10 great reasons to stay at Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse

Roses breakfast patio compHeads cottage






  1. Fast speed internet – the first thing all guests ask for on arrival is the internet password.  And recently, a guest  was so chuffed with the speed here, he downloaded an App to check our speed – it was 8.6 megs. He was super-impressed.
  2. We can all cope better after a good night’s sleep. Things like block-out lining, overhead fans, ambient room heating,  good cross ventilation and of course firm mattresses and excellent quality linen, are often only noticed when they are not present.  Peace and quiet go without saying but the rest all make a huge difference to great sleep quality.
  3. Number 3 has to be service – the keystone of the hospitality industry. And almost without fail those who stay at Liz at Lancaster comment on the amazing staff who offer caring friendly efficient service and always with a huge big smile. Thank you to Catherine, Zac, Thandie, Rose and Alick.
  4. Breakfast Patio Various 4684 Freedom to do your own thing. You have your own table at breakfast so while you can talk to other guests (it’s not forbidden!!), you don’t have to.  And sitting areas in all units and secluded courtyards allow for independence and privacy. Having said this guests have made long-lasting friendships having met at Liz at Lancaster.
  5. Winter warmth. Many visitors to South Africa say that they have been colder in South Africa than in traditionally colder climes, simply because our houses are not geared for the chilly weather. And Joburg gets cold in winter!  With under-carpet heating,  electric blankets, log fire in the breakfast patio and a toasty wood-burner in the main lounge, guests are assured of beating the cold. And what luxury to walk barefoot on heated tiled bathroom floors!
  6. While the Gautrain is a great option for getting to and from both the airport and Pretoria and Uber has revolutionized taxi services, Zac who works at Liz at Lancaster provides a great on-site transport service at very competitive rates. He knows his way around Joburg and arrangements can be made with him at any time during the day. A real added bonus of staying at Liz at Lancaster.
  7. Self-catering options.  With all units having fully equipped kitchenettes, it is so easy to walk down to the Spar at the end of the block ( a 5 minute walk) and pick up something light for lunches and suppers at home. So guests aren’t forced to eat out every night. Having said that – Craighall Park is surrounded by excellent restaurants, eateries and pavement cafés.  (This should be number 8 but I’ve realized I am getting to no 10 too soon!) Cnr Café a mere 2 and a half blocks away has been voted Best Neighbourhood Restaurant on many occasions.
  8. Location! Location! Location! Craighall Park is incredibly centrally located.  In the middle of the Parks region of Joburg, it is 3km from the Rosebank Gautrain Station, 7km from Sandton, and 9km from Johannesburg Central.
  9. Lounge area9. A far cry from the sameness and international chic of the big hotel chains (where you could be anywhere in the world), Liz at Lancaster offers individuality and personality and a uniquely South African style.  Apart from Liz’s personal brand of décor, guests can enjoy flowers, bird song in the morning and a wonderful suburban garden setting.  Hard to believe you are 10 minutes from the Central Business District of Sandton.
  10.  No 10 has to be Liz’s famous booklet! They say when a city gets its own guide book it has finally come of age. So at last Jozi has made it with the latest publication being  the fabulous Johannesburg In your Pocket. However for many years it was really difficult to get information on what to do and see in Joburg.  With Liz having taught Art History for nearly 20 years at Wits University and then having been involved in heritage research and consultancy, she has an interesting library and knows a fair amount about both the visual culture of Joburg as well as its history, heritage and sites.  She has compiled an in-house information booklet which guests say is very useful ….. but which Liz thinks might secretly help with no 2 above!!

We could give lots more reasons for staying at Liz at Lancaster but we think that 10 is enough!

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Posted in Liz at Lancaster News and Views, Tourism news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Responses

Pick of the week: a market a day


A market a day keeps the doctor away … although it could add to the waist line and might not do your bank balance much good. If you want to avoid chain stores and same-old same-old bland international chic malls, it’s possible to shop until you drop at a different market in Jozi every day of the week.   Many are open every day so you can swap the days around:

  • but why not start with curios on a Monday at the Rosebank Craft Market. Here you’ll find all your African souvenirs – but remember to bargain just a little. Open daily.
  • If you haven’t found what you want at the Rosebank Craft Market try the Sandton Craft Market on Tuesday.  Located  behind the Sandton library which faces onto Nelson Mandela Square, it also offers local & African souvenirs and crafts. And while in the area you can stop of for a bite to eat and do some people watching on Nelson Mandela Square.
  • Faraday St (Sunday Times)

    Faraday St (Sunday Times)

    On Wednesday it’s time to get out of your comfort zone and venture into downtown Jozi to visit Faraday Market – a real working African muti [medicine] market (corner Wemmer Jubilee and Eloff Street).  Its proximity to the local Faraday taxi rank means there is ease of access for the many locals who come from all over South Africa to seek healing potions, herbs, animal skins and good omen charms from sangomas. But this is a real working market so you will need to respect people’s privacy – certainly no photographs.   And if you’re a vegetarian or a conservationist I suggest you give this market a skip.  While in town you can visit the Mai-Mai market, said to be the oldest market in Joburg (corner of Anderson and Berea streets). Although also very much a working market, used by city residents as a place to find cures for their physical and emotional ailments, you will also be able to buy Zulu tyre sandals, walking sticks and beaded accessories.  As with the Faraday Market, it is recommended that visitors be guided by an established tour operator.

  • Individual stalls as well as pleasant open areas to relax and have a delicious bite to eat

    Individual stalls as well as pleasant open areas to relax and have a delicious bite to eat

    Thursday you can hot foot it out to a rural country-fair atmosphere at the Bryanston Organic Market.  It has been going for 38 years now and it really is Johannesburg’s original outdoor market.  As its name suggests – everything is organic – delicious food to eat at crude wooden tables and benches , there are also goodies to take home as well as wonderful clothes all made from natural fabric.   In warm weather they have moonlight markets on a Tuesday evening closest to the full moon, as well as Tuesday evening markets in the lead up to Christmas.  And if you miss out on the market on a Thursday, it is also open Saturdays 9 – 3pm 40.  You can find them at Culross Road Bryanston

  • Christmas Opera at the Sheds Nov 2014

    Christmas Opera at the Sheds Nov 2014

    Open from Thursday to Sunday is the new urban space The Sheds@1 Fox St in the Ferreirastown (south east of Joburg’s CBD).  Two entrepreneurs who are passionate about Jozi’s inner city have refurbished the historic warehouses into a thriving marketplace – an artisanal food and produce market, surrounded by eateries and bars. It’s the most wonderful space – open, airy, laid back and welcoming and caters for families. Highly recommended.

  • Friday  Need more delicious healthy organic goodies? Visit Jacksons Real Food Market at 319 Bryanston Drive  which is not quite a market but more of a farm store, sit down café cum bakery . Open every day and weekends till 3 www.jacksonsrealfoodmarket.co.za
  • Well of course if it’s Saturday, it must be
    • Mushrooms 2 compNeighbourgoods Market. Those who founded the Biscuit Mill market in Cape Town partnered with Adam Levy of Play Braamfontein to bring this market to the parking lot of a large grey building at 73 Juta Street. Here hipsters, young and old, find themselves spoilt for choice with a huge selection of mouthwatering and varied (but pricey) food items – fresh oysters, paella, Ethiopian platters, different types of  mushrooms, and much more besides. Upstairs, along with a great view, you’ll find designer clothes, accessories and various objet d’art.  Whilst in Braamies it’s worth taking the opportunity to see what’s on at the many art galleries in Juta street as well as at Wits Art Museum [WAM] over the road on the corner of Jan Smuts Ave. The Wits Hospice shop is also well worth a visit.
    • Fordbsurg Dec 14 Various 655 (3)If you aren’t foot weary, broke and suffering from sensory overload, you can make your way across town to Fordsburg, a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood. Here the local community takes to the streets every Saturday night to explore the street market with shops offering everything from chintzy costume jewellery to coloured hijabs and more muted abayas, DVDS and household goods. But best of all are the aromas of incense, pungent curries and briyanis, and samoosas.
    • As if this isn’t enough choice, on the 1st Saturday of every month  you can make your way to Kramerville Sandton (9 Kramer Rd).  At Collective, small designers who don’t have retail space show their wares (anything from ceramics to clothing) resulting in a stylish pop-up market.   As with most markets, food is never in short supply and here it is provided by Mother Truckers, billed as ‘the best Food Trucks in Johannesburg’.
    • Sunday might see you market hopping with several great choices on offer:
      • Ethiopian fare (In Your Pocket)

        Ethiopian fare (In Your Pocket)

        Market on Main is in the Maboneng district (264 Fox Street) in eastern downtown Jozi.  Home to art galleries, bookshops, fashion designers and artists’ studios (including William Kentridge’s), the Sunday market is a chilled place to have a late brunch and while away a Sunday morning. And the first Thursday of the month there is a night market.

      • Or you might choose to go to Rosebank Rooftop market which had to move during the refurbishing of the Rosebank Mall. Now that is complete stallholders are gradually moving back. It’s a very varied market with a huge range of food, it’s a great place to buy gifts as there are good quality crafts, bric-a-brac and souvenirs.  Enjoy the carnival atmosphere with live music, mime artists, buskers and  funfair-style games for the kids.
      • At the corner of Kudu St and Moema St in Orlando West, round the corner from the more famous Vilikazi Street is a newish market, Locrate, which operates on the 1st Sunday of the month. While it’s the standard fare which is on offer, what makes this special is the distinctly Sowetan vibe with live music and street poetry.
      • If antiques and treasure hunting is your thing then on also on the 1st Sunday of every month you can visit the Antique and Collectibles Fair in Sandton (inside the mall behind the statue of Nelson Mandela) where 60 odd dealers have stands.
      • Fourways Farmers Market 003And a great option for a chilled Sunday lunch in a seemingly rural setting is the Fourways Farmers’ Market.   Although only a few streets from Montecasino at Earth Outdoor Living Nursery, Cnr William Nicol Drv and Montecasino Blvd, it really does feel as though you are out in the country away from the mayhem of city living. It is child friendly and its relaxed setting and outstanding food make for a wonderful family day out.

So bye-bye to Pick and Pay and Checkers, to Malls and chain stores and hello healthy, natural, quirky, laid back and different. We like this in a shopping and eating experience.


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Posted in Food & Wine, Joburg and surrounds: things to do and see, Pick of the week, Shopping | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pick of the Week: At last ‘our’ Horse returns home …

When I was out of town in April of this year and missed the screening of the HD movie shown at Cinema Nouveau of the live London National Theatre production of War Horse, I was deeply disappointed. So I am like a kid in the proverbial candy store knowing that I will soon add to the statistic of 5 million people who have seen War Horse since it opened at the National Theatre in 2007.  Joey, the main protagonist of War Horse has captured public attention in the buildup to the opening of the show on 22nd October.   See http://www.artlink.co.za/news_article.htm?contentID=36095   War Horse, commissioned by the National Theatre in London,  is based on Michael Morpurgo’s story about horses sent to the battlefields during World War I.  In the production soldiers are played by live actors while the horses are life size puppets, the creation of the famous Handspring Puppet Company.

Woyzeck on the Highveld Photo: Handspring Puppet Company

Woyzeck on the Highveld Photo: Handspring Puppet Company

I have been in awe of the work of the Handspring Puppet Company [HPC] since I saw one of their earlier theatre pieces back in 1992: Woyzeck on the Highveld, directed by William Kentridge.   In this haunting adaptation of Georg Büchner’s play, the story of a poor mineworker is hauntingly told against the backdrop created through William Kentridge’s projected drawings of  a harsh industrialized landscape.

HPC was started in 1981 with 4 former students from Michaelis Art School in Cape Town and while it has always functioned as a collective, its name is now synonymous with 2 of its co-founders:  Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones.  Their main aims when they started were to produce innovative children’s theatre that was rooted in Africa and to promote  puppetry as a significant theatre form.  The Company’s name was drawn from the Russian puppet master Sergey Vladimir Obraztsov’s philosophy that ‘the soul of the puppet lies in the palm of the hand’.  ‘This’ says Jones, ‘was a way of saying that glove puppets [rather than marionette string puppets] are best. …The rod puppet, which kind of comes out of the glove, was a form we decided on.’  (A. Sichel citing Jones in Handspring Puppet Company edited by Jane Taylor 2009 p 168).

Shadow puppetry from Confessions of Zeno

Shadow puppetry from Confessions of Zeno

Sadly I did not see their very early work but saw 4 of the subsequent HPC/Kentridge collaborations: Faustus in Africa 1995; The Return of Ulysses  1998;  Ubu and the Truth Commission 1996 and Confessions of Zeno 2001; as well as Tall Horse 2004, a joint venture with the Sogolon Puppet Troupe from Mali.  In each production the puppet mechanisms were refined and improved with the multi-disciplined collaborations becoming increasingly demanding. I still cannot fully get my head around the extraordinary creativity of these productions; the complexity and intricacy of the puppets; the skill and artistry of their manipulators; or the nuanced synergies between live actors, puppets (both human and animal), and their puppeteers.

The power and seduction of the puppets lies in their will to create – and yes I use an active construction here knowingly – their will to create a complete suspension of disbelief on the part of the audience, to encourage empathy with the characters.  The human puppets are wooden dolls attempting to be real people.

Photo Handspring Puppet Company (ed Taylor, J. 2009 p80)

Photo Handspring Puppet Company (ed Taylor, J. 2009 p80)

In the case of these human puppets, two puppeteers manipulate one puppet.  The manipulators become actors using facial expressions to inform the audience’s understanding of the emotions of the puppet character with its immobile features.  (The puppeteers never focus on anything or anybody but their own puppets – neither audience nor fellow actors).  Jones and Kohler were very influenced by the Japanese Bunraku tradition of an exposed style of performing where the puppeteers are visible but yet dressed in black to underplay their presence. Gradually however they came to realize the virtue of an exposed style of performing, with the visible puppeteers acting out emotions and the mechanics of the puppets made visible to the audience – where the double performance of the puppet and the puppeteer together allows for  powerful identification and empathy. Whenever the manipulators are visible, they wear costumes which are integral to the show and the puppets they operate.  So for example in Ubu and the Truth Commission, the puppeteers wore khaki dustcoats to suggest minor civil servants so integral to the successful functioning of the machinery of State.  It is the reality of the characters created by this dual performance that enables our ‘suspension of disbelief’.  And despite the fact that puppets rarely have moving facial features – from a distance body language articulates more clearly and effectively than facial expression – the success of the audience’s imaginative identification is evident when people ask:  ‘How do you make their eyes move?’ But of course the eyes don’t move.

Courtesy martysyard.co.uk

Courtesy martysyard.co.uk

Another example of suspension of disbelief results from the solutions Kohler and Jones have found to various technical challenges, solutions which again show their minute observation of realistic details.   In the case of the horses in War Horse, Kohler realized that the anatomy of the horse’s legs and those of the humans inside would not correspond as they had done in the case of the giraffe in Tall Horse, where the 2 puppeteers were able to stand on stilts inside the giraffe with these ‘stilted legs’ ‘standing in’ for the giraffe’s legs.   There would be 10 legs under the horse not 4.  Kohler notes:

But [in the horses in War Horse] the hands of the puppeteers would be in close proximity to the puppet legs and therefore available for strong, hands-on manipulation, so the legs had the chance of being highly articulated. If I could successfully mimic the way the horse’s hoof automatically curls under as it is lifted off the ground by the lower leg, I would be able to make credible horse legs that would easily pull focus from the human legs walking beside them under the horse.  The evolution of the jointing of the horse legs in War Horse had begun with the front leg of The Rhino in Woyzeck on the Highveld. It grew in a more sophisticated lever control with passive movement of the front paw of The Hyena in Faustus in Africa and finally was enlarged and employed on all four hooves of the horses. 

(Adrian Kohler in Handspring Puppet Company edited by Jane Taylor 2009 p 134)

Il Ritorno d'Ulisse Music by Monteverdi Puppet Ulisse with Basil Jones and Singer Julian Podger. Animation by William Kentridge. Theatre Malibran Venice 2008 (Source Handspring Puppet Company ed J. Taylor 2009 p 90)

Il Ritorno d’Ulisse Music by Monteverdi Puppet Ulisse with Basil Jones and Singer Julian Podger. Animation by William Kentridge. Theatre Malibran Venice 2008 (Source Handspring Puppet Company ed J. Taylor 2009 p 90)

Another example of this meticulous attention to life-like detail, is Kohler’s realization, through the singer-puppet- puppeteer relationship in the opera production of Return of Ulysses/Il Ritorno d’Ulisse, of the vital importance of breath.  He wrote about this significance:

Breath is the start of any physical movement, providing oxygen to the muscles that sustain the action. Singers take a breath before launching into a new phrase . … If the puppet breathed in at the same time as the singer, and then performed the next sung phrase breathing out, the energy and the impulses of the singer and the puppet blend. As this realization dawned on us, the task before each puppeteer became enormous. We [the puppeteers] would have to know the music intimately, down to each breath of our partners. We would not only have to know the meaning of each Italian line but, since lines are often repeated, we would have to know the emotional effect of each repetition so that this could be visibly performed in the body language of the puppet.  ….

.. when we were designing the horses for War Horse, one of the first priorities was ensuring the visible horse breath.

(Adrian Kohler in Handspring Puppet Company edited by Jane Taylor 2009 p 99)

HPC has created a very particular genre and style of puppetry with their open-weave transparent puppets and visible puppeteers. Interestingly, Sichel argues that they have also created a particularly African aesthetic in their use and creation of a range of movement for their puppets. Jones explains that there is a fundamental technical reason for this. He says that Kohler, as the master puppet-maker, moved the centre of control from the chest to the pelvis:

What he [Adrian] inherited from Europe was a rod control inside a puppet at chest level. He felt it was more appropriate, and better for us, at pelvis level. So he moved the centre of control of the puppet downward in the puppet. This was very important for us and gave a sense of African movement. It was a real but subtle innovation which made a profound difference. 

(A. Sichel citing Jones in Handspring Puppet Company 2009 p 163)

As I write this I am already thinking that one viewing of War Horse will not do the subtleties of this extraordinary production justice – so I might save up my rands and book for an indulgent second viewing  before it closes its run in Jozi on 30th November. I even have guests from Mpumulanga who are driving to Joburg to see War Horse and  have booked here at Liz at Lancaster for their stay.

At last our South African Company has brought their production home.  So welcome home Joey!














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