I left my house in Sacramento at 6:30pm Pacific time on Saturday and made it to Johannesburg at 6:30pm in that time zone on Monday evening. Minus the 9-hour time change that’s 39 hours, but a 14-hour layover in New York City made it all worthwhile.
I had a quick hop from Sacramento to SFO, a short layover, and then a direct flight to Newark. After collecting my bag and getting to the hotel shuttle, I made it to the Renaissance Hotel at the Newark airport where I met up with Ash by about 9:30am. This was the first time we’d seen each other since April 16. He’d been in Paris for 4 weeks – just hanging out with friends – and then in DC for the week before. #Zeusthetinylab was with him the whole time but will stay with friends in DC while we’re in Africa.
The hotel buffet was still open, so we got a little something to eat, I showered, we dropped our luggage at the front desk and made our way into NYC via Lyft.
We were meeting friends for brunch at a diner in Hell’s Kitchen. Traffic was gross and we told our Lyft driver to just pull over and we walked the last couple of blocks much faster. Turns out there was a street market happening which may have caused some of that traffic – a few blocks of 9th Ave starting at 42nd Street were closed for it.
This is Jonthan on the right, his spouse DeWayne on the left. If you’ve been following for a while, you met them in each of our last two NYC blogs, we make a point to connect with them whenever we’re in the city. Jonathan and I met at a conference in 2019 and have stayed friends ever since. They picked the spot, Westway Diner on 9th Ave between 43rd and 44th. This is an old school diner that serves it up just as you’d expect.
Photos of each couple that we took of each other while sitting there, above and below.
Ash had his standard, lox and bagel.
I had corned beef eggs benedict which was really good. The quality of the meat was just what I’d expect in a classic NYC diner.
The requisite photo of myself and Jonathan which DeWayne took…
…and snapped a selfie of him and Ash while he was at it.
We stopped by a CVS then said our goodbyes, each couple having a 3pm show to catch.
Ash and I were seeing Kimberly Akimbo at the Booth Theater on 45th Street between 7th and 8th Aves. We’d always regretted not seeing it on the January trip so were happy to make up for it. We bought tickets just before it was nominated for 8 Tony awards so also glad we got them cheaper than they are now! We were in the last top row, but as often occurs at these Broadway theaters, they’re so small that there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. The show is about a 16 year old girl with that rare aging disorder which has a left expectancy of 15-20 years. Original, thought-provoking, very funny with fun music and lyrics, we really enjoyed it and definitely recommend.
After the show we took an Uber back to the hotel to grab our luggage, and had the driver wait to then drop us at the airport. We had a little trouble checking me in because I’ve updated my passport since we got married – we took each other’s last names as middle names – but we made these plane reservations before that even and my ticket was in the old name. I had both passports with me – anticipating some trouble – so it all worked out was just a teeny bit stressful in the process. We made it to the lounge around 7pm and had time to grab something to eat before boarding for our 9pm flight to Johannesburg.
For a 15-hour flight in economy-plus, it was pretty comfortable and completely uneventful. We were both able to sleep some, me about 6 hours and Ash maybe 7 or 8. We landed around 6:30pm Johannesburg time.
The season here in the southern hemisphere is Fall with the cooler temps to prove it. It was 57 when we landed, is 46 degrees right now Tuesday morning. We leave on Friday so if the forecast holds it won’t get above 70 while we are here.
This was at the airport – I think after customs but before luggage. Printed on the platforms which the elephants are standing on were words encouraging photos so we couldn’t pass it up!
We got our luggage and our car, a Hyundai small SUV, without any problems.
I was initially surprised at first about the car having the steering wheel on the right side, until I remembered the history of British colonization here. It’s a manual transmission as well which Ash loves. Me not so much. Guess he’ll get to do all the driving. Darn.
We decided to use our Chase points for this trip and are staying at The Four Seasons. This is also an anniversary of sorts for us – 2 years – which I’ll talk more about later on the trip. And Ash had arranged for a special surprise around that. Yes, those are actual rose petals on the bed.
And on the coffee table along with a framed photo of us at our favorite coffee shop in Sacramento.
A bottle of wine which of course we won’t drink, but with a yummy tray of macaroons and other sweets with “Happy Anniversary” written on it in chocolate. We skipped dessert at dinner knowing we had this to come back to!
Sparking water, fresh fruit, and a hand-written card welcoming and congratulating “Mr. Gupta and Mr. Gupta”. Yet when I texted them with a question about Wi-Fi, they knew it was “Mr. Haas” somehow.
More rose petals all over the floor – it was the first thing I noticed when I walked in – even in the bathroom, and some in the tub, too! An impressive welcome for sure.
Being very tired at this point we just had dinner at the hotel restaurant. We sat indoor….
…but it has really nice outdoor seating as well.
A breadbasket to start, with a hummus and carrot spread, and a butter spread that was salted and included some kind of herb I couldn’t place but tasted great.
I had my first “when in Rome” dish of the trip: Springbok carpaccio. Spingbok is from the antelope family. This was a beautiful red meat that had a flavor all its own. If I had to pick its taste was closer to beef than deer but wasn’t gamey at all. Served with fresh greens, red sprouts that were spicy, a couple of types of baby mushrooms, and parmesan crisps. Every bite was super flavorful. A great start to the trip!
Ash had a grilled shrimp dish with an avocado salad.
Ash had sea bass for him main.
I had a rib-eye from locally grown grass-fed cows. This was one of the best pieces of beef I’ve had in a long time, perfectly cooked. But the star of the plate were those potatoes – what looks like a cube. Many thin layers of cooked potatoes somehow put together and fried crispy on the outside while remaining soft on the inside.
We were back to the room by about 9:30pm – a very late dinner for us – and in bed by 10:30pm probably.
We have 3 full days in Johannesburg before leaving for our safari and not a single thing on the calendar. So rare and so lovely to have such unstructured time. Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa with about 15 million people so I’m guessing there’s one or two things to do. We just haven’t looked into it much yet. Will see what we come up with!