprung for some body brushes and mani/pedis!!  Ultimate bliss.  I also squeezed in a quick workout before dinner.  My nails look exquisite, ps - and the ladies were super fun to chat with! 

Dinner was nice - smoked salmon salad, steak, and chocolate mousse (which is more like pudding here!).  And of course delicious wines.  lol  South African wine rocks.

Day 4 - Magaliesberg

Day 4 was a 7am wake-up!  My shower was cold water only and had a leaky ceiling (not impressed), but the bathtub in the other part of the bathroom had hot water, so thankfully I wasn’t terribly peeved (or cold) by the time the day started to roll!  Not that I could have stayed cold - what a scorcher!!  It was a stunning 25+ degrees and super sunny. 

After breakfast, TK from JMT Tours picked us up to go for a CANOPY TOUR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  AKA ZIP LINING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   *dies*  OMFG.  Magaliesberg Canopy Tours  has 11 runs in the Magaliesberg mountains (the second oldest in the world).  And you break with a glove 50m above the ground.  What an amaaaaaazing feeling!!!  I had always wanted to go zip lining :D Their tours are pretty unique in that they are built into rock faces on either side of a canyon instead of in the trees.  Our guides were Raymond and Teyco.  SUCH nice people.  Raymond’s a total joker.  lol  After zip lining, we hiked out of the canyon next to a crystal clear mountain stream :D   Glorious - especially after the hot sun.  There was definitely some toe-dipping and face splashing.  On our drive back to the main office where we had lunch, we saw impala and kudu!!!  I was losing my mind.  haha  Kudu are like super large, grey deer with ears that remind me of the kangaroo mouse from Bugs Bunny.  lol!  I’m pretty sure I exclaimed “What’s THAT?!” when they crossed the road in front of our truck.  LOL  Mental note: don’t exclaim on safari - scaring animals AWAY is not the goal!  haha  Then we had lunch with our canopy tour group (two other British couples - one of which retired to SA) and bought a copy of the DVD of us zip lining.  lol  Which, by the way is hilarious!!  Gill and I watched it when we got home :D

So, by this time it’s 2pm, and it’s almost as if the adventure has only begun because immediately after we went quad biking (Canadians: this is ATV-ing)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Awesome sauce!!!  We went back to Magaliesberg proper and met Walter who owns a farm specifically for quad biking .  It’s HUGE.  And it was a lot of fun :D   I love quad biking.  Kirsty was a little nervous being her first time, but I’m happy to report she made it in one piece.  haha  On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at the grocery store for some South African snacks :D   Bigtime fave: Iron Brew (not to be confused with Irn Bru) which is a sweet ginger beer.  Delish.  When we got back to the hotel, we had our last drink with Kirsty and TK :(   They headed on their way back to Joburg, and we were scheduled to continued our journey north-east to Sabi Sands game reserve the next morning!  It’s too bad Kirsty and TK couldn’t come with us….they’re phenom.  <3

Gill, Steve, and I took the rest of the night to get better acquainted with South Africa’s wonderful array of white wines :D   And sample the buffet which - to my delight - included OSTRICH!!!  New fave.  LOVED IT. 

- Jess

The Jess and Gill Tried and Tested Guide to Magaliesberg:

Accommodations

Valley Lodge - www.valleylodge.co.za 

Attractions

Magaliesberg Canopy Tours - www.magaliescanopytour.co.za 

In The Gorge Adventures - http://www.inthegorge.co.za/quads.htm

Related Posts:

South Africa pt. 1

0.0/60votes
Voting statistics:
RatePercentageVotes
60%0
50%0
40%0
30%0
20%0
10%0
0

Hi everyone!!! Today marks the 1st Anniversary of the News and Reviews in my Shoes blog!!!!  <3 

403

Hi everyone!!!

Today marks the 1st Anniversary of the News and Reviews in my Shoes blog!!!!  <3  Thank you guys so much for reading and for making this blog the great success that it’s become so far!! 

In honour of the Anniversary, I’ll be posting the trip that started my foray into travel blogging!  In May of 2009, I was voted by my AMAZING friends, family, and the WAYN.com community as the Face of South Africa on WAYN.com, a travel community I’ve been a member of for almost a decade.  I won a trip for two to South Africa for 10 days in November of 2009!!  My mission: to blog about the trip and share stories and photos with the world.

My roommate Gill and I set off on November 8th for an epic 10-day adventure!  Over the next few days, I’ll be posting a mini-series chronicling our adventure and showcasing some of Gillian’s awesome photos from the trip.

THANK YOU for reading!  Thank you for commenting!!  And thanks, in way more ways than words, to those who made this trip possible!

Without further ado, here’s the story of our journey…

Day 1 – November 9, 2009

Location: Soweto, South Africa

I was sitting in the lobby of The Soweto Hotel
, our first hotel in Soweto, South Africa after our first full day and all I could think was…what a ride we have already had!!

We spent over 24 hours in transit (leaving our house at 2pm on Saturday afternoon (Toronto local time) and arriving in Johannesburg at midnight on Sunday night/Monday morning at our hotel in Soweto (local time…and they are 7 hours ahead).  Woah.  It was a lot of fun though - we had a layover in Amsterdam that clocked in between hours 7-10 of flying. After a decent night’s sleep, we were ready to explore and start our first African adventure this morning
!  We met Steven from WAYN at breakfast and then were joined shortly after by Kirsty from South Africa Tourism!  They are both such super cool people! By the time we left for our tour of Maropeng, The Cradle of Humankind, I was already having an amazing day!

First stop: Maropeng. We went and toured around the Cradle of Humankind museum.  Amazing stuff.  And it’s totally interactive
!  I.e.: you walk in, and you’re first experience is a boat ride that takes you through ice ages and volcanic eruptions!  haha Then, the exhibits are expertly crafted into interactive games! SO much fun. The world is old, man. Really old. And homosapiens have really only been around for 200,000 years. :D


073

Gill and I at the Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum

After touring the museum and running around in caves (haha), we got back in the car and headed for a tour of Soweto. Soweto is the only city in the world where TWO (2) Nobel Prize winners live on the SAME STREET. We saw Desmond Tutu’s house and toured Nelson Mandela’s old house! Amazing.  And totally surreal.  A few minutes’ drive, and we found ourselves in the middle of the streets that were key in the 1976 student uprisings against Apartheid and the Hector Pieterson museum.  Holy cow.  I was nearly in tears by the end of it - what a struggle the people of South Africa have faced! (Click here for background) 

 
We then went to the Regina Mundi Roman Catholic Church. Oh. Wow. This is where groups of students would meet when the government decided that groups of two or more people were considered politically undesirable meetings and they would take action against them. There are still a few bullet holes in the ceiling and through the windows as reminders. Gorgeous church though - and I’m secretly upset that I didn’t test the acoustics. lol  

It was a heavy afternoon.  But SO worth it.  And we finished off by going to Freedom Square where the Freedom Charter is - and it happens to be right beside our hotel!
:D  We decided to cap off the day with some drinks and an incredibly delicious meal at the hotel.  Our chef is one of the top 16 in the COUNTRY. (Junior, you rock lady!) Best steak I have EVER had. (Sorry Dad.) Apparently SA is known for its red meat.  This makes me a very happy girl.

Now, my roommate Gill and I are chillin’ on the internet listening to some tunes. I can’t wait for tomorrow and the surprises it holds!

-Jess


The Jess and Gill Tried and Tested Guide to Johannesburg and Gauteng:

Accommodations

Soweto Hotel - http://www.southafrica.info/travel/soweto-hotel.htm

Forum Homini Boutique Hotel - www.forumhomini.com 

Attractions

Maropeng, The Cradle of Humankind - http://www.maropeng.co.za 

The Mandela Family Museum - http://www.southafrica.info/mandela/mandela-museum.htm 

The Hector Pieterson Memorial - http://www.sa-venues.com/attractionsga/hector-pieterson-memorial-site.htm

Regina Mundi Catholic Church - http://www.southafrica.info/travel/cultural/reginamundi.htm

Wine and Dine

Jazz Maniacs at the Soweto Hotel – (see Soweto Hotel link)

0.0/60votes
Voting statistics:
RatePercentageVotes
60%0
50%0
40%0
30%0
20%0
10%0
0

Photo tribute to the Mayan Riviera, part two! Last May, I spent 6 days in the Mayan Riviera with pho

Photo tribute to the Mayan Riviera, part two! Last May, I spent 6 days in the Mayan Riviera with photographer Gillian Foster.

This is a tribute to our trip. All photos copywrite Gillian Foster. Visit her online at www.gillianforster.ca.

-Jess Related Posts:

Photo Tribute Part 1

0.0/60votes
Voting statistics:
RatePercentageVotes
60%0
50%0
40%0
30%0
20%0
10%0
0

Last May, I spent 6 days in the Mayan Riviera with photographer Gillian Foster.  Here’s a trib

Last May, I spent 6 days in the Mayan Riviera with photographer Gillian Foster.  Here’s a tribute to our trip!

All photos copywrite Gillian Foster.  Visit her online at www.gillianforster.ca.

-Jess

0.0/60votes
Voting statistics:
RatePercentageVotes
60%0
50%0
40%0
30%0
20%0
10%0
0

New Years Win!

My dear friend, Jay Cataldo, is helping me stay on track with my Resolutions this year!  Unconventional, yes.  Awesome?  YOU BET! 

Now that I know all of his blog readers will be holding me accountable, I am feeling very determined!! 

Check out his reblog of my post here.

If you missed the original post, it’s here

How do you stay motivated to reach your goals?

0.0/60votes
Voting statistics:
RatePercentageVotes
60%0
50%0
40%0
30%0
20%0
10%0
0

Oh my goodness. Jessica Speziale!!! I feel like the worst person ever!! It's been way too long since I've said anything to you. I'm such a jerk. How have you been?? Pardon me for being extra familiar with you right now. haha. I see you've posted way more than I have. I'm gonna check out your posts tonight to see what you've been getting into. In the meantime, it's such a treat to think about you!! I've been so tied up in all this holiday madness. I haven't had much of a break since the last week of September. We had so much work to do in the meat market that I thought my head was going to pop off. My goodness. So much crap. Dang. I hate using firefox. I'm trying to type this message and I can't even see my text in the little box. What a drag. Anyways, I've been extra busy with work and now I'm doing training for meat cutting. So I'm just super swamped with all kinds ofcrap. Man, I really hope that you can understand this. Crazy me...I've got my eyezs closed now trying to put my little blind fury moves on the computer. I should probably stop here. W Just let me know how things are going. I'm going to check your posts now. Peace and peace :)

Nick!!!  How’s everything - it’s been ages :)  I totally understand!!  I’m way behind on keeping up with posts also.  hahaha  Excellent blind posting, by the way!  Sounds like you’re crazy busy.  I hope you’re enjoying your meat cutting training!  Awesome!

-Jess

0.0/60votes
Voting statistics:
RatePercentageVotes
60%0
50%0
40%0
30%0
20%0
10%0
0

Promo photos taken Aug 2010 thanks to Jessica Pan.  Check out my music here: http://www.reverbnation

Promo photos taken Aug 2010 thanks to Jessica Pan. 

Check out my music here:

http://www.reverbnation.com/jessicaspeziale

http://www.myspace.com/jessicaspeziale

http://www.facebook.com/jessicaspezialemusic

Mylinks_join_mailing_list

0.0/60votes
Voting statistics:
RatePercentageVotes
60%0
50%0
40%0
30%0
20%0
10%0
0

Considerations for booking shows.

Photo by Jean-Luc St-Hilaire - http://clasixart.deviantart.com

Hey guys :)

How’s everybody doing?  2011 is settling in quite nicely around here!  That said, I’m still on vacation, so it’s not the best indication.  haha!  But, I have been having a great time with new workouts, skating with friends, and sitting around with my guitar on sunny afternoons :)

In mid-December, I was the lead in organizing a show with Vancouver artist, Sandra Bouza.  It was my first experience doing this from an artist’s perspective!  A couple years ago, my friends and I put on a rock show at a bar in downtown Toronto that was a pretty decent success for our first show!  So, I wasn’t starting entirely from scratch. 

That said, it was still a huge learning experience.

It all got started with emails to restaurant and bar owners/booking agents I’ve met since starting my foray into performing my original music in April.  I sent a few “cold call” messages out, too - all by email.  By the next morning, we had a venue!!  Amazing.  Follow-up calls are a good next step 2 weeks after the initial email if you don’t hear anything back.  It’s all much like applying for a job and hoping for an interview, actually.

Once you have a venue, some things to consider are:

Payment structure and cover charge.  Does the bar keep the bar sales and give you the door, or is there a split?  Does the venue set cover or can you?

Timing.  What is the start time?  How long can you play?  Are there other bookings for that night?  It’s helpful to know if you can show up in advance for a sound-check, too.

Equipment.  What equipment is already there for you to use?  (Useful tip: bring some important things like extra patch cables and mics just in case some of the house equipment is missing, faulty, old, or not so well kept.)

Tech support.  Ask if any of the staff know how to use the sound equipment in advance in case there’s any trouble shooting that needs to be done.  Most of it is pretty basic, but if it’s an unfamiliar system or you’re new at the whole sound thing, it’s always nice to know you can lean on someone else.

Door Staffing.  Find out if there will be someone working the door or if you’re expected to have that covered.

Promotion.  Ok.  This is probably the weakest point for most new artists.  But, it`s key - especially if you want to keep good relations with the venue.  And, I`m learning it really does mean putting in more effort that making a facebook event.  A personal connection is best, and start early so you get into peoples`calendars and have the time to get your fans excited about it!  Some ideas: make announcements at open mics and prior shows, put the show date on all of your websites, send a notice out to your newsletter subscribers, get your street team involved, call your friends… The venue will also likely do some legwork for you by putting up a listing on their website and letting you leave flyers at the bar or on a post board.  Sending the venue your bio and a promo shot is a good idea, too. 

Sound.  As the organizer or as a performer of the night, sitting with easy access to the PA is a good idea in case changes need to be made to levels during another artist`s set (or a mic needs to be set up when your patch cord fails - that happened).  Then you won`t disturb the audience as much while getting up to make adjustments.

These are some of the notes I`ve taken so far for my own future use - and hopefully they are helpful for all of my musician friends and readers, too!  Do you have any more considerations to add?

0.0/60votes
Voting statistics:
RatePercentageVotes
60%0
50%0
40%0
30%0
20%0
10%0
0

In It To Win It for 2011!

Last night, in my New Years Eve dress, ready to dance in 2011!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

I hope you are feeling refreshed (4-6 hour exemption if you rang in the New Year with a bang last night), renewed, and excited to start a brand new year!  I certainly am.  In fact, I started mapping out my New Year’s strategy 2-3 weeks ago in an attempt to start January 1st on the best foot possible.  While preparing, I came across this great blog by my friend Jay Cataldo called New Year’s Win or New Year’s Fail; a 10-tip strategy for sticking with your Resolutions.

Using Jay’s tips, here are my Resolutions for 2011!


Tip 1: Write out your mission statement.

Ok.  I realize most people likely stick to one resolution, but I am a multitasker, so I usually do 5.

#1: I will ramp up my music career (goal: release an album and achieve a sales target).
#2: I will make my health and fitness a priority (goal: lose 20 lbs)
#3: I will take better care of my home (goal: no more clutter! And at least 3 nights at home)
#4: I will stress less (goal: regular yoga and nightly meditation)
#5: I will make a bigger effort to make my relationship stronger (not sure how to define this in action yet)


Tip 2: Write out your plan.
 

I like planning - this is my favourite part!  Now, I won’t bore you with my time lines and details (but I have made them!  And Jay Cataldo has them to help me with Tip 4), but here are some of the measurable steps I have made:

1. To ramp up my music career: record an album by June 2011,  take guitar lessons to feel confident jamming by December 2011, work on my knowledge of theory and take my grade 8 exam in January 2012, write a business plan by the end of March 2011, get a band together by May 2011, apply for music grants for September 2011 deadlines, find a manager/booking agent by July 2011

2. To make health and fitness a priority: lose 20 lbs by March 2011, grocery shop once per week, cook at home twice per week, work out 5 days per week, drink less (twice per week max), smoke sheesha only on special occasions

3. Take better care of my home: spend at least 3 nights at home (combining cleaning and cooking - bonus points), wake up by 9am on weekends to get more done in the mornings

4. Stress less: consolidate activities to see more people at once, do yoga 1-2 times per week, do nightly meditation

5. Forge a stronger bond with the bf: go to more of his soccer games (1 every 2 weeks at min.), invite him to more of my music-related events and friends nights out


Tip 3: Visualize your successful outcome.

#1:

#2:                                              

#3:

Note: my house looks nothing like this…but I can dream.

#4:

#5:

Looks awesome!!  SO pumped.  That’s totally what I want for my life. (Note: the visualization exercise is much more in-depth…but for blogging purposes, I altered it a bit)

The cynic in me thinks it looks a bit more like this…

Hahahaha…ah well – the sky’s the limit!


Tip 4: Find an accountability partner.

This is where this post gets a bit more interactive!  Now that you know where I’m headed, I’m hoping you’ll help hold me accountable :)  Feel free to tweet me or leave me a comment anytime to check in!  There will be monthly progress reports that will appear in the blog, and I’ve also recruited Jay Cataldo and my lovely boyfriend to keep me motivated.


Tip 5: Take at least one step towards your goal each day.

Post-it notes with mini goal stuck to my computer screen help me with this one!

Read about Jay’s Tips 6 and 7 here.


Tip 8: Reward yourself.

Hm.  Ok, well, I love fashion and days at the spa!  So, I’m committing to setting mini-goals that will earn me fun rewards!  In reality, just achieving these goals will be a huge reward, but the fashion will definitely improve my rockstar image and look hot on my smokin’ fit bod.  Sounds like extra motivation to me!

There are a few more tips, including #10: Never Give Up, but they’re of a more personal nature so I’ve left them out of the post (but not out of my planning!).  So, we’ll end here!  :)

What are you New Year’s Resolutions?

0.0/60votes
Voting statistics:
RatePercentageVotes
60%0
50%0
40%0
30%0
20%0
10%0