Admission – I had no idea that Parkview, a suburb filled with childhood memories had such interesting history.
What a delightful discovery. Parkview, a suburb along Jozi’s northern suburbs green belt, and its park – Zoo Lake, was a plantation started in 1891. About three million fast growing trees created a recreational forest for the Rand Lords who had become rich from the 1886 gold rush.
The lake was added in 1908 and is set beautifully in the midst of this arboretum, where as kids we ran behind eager geese-chasing dogs and once a month admired local art. (Artists Under the Sun, was started in 1960 and is still going strong.)
My sisters would take me rowing on Zoo Lake (yes – you still can too, my niece got engaged in one of those boats!) Blistered hands aside I loved heaving across the water, avoiding ducks and the large scary centre fountain lest we became waterlogged and sink. Now, I learn the Coronation Fountain was built in 1937 to commemorate King George VI’s coronation.
Quick aside: talking about Kings – Moyo African Restaurant at Zoo Lake serves a feast fit for a king: Springbok fillets on mash with a creamy sherry sauce – great to eat whilst on their balcony watching the sun set. (Moyo’s also have pensioner Tuesdays)
Indeed, not only Kings and Rand Lords have enjoyed Parkview’s now established leafy haven. Each year it also becomes a cultural hub – Arts Alive Festival’s Jazz on the Lake. I admit I became really wistful when I found out that in 1956 (Johannesburg’s 70th birthday), one of my childhood heroines, Margot Fonteyn danced Swan Lake here as part of the city’s celebration.
The park caters for swimmers (at the pool, not in the lake!), great sports facilities including archery, picnickers and dog walkers, casual joggers and hardcore marathon runners such as 2004 New York City Marathon winner Hendrick Ramaala.
In fact, a short dash away from the park is the entrance to the Westcliff Stairs. Johannesburgers training for the Comrades Marathon and other brave types dart up and down 210 steps to Parktown Ridge (laboured on by unemployed miners in 1922 to connect the stairs with the streets). If you get to the top the reward is one of the most spectacular views of the City of Gold ever. Of course, if you manage in spring time, you’ll be delighted by the city of purple when Jozi is covered in the purple mist of flowering Jacaranda trees.
Down below again and a short gentle walk away from the Zoo Lake, more happy childhood memories await – Rudolph Nureyev danced just for me at the old Lake Cinema in Tyrone Avenue. The movie house is refurbished as the Village Lifestyle Centre, and Tyrone Avenue has everything you need, from cutting-edge art & crafts to fashionable eateries to please every palate.
Parkview shops are charming, understated and keep that rare sense of actually being fairly untouched by rampant modernism. Parkview residents certainly know how to have a good time in their own backyard.
Local tip: when planning on throwing or going to a party – Tyrone Avenue is the only street you have to stop in. You’ll find great gifts – Art Africa, internationally known for art curios; Lali Silver Jewellery with local and imported pieces; the craft market for jewellery, clothes, antiques, or more gifts. Stock up on your delicious treats from the home industries store, and wash down with a bottle or two from the local liquor store.
Not sure what party frock to wear? Parkview Ballet and Fancy dress caters for adults and children. Afterwards you may wish to visit Tyrone Family Pharmacy and Clinic with a full Allopathic and Homeopathic dispensary! Or stop by The Mask Skin & Body Clinic for a quick pick-me-up facial.
When I was a kid I don’t recall the choice of restaurants that make Parkview residents leave home for breakfast, lunch and supper. Let’s start with Scusi Bistro, vibrantly continental where satisfied patrons spill onto the pavements. Or The Perfect Cup – say no more! There’s Gingko offering tantalizing vegetarian and vegan organic fare, and Taste of Punjab which patrons say is ‘excellent’, and ‘delectable’. If North Indian cuisine isn’t for you, then the family oriented Franco’s Pizzeria and Trattoria will please.
Yet another major attraction , and memory nest, of the area is Johannesburg Zoo – all 81-hectares of it established in 1904. That’s just before the lake was built. It’s gone through many improvements since my first visit there aged three. The resident lion turned his back on us and showed his immense displeasure with a fountain more perilous than the lake’s.
Jo’burg Zoo has a number of conservation programmes in place and you can adopt an animal or do a normal day visit, a behind-the-scenes tour or, wait for it, you can pitch your own tent, enjoy marshmallows and hot chocolate around a bonfire and listen to the nocturnal bellows and grunts of 2000 animals as you go to sleep.
If you’re from out-of-town and would rather a guesthouse than the zoo overnight option, here are four park accommodation options for that home from home rest stop. All of these have ease of location – close to Gautrain, Sandton and Johannesburg CBD.
Whichever you are I bet you’ll make your own memories. Enjoy!