Month: May 2019

Ashley Ellis, Writer + Filmmaker

Ashley Ellis is a writer, filmmaker, creative, and PhD candidate. If that doesn’t say “modern day Renaissance woman,” we don’t know what does. Having written for publications such as Gopher Illustrated, Pyragraph, Bitch Flicks, Afrobougee and more, we are pretty sure she could write this intro way better than we can – but hey. 

Though she spent years in Los Angeles, Ashley now calls Cape Town home and is currently teaching and working towards her PhD in film studies at the University of Cape Town. She has co-created films for some of the world’s most progressive institutions such as TED, XPrize, The American Heart Association and The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (just to name a few).

Constantly seeking new inspiration and subject matter for her next film, Ashley is a globe-trotter extraordinaire- and therefore we had to pick her brain. Follow her adventures @ashley.d.ellis

Name 3 favorite hotels, anywhere, off the top of your head. Also, why are they your favorites?

I have had so many wonderful international experiences with travel lodging, from backpackers to 5-star hotels, that it’s nearly impossible to answer this question.  In Los Angeles, where I lived throughout my twenties, boutique hotels are a part of the social space. The three where I’ve spent the most time hanging out are The Line Hotel, The Standard DTLA, and Chateau Marmont.  I’ve had daily work meet-ups, partied, planned a film production, and watched Trump get elected at these hotels. These places signal that I’m home.

Dream places to visit as an artist, musician, filmmaker, and why?

As a filmmaker, I’m inspired by locations that can themselves become characters. I dream about visiting and shooting in places like Timbuktu, Mali; Chefchaouen, Morocco; Lake Retba, Senegal; or the Makgadikgadi Pans, Botswana.

Where would you go for a digital detox or just generally to get off the grid?

The Okavango Delta in Botswana.  It’s my analog home.

You travel a lot for work…was this something you were seeking in a career? If so, how did you go about designing your career life to include so much travel, and how do you make it as relaxing and fun as possible?

Yes, it was something that I was seeking and it took me years to set up in a way that made sense for my overall growth.  I believe that we manifest the things we set our minds on. Once I decided that travel is an important aspect of my life, I started actively looking for jobs and developing projects that would allow me the opportunity to experience new places.  Eventually, a project idea became worthy of PhD research, and that’s what brought me to Cape Town (but only because I dared to look far and wide for the right institutional home). The more I travel, the more I build relationships with people in my industry all over the world, and these connections naturally bring me more travel/work opportunities.   

How do I make traveling relaxing and fun?  I think it’s all about just embracing the place I’m in without expecting that I’ll always be comfortable in a new place or on the go.  I just breathe in the air and observe my surroundings, and soon enough I settle in or find some place or thing worth exploring. And a good book helps me to unwind in pretty much any circumstance.  

What 3 songs are on your OOO playlist?

Lavish Lullaby – Masego

Count Your Blessings – Mizz & Rabs Vhafuwi

Ultimatum – Disclousure feat. Fatoumata Diawara

What do you always bring with you in your carry-on?

Pretty Standard: Passport. Wallet. House keys. Laptop. Cell phone. Chargers. Adapters. A book or 2. My Belkin mini book light. Glasses. Tooth Brush. Disposable face wipes. Clean underwear! And anything & everything else that will fit, because I’m kind of crazy about having access to my stuff.

If you could swap suitcases with anyone in the world at baggage claim, who would you swap with?

Anna Wintour.  Her clothes and shoes wouldn’t fit, but that seems like a gamble no matter who one picks. However, she probably has some designer travel accessories that I really need in my life.  

Have you or would you travel alone? If Y/N, why?

Yes and yes.  It’s the perfect opportunity to spend some time in your own head and reorganize everything that’s in there.  I’m also much more likely to write, which I never seem to find time for during my life with the people I love.   

Best travel advice you’ve ever received, and from whom?

“Always travel with cash, and store small amounts in different places in your belongings.”  – My Mom

Lost luggage, or lost phone?

Luggage! Everything can be sorted with a phone.

In flight cocktail – Y/N? What kind?

Yes. Red wine.  I’ll either write or sleep.

Window or Aisle?

Aisle! I hate crawling over people to pee.


Cape Town by Ashley Ellis

We’ve caught wind of more and more friends heading to the Southern Hemisphere to visit South Africa’s most popular city. Apparently seasons don’t matter all too much in Cape Town, because just as many people are flocking there during South Africa’s winter.

Between the surfing, hiking, food scene, and countless activities just outside the city – it’s no wonder this is a popular destination year round. We tapped Ashley Ellis, local Cape Town resident and a writer, teacher, PhD candidate,  and filmmaker, for her expert tips on where to go in and around Cape Town.

We know you live or have lived in Cape Town, but let’s say you were to take your dream staycation. Where would you stay?

The Silo Hotel – The building is an architectural gem; the decor, ambience and views are unparalleled; and it’s adjacent to Zeitz MOCAA and The V&A Waterfront, so the location couldn’t be better.

The Belmond Mount Nelson – The epitome of luxury and relaxation on gorgeous, manicured grounds.  Belmond is one of my favorite brands, and this property of theirs doesn’t disappoint.

MannaBay – The perfect hideaway for a screenwriting retreat.

Photo via MannaBay

Favorite places to eat on the daily? What do we order?

Cape Town is such a diverse food city, so we’re spoiled with options. My routine is often something like:

Weekdays:  

Eastern Food Bazaar – Shawarma! (but do try Bunny Chow while visiting South Africa!)

Pahari – Beef Stew, Pap and Veggies

Obz Cafe – Prego Chicken Wings with chips or veggies  

Weekends:

Neighborgoods Market at The Old Biscuit Mill – Bunga Bunga with Kudu

Mojo Market – Take your pick from the internationally inspired food stalls!

Where would you go to eat for a special occasion? What are they known for?

Grand Africa Cafe & Beach – all things seafood are nice at this restaurant .

Want more? I’ve got more!

We’ve lost our luggage. Where would you suggest we get a new wardrobe?

This is one time when you won’t be sorry. Today, Cape Town is considered one of the design capitals of the world, and there are tons of local talents creating contemporary and African inspired fashion. I have two suggestions for shopping centers where you can buy local: The Watershed at the V&A Waterfront features all styles of clothing but also has tons of gift options.  Inside the mall, there are global brands if you need some staples. Then in Woodstock, a very short drive outside of the city centre, is The Old Biscuit Mill, which has a variety of clothing stores and some great art.  On Saturday mornings and afternoons, Biscuit Mill hosts a pop up market with live music, and just outside of the building, Albert Road is lined with factory shops from the leading local designers. If you like walking and shopping, there are many boutiques in town to check out. My favorites for African inspired wear are WAG Fashion and Merchants on Long. Otherwise, Shop. Collective on Kloof Street; If it isn’t your style, you’ll find anything you’re looking for within a few blocks on Kloof. Last but not least is a concept store for the fashion forward that I love, Maison Mara, but let me not forget the men… nearby, Bastille is a great shop specifically for menswear!

What are your favorite bars around town? What should we be ordering?

Yours Truly on Kloof Street is an intimate spot that’s perfect for a warm night.  There’s usually a diverse crowd and good music, and because it’s attached to an upmarket backpackers, the bar attracts both locals and international travelers.  Try some of their homegrown Truly White and make some new friends here.

The Gin Bar is a speakeasy behind a small chocolate cafe.  I love gin, and my absolute favorite in the world is the amber gin by Inverroche, made from fynbos botanicals, which are only found here in the Western Cape. For that reason alone, I highly suggest The Heart, one of the cocktails made with this particular liquor on The Gin Bar’s menu.

Beerhouse – If beer is your thing, you’ll get a huge selection of craft beers here in an unassuming atmosphere that overlooks all of the action on Long Street.  At night it’s pretty poppin, but I’ve been there plenty of times during a lazy afternoon just to chill with friends and a cold brew.

Kloof Street House – for gorgeous, delicious, high-end cocktails with prices that aren’t so ridiculous. Try to the Strawberry, Mint, and Rooibos Daiquiri.  Since it’s made with rooibos tea, you’ll likely only find this cocktail in South Africa.

Photo via Kloof Street House

Best place for an AM pick me up? Either coffee, green juice, or tea?

I’m a coffee addict who can easily find a good fix in Cape Town, but I think a much rarer find is a great tea house.  My friends at KA PA Tée have curated a selection of teas from all over the world, have state of the art equipment to make the perfect brew and have cultivated a cozy, intimate environment in which to enjoy a cup or two.  I wouldn’t seem to be “in the know” if I failed to mention Truth Coffee because this steampunk inspired locale for serious coffee lovers boasts the title of the “world’s best coffee shop”.  However, my personal favorite is Ou Meul Bakkery, because they’ve got Bootlegger Coffee, another great local brand and freshly baked everything.  You can also get fresh juices there if that’s your jam.

We have an entire afternoon free, and are looking to do some damage to our credit card. Where should we go?  

Definitely swipe for African housewares, art, and curios.  At these places, you’ll find beautiful, quality and authentic pieces that are actually made in Africa, which isn’t always the case at the big tourist markets:

Tribal Trends  

Africa Nova

Everard Read Gallery

Zeitz MOCAA Museum Shop

Where can we get our dose of culture where we won’t be swarmed with other tourists?

There are lots of museums in Cape Town, but District Six Museum is in an area of the city that is rich in culture and history but doesn’t get too much tourist traffic.  It’s a great place to turn inward and learn about how and why Cape Town came to be the way it is today. You’ll also be supporting those who are working against the erasure of certain people and places in post-apartheid South Africa. Similarly is the heritage neighborhood of the Bo Kaap, through which you can take a walking tour or explore on your own. And if you get hungry, stop at The Kombuis which claims to have the some of the best traditional Cape Malay food you can find.

Photo via District Six Museum 

We’re looking to party….like a local. Where should we go?

Check out the slew of bars and restaurants on and around Lower Main Road in the Observatory neighborhood. Here you’ll find a dedicated local crowd in unpretentious settings. Otherwise, you can travel a bit farther out of the city into Khayelitsha and head to Rands which has great food and dance music. Khayelitsha is one of the largest and fastest growing townships in South Africa and is vibrant and full of energy. Visiting will give you a fuller understanding of Cape Town than just hanging out in the CBD. With that said, townships are not tourist spectacles; Go because you want to have a good time, but be respectful and aware of this. Visit both of these neighborhoods with a local who’s familiar with the area if possible. It’ll be a better experience overall.

We’d love to see some live music. Where to?

You know how it is… different spots for different nights!

In no particular order:

The Waiting Room – DJ’s, hip hop, eclectic, acoustic… a multilevel bar with inside and outside hang out spots.

Aces n Spades – Where bands perform just before they become famous.

The Piano Bar – Jazz vibes (SA is known for jazz!)

Alexander Bar – An intimate performance venue for all kinds of shows, even for the literary types.

Dizzy’s Camp’s Bay – Beachside dive bar vibes with a karaoke night and live shows.

Favorite secret spot to get some alone time?

The Company’s Garden is just a one minute walk from my flat, so I go there often to clear my head or read a book.

Photo via Company’s Garden

Tips and tricks for getting around town? 

Most of the Cape Town CBD is walkable, which is one thing that I love about the city.  The MyCiTi Bus is cheap, convenient and safe. Otherwise Uber is easy, because most things aren’t very far in distance.

Let’s just say we are single – where are the babes hanging out?

I have no idea, but I’d suggest you put on your best beachwear and head to Camp’s Bay.

And if we are coupled up – what is the best date spot that will actually have a table?

Asoka 😉

Where should we go for some “forest bathing,” or a nature walk (if not a full-on hike)?

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens is one of the richest and most comprehensive in the world and has plenty of walking trails.

Where would you go with your sketch pad or journal?

I’d go to Rhodes Memorial, because it’s so quiet. It has a dazzling view of the city for the sketch artists and a tea garden for those who bring their journal.  

You need to work, but the wifi is down at work/home. Where do you go?

I take a long walk or a short drive (from “town” Cape Town’s CBD) to Woodstock and head to Superette in Woodstock Exchange. It’s a bright, comfortable environment to work with coffee, treats, and delicious light meals. The wifi is powerful enough, and I can stay and work for hours without being rushed. It’s bustling but not noisy nor packed, and there are so many creative offices and retailers in Woodstock Exchange, that I always feel surrounded by the good vibes of creative entrepreneurs hard at work.

Photo via Superette

Where do we go to work out like a local? What are the trends that everyone’s into these days?

The hike life is definitely a thing here, and it’s understandable, because the landscapes in Cape Town are treasures.  If you’re looking for a traditional gym experience, then I’d recommend Virgin Active which has plenty of locations.  For me personally, I really enjoy going to Spring Pilates Shmilates with other locals.  It’s intimate, and they take great care of my body there!

We’re jetlagged AF. Where do we go to treat ourselves, spa or massage-wise?

Definitely the spa at 12 Apostles Hotel.  The views alone will get you feeling right.

Anything else you want to add in terms of interesting activities or must-see/do’s?

Yes definitely. I have three very important suggestions!

1. Do pay your respects to the freedom fighters who were willing to serve time in abhorrent conditions to see South Africa become a more just society.  I think anyone who comes to Cape Town should visit Robben Island Today, the tours there are led by former inmates and guards, but these people will not be around forever to tell their stories first hand, so this is truly a once in a lifetime experience.   

2. If you have time on your trip, take a day trip to down the coast to Cape Point and experience the southern most tip of the continent, where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet.  It’s considered one of the most beautiful drives in the world, which I cosign. There are several ways to approach the trip, but do stop in Llandudno Beach, Muizenberg, Simon’s Town, and Hout Bay along the way and just give yourself time to explore.

3.  Most people who come to the Western Cape want to visit the wine country at some point.  I highly recommend visiting the French influenced town of Franschhoek and the Solms Delta Wine Farm specifically.  Solms Delta sits on land where artefacts from some of the Earth’s first humans were left.  In addition to this, it has a social business model which is completely unique to the region and empowers its farmworkers.  It has two small museums that pay homage to the history of the people who have worked the land for hundreds of years. Here, you can picnic, taste wine, and soak in the landscapes that will leave an imprint on your hear.  And the wine is superb. They have a Shiraz (a personal favorite) in the 1,001 wines you must try before dying. Oh, and there’s a hidden gem of an Ou Meul Bakkery on the road to Solms Delta that has a farmstall with the most delectable items for your pantry.

Toronto

Turns out, Toronto is the fourth largest city in North America (we had to double check that fact too). That being the case, you can only imagine the breadth of things to do in Canada’s business capital. Though most of us pass through here for work – there is plenty to do in terms of food, drinks, and a good time.

The most exciting thing about Toronto is the diversity that makes the city so special. It celebrates those who call the town home – no matter their background – and you can easily see this in the cuisine you eat, art you see, and people you meet.

Our recommendation? If you find yourself on a two day stay for some meetings, extend your trip a while and see what this town is all about.

Where to stay

The Drake Hotel

Hands down, this is the coolest hotel in Toronto. Their eclectic design is a visual representation of how they foster the local creative community and bring Toronto’s best to their visiting guests. With great programming (they have DJs and performers every week), vibrant mid-century modern design, and the Sky Yard rooftop bar – we are pretty much ready to move in. 

Photo via The Drake

The Gladstone Hotel

Boasting artist-designed hotel rooms, this certified B-Corp hotel feels good to stay in know you’re doing good. They support local vendors and use locally made products within their space, and pride themselves on “socially conscious hospitality.” Housed in an old Victorian, they have preserved the floor plan and converted the building in 37 unique rooms and 3 dedicated art galleries.

The Templar Hotel

If you are heading to Toronto for business, but still want a dose of chic – head to the Templar Hotel. Located in the Entertainment District, you can book anything from a single room to a two-story loft. The design is minimal (which we love) and you are walking distance from the CN Tower, Queen Street, and tons of restaurants. 

Where to eat

Pukka

If you like Indian food – you’ve found your spot. This is a refined, British take on the cuisine but the vibe is entirely low-key. Definitely get the slow braised beef short-rib. 

DaiLo

This is a French-Cantonese restaurant with a generous $65 tasting menu. Think braised lamb with sweetbreads and pumpkin dumplings. We love how exciting the menu is here – and definitely recommend dipping into the cocktail list pre-dinner.

Gusto 101

Housed in an old auto-body shop, this Italian restaurant is famous for its wood-fired grill, and the dishes that come out of it. The space is cozy and we definitely don’t hate their $1 house wine deal.

Photo via Gusto 101

Where to drink

Paradise Grapevine

Offering a very well-curated selection of great beer and innovative wine, Paradise Grapevine holds a special place in our heart. As much as we love the drink menus, we also come here for their charming patio.

Barchef

Known for exceptionally artful cocktails and the wonderful mixologists who make them – this is the cocktail bar you come to when you want to impress the co-workers that hated on the Toronto trip.

Seoul Shakers Club

If you’re looking for ambiance – look no further than Seoul Shaker Club. It’s in theme (neon signs, plants hanging from the ceiling, and Korean inspired cocktails) and also offers soju. If you’re boring, they also serve beer, wine, and have a hit list of classic cocktails. 

Photo via Seoul Shakers

Where to workout 

Kula Yoga

With hot, restorative, and beginner classes plus meditation and various workshops – Kula Yoga does a lot for us. We love the general vibe and think that they have some of the best teachers in the city.

Spokehaüs

Similar to a SoulCycle or FlyWheel, Spokehaüs is an uber chic spin studio that makes you want to work it. Get ready to sweat it out to heart pumping music, and then wash it all away with Malin + Goetz products that they stock in their dressing rooms.

Core Pilates Studio

If you need to get your body aligned and back on track, head to Core Pilates studio for a reformer class. We love their Reformer Sculpt class, but you can choose from 6 equally challenging classes that they provide. 

Where to break

St Lawrence Market

Once named the worlds best food market by National Geographic, this major public hall features everything from produce to food stands. If you are in need of a break (and maybe a snack), definitely head here. We recommend hitting up Carousel Bakery but there are tons of options. They also offer cooking classes and frequently have events – so make sure to check their schedule!

Odin

If you are into the Scandinavian design thing, we have found your spot. Odin is a Corktown coffee shop designed by a local architecture studio that prides itself on beautiful modernism and minimalism. Though we definitely come here for the space, we also think they make great coffee. If caffeine isn’t what you’re craving, grab a baked good or a microbrew. 

Tokyo Smoke

This industrial-chic space is basically created to be Instagrammed. Though it’s a bit uber-trendy, we love their espresso and Vietnamese drinks made with custom beans from North Toronto’s De Mello Palheta.

Where to work

Boxcar Social

With great coffee, and a patio for the warmer months, Boxcar Social is popular with Toronto-based freelancers. If you stay longer than the A.M hours, they have snacks and even beer to keep you motivated.

Fix Coffee + Bikes

In West Queen West, this is our pick for a low-key coffee shop with outlets, good lighting, great coffee, and bike repair if you need it. They have bleacher style seating as well incase the table and chair vibe isn’t your thing.

Photo via Fix Coffee + Bikes

The Gallery at Gladstone Hotel

Take in local art as you set up shop in The Gallery at Gladstone Hotel. It has comfy couches and WiFi, and will get you out of the typical coffee shop environment. 

Where to get your hit of culture

The Royal Ontario Museum

ROM combines art, culture, and natural history all under one roof. It’s the most visited museum in Canada and though there is a ton to see – we definitely nerd out on their Art Deco interior collection. 

CN Tower

We know, we know. This isn’t anything new and even if you’ve never set foot in Toronto before, you probably know what CN Tower is. That said, it used to be the world’s tallest tower and you can still go up to the look-out level (which is casually over 1k feet). 

Trinity Bellwoods Park

If you are visiting Toronto during the warmer months and want to take in the local scene of people fully enjoying the warm weather – head to Trinity Bellwoods Park. Pack a picnic and watch how happy Canadians are to see the sun.

Where to shop

The Wanderly

This exceptionally curated boutique is a perfect mixture of vintage finds and consciously sourced accessories and clothing. Think California chic, with products suited for city life. 

KOTN

A unisex basics line we love. Their brick-and-mortar location on Queen Street sells hoodies, t-shirts, and more – all made with high-quality Egyptian cotton. 

Oak + Fort

You may have heard of Oak + Fort because of their digital presence and subscription model, but their store location in Toronto is where it’s at. These simple but classically chic cuts are everything we need. 

Victoria Ainsworth, Marketing Director for Christy Dawn

Tori is a multidisciplinary marketer and e-commerce director. She’s spent the last 7 years working with startups, helping them develop unique brand identities and build meaningful communities. Her past clients include Negative Underwear and hot-spot hotel Maderas Village

A Toronto native, Tori found her way to LA via NYC and is now the marketing guru for cool-girl brand Christy Dawn. Though she is a bad-ass lady running all things CRM, SEO, content, and planning for some of our favorite companies – this low key babe finds herself at home on a surfboard with salt water in her hair and sun on her face. 

After a long stint at GMR Marketing in Toronto, Tori picked up and made her way to Nicaragua for what was supposed to be a break-away vacation, and turned into a long term stay. She traveled around central America in search of calm and waves until making the decision to move to the states. 

Now a Venice beach resident, Tori is making LA home and getting used to the west coast life. Follow her adventures on Instagram @auntowey.

Name 3 favorite hotels, anywhere, off the top of your head. Also, why are they your favorites?

The Harmony Hotel in Nosara, Costa Rica; The Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood, California; The Urban Cowboy in Nashville, Tennessee. I stayed at each of those hotels at a pivotal time in my life. They remind me of embarking on a new chapter, and of unearthing new and interesting parts of myself. (And I got into the best kind of trouble at The Chateau Marmont, because that’s just what you do there!)

Photo via Urban Cowboy

What hotel room design element can you not live without?

Music. The rooms at The Chateau Marmont have vintage record players. When concierge brings you to your room, all the windows are open and there’s a jazz record on. It changes everything.

What 3 songs are on your OOO playlist?

Crazy Love by Irene Diaz; Season by Elder Island; Pour Another by Nick Hakim. I like the moody stuff.

What do you always bring with you in your carry-on?

Oodles of chapstick and a journal.

Where would you go for a digital detox or just generally to get off the grid?

I’d probably go back to Costa Rica. It’s one of my favorite places on the planet – the energy is intoxicating, and you feel so connected to the Earth. (I’d also really like to go on an Alaskan cruise!)

If you could swap suitcases with anyone in the world at baggage claim, who would you swap with?

Someone with excellent taste in books.

Have you or would you travel alone? If Y/N, why?

I travel alone most of the time. Being alone has its perks – you don’t have to consult with anyone about anything, ever. You can just kind of … go. I’d really like to start a little family someday, and I imagine (and hope!) that we’ll travel together often. I try my best to take advantage of this time in my life where I can just be … all by myself.

Best travel advice you’ve ever received, and from whom?

“Don’t be such a wussy.” – an older gentleman watching me reluctantly get on a school bus in Guatemala.

Who is your dream “co-pilot” (travel partner- dead or alive), and why?

My Nana. Because she was the best woman I’ve ever met.

If you could quit your job and follow the “Mamma Mia” dream (ie open a small hotel in a foreign land or on a remote island), where would you do it?

Panarea!

Alone or with someone else?

Alone!

Lost luggage, or lost phone?

Lost luggage – we always need less than what we packed.

Window or aisle?

Window!

Thank you for visiting Safara!

© Copyright 2018 Safara UK Limited. All rights reserved.