Author: Lesley Stones

Lesley Stones

Lesley Stones is a former Brit who is now proudly South African. She started her career by reviewing rock bands for a national UK music paper, then worked for various newspapers before spending four fun-filled years in Cairo, where she ended up editing a technology magazine. A follow-the-sun policy took her to South Africa, where she became the Information Technology Editor for Business Day. After 12 years with the paper Lesley quit to go freelance, specialising in travel and leisure writing and being opinionated about life in general. She writes in a quirky, humorous style and her absolute passions are travel, theatre, the cinema, wining and dining.

Thirteen minutes. That’s all it took from arriving in Barcelona to encounter one of its greatest claims to fame – the slickest pickpockets in Europe.

If you’re going to hit, best get hit by a professional, I always say. And they’re at their slickest and quickest on the underground trains at Barcelona Sants railway station. Barcelona treats its notoriety as a pickpocketer’s playground with a zesty inverted snobbery, with the landlord of the apartment I …

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I’m worried about Johannesburg. It’s getting a reputation that really isn’t doing us much good.
If we carry on like this, our image as a dirty, violent and gangster-ridden city will no longer fool anybody. Everyone will see that’s just tough talk designed to scare away the tourists and keep the city to ourselves.
In the old days, tourists were advised that Joburg was best approached with caution and locked car doors. In fact, it …

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Africa isn’t normally associated with tropical islands where you can wallow in luxury. It’s a continent painted with the brush of poverty, but beneath that false impression lie some wonderful countries waiting to be explored – and you don’t even have to be adventurous or a fan of roughing it to do so.

For an exotic holiday where the taste of Africa is wrapped in style, take a magnifying glass to your map and find …

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If you’re looking for a cheap holiday, Cape Town has probably never topped your travel agenda. This gloriously swanky South African city has won so many travel awards that you naturally assume it’s going to pack a punch in the price department too. It’s been ranked as the top holiday destination for 2014 by the New York Times and the UK’s Guardian, and it’s always in favor with the flush Condé Nast class. It’s also …

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Spaniards may take a relaxed mañana attitude to things like completing half-built cathedrals and scoring World Cup goals.
But when they say that access to a train closes two minutes before the departure time, they actually mean it.

“The train has gone,” a square-shaped security guard told me with an indifferent shrug.

“Not it hasn’t,” I panted, “I can see it.” I pointed it out, large and definitely present, as a loud speaker tauntingly confirmed …

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Planning your perfect holiday involves several exciting decisions: will it be seaside or city, on-tap entertainment or splendid isolation, excellent for culture vultures or family friendly?
How well a country treats its people, its animals and its environment rarely even gets a look in.

But in these days of eco-friendly everything, it’s now possible to choose your destination by its human rights record, conservation efforts and social and animal welfare. So if you’re tired of …

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My French came back to me with remarkable clarity as I staggered out of the ocean clutching my stinging ankle.

“Je suis blessé,” I wailed, then proved I was injured by tumbling over as my ungainly flippers snagged on the volcanic rocks peppering the beach. Something that felt suspiciously like a crown of thorns had gripped my ankle as I’d waded through the murky water. Now my ankle was punctured by five black splinters and …

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The most overused words in travel-speak must be ‘once in a lifetime.’
But if you’re open to a journey that has a habit of changing lives, I think I may have found it. It’s a trip on the Europa, a glorious sailing ship with riggings, a crow’s nest, a poop and sloop deck and other fascinating terms that baffle the average landlubber.

The Europa is largely crewed by people who signed up as paying passengers …

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It’s difficult to keep your mouth closed in Madrid.

Every corner reveals a building more jaw-droppingly gorgeous than the last. You admire one ridiculously ornate building in front, then turn to see an even more over-the-top edifice behind.
Madrid is one of the most architecturally stunning cities in the world, although it’s not the grandeur of its buildings that intoxicates. It’s the vibe on its streets as they bubble with exuberant life, making the Spanish …

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The death of Nelson Mandela is focusing world attention on South Africa as never before. His departure at the age of 95 is uniting the country again, just as he pulled the fragmented society together in 1995, when he wore a Springbok’s jersey to the Rugby World Cup, the country’s first major sporting event since the end of Apartheid.

I have always felt privileged to be part of Mandela’s land, a country where one astonishing …

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At least 100 elephant are slowly shuffling past our vehicle. They come pouring into the dry riverbed towards us, first appearing over the left bank, then over the right. An elephant traffic jam forms as they filter together, greeting each other, gathering in small social clusters, kicking up dust, then trudging in unison up the dry river. We sit open-mouthed, awed by the immensity of the herd passing within meters of us.

Then one young …

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My new walking companion Maria sniffed apologetically and told me she was suffering from bad constipation.

I was a little perturbed. I know the Spaniards are outgoing and flamboyant, but I hadn’t expected her to share this much information. Then she sniffed again and told me the constipation was also making her sneeze. Ahh, she has a cold, I realized, and this is one of those linguistic twists where a word in one language has …

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There’s an exciting moment whenever you set off on a game drive and the ranger asks what you’d like to see.
It always makes me laugh, as if this khaki-clad Dr Doolittle can conjure up spectacular animal sightings on command.
But if you do yearn for a specific view of wildlife – a leopard in a tree or a wild dog hunt, perhaps – you can increase your chances enormously by picking a destination slap …

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The next move is the most important of them all, our tango teacher said as I wobbled precariously on one leg.

My other leg was provocatively hooked behind my partner’s thigh, and I couldn’t imagine executing any other move except falling on the floor. “The final move is a sexy face,” she said. You can’t get away with a “trying not to fall over” face in the tango, so we aimed for sexy or sophisticated …

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