Starting off right–Cape Town
There may be nothing more disorienting that waking up on an airplane on a intercontinental flight. All the window shades are drawn, the lights are dimmed, you quite literally do not know if it is day or night, where you are, what time it is anywhere. How long since you left? How long did you sleep? How long until you arrive? All questions without immediate answers. It’s one of the great existential moments of life.
So there I was, somewhere over the Atlantic, in the middle of a 15 hour flight from Atlanta to Jo’burg. (Gail will hate that elision, but even the newspaper uses it.) We had already gotten up at 5:30 and flown 4 hours to get to Atlanta. The good news is that we are flying Delta, and their Business Elite provided us with individual compartments with a seat that lays out completely flat, a power socket to keep all the electronic toys charged up, an individual television screen with a decent selection of things to watch and a good sized blanket.
The food isn’t very good, though. Gail and I both chose the “tenderloin” which was a seriously overcooked piece of something sort of bovine. On the first flight of the day we had a mediocre omelet, and a roll that was nowhere near the joy of the hot biscuits we have come to love on American Air.
Eventually, we landed in South Africa, cleared immigration and customs, and went to retrieve our luggage. The big bag was there, but not the small one. I had Delta staff looking for it when Gail was paged over the public address.
We went to see, and were told that someone had taken her bag by mistake, and was returning to the airport with it. In a few minutes it arrived, we were relieved as all get out, and we went to find our way to the next flight of the day, the two hour hop to Cape Town, where we begin our tour.
Through security, naturally, then we were waiting in the South African Airways lounge when the reception woman came up to me with my coat, which I had left at security. It turns out that being a very large man in loud suspenders has its benefits–everyone remembered me, noticed where I was going and got my coat back to me. Two great pieces of luck in one airport, I guess that’s a good omen for the rest of the trip.
There was a meal on this flight, and drink service, of course. I ordered a Baileys, as is my wont, and came to find out that they don’t have it, but they offer something much like it. So I tried one:
This is a liqueur made from the Marula Fruit, a native South African fruit which contains a pulp used for making juices, jams, jellies, ciders and liquors, There is a myth that the elephants wait for the fruit to ferment and then get drunk on it. What I had tasted quite a bit like Bailey’s, with perhaps a more pleasing aftertaste. It’s a definite keeper, and I’ve found my drink of choice for the next two weeks.
The US has gotten rid of most of the foolishness about electronic devices on airplanes, but that hasn’t happened here. Lots of sober sounding announcements about how everything must be turned off so it doesn’t interfere with the instruments–which we all know to be utter bullshit. They even cavilled at my headphones before landing. Bureaucratic stupidity is not limited to America.
Cape Town airport doesn’t believe in motorized walkways, and the walk from the plane to the baggage carousel and then to the exit is about a mile. Or maybe 3. Seemed like forever. Finally, we emerged into the main hall, and were met by a tall handsome man holding a sign with our names. He took us to a Mercedes, and then the driver brought us to the Cape Grace hotel, a beautiful establishment right on the waterfront. I even had to sign my name in the register like the old days. Then they entered all the important information into the computer.
Now I’m ready to collapse into bed. The rest of the gang gets here tomorrow–Kate, Brad and the granddaughters flew via London, Mike and Linda are coming from Dubai. More excitement to come.