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A correspondent's take on Johannesburg

  • CNN correspondent Robyn Curnow shares tips about her hometown of Johannesburg
  • It's a misconception that "it is a dangerous, scary place," Curnow says
  • Try spicy sausages, or "boerewors," for a real taste of South Africa

Editor's note: CNN's Insider Trip Tips taps staffers around the globe for a local's look at places where they work and live.

Johannesburg, South Africa (CNN) -- Johannesburg doesn't have the stunning beauty of Cape Town or the seaside like Durban, but the energy in South Africa's largest city makes it an exciting place to be, says CNN South Africa correspondent and Johannesburg native Robyn Curnow.

And in June, excitement will peak as "Jozi" welcomes soccer fans from all over the globe for 2010 FIFA World Cup matches.

Curnow grew up, went to school and started her broadcasting career in Johannesburg. After working in Australia and London over the past 15 years, Curnow is happy to be home.

"CNN posted me back here three years ago, so it's wonderful to be a foreign correspondent reporting from my own backyard," she said. asked Curnow for tips on her favorite Johannesburg spots.

CNN's Robyn Curnow goes to the South African bush to relax.
CNN's Robyn Curnow goes to the South African bush to relax.

Where can you get the best view of the city?

The bar at the Westcliff Hotel has a wonderful view over the treetops of the Northern suburbs, the Johannesburg skyline and, on a clear evening, the blue rim of the Magaliesberg Mountains.

Which restaurant would you take a loved one to for an anniversary or other special occasion?

Wombles, in Parktown North, for delicious meat (Springbok carpaccio, anyone?), fruity South African wines and attentive service in a charming old house with a huge "stoep," or verandah.

Where is the best place for people watching?

Shop or have a coffee in one of the piazzas in Melrose Arch, an open-air mall off Corlett Drive, if you want to ogle wealthy, sophisticated South Africans and their expensive cars.

What is your favorite neighborhood?

Parkhurst -- 4th Avenue overflows with pavement cafes, charming antique shops, a pub, coffee shops, two excellent bookshops and even a cupcake shop.

How do tourists stick out and what's the best way to blend in?

Besides the obvious mistakes -- wearing a money belt and having a camera around your neck -- don't wear shorts, T-shirt and flipflops in June during the World Cup. Remember it's winter in the Southern Hemisphere.

What's the biggest misconception about your city?

That it is a dangerous, scary place. I grew up in 'Jozi' -- it's bustling, green, friendly and, yes, has a slightly manic energy, which is understandable considering Johannesburg is the economic hub of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Where do you go to relax?

I go two hours north -- to the bushveld. The Waterberg, a UNESCO biosphere reserve, is malaria-free, has affordable safari lodges and plenty of wild African game.

What essential thing should visitors see/experience if they only have a few hours?

The Apartheid Museum is spectacular. A sobering but uplifting experience.

Is there a "tourist trap" that's actually worth seeing?

Gold Reef City is like Euro Disney -- expensive and cheesy. However, it gives you a good sense of what Johannesburg was like as a gold mining town over 100 years ago, and you get a chance to go down a mine, which is fun.

Where was your most memorable meal?

The "egg basket" breakfasts at Nice restaurant on 4th Avenue in Parkhurst are legendary. I go there at least once a week. The 'egg basket' is a perfect combination of poached eggs, crispy bacon, grilled Roma tomatoes and a bit of chili in a piece of folded toast .

Where's your favorite place to spend a night out on the town?

With two small children, I can't remember when I last went out at night! I hear 7th Street in Melville still rocks.

Are there local specialty dishes or drinks that visitors must try?

For the nondrinkers, Appletiser is a refreshing South African fizzy drink. For those who want a tipple, South African wines are excellent and well-priced, so experiment with all the different grapes and blends. As for food, there is always "boerewors" for those who want a real taste of South Africa. This is a spicy sausage best cooked on the "braai" (barbeque)

What is a good local souvenir?

A wire sculpture crafted by Zimbabwean immigrants, who sell their wares on the sidewalks.