Category Trip Reports

Cha-cha-changes . . . A Career Transition & my Norway/Netherlands/Malta Trip Preview

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I don’t directly talk about my actual job on this blog much, but some changes on that front have several direct implications on my travel and blogging, and since I don’t have any other blog, I’ll share this news here.

For a little over three years, I’ve had the privilege to serve as an attorney in the federal government, working to protect the rights of American workers and job-seekers. My specific portfolio has largely focused on employment discrimination, with a smattering of other issues relating to worker’s rights.  I also served as my agency’s guru on all things LGBT-related. So, as referenced in my post about Election Day in New Zealand, the election results had an extra dimension for me.

Although I’ve been a career employee, I worked very closely with political appointe...

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Polaris-ish? Underwhelmed on United Polaris Business Sao Paulo to Washington (GRU-IAD)

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United Airlines Flt. 860 Sao Paulo-Guarulhos to Washington-Dulles

This is the concluding post of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.  (Low-quality pictures in this post due to equipment issues, apologies.)

In June 2016, United made a huge deal out of announcing its “new” business class, rebranding it as “Polaris” effective December 1.  Their PR company did an amazing job, and blogs and news articles made it seem like United was going to finally bring its business class product into the 2000s – since it was the only of the American carriers that didn’t have direct aisle access on most long-hauls, and had a 2-4-2 configuration on many of its business class flights...

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Stelllaaaaaaa – Or getting stuck in Sao Paulo and the Sao Paulo Airport Marriott

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This is part 19 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

It may seem like this trip report series is taking forever, but (a) it was a long trip and (b) other things have been going on which I will blog about shortly.  This should have been my last post from my trip, but the travel gods intervened.

DC had very little snow this winter – indeed one day of accumulation total prior to my March trip.  Of course, that meant a storm was then predicted for the day I returned home. Winter Storm Stella was predicted to bring 2 to 6 inches in DC – but in Dulles, far west of the city, they were predicting 6 to 12 inches.  So, even taking off from Johannesburg, I was prepared for the possibility of a travel disruption.

Still on the SAA plane, I p...

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Trip Report: South African Airways New A333 Business Class Johannesburg to Sao Paulo, Sans Camera

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This is part 18 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

South African Airways Flt. 222 Johannesburg to Sao Paulo – Guarulhos
Sched. Dep. 11:15am              Sched. Arr. 4:00pm
Actual Dep. 11:07am                Actual Arr. 3:30pm
A330-300, Business Class

My trip back home was an unusual, but not that illogical, route using Aeroplan miles, flying South African Airways from Johannesburg to Sao Paolo, then United from Sao Paolo to Dulles.  It’s about the same length as a routing via Europe, and was available on the day I wanted to travel in business class.

You may no notice that I have pretty much no pictures of my trip from Johannesburg to Sao Paolo, for reasons that will be explained later...

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Two and a Half Days in Johannesburg – Apartheid Museum, Neighbourgoods Market, Soweto Township Tour

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This is part 17 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

I really had no idea what to expect of Johannesburg. Lots of folks had suggested it was skippable, or the kind of city you can breeze through in a day.  I ended up having three nights and two full days there, but I actually wish I’d had a day or two more — especially since one of my days was a Sunday.   Overall, the city is completely different from Cape Town.  Whereas Cape Town feels like a touristy version of San Francisco, Johannesburg is more like L.A., with an urban core, extremely spread out, and not walkable at all.  It also was far more racially integrated than Cape Town.

My hotel stays, as covered in other posts, were split between Sandton and Rosebank, two of the mor...

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Hotel Review: Holiday Inn Johannesburg-Rosebank – a lovely Pointbreaks stay

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This is part 16 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

A few weeks before my trip, IHG Rewards Club issued its list of “Pointbreaks” properties for spring 2017. For those who aren’t familiar, properties on the list have a limited number of rooms available for only 5,000 IHG points – which can basically be bought for about $35 – making this a pretty good value. Most of the properties on the lists are generally not very popular, though, with isolated locations, or of low quality...

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Hotel Review: The Disappointing Protea Johannesburg Balalaika Sandton

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This is part 15 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

I had initially planned to use my Protea Prokard one free night voucher to stay at the Protea Fire and Ice Melrose Arch and then use a Prokard Bogo voucher at the African Pride Melrose Arch, but when PointBreaks opened up rooms at the Holiday Inn in Rosebank, I changed things up. In retrospect, I should have kept the one night at the Fire and Ice, but instead changed to the Protea Balalaika Sandton.  I ended up staying in ten different hotels on this trip, and the Protea Balalaika Sandton was the only one I had a bad experience at.

Sandton, Johannesburg

Sandton is an upscale area of Johannesburg, with lots of office buildings and hotels, as well as some high-end shopping centers...

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Trip Report:  SA Express Walvis Bay to Johannesburg

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SA Express Flt 1702  WVB to JNB
Boeing 737-300, Economy
Sched. Dep. 2:45pm   Sched. Arr.4:55pm
Actual Dep. 3:00pm   Actual Arr. 5:18pm

This is part 14 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

So this was a very strange flight.

Swakopmund doesn’t have its own airport with commercial service, but the Walvis Bay International Airport is not very far, about a 40 minute drive away.  I had pre-booked a transfer, which came just on time, and the owner, a German Namibian woman provided me with some interesting commentary as we drove down.  The drive is actually quite pretty, as there are picturesque sand dunes on the left and the ocean is on the right.

Dunes en route from Swakopmund to WVB

Walvis Bay is Namibia’s largest airport outside o...

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Swakopmund and the Strand Hotel

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This is part 13 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

Swakopmund is one of the weirdest places I’ve ever been, as it is a complete anachronism.  Nestled on the Atlantic Ocean, due west of Windhoek, it is probably the second-most visited “city” in Namibia. (Walvis Bay, 40 miles to the south, is a larger city, but less touristed.)  Swakopmund was the main port for German South West Africa, and still retains a very strong German influence – both in terms of architecture and people.  Although English is the official language of Namibia, you’re far more likely to hear German, and the city remains a tourist/seaside destination for Germans.  I’ve never been to a North Sea beachtown in Germany, but I imagine it feels like Swakopmund...

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Safari in Etosha National Park and Damaraland, Namibia

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This is part 12 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

You could easily spend several weeks in Namibia, with a range of terrains, suitable for safari, watersports, adventure sports, and a range of exploration.  I didn’t have a long time, though, as I was really just squeezing in my stay between Cape Town and Johannesburg legs.  I had no real flexibility on dates, so there was only one choice for my excursion, which worked out well – the Etosha Express 3-day tour run by Chameleon Safaris...

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