It was 3:45 a.m. when my hotel room phone rang the day after my arrival in South Africa. A few minutes later I dashed out of the room in a whirl of sweaters, full of excitement and anticipation. What had me energized at 4 a.m.? A balloon ride in the Cradle of Humankind. A half hour taxi ride later I found myself at the entrance of a hotel in the outskirts of Johannesburg greeting Mary Harrop, wife and co-owner of Bill Harrop’s Original Balloon Safaris. From there Mary described our upcoming flight with enthusiasm while we drove in a minivan to the picturesque Kloofricht Lodge from which we would be launching the balloon. We were only about 60 kilometers from Johannesburg and yet it felt like a world apart. Mary explained that the area boasted some of the safest and most reliable ballooning weather in the world.
When I found out I had an eight hour layover in Johannesburg before boarding my international flight to Europe I booked spa treatments at Octavia’s, which is located in a luxury hotel a stone’s throw away from the Johannesburg airport. That was a fabulous way to kill time before my long evening flight.
A trip on South Africa’s famous The Blue Train is the dream of a lifetime for many. On board, travelers celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, honeymoons or just long planned trips to South Africa. The 1,600 kilometer train ride affords guests the opportunity to see some of the South African countryside while basking in luxurious accommodations and enjoying appetizing meals and premium service. The Blue Train offered guests an out of the ordinary ride in luxurious comfort and style that they could reminisce over for years.
What could be better after 48-hours of travel than an afternoon of spa pampering? Massages, body wraps and scrubs, facials, manicures, and pedicures all sounded appealing. The Renaissance Spa in the Michelangelo Towers next to the famous Nelson Mandela Square shopping arcade was a short cab drive from my Melrose boutique hotel. It offered a myriad treatment options and spa packages, as well as tanning and hair removal so I was sure I would find something I liked.
We had heard so much about the famous horizontal first class seats, when we finally encountered them we didn’t know what to think. After four long flight segments on Air France first class, we say the seats alone are worth flying first class. There are other more subtle benefits such as the less crowded cabin (only 12-13 passenger capacity on our flights), less crowded first class lounge, in-flight loungewear, dedicated heads (bathrooms), extra legroom when the seat is in normal position, polite service attitude and guaranteed meal selections.
When was the last time you washed your hands with rosewater and had your face painted at your dining table? For us our visit to Moyo provided the first opportunity and it was lots of fun. Smiling staff, slightly shy, welcomed us to our corner table on the entertainment level, one of five levels at the 500-seat restaurant in the heart of a swanky Johannesburg neighborhood. Scant minutes passed before a pleasant lady in African garb took our drinks order. A server soon followed with a pitcher and bowl in hand. She poured rose water over our hands and provided a towel for us to dry them. A few minutes later she returned and painted our faces (cheeks and foreheads) following a Masaai Mara tradition. She drew small flowers and dots with black and white water soluble paint; another, the more masculine design was made with dots only. Moyo, which means soul or life in Swahili, was one of four such restaurants in South Africa serving African food (ranging from North Africa Tagines to South African Boboties) to one million guests.