Like I said in my first NITC post, I’ve done quite a bit of traveling in the last few months (well year or so really!) but by far the most exciting and dramatic trip, during which I believe I racked up the most time in the air in the shortest space of time, has to be my trip to Johannesburg, South Africa to surprise my sister, thanks to her boyfriend (now fiancé!) and to deliver a very special package.
I had some notice so after shopping around and watching ticket prices I decided to go via Amsterdam which had a short lay-over on the outbound leg and a nearly 24-hour one on the way back, so that way I could spend a day in the city which would be my first time. It was that or Atlanta and apart from the horror stories I’d heard about the Atlanta airport, Amsterdam was just the more exciting option!
With a 9-hour flight the first leg to Amsterdam and nearly 11 hours the rest of the way to Jo’burg, it was going to be a bit of a mission but I was super excited and couldn’t wait to see her and deliver the package.
So excited but also nervous about somehow giving it away and ruining the surprise. The first really nerve-wracking moment came when the flight to Amsterdam was delayed. The aircraft had been struck by lightning as it came in to IAH and then the inspection before we could leave was delayed by an issue with the equipment.
As I was maintaining radio silence with my sister’s fiancee so as not to make things too tricky for him, I sent cryptic messages just in case I didn’t make the connection and kept the SO informed. We finally boarded 2 hours late and with only a 3 hour 15 minutes layover, I was watching the clock like a hawk. Thankfully, I’d checked my luggage all the way through so having landed with 15 minutes till boarding to go, I only had to make a sightly mad dash for the gate when we arrived at Amsterdam Airport, Schiphol.
I spent both flights pretty much counting the minutes and barely slept and must have worked my way through something like 6 movies total. I was very relieved to arrive at O. R. Tambo International Airport in one (albeit very tired but wired) piece. My partner in crime and his local partner in crime managed to get away and pick me up and then it was off to the hotel I’d be hidden in till we sprung the surprise the next day.
Round the corner from Montecasino and the location for our surprise, the SunSquare Montecasino is contemporary and comfortable and was perfect for the one night with all the basics including wi-fi. After some no doubt, misleading messages to my sister to see if she was enjoying her trip and catching up with Mr A., I managed a few hours sleep.
Up reasonably early and after breakfast I was picked up for a recon of the location and then I had a few hours to myself so I headed into Montecasino, massive complex that houses shops, restaurants and bars, a cinema, a world class theatre, the Teatro and of course, casino.
The cool thing about Montecasino is that it is designed to look like outdoors in a Tuscan village despite being very much indoors. Ceilings painted with blue and night skies, cobbled streets with trees, benches and vintage style cars and retro shop signs.
It’s right across a piazza from the hotel and I’d been before on previous trips so I was comfortable wandering around to kill a few hours and picked up a few little souvenirs and gifts and had a treat before heading back to have a little rest and get my stuff together as I’d be staying with my sister, her fiance and friends after I made my appearance.
5 on the dot I was ready as planned and went off in an Uber to secure my spot for the big moment. It’s not my story to tell, so no details but I will say that I’m officially even with her for all the times she and Mr. A have got me! There was screaming, tears, lots of laughter and excited calls home and of course a ring on her finger!
Sunday we planned to be up at 8 and head out at 9 but we didn’t quite manage that. Staying up to bask in the celebration and a midnight breakfast meant we were a little worse for wear. It worked out though, because we felt rested and ready to eat when we headed out to the Fourways Farmers Market a couple hours later than planned.
If you’re in Jo’burg over a weekend, I would definitely recommend you make time for this foodie fiesta (open Sundays 9AM – 4PM). Steamed buns with pork belly, barbecue ribs and chicken, seafood paella, fresh ground coffee, dumplings, desserts, natural juices and fruity cocktails and lots more including arts & crafts, souvenirs and the likes – they have it all and in a fun, relaxed family friendly environment.
Full of good food and delicious drinks, it was time to head out of the city a little ways. Now, there had been mention of our next activity – free falling, the day before but I had made the decision not to ask too many questions (in case I psyched myself out) and just see what happened.
What happened is that I let someone drop from me 40 meters into a net from 70 meters up in an old cooling tower.
All about that in the next post!!