The morning run

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“Where have you been, we’ve been worried sick about you,” said my mother as my brother and I walked into the hotel foyer.

Earlier that morning I had nudged my brother out of bed so that we could go for a run. It was our first morning in Rome; we were staying at Marcella Royal Hotel which is located close to the main attractions but out of the hustle and bustle so you can enjoy a relaxed meal at the restaurants down the street.

The streets were still quiet, making it easy to explore. We ran passed stunning Roman buildings, came across local joggers, noticed suppliers making deliveries at cafés and delis and shopkeepers preparing to open for business. In between this we were still challenging each other to see who could get to a certain building, fountain or statue first. I was fully immersed in the experience and couldn’t feel the aches and pains of running. As we turned a corner my brother spotted a building he described as “the most magnificent thing he has ever seen.” We couldn’t make out its name but it had intricate carvings of gods, warriors and animals. “There must be a number of these gems around the city waiting to be discovered,” I thought. Actually, in any city if you are willing to ditch the main attractions and the hordes of tourists.

We could have carried on forever but the warm sun rays reminded me that we were meeting our parents for breakfast at the hotel so I reluctantly told my brother that it was time to go back. By now there was more activity on the streets with people commuting to work. There was something special and authentic about seeing the city wake up, witnessing locals get on with their business and exploring in a non-intrusive way.

Certain that we would soon spot familiar buildings we continued but soon realised we were lost. We asked locals if they knew the hotel, they didn’t, and that’s when I knew we were much further than we thought. The worse thing is we had committed some of the silliest travel mistakes; we didn’t remember the hotel’s street name, didn’t have a map and money or any form of communication.  I suggested we go into another hotel thinking they would probably know their competitors; the friendly receptionist goggled the hotel and said “it’s far, you should catch a taxi”. Knowing we didn’t have money on us my brother and I looked at each other and smiled; we thanked him and ran back still admiring the city. Now I know why people often say Rome is a beautiful maze that you just want to get lost in.

The café that greatly exceeds my expectations

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Life Grand Café, I discovered this gem when I specifically drove to Hazelwood to try out a patisserie that was disappointing to say the least. I was attracted to the café’s continental look and feel, something that is not common in Pretoria. So I went there on a Friday without making a booking and was lucky to get a table because I’m certainly not the only one who is bowled over by this place. The steak and smashed potato was one of the best dishes I’ve ever had but not only that, all my senses were taken in by the European-influenced feel and for those few hours I felt like I had travelled to another world.

Knowing my brother appreciates dining and relaxing in a place that offers great food and an intriguing vibe just as much as I do, I took him there on the day he came back in town. He was also mesmerised by the ambiance, and the tapas we had went down well. I then decided that I had to come back for brunch.

On Youth Day my boyfriend and I went there around 11am and the place was already packed, after getting my caffeine fix I tried their berry mojito, it was so good that I could have had five more and their club sandwich and boerewors roll didn’t disappoint. It’s rare to find a place that greatly exceeds my expectations and this is definitely one of them! Life Grand Café is at corner Dely Road and Pinester Avenue, Hazelwood, Pretoria, South Africa. 

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