Category Archive for Nightcrawling

Join my Odigo travel blogging workshop! Tokyo’s weirdest bar, Guinea Pig Shinjuku.

harajuku crazy street fashion

Jump for joy — I’m heading back to Tokyo for the launch of Odigo! Wouldn’t you like to join me?

There’s a rare chance. On Feb 28, I’m hosting an exclusive travel blogging workshop in Tokyo. We’ll teach you all we know about travel blogs, journalism, TV, video, photography and more.

Read on the for details, and photos from the bloodiest, strangest, craziest theme bar ever!

odigo travel bloggers workshop

I’m excited to announce the official launch of Odigo, a site that lets you plan an exceptional journey to Japan. You can search for offbeat attractions — such as kawaii stores, theme restaurants — as well as more traditional spots. Odigo links everything together in an optimized itinerary, which lets you get from place to place with ease.

I invite you to sign up to be a contributor – anyone can share their finds on Odigo! And if you’re in Japan… come to my travel blogging workshop on 2/28. My professional photo/film team and I will give in-depth advice on travel writing, photography, TV and video production, social media, working with sponsors, finding a niche, and much more.

When: Saturday, February 28, 1:30-4pm (followed by a round-table and reception). Matador U is giving a workshop before us (see all details on the Facebook invite and MeetUp)
Where: Ryozan Park, 6F, 3-36-7 Otsuka, Tokyo (here’s a map. It’s a few minutes walk from Otsuka station on the Yamanote line).
Cost: Free if you sign up on Odigo and submit writeups for 10 spots. For everyone else, 5000 yen per person. Limited to 25 spaces, including lunch, resources and networking.

Curious about what else I’ll be doing, in Tokyo? Add Odigo on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to find out.

eyeballs in jars, horror bar

Thanks to Odigo, you can easily find info about the most bizarre and obscure places in Japan. For example, I did a writeup about Kabukicho bar, Guinea Pig. Look for a plain building with a winding staircase, and take the elevator up to a door with a barely visible sign.

guinea pig tokyo bar

This underground bar is for those with a bloody disposition. The decoration consists of such nightmares as chains, baby mannequins, and horror movie art.

(I’m wearing this Nanette Lepore: Runaway Stripe dress and a crown from my NY friend King Vulcanus Levi.)

asia horror movie bars

So, how do you get to Guinea Pig? The address is: 2-41-2 Leo Kotobuki Building 3-A, Kabuki-cho, Shinjuku, Tokyo (all this info is on Odigo!) 1000 yen cover. Opening hours vary; generally from 8pm to early morning. Phone: 03-3209-3455

weirdest tokyo theme bar

The bar’s decor is inspired by b-horror movies: zombie hands reach down from the ceiling, and a mannequin in chains sits at a table.

scary haunted shinjuku bar

The owner, a flamboyant fellow named Roxy, is hilarious and will make you special cocktails. He’ll also dare you to play with his live pet snake.

coolest cocktails tokyo

Our friends ordered Bloody Marys, while Yukiro and I got his specialty, a mix of grapefruit, rum, and maybe some voodoo potions.

japanese strange art

Strange art hangs on the walls. It’s a unique mix of dread and humor in this bar.

japan horror movie bar

Japan is well known for its weird theme bars, which I’ve written about extensively before. These include a visual kei bar, an absinthe Goth bar, and more.

guinea pig kabukicho

And here are all of my posts about bizarre theme restaurants, in Japan and elsewhere.

kabukicho bars

Some of these bars are one-act novelties, but I can go to Guinea Pig again and again. It’s a subculture hub — there are always interesting people drinking at the small counter.

goth bar japan

Yukiro was shooting a bad girl b-movie there, entitled ‘The Bloody Knockers.” I make a cameo in the bar scene! The movie is out now, and you can watch it here… if you dare.

japanese voodoo witch

If you’re a fan of Japanese horror films, and fetish is your idea of fun, then I have a feeling you’ll dig Guinea Pig too. You can look up more spots like this on Odigo.

japan club kids, street snaps night

All of these photos are by Tokyo-based photographer Said Karlsson. He took these candid snaps of Yukiro and me dominating the neon streets of Shinjuku.

shinjuku crosswalk, kabukicho lights

No, we’re not posing… we always cross the street like this!

maleficent cosplay, halloween costume

Every dark creature must stop to curtsy in front of evil queen Maleficent.

tokyo japan kids playground

We couldn’t resist climbing this Japanese kids playground equipment, and striking a pose. Funny, we did something similar in Berlin.

japanese convenience store interior

Antics in the convenience store. I’m not sure what we were doing in the magazine section…

haagen dazs sakura ice cream

We ended up getting special edition rose and sakura flavored Haagen Dazs ice cream. The pink looks nice against my Totoro nails.

feeding each other ice cream

In heaven, people feed each other rice with chopsticks. In hell, I suppose they survive on pink ice cream!

designer playground equipment

Have you been to any of Tokyo’s crazy theme bars? Which ones are your favorites?

I hope to see you at my Odigo travel bloggers workshop, on February 28 in Tokyo! Info is at the top of the post, and feel free to leave a comment if you have questions.

New Orleans Tree of Life, Audubon Park. Voodoo vampire shops, Jackson Square cats, Katrina homes.

la carmina hair, beauty, makeup

I’ve always been fascinated by how themes of life and death are expressed so vividly, in New Orleans. This is a city where locals party hard, and play jazz in the streets. At the same time, NOLA is famous for cemeteries, haunted houses, voodoo shops and vampires. 

To celebrate Mardi Gras, we’ll climb the Tree of Life…

glowing lights new orleans night walk

… and then wander through the French Quarter’s dark side. At the end, we’ll take a frank look at the Katrina aftermath, and the struggle to rebuild neighborhoods destroyed by the hurricane.

black fringe sleeve dress

– I’m wearing a dramatic KillStar dress, similar to this black dress with long fringe sleeves. You could also wear a black leather jacket with fringe down the arms for a similar look.

❤ Shop my style below ❤

audubon park bridge

My friends and I rode the historic St Charles streetcar to the Garden District, about 20 minutes from the stop near the Hotel Modern. It’s a scenic ride that costs only $1.25 each way.

We passed by grand Southern houses (some photos at the bottom of this post), the Eiffel Society, and the Loyola and Tulane university campuses. We got off at Audubon Park, and found ourselves surrounded by majestic trees and lakes.

audubon park duck pond

“I’m like a bird…” A variety of creatures make the park their home. We spotted a Great Egret soaring above the water, and a mother duck with a row of babies swimming behind her. Do you see the squirrel on my left?

new orleans lake

This land was once a plantation. In 1871, the city purchased it, and made it into a park. It’s named after John James Audubon, an artist / naturalist who lived in New Orleans at the time.

nola garden district park

The more time I spent in New Orleans, the more sides I saw of the city. I wish I could have stayed longer, to explore more of the outer neighborhoods and nature sites.

southern oak trees, louisiana

Like Elaine from Seinfeld, I don’t use the word “breathtaking” lightly… but it seems like the right word to describe this pathway, shaded by Southern oak trees. 

killstar model, goth dress

The twisting branches and soft, mossy canopies are a quintessential part of Louisiana’s landscape.

climbing tree of life

After walking for about 15 minutes, we reached the Tree of Life. This immense oak is the size of a building, and the branches dip to the ground — the ultimate invitation for climbing.

dress with fringe sleeves

Beneath these powerful, century-old branches, you can’t help but admire nature’s grandeur.

kill star model, alt modeling

I braided part of my hair, to show the contrast between purple and blue, over red. My hairstylist is Stephanie Hoy at Vancouver’s Stratosphere salon.

❤ Click below for details of my clothing ❤

black silver japanese boots

– My boots are from Japan, and similar to these leather buckle ankle boots by Jeffrey Campbell.
- Find cross print tights like mine here, as well as sheer crucifix stockings.

new orleans big tree

The Tree of Life is a popular spot for couples to get married. According to legend, someone planted this tree to honor his new wife, during the days when Audubon Park was a plantation.

girl yoga on tree branches

Molly (who took the photos of me in NOLA) says “I know nothing about Audubon Park from a history angle, but let’s just discuss how much fun I had climbing that tree.” 

paule ka purse leather

– I turned of the knobs into a make-shift hanger for my handbag. (It’s by Paule Ka and available here.)

wood sunglasses, pink floyd iphone case

– My wood cat-eye sunglasses are from British designers, Moat House Eyewear.
- The Pink Floyd “Division Bell” iPhone case is from SVNTYHere are more photos of me with my wood phone case.

hanging tree girl

Molly tried out some pole and yoga moves on the branches.

sleeping girl in tree

Nature makes the best seat in the house.

witch vampire dress

The trailing fringe from my dress mimics the strands of Spanish moss, hanging down from the trees.

giraffes audubon zoo new orleans

Next to the tree of life is Audubon Zoo. The giraffes are so tall that you can see their heads poking out from above the fence!

goth alternative girls

It’s disappointing when visitors to New Orleans never leave the French Quarter. Less than 30 minutes away, Audubon Park is a joyful place that shows a different slice of life.

fancy southern plantation home

The surrounding homes are stately antebellum mansions with columns and gardens. Since the Quarter and the Garden District are located on high ground, these upscale areas escaped the devastating flooding from Hurricane Katrina. 

hurricane katrina cross markings

Molly and I felt it was important to see the areas of New Orleans that were most heavily hit by Katrina. Taxi driver David Hammer gave us a 3-hour personal tour, which took us to the Lower 9th Ward, the breached levees, and more. (To arrange for one of his city tours, phone David: 503 931 0323)

A local who is versed in the history of New Orleans, David didn’t shy away from speaking about the ongoing problems with rebuilding. We saw homes marked with “X-Codes” or “Katrina crosses,” which rescuers used to indicate if there were hazards or deaths within.

katrina destroyed homes

Ten years after Katrina, many of these neighborhoods remain destroyed. Some homeowners came back and tried to rebuild, but lack of funds forced them to abandon their properties. We drove on bumpy roads, warped by the water. We passed overgrown and empty lots, followed by temporary housing, followed by ghost-houses like the one above — hazards for vermin, squatters and other dangers.

new orleans delapitated house roof

Molly reflects, “It was really painful to see a house, then a space where a house used to be, then a house, then more space. I kept thinking about what it must be like to come home to a house next to a space. Was it lonely? Scary? Do you wonder if Katrina will happen again? I used to not understand why someone wouldn’t come home if you could, but now, I think how do you come back to a place that completely fell apart? Aren’t there times where you just have to start over?”

katrina reconstruction houses

“So, I guess what I mean is that both the spaces and the rebuilding make sense to me.” Yet there is still so much that needs to happen, before these neighborhoods are livable again. There’s a lot more one can say about the impact of Hurricane Katrina, but I’ll wrap up with the photo above: a reconstruction attempt that was abandoned probably due to lack of funding, and left as a decaying shell.

new orleans misissippi river bank

That feeling of life, death and all the areas in between come to the forefront at night, in New Orleans. Not far from Jackson Square, you can buy a hot buttered rum to go (alcohol is allowed in the streets here), and walk right up to the banks of the Mississippi River. Yes, that’s a rainbow on the top right.

new orleans waterfront night

The streetlights give off an eerie glow. They illuminate the history of the city, from old rail tracks to new hotels.

st louis cathedral nighttime

The castle-like Saint Louis Cathedral is the oldest in North America, established in 1720. A horse and carriage raced across, taking us back several centuries.

mask shop window display

The spirit of Mardi Gras haunts the city all throughout the year. A feathered mask peers out of a window.

rev zombie's voodoo shop

I was keen to learn more about voodoo, which has roots in African spiritual/folk traditions, and took on a life of its own in Louisiana. We popped into Reverend Zombie’s Voodoo shop (723 St Peter St), which offers readings and rituals.

new orleans voodoo dolls

Gris gris (talismans or amulets), voodoo dolls, and powerful queens like Marie Laveau are part of this tradition. While some of New Orleans’ voodoo shops have a touristy feeling, there is a tangible power in the masks and dolls we saw..

occult new orleans esoterica

I was in my element, visiting these occult, spiritual, witchcraft and esoteric shops.

ghost vampire cemetery tours

Another way to experience the darkest side of New Orleans is by joining a ghost, vampire, cemetery and voodoo tour. Some are on the cheesier side, so I recommend doing your research and looking for niche tours run by insiders.

jesus statue shadow st louis church

How spooky is this image of New Orleans? It’s a marble statue of Jesus with hands aloft, casting an ominous shadow onto St Louis Cathedral. 

witch stores goth new orleans

Don’t be surprised if you run into skeleton hands and witchy-women, in the streets of the Quarter.

vampire shop

Vampires are a major part of the culture of New Orleans. This city is not just a setting, but almost a character in the novels of Anne Rice (Interview with the Vampire, Queen of the Damned) and Poppy Z Brite (Lost Souls).

new orleans vampire culture, store

We visited Boutique du Vampyre (709 St Ann St), a collection of all things bloody (fangs, candles, handcrafted gifts).

vampire wine

There’s also a strong vampire subculture here in New Orleans. Members belong to Houses, and some engage in ritual blood-drinking.

jackson square cats

I leave you with the stray cats of Jackson Square. Quite fitting that cats are associated with witches and the spiritual world.

new orleans stray cats

I hope you’ll come to New Orleans, one of the most fascinating cities I’ve ever encountered. Joyeux Mardi Gras, everyone!

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New Orleans Goth clubs & bars! Hotel Modern, Bellocq cocktails, Southern fusion restaurants.

goth hat, fringe sleeve black dress

New Orleans is one of the world’s most haunted places… so a Goth girl like me fit right in!

Let me be your guide to the spooky side of NOLA. In this post, I’ll take you to a Jack Skellington burlesque show, Krampus devil party, and boudoir bar. I’ll also tell you about the time I ate alligator, and discovered a new appreciation of grits.

Put on your devil horns, and walk this way.

devil shadow

My friend Molly and I were invited to an underground costume party at Siberia (2227 Saint Claude Avenue). This neighborhood, St Roch, is outside the quarter and home to quite a few artist abodes.

To match the evil theme of the night, I wore a Kill Star dress with trailing fringe sleeves. My pointy black hat is handmade by Blablahospital. Run by my friend Ako, the brand makes deconstructed, eccentric “medical punk” fashion.

siberia club bar, new orleans

At the door, we were greeted by a colorful, alternative bunch. The Candy Girl was a sweetheart!

goth clubs, parties new orleans

Why is everyone so “horn-y”? Because this is a Krampus party, held in honor of the holiday folklore devil. St Nicholas rewarded good children with presents, while the Krampus gave the naughty ones a good old spanking. 

krampus devil party

When I took the photo above, I thought to myself, “New Orleans surpassed my expectations.” I wasn’t able to come here for Halloween, but I didn’t feel like I missed out. The city is always up for a crazy costume party. 

(But I would certainly come back for All Hallow’s Eve. I’d love to attend the famous annual events, including the Anne Rice Vampire Ball and Witches’ Ball.)

devil horns hat

Music is everywhere in the city. That night, we saw several indie and rock performers…

sideshow performance nola

… and a painful sideshow act. Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Above, the man has Christmas lights staple-gunned to his skin, and the woman is stringing wire from her nose to her mouth.

hooves feet costume

Molly puns, “People went whole hog or whole hoof on their outfits. Amazing. This town can do costumes like nobody’s business, and for that, it has my eternal devotion.”

krampus christmas costumes

She’s right — the partygoers wore impressive handmade costumes, which represented the horned and hooved Krampus. Several went on stage for the costume contest, and this scary lady won.

green alien head mask

I went to another dark and costume-y event at the Old Marquer Theatre, also located in St Roch. This venue puts on intimate, edgy performances…

nightmare before christmas burlesque

… like a Nightmare Before Christmas burlesque show! Jack Skellington never looked so good. I love seeing local, niche theater like this. (Remember when I saw the Tim Burton musical in Portland?)

pumpkin floor painting

New Orleans could certainly be nicknamed Halloween-Town. In the French Quarter, outside the dive bar Molly’s, I stepped on this smiling pumpkin-face.

pirate's alley bar, absinthe house

I’ll say it again: avoid Bourbon Street, which reminds me of a sticky beer-coated frat party.

Goths and alternative types like to hang out in the less raucous streets of the French Quarter. When I asked for recommendations, quite a few of you suggested Pirate’s Alley Cafe, purveyors of dark spicy rum and absinthe (two of my favorite drinks), and decorated like a scurvy ship.

aunt tiki's, new orleans gothic bars

Aunt Tiki’s (1207 Decatur Street) is another favorite hangout for Gothic and metal music fans.

goth metal music bar

Death haunts the entrance of Aunt Tiki’s. Go ahead and ask the bartenders for local recommendations — they’ll steer you the right way.

the spotted cat jazz new orleans

Frenchman Street is all about live jazz clubs. Our favorite was the The Spotted Cat (623 Frenchman – try to come on weekdays, since it gets crowded on weekends).

Molly muses, “I think bad dancing is contagious, but here, I couldn’t sit still. I felt like we stumbled into another world or era or something that was close to magic. How can that level of talent just be playing jazz in a tiny place with no cover?! The music made me want to dance all of the way home that night.”

hotel modern new orleans lobby

Between dancing with devils and jazzmen, we rested at the hip Hotel Modern (936 St Charles Ave). It’s our kind of place: we received a cocktail upon check-in, saw several film stars in the lobby, and said hello to Miss Scarlet the Eclectus Parrot.

The lobby is full of quirks, like the painting above. (My moon top is also by Kill Star, and my leather skirt is Erbert Chong.)

lee circle statue

Since The Hotel Modern is located at Lee Circle (about a 5 minute taxi ride from the French Quarter), we were close to the action, yet got a quiet rest at night. Molly says, “The staff was really good about answering all of my questions, and the bird seemed to have a good life too. Even though the rooms were simple, I really liked how the hotel felt like you were staying with people you could be friends with.”

tivoli and lee restaurant

We made new pals at Tivoli & Lee, which doesn’t feel like a typical “restaurant in a hotel.” Chef Marcus Woodham was a culinary artist, whipping up creations on the spot to suit our tastes. Molly ate here several times, and calls this her favorite restaurant in New Orleans, hands down.

louisiana fine dining restaurant

I didn’t realize I was a fan of Louisiana food, until I came to Tivoli and Lee. We dove into a “new Southern”  catfish roulade, beet salad, and the creamiest crème brûlée. Molly says, “Our waiters were super cool. It made me feel like I was having dinner in a friend’s home that happened to make some of the best food I’ve eaten in quite a while.”

bellocq cocktail bar

Bellocq cocktail bar also resides in the Hotel Modern. Molly reminisces, “I want to paint a room in a future home that shade of red… probably a bedroom. That bar was straight up sexy.”

new orleans mixology bar

I’m not kidding you — if I could teleport to any bar right now, it would be this one. The roomy, boudoir atmosphere is my type of hangout. And the drinks! The bartenders made me an absinthe cocktail, and a rum daiquiri that fit my tastebuds to a T (I love dark spicy rum, citrus, bitters). It’s probably the best drink I had all year.

hotel modern bellocq lounge

Molly and I also enjoyed the bar’s historical connection. The concept is inspired by E. Q. Bellocq, a 19th century photographer who took images of red light district workers.

court of two sisters jazz brunch

Let’s wrap this up with a few more Southern food recommendations. I ate jambalaya, gumbo, grits and more comfort favorites during jazz brunch, at the Court of Two Sisters. It felt like a scene out of a novel, dining under the canopy of trees, in an elegant Louisiana courtyard.

live jazz music brunch

Molly says, “Again, like all things in NOLA, this should have felt douchey and Disneyworld-ish, but it was delicious food in a beautiful place. Our waiters were attentive and the live jazz was fantastic. All brunch should be like this, particularly including grits.”

live piano bar nola

Kingfish Restaurant took a modern spin on casual Southern cuisine, and succeeded. I sipped a strong Sazerac (a New Orleans cocktail) and we dined to the sounds of live piano.

alligator wings, kingfish restaurant

Look, we ate grits… and alligator wings! It tastes like chicken, perhaps with a milder and sweeter flavor. I’m not kidding you, I’d eat this regularly if I had the chance.

sobou, w hotel new orleans

Sobou at the W Hotel has a hip vibe – we saw a lot of younger people hanging out here. The entrance plays with light, mirrors and rows of bottles.

ice cream appetizer, sobou

The Creole cuisine gets experimental at times, such as duck beignets topped with powdered sugar, and tuna ice cream cone appetizers. Molly says, “I want one of those now. This place surpassed my expectations, in that it was as good as the food was elegantly displayed. I was also wow-ed by how they helped us celebrate my friend’s birthday so smoothly, with a chocolate flourless cake decorated with her name.”

beignets cafe du monde

Finally, one can’t leave NOLA without sampling the famous beignets (donut-like fritters) and cafe au laits, at Cafe Du Monde. After walking for hours, we were relieved to sit down for a snack, and people-watch (Jackson Square is across the road).

Modern Southern cuisine, and an eccentric Goth scene… Now you know why New Orleans stole our hearts! More stories coming up, featuring vampires and graveyards. (All my NOLA coverage is located here.)

PS: Thanks to Qantas Airlines magazine for the Travel Insider interview! The article calls me “one of the best-known names in the blogging world, having authored three books and hosting travel segments for international television networks….”

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10 Things I Love about Cape Town: Wine, jazz, drag queens! South Africa travel show episode.

I’m leaping in the air because our Cape Town video is out!

In this latest episode of my travel show – published on Business Insider Travel — I encounter lions, drag queens, penguins…

…street art, and color everywhere.  (Above, I’m posing with the rainbow homes of the Bo-Kaap district – outfit details and more here.)

Please take a few minutes to watch our episode above and on Business Insider.

It was hard to edit all the fantastic footage into a short video. I could go on for hours about why I love this city — but I’ll boil it down to 10 things I love about Cape Town.

Stellenbosch winery cape town

 1. South African Wine Tastings

South Africa’s wines have been getting attention in recent years, especially those from the Stellenbosch region. I’m no wine expert, but I can tell you that these are some of the best I’ve tasted (and I’ve tasted a lot).

Our driver took us about an hour outside of Cape Town to Steenberg, a modern vineyard and farm. The staff poured us a selection of white and reds, including the smooth and complex Magna Carta. I wish I had a glass of it in my hand, as I’m typing this!

petting a big pig

Outside, we ran into Pumbaa the warthog! This rotund creature really looks like the African pig in the Disney movie, The Lion King. Of course, filmmaker Melissa had to sing Hakuna Matata and pet his bristles.

girl and warthog pig

Somehow, the Asian peace-sign pose is appropriate here. Pumbaa was the only animal who didn’t bite her during our journey. (Remember she got nipped by a peacock, penguin and dassie… and I got pecked by an ostrich.)

publik wine bar, cape town

2. Cape Town Wine Bars

Another glass? Yes please. I got tipsy at Publik, a laid-back bar that serves local wines along with cheese, rye with quince, and smoked free-range meats. If you usually dislike a certain varietal, they might surprise you with a delicious version that makes you think twice. The goblets and high counters make this an easygoing experience — there’s no snobbery here.

jazz safari, Hilton Schilder

3. Jazz Safari with Local Musicians

I love getting to know locals wherever I go. One night, we joined a Jazz Safari tour that took us inside the homes of local musicians. We ate dinner together, and then listened to a private home performance.

african Mouth Bow instrument

Musician Hilton Schilder’s wife prepared us a hearty curry with rice, and it was one of the best meals I had in Cape Town (along with Faldela Tolker’s Cape Malay cooking). Hilton plays multiple instruments, and performed experimental pieces on piano, guitar  and this African mouth bow. I enjoyed hearing about his inspiration, such as how he composed a 15 minute song called “Rebirth” by visualizing a keyboard on the ceiling, as he was lying in bed recovering from an illness.

township jazz musicians, cape town

Next, our guide Michael drove us to one of the townships. We saw some metal shacks on the outskirts, but most of the residents lived in small houses. Not nearly as ominous as you might imagine.

TA Blaques performed energetic compositions on trumpet, with his friend on guitar. Cape Jazz is a local style that mixes Western and African influences, with plenty of improv. We tapped our feet along as they played a mix of “Pata Pata” and “In the Jungle.” What a memorable night.

beefcakes cape town gay club

4. Beefcakes Gay Bar & Drag Queen Show

Now, for a very different type of nightlife… What is the gay scene like in Cape Town? I must say, pink and fabulous! The gay bar Beefcakes has a double meaning: it serves burgers, and the waiters are all beefed-up studs!

south africa gay bar, beefcakes

Beefcakes has frequent “boogie nights” that bring in LGBT and alternative performers. The bar is a favorite destination for girls nights too. We saw a bachelorette doing a “body shot” off a waiter’s six pack.

fat drag queen

But that evening, all eyes were on drag queen Champagne le Roux. She took the stage, and made snide but light-hearted comments about people in the audience. At one point, my cutesy lion backpack was the subject of her interrogation.

beefcakes drag show

After some song-and-dance numbers, it was time for “Bitchy Bingo.” Champagne ordered a “ball boy” to come on stage and pick out bingo numbers.

cape town theme bar

Our friend Vicky won! She had to go onstage to dance with the queen, and then got awarded prizes like a Beefcakes calendar and a bottle of warm beer.

beefcakes muscle men waiters

“Macho macho man…” Crazy to think that I’ve seen drag queen shows in so many parts of the world now, from Israel to Tokyo. (Photography by Melissa Rundle, Eric Bergemann and La Carmina.)

eat african animals menu

5. African Cuisine

Speaking of meat, Cape Town Tourism organized some outstanding meals for us. At Africa Cafe, I tried pap for the first time — a mushy, gluey staple carb made from ground maize. The menu offered African exotic meats, including springbok, impala, crocodile, and warthog (alas, poor Pumbaa!).

Cap Classique bubbly wine champagne

6. Drinking Cap Classique

Alcohol is a big part of my Top 10 list, isn’t it? At Hallelujah, I tasted a selection of Cap Classique “champagne,” a bubbly wine from South Africa.  It was apparently a favorite of Marie Antoinette and European royalty.

hallelujah asian restaurant, cape town

Hallelujah also serves outstanding Asian street food at like prawns with hot steamed buns and coleslaw. Melt-in-your mouth dishes designed for sharing, inspired by dim sum and Asia comfort foods. I didn’t realize Cape Town had such hip restaurants and bars.

house of machines bar

7. The House of Machines

A lot of locals recommended a bar called The House of Machines. Once we got there, we saw what all the buzz was about. This space is a mix of motorcycles, men’s fashion, art and cocktails.

cape town hipster bars

They make a mean dark and stormy cocktail, and the music (indie rock, dance, local) is spot on. The next time I’m in Cape Town, I’ll be heading straight here.

8. Handmade Local Fashion

Missibaba is a women-run leather studio that stays true to its Cape Town origins. Many of the accessories take inspiration from African art, such as purses with tribal patterns.

A devotee of “slow fashion,” Missbaba employs local craftswomen who make almost all of the designs by hand.

Lead designer Chloe Townsend is passionate about “slow fashion” and supporting South African women. Her workshop employs craftswomen from an underprivileged township, and she donates a portion of proceeds to local empowerment programs.

9. Young Design Studios

Remember my trip to Woodstock Exchange, a modern art hub? You can’t leave Cape Town without exploring the cool studios inside.

I interviewed designer Atang Tshikare of Zabalazaa about his urban illustrations, which he custom-creates on skateboards and other surfaces.

He shares a space with Jasper Eales, a product designer who won awards for his eco-friendly design solutions, like a clever surfboard storage rack.

10. Powerful Political Art

Cape Town has a tumultuous history that is often contemplated in its local art. Ralph Ziman’s photos symbolize the devastation caused by arms trading. He photographed street vendors holding AK-47 guns, created out of African beads and wire.

His team showed us “Resistance”, a 100-meter long installation of a broken gun made from wheat paste. The weapon is wrapped in world currencies, symbolizing the international complicity in the arms trade.

If you’re intrigued by this art scene, take a look at my post about the street art in Woodstock. And don’t forget to view our Cape Town travel video, to see it all in action.

africa warthog, pumba

I leave you with this smiling warthog from the vineyard. He seems to be humming Hakuna Matata.

Did this post open your eyes to South Africa’s wines, LGBT nightlife and restaurants? Please let us know your feedback on the video, and where you’d like us to see us travel next!