09 July 2012

A Picnic in the Sky

A couple weeks ago, Jurg and I hopped in the car and headed towards Josi's inner city to {finally} experience Main Street Walks' "Picnic in the Sky" tour.  I'd been hearing so many great things about it from other Jo'burg bloggers for months, but for some reason or another we never seemed to find a Sunday morning open to actually go and check it out for ourselves.  Luckily, a free Sunday popped up earlier this month and I immediately jumped at the opportunity and purchased tickets.

Picnic in the Sky is a simple, but brilliant concept.  

The tour begins at the Arts on Main market located in the Maboneng Precinct of downtown Johannesburg.  Each couple is issued a picnic basket and then given 30 minutes to peruse the different food stalls and purchase lunch.  After everyone is ready, the group hails a taxi and heads towards the the tallest building in Johannesburg and then takes the elevator up the 50th floor.  From the top, the local {and incredibly cool} guides give the group a tour and history of the city from a bird's eye perspective.  Afterwards, the picnic baskets come out and lunch is enjoyed from 700 feet in the air before hailing another taxi and heading back to the market.

On this particular Sunday, Jurg and I checked in with our tour guides {Bheki and Bones} at Arts on Main and then headed inside in search of lunch.  There were so many delicious food stalls that it was difficult to choose only one thing, but we ended up going with Mexican {go figure, right!?} and it hit the spot.  Jurgen ordered a beef burrito and I had a cheese quesadilla with a "hot mama bowl."  Last time I was at Arts on Main I ordered Ethiopian and it was equally amazing - I have a feeling you really can't go wrong - everything seriously looks delicious.  

One word of caution though: if you're doing Picnic in the Sky try and choose a stall that offers take-away boxes.  The Mexican stall didn't and it was pretty difficult to get everything to the top of the building in one piece using only paper plates.  I noticed that the Chinese and Thai stalls did have to-go boxes, so if we ever go back for a second time I think we will be heading their way.

Each picnic basket contains the basics: a blanket, plates, cutlery, wine glasses, and drinks.

After we had our food tucked away in our picnic baskets, we jumped in a taxi and headed through the city.  On the way Bheki pointed out buildings of interest and gave us tips on other places we should visit in the area.  Having grown up in the inner city, he knows downtown Jo'burg like the back of his hand and seemed to point out every nook and cranny adding in interesting facts and tidbits along the way.

Our taxi stopped outside of the Carlton Centre and we hopped out.  The Carlton Centre has existed for 39 years as Johannesburg's tallest building and towers over the city at a whopping 50 stories and 732 feet {223 metres} tall!

We were also lucky to meet up with Jo'burg expat blogger Julie and her boyfriend Amaury who joined us for the tour!  I can vouch that Julie is just as sweet {and gorgeous} as she seems on her blog and her boyfriend is absolutely hilarious.  They're the type of people who you immediately feel like you've known forever and I hope we'll be able to meet up with them again sometime soon {hear that Julie!?}. 

We hopped in the elevator and headed up to the 50th storey.

The 360 degree views from the top were nothing short of spectacular!  

Definitely the best views of the city I've seen to date.  We split into two groups and were taken around the entire building and provided with a history of the city.  Can you believe that Jo'burg was just one big barren landscape until someone discovered gold here in 1886?  Seemingly overnight, the population exploded and the little settlement quickly turned into a buzzing city.

If you look off into the distance you can see the vast brown mine heaps that still exist today.

Although many people wouldn't describe downtown Jo'burg as being beautiful in the traditional sense of the word, I must admit that I find it incredibly striking in its own unique way.  This ever expanding city has lived through a gold rush, the legacy of apartheid, and the subsequent degradation that occurred throughout the 1990's with the change of government.  And somehow, it still stands to tell the tale.  It's real and authentic and diverse and it has an edginess to it that one needs to experience to understand.  It seems like around every corner and crevice there is evidence of a long hidden story waiting to be told.  Every time I venture into the city centre I always become wide and alert, trying to absorb everything around me and take it all in.  This city just does something for me.  

I love it. 

Lots more mine heaps in the distance.  Many of the mines are still in full operation today.

One part of the tour that stood out for me was when Bones put on a little performance for us over lunch and recited some of his poetry.  He was absolutely incredible and so, so talented.  It wasn't poetry in the traditional sense, but was done in rap form and had an amazing rhythm and flow to it.  He had a completely captivated audience, I think everyone was hanging on what he was going to say next since his content was so eloquent and well thought out.  I would go again just to see him perform!

I think it's safe to say that Julie and Amaury loved him too :)

After the tour we parted ways with Julie and her man and then Jurgen and I spent a couple of hours exploring Arts on Main and some of the surrounding areas {but, that is a post for another day}.  All in all it was a wonderful afternoon and a great opportunity to learn more about this fascinating {and often misunderstood} city that we live in.  I can't wait to sign up for some of Main Street Walks other inner city tours.  I think I might be addicted :)

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The Picnic in the Sky tour operates each Sunday and lasts from 11:00am until 2:00pm.  The cost is R150 per person and includes picnic baskets filled with the essentials, a lift to and from the Carlton Centre, and {of course} the expertise of fun and interesting local tour guides.  Any food purchased from Arts on Main is of your own expense.  Tickets can be booked online {here} and need to be purchased in advance as spaces fill up quickly!  I highly recommend this tour to anyone and everyone, local Jo'burgers, ex-pats, and tourists alike - it's not to be missed!


  1. Coun't me out! hahah, as much as I would love to see the skyline from that high, I just can't get myself to go above the fourth floor of a building.

    Do you remember how scared I was at your old place? I wouldn't even go onto the stoep!

    However, this does look great Jenna. Awesome pics, did it rain just before you took the pics? The sky is so clear!

  2. what a fun sunday!! i love it when you hear about something cool and it lives up to expectations!! & what cool views!

  3. looks beautiful! i love when you get hit with a breathtaking view like that when you don't really except to be effected by it!

  4. This is one of the coolest things I've ever heard of! What a great concept!

  5. Looks and sounds like a great day. And what a great idea!

  6. What a perfect day! I hope that you will show me all the lovely things Johannesburg has to offer when I come visit sometime soon :)

  7. That sounds so fun! I love that you carry your picnic baskets up! I just (very very belatedly) discovered Ethiopian food and I am obsessed, but you definitely can't go wrong with Mexican!

  8. How much fun is THAT!! Gorgeous views of the city...I had no idea that Jo'burg was so big! Not that I have any knowledge of that side of the world :-). Thanks for taking us along on your tour! So nice to "meet" you today!

  9. Wow! That sounds like such a fun and cool experience! What an original and sweet idea :) I'm glad you enjoyed yourself!

  10. Picnic in the Sky is a fantastic idea! I would love to do that! And it's great that you have the choice of what you want to eat, I probably would have picked Mexican too :)

  11. sounds like a fantastic day! if i ever visit, i will definitely go there!

  12. How awesome! That is such a great deal $150 for everything? I just love this idea.

  13. So fun! I always take any opportunity to get a good view!

    ps- LOVE your outfit :)

  14. Wow, just found your blog from Second Floor living and this would be an amazing tour! Excited to go read some more posts on S.A. life.

  15. Oh my gosh, HOW FUN!! I want to do this!!!!! Plus, all that food sounds amazing!

  16. Picnic in the Sky - what a great idea. Could be good for conquering a fear of heights too!


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