Monday, February 28, 2011

I Heart Durban

Durban, (pronounced "Debben" by some) is a homely little city nestled in the Kingdom of the Zulus, who's residents are responsible for soaking up the vast majority of the South African sunlight. Home to endless horizons of sugar-cane fields and the worst drivers that South Africa has to offer, Durban is uniquely it's own.
Okay, so we all know that Johannesburg is where the money is, Cape Town is where the trendy are, but Durban (nickname: Durbs) is where the vibe is.

I am proudly Durbanite, it's in my DNA. I was born at Parklands hospital ('the place to be born' if you are a  90's kid,) and toddled along the beachfront in my nappy whilst my dad surfed the Gunston 500 and my mom worked on her tan. I had many birthday parties at Mitchell Park and used to spin in the gigantic teacups at the July funfair. I was a Waterworld local and always wore a sunburn and a smile. I remember being mesmerised by the lights display at The Workshop every Christmas eve, and can clearly recall when the first Maccas opened up in Town. Speaking of town, I remember shopping in the heart of the city back when it wasn't a war zone and you could engage in some retail therapy and make it home fairly unscathed.
Durban and I go way back, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I am grateful to this city for allowing me to live 'the good life.' Growing up, this city kept me outdoors, on the beach and in the sunshine, preventing me from steering towards the dismal life of a "mall-rat playstation junkie" (no offense Joburgers). I learnt to surf on Durban waves, learnt to drive on Durban roads and have made life-long friends and unforgettable memories on Durban soil. Excuse me while I shed a tear of gratitude for my hometown.

Why the sudden surge of nostalgia and 'patriotism' you may ask? Well, for the past few weeks, my little city has been rolling out the red carpet of good times, and I thought it only fitting that I should give credit where credit is absolutely due. I've been learning to fall in love with my hometown all over again as I have been on a little trip of rediscovering why 'home is where my heart is'.

Seems as though Cape Town's greener and more cosmopolotain pastures have stolen some of our local folk, but that hasn't stopped Durbs from showing us what the good life really looks like, and it has been throwing some hell-of-a-fun weekends at us. So, in keeping with the spirit,  here's a list of my latest Debben loves:

Tucked away at the foot of the Stamford-Hill buildings lies Unit 11. From the dodgey alleyway, this place looks likes just another joe-average spot, but my dear friend, never let appearances allude you, for this is Durban's best kept secret. Two weekends ago, Unit 11 hosted the pop 'n roll kwela disco punk band 'Desmond and the Tutu's' and this sweaty jam-fest put Unit on the map in a big way. Seeing over 300 people with their hands in the air doing the 'Desmond Claw' and dancing like raving maniacs, was quite a sight to behold! Whilst driving home from that gig, I can guarantee you everyone was thinking "Durban, you have outdone yourself yet again," and judging by the influx of Facebook statuses the following day, anyone that had even the slightest bit of indifference towards this city was silenced forever more. Can I get a hip-hip-hooray for Unit 11 and local music?

Next on my list we have I Heart Market.  When it comes to flea-markets, Durban has been starving for one that sells decent, hand-made odds and ends while simultaneously showcasing local creative talent. I am all for markets, but most of the ones we've had in the past have had the odd nice thing lost in a sea of kitsch. Not an ideal situation, and sifting through junk gets tedious after a whole. So, since the launch of I Heart Market in 2009, there has been a smile on every avid thrifter's dile, and now, on the first Saturday of every month, there is an event to look forward to and a perfect excuse to spend money on something other than petrol. I Heart Market boasts an array of gorgeous hand-made thingies that range from jewellery and local clothing to food and stationery, and will provide all those that are creatively minded with a hit of inspiration that we all need at lease once a month. 

On the topic of markets, living on the North Coast as I do, I recently visited The Litchi Orchard Market in Salt Rock which is occasionally converted into a night-market, and just fell in love with the atmosphere and all the delcious farmer's produce sold right on my doorstep. This market takes place under a canopy of Litchi trees and between the cafe and the food stalls you are guaranteed to eat and drink your fill. With such pretty scenery and such tasty smells wafting around, your senses feel like they've been to Brookdale Spa when you leave the place. Definitely worth the drive out North. 

Then, there's Corner Cafe. I'm not talking about a little corner tearoom owned by a fat greek man and his loud-mouth wife, I'm talking about a cafe off Davenport Road in Glenwood that serves interesting and tasty food-blends and is a typically 'Durban' cafe experience. Corner cafe is not trying to be 'the next best thing' but just oozes chill, style and Durban trend. I love the decor, I love the inside and outside seating and I love the fact that whilst you wait for your food to be prepared you can plan your next haircut at the hairdresser on the premisis or browse through second-hand clothing treasures at the Bonnie & Clyde store. If you come on the right day, you may even have the pleasure of listening to a live acoustic set by performed by up-and-coming local talent whilst you munch. 

And last, but absolutely not least is my beloved Florida road which is about as trendy as Durban gets. I've always loved the roadside dining experience that has taken 'overseas' by storm, hence the reason a night on Florida road is always a good one. Lined with deeevine restaurants and the occasional mellow dancefloor, Florida road is converted into a little hub of activity and entertainment as soon as the sun dips behind the hills. Personal favourites of mine are Spiga d'Ouro (a little piece of Italy on our shores), Mo's Noodles (The kind of tasty Asian food that you find yourself daydreaming about) and of course Taco Zulu (Mexican food with a Durban twist). Then there's Sunrise house of curries for the bunny chow lovers out there, Europa, Butcher Boys, Ocean Basket, Bangkok Wok, Capello and Deluxe Burger Bar. So much choice, such nice vibes, Florida Road for the win. 

So, when it comes to Durban, it's all about the vibe. The reasons that I love this city are too many to fill just one blog post, but some of the best parts of this place include:
World class waves that break on stunning beaches. Being able to walk around barefooted without receiving dirty looks. Rocking casual attire whenever you want wherever you want. Wearing winter clothes for fashion purposes rather than out of necessity. Being able to hit the beach and catch a tan all year around. Salt of the earth, genuine people. 

Well if you weren't a proud Durbanite before, I hope that after reading this, you are sitting back on your chair, with your arms crossed nodding and saying "mmmm, we do live a good life here in Durban don't we." Mission accomplished.  
Me as a toddler strutting along Durban's beachfront
Chels and I playing barbies at the RCI Night Surfing event

by matthew knight
(Images by Matthew Knight on the Unit 11 website)
{Click on images for source}


  1. your site and audio is like an ice cold glass of water on a summer Debben evening...music for the senses...litterally! thanks for spreading the happiness! Love Jess

  2. have just come back from a trip "home" and yes , Durban is still and always has been the centre of my universe, even though I now live in the UK ...Love your site :-) Peter Durban , BORN & BRED

  3. So glad you liked the post. I think every Durbanite has this place in their blood. No matter where you move or where you travel, home is where th heart is (a.k.a Durbs)


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