After a late lunch, the hotel shuttle dropped me at the airport early evening, about 3 hours in advance of my flight. The airport was absolute chaos, with lines that weren’t lines, and it was incredibly difficult to figure out where check-in was. Finally I found the South African counter, which seemed to just have a disorganized mass of people congregating in front of it. I pushed my way to the front of the scrum, saying “Classe Affaires, Classe Affaires” and that seemed to do the trick. Soon I was checked in, and off to the gate.
Or so I thought.
First I had to get past the immigration folks, who kept saying “stamp, stamp, stamp.” Seems there was a booth in the check-in area where you had to by an airport tax stamp, which got put on your boarding pass. 10 minutes and 10,000 CFA later I had my stamp, and it was off to try and find the lounge. Managed to find it without too much trouble. A few sad sandwiches and cookies on offer, but also a decent bar selection. I ended up having a couple of Castels over the two horus I was there, and found a power outlet which was nice for keeping the i-Devices charged up.
The amusement came about an hour in, when a small group of American oil workers (Louisiana based on their conversation) came in. One of them loudly announced to the whole room and the bartender “I ain’t seen women in months” followed by “throw down that whole bottle of Johnny walker!” They were refused the entire bottle, but pretty much polished it off shot by shot in the next 15 minutes. Keep it classy Amurika! Soon, it was to the gate, security, and time to board.
South African flight 87
Douala, Cameroon (DLA) to Libreville, Gabon (LBV)
Depart 21:20, Arrive 22:20, Flight Time 1 hour
Airbus A319-100, Registration ZS-SFN, Manufactured 2005, Seat 2A
Boarded right on time, and South African has an odd business configuration on these birds – 2 seats on one side of the aisle, and three on the other. Seriously, middle seats in business class? There were 25 seats, but only 4 of us in business for this short hop, so didn’t make much different. Fantastically friendly crew, but then things started to go tits up. All the captain would tell us is we were waiting “for a technical reason.” This stretched on for over two hours, and I was convinced we were going to cancel. They cycled the power completely on and off at least three times, and finally around midnight announced we were ready to go. It didn’t fill me with confidence.
But, no problems. Flight was short and uneventful, maybe an hour. There was even a small snack:
This is where things got fun. I’d asked for the hotel shuttle, but of course being nearly three hours late it was nowhere to be found. Got a cheap taxi to the hotel no problem, and arrived to find out I’d been upgraded…to the Presidential Suite! SCORE! In the end, my two nights here turned into four for reasons I’ll go into later, but it turned out to be the best upgrade I’ve ever received from Starwood. Several shots of the suite:
The living room:
The second bedroom. Sorry for the poor quality, could never get the lighting right:
Somehow, I didn’t manage to get a shot of the master bedroom, oh well. It was huge, with a walkin closet, dining table, king bed, and tons of space.
The lobby was quite festive as well:
The staff was also incredibly helpful and friendly, and when my two night stay turned into three, and then four, they were very accommodating, leaving my room free until I knew if I would be staying another night. Also ended up grabbing room service for dinner a few times, which was reasonably quick and tasty, although the prices were pretty out of line. As were the drinks….4,000 CFA for a beer by the pool? Are you kidding me?
All in all, I’d definitely come back to this hotel. Clean, comfortable, amazing upgrade, friendly people, although the location is a slight bit out of town. It’s walkable (albeit hot) to the city if you’re so inclined, so it’s not the end of the world. Plus, 2,000 CFA will get you a taxi anywhere in town.
When I unexpectedly ended up spending New Years Eve in Gabon, the choices were $180 for the hotel’s party…no thanks…or make my own. Presidential Suite + giant tub + bubbles and bubbles makes a party for one!
Next up, what I ended up doing for four days in Gabon, and why two days turned into four….