The Hilton Windhoek Review and a Super-Brief Exploration of Windhoek

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This is part 11 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

Windhoek has a pretty solid range of hotel options, including two Proteas.  The Hilton Windhoek, though, had very good reviews, and seemed pretty well-located.  I had originally booked it for 30,000 Hilton Honors points, because, well how many decent Hilton properties can you get for a non-outrageous amount of points.  I checked back a month or so later, and due to the ridiculous nontransparent pricing system for Hilton properties, it had dropped down to 20,000 points, so I rebooked it.

Hilton Windhoek

The hotel stands out quite a bit in the city, as a very tall modern structure...

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Air Namibia Cape Town to Windhoek:  Shenanigans, or the 2 Hour Flight That Became an All-Day Journey

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This is part 10 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

Air Namibia Flt. 704  Cape Town to Windhoek (via Walvis Bay)

Sched. Dep. 11:30am    Actual Dep. 1:09pm
Sched. Arr.  1:20pm   Actual Arr. 4:30pm
A319, Coach

In the aftermath of Unitedgate, where everyone became an expert on the ins and outs of the airline industry, consumer protection law, the history of regulation in America, and police brutality, and became attuned to bumping of one guy as the great moral crisis of our time, someone told me I didn’t have any knowledge about the airline industry, as my blog is just about business class flights.  Now none of my last five blog posts had anything to do with flights at all, but this one will be – but don’t worry – it was in coach.  The only other thing I’ll say about what’s going on with United?  It reminds me of a famous saying: “Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.”  Now onto Air Namibia….

I had two nonstop options to get from Cape Town to Windhoek: Air Namibia and SA Airlink. They both fly two flights a day.  Air Namibia has an 11:30am flight, and an evening flight; SA Airlink has a 6:30am flight and a 2:55pm flight.  Neither airline is known as phenomenal, but they’re not fly-by-night operations. (Air Namibia’s IATA code is SW, going back to the country’s days as South West Africa).  Air Namibia is a pretty small airline, fully owned by the Namibian government, with a fleet of only 10 planes – 4 A319s, 4 ERJ-135s, and 2 A330-200s.  The A332s are used for its one long-haul flight, to Frankfurt, whereas the A319s and Embraers fly out of Windhoek’s Hosea Kutako International (WDH), Windhoek’s smaller domestic Eros Airport, and Walvis Bay.

I decided to go with the Air Namibia midday flight as it would allow me a few hours in the late afternoon to explore Windhoek, and paid a bit more than the 2:55pm Airlink flight. Alas, that was for naught.

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Protea Hotels of Cape Town:  Protea Cape Castle, Protea Victoria Junction, and African Pride 15 on Orange

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This is part 9 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

As explained in my intro post for this trip, my five nights in Cape Town were all spent at Protea-family properties – the South African chain that became a Marriott brand a few years ago.  Four of my nights were booked using Prokard Explorer BOGO certificates, and the fifth was my annual Marriott Rewards free night from my Marriott Rewards Premier Visa card.  In all, I was very happy with the choices I made, as the hotels ranged from good to outstanding, the locations worked, and the value was excellent – even taking into account that I didn’t even use all of the certificates in my Prokard Explorer account...

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Exploring Cape Town: Part 3:  Table Mountain hike, Company’s Garden, Bo-Kaap

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This is part 8 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

My last day in Cape Town was an ambitious one, but I was pretty successful.  In the morning, I did Table Mountain, and then in the afternoon I did a loop of the northern part of the center city. I started out at around 9:30, and Ubered from the Protea Victoria Junction to the African Pride 15 on Orange.  I had planned to just drop my bags, but to my surprise they said my room was ready. I didn’t dilly-dally too long, though, before taking another Uber to Table Mountain.

Table Mountain is a massive flat-topped mountain that looms over the entire city of Cape Town, just south of central Cape Town...

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Exploring Cape Town: Part 2: District 6 Museum, Castle of Good Hope, Greenmarket Square and Cape Town Pride

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This is part 7 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

After the disaster of my Cape of Good Hope day and early bedtime, I was committed to make the most of my two days left in Cape Town – which I think I did.  By total coincidence, the weekend ended up being scheduled as Cape Town Pride, which is much smaller than other prides I’ve to in cities like Vienna or Sydney Mardi Gras, Although the whole week was Pride week, the only real big events were on Saturday – which worked out great for me, as it allowed me to explore the other aspects of the city without feeling I was missing out.

District Six Museum

I got an early start and took an Uber to the District Six Museum...

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You’re Allowed One Disastrous Day: Or My Daytrip to the Cape of Good Hope; Or Don’t Rent with Thrifty in South Africa

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This is part 6 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

My theory on long trips is that you’re allowed one disastrous day without it ruining the vacation. My second day in Cape Town was that day.

My plan was to rent a car for the day and drive down to the Cape of Good Hope, the southwestern most tip of Africa, about 50 miles south of the central city.  There are a number of landmarks to stop at on both sides of the Cape peninsula, so I had myself a nice little loop planned for the whole day.  I had originally planned to rent from Hertz in the city, but I realized Thrifty was closer to my hotel and only a few dollars more. Big mistake.

The pickup experience took quite a while as it didn’t seem anyone was just picking up a reservation wi...

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Exploring Cape Town: Part 1: V&A Waterfront, Robben Island, First Thursday

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This is part 5 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

I had five nights in Cape Town, but only four days, arriving late at night on Wednesday and leaving on Monday morning. I could have easily spent ten days exploring Cape Town and its environs alone, and definitely see a return trip in my future.  Nonetheless, I was able to do a lot, and Cape Town has skyrocketed to the top of my list of favorite world cities. I say this even though I had a series of mishaps, some weather-related, some other which I’ll highlight, but overall it was a lovely introduction to South Africa, and just a really fascinating, beautiful, warm city...

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Trip Report: Air France Paris to Cape Town (CDG-CPT) Business Class

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This is part 4 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

Air France Flt. 864 Paris- Charles de Gaulle to Cape Town
Sched. Dep. 10:10AM    Actual Dep. 10:45AM
Sched. Arr.  10:30PM      Actual Arr. 11:18PM
Boeing 777-200, Business Class

My flight from Dulles landed at the M concourse of Air France’s Terminal 2E compound.  It was a bit of a schlep to the K concourse, which is also the part of 2E where terminating passengers have to go for baggage/immigration/exit.  There was a walk from where the plane emptied out to the Navette (shuttle) train, but it is pretty well-marked, and clean and orderly.  It was then short two-stop ride on the Navette to the K concourse, where the Sky Priority security lane moved slowly, but not terribly.  Two people pushed themselves in front of me, which seemed to be common theme with lines at CDG.  There was no recombobulation area just through security which caused a bit of a bottleneck.  The Air France Salon was just past security, downstairs.

Air France Salon CDG 2E-K

Check-in was friendly.  There were sections of the lounge on either side of the desk, but I asked where the showers were, and was directed to one side that I stayed on. I went right for the shower, knowing there might be a wait, and sure enough there was.  But with seven showers, the line moved fairly quickly, despite there only being one cleaner.  The shower room was nice, modern, and clean, with a package of a fresh bath towel, hand towel, and bath mat.  There was also a small amenity kit with shaving and dental accoutrements, a comb, a deodorant wipe, and a L’Occitane body wash.  There was also liquid soap in a dispenser in the shower.  The only things I’d wished they had were tissues and some sort of moisturizing/hand/body lotion.  The shower felt good.

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Turkish Airlines Washington-Dulles Lounge and Air France Business Class Washington-Dulles to Paris  (IAD-CDG)

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This is part 3 of my series exploring my March 2017 trip to South Africa and Namibia, which started here.

Air France Flt. 55  Washington-Dulles to Paris
B777-300ER, Business Class
Sched. Dep. 6:35PM   Actual Dep. 6:29PM
Sched. Arr.  8:00AM +1    Actual Arr.  7:38AM +1

It’s been awhile since I’ve flown out of Dulles.  But this experience reminded that Dulles isn’t a terrible airport to fly out of… once you get there.  I decided to take the 5A Metrobus over the rail; though they take about the same length of time, the bus takes you straight to the terminal in one shot, as opposed to a long metro ride transferring to a bus.  (The Metrobus option is also significantly cheaper.)  I left my office at 3pm, and Uber-ed to the bus stop at L’Enfant Plaza.  Despite traffic, the ride took only a little over an hour, and everyone on the bus had a seat.

As a reminder, I was flying Air France from DC to Cape Town via Paris, in business class, on a Delta Skymiles redemption.  When I got to the Air France/KLM/Korean Air counter at around 4:35, there was no line on either the Sky Priority or regular line.  The agent wasn’t particularly friendly, but was fine as she took my bag and printed my boarding passes.  Air France doesn’t participate in Precheck, but there was basically no line at regular security, on either the “premium” or regular lane.  I was through quickly and on the train to the A concourse.

Air France/KLM/Korean Air check-in at Dulles

I had forgotten that I actually wanted to go to the B concourse, though my flight was leaving out of A.  The two are just different sides of one of the midfield terminals (one straight line with gates on each sides), which is Dulles’s nicest terminal, and home to pretty much all airlines but United and a few other randos (Frontier, Air Canada, and even some United Express flights).  The terminal is modern, with lots of food options, and with increasingly fancy shopping over the years.

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Hotel Review: B Resort & Spa – Orlando / Disney Springs – Lake Buena Vista

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Greetings from Orlando, where I’m on a short family vacation before five nights back in DC and then on to Africa.  I don’t usually review my random domestic hotel stays, but I’m making an exception for this one as I think it might be interesting, and is illustrative of the meaninglessness of elite status these days.

Back in the summer, my sister had mentioned bringing her family down to Disney World for Presidents’ Day week.  So when I saw a deal for the B Resort and Spa in Orlando on that was good for that week — and was fully cancellable — I jumped on it and booked two consecutive one-night reservations. I knew I wouldn’t be able to take the whole week off, but since I had Monday off, I figured Sunday and Monday nights would be good.

B Resort and Spa, Orlando

The deal was hardly bargain mistake rate territory, with rates of about $75 a night.  When you add in taxes and the Orlando-area ubiquitous resort fee (plus parking since I rented a car to get from the airport and for one day), it came to over $130 a night, but it was still a good deal.  This is mostly because of the specific property.  There are so many hotels in Orlando that booking far in advance $150 a night would be nothing special.  But the B Resort is one of the Disney Springs hotels (nee Downtown Disney hotels nee WDW Village hotels), seven hotels on Disney grounds but not Disney-operated.  The benefits of these hotels, include proximity, including walking distance to the Disney Springs complex, a very regular shuttle to the parks, and some other perks about restaurants and tee times that didn’t matter to me.  In planning, I knew my sister’s family would be staying on property, so I thought that this would be convenient and not require a rental car.  (Incidentally, I had stayed at one of the Downtown Disney hotels (then a Courtyard by Marriott, now a Holiday Inn) on my last trip to Disney World — Spring Break in high school in 2001, for much of the same reason.)

The B also had good reviews and seemed like a nicer hotel than many of the chains on International Drive, with a large gym and a nice pool area, good for a solo uncle. The other Disney Springs hotels are affiliated with big brands (3 Hilton properties, a Holiday Inn, a Best Western, and a Wyndham).  B itself is a small chain with a few other Florida properties (Fort Lauderdale and the Keys), plus one in Savannah and one in New Orleans. It definitely aims for an upscale, hip boutique feel (perhaps the B is for boutique??).

The trip turned into a whole family adventure with my paren...

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