We landed at 10am, and immigration was quick without bags, and we were spared the odd questions about why we’d come to Johannesburg for just 33 hours. Fortunate.
I’ve been to South Africa dozens of times, but haven’t actually visited Johannesburg in over 15 years. I flew into JNB two years ago during my round the world 40th birthday trip, but immediately got in a rental car and headed to Lesotho, so I hadn’t properly visited the city in a long time. I was excited to get a small preview of how things had changed.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. I did do a similar milage run about 5 years ago, when Lufthansa published a DC to Helsinki fare that allowed Johannesburg in the routing rules. So, yes, I did go DC – Frankfurt – Johannesburg – Frankfurt – Helsinki. It was legal, and only like an extra $10 in taxes, but as it was a connection I only had about 8 hours in Johannesburg. I did manage to get down to Sandton for lunch, but had to take a giant share taxi which was a bit of a pain in the butt.
Why am I going on about this? Because everyone I knew from there had told me how nice the Gautrain was. JNB to Sandton and Rosebank in about 15 minutes. Clean, fast, efficient, and relatively affordable. I was sold! We only had to wait about 10 minutes for a train, and it was actually rather nice!
Short train ride later, we were at the Sandton station, which was located conveniently across the street from our hotel, the Radisson Blu Sandton Gautrain. Check-in was quick and pleasant, and we were “upgraded” to a business floor room. Nothing special about the room, except that Radisson Blu’s business class rooms seem to all have Nespresso machines in them. I was a happy caffeine addict. Perhaps the strangest part was the picture on the wall outside our room:
Yes, that’s the Farragut West metro station in Washington, DC, the same station I get out at most every day to go to the office. Halfway around the world. Go figure. It was if the hotel was taunting us! We took advantage of the Nespresso machine in the room to refuel, and since it was almost noon at this point we headed across the street to Nelson Mandela Square to get some lunch.
We settled on Baglios, mainly because they had a table on the lanai where I could sit and enjoy the 23C sun since it was still cold back in DC. But first, to start lunch off on the right note, I introduced Phil to Savanna Dry cider!