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Overview: We spent 3 nights in Johannesburg, more commonly called Jo'burg in South Africa.

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Airport Arrival, Town, Melville, 5 of 5 stars - do not miss! Soweto, Rosebank, Final 24 Hours, Airport Departure
Satellite Photo: See this South Africa satellite map with pushpins and then zoom in at least once.
Airport Arrival: We arrived from Addo Elephant NP via a flight from Port Elizabeth, around 18:00 and almost 3 hours late.
downtown Town: With the exception of must-see historically significant Soweto, Jo'burg is mostly a transportation hub for travelers.
Badia, the friendly assistant at our B&B, picked us up at the airport in her older green Mercedes. Most hotels and B&Bs offer a pre-arranged pick-up service for a fee, which for security reasons is highly recommended in Jo'burg. Perhaps even more so than Cape Town, you really must be careful where you go in Jo'burg, especially at night!
In the dark, one of the two towers in downtown Jo'burg reminded us of Toronto's CN Tower (though it turns out this tower's base is round).
Melville: We checked in to the Die Agterplaas B&B (meaning "the land behind", or Hinterhof in German) in the safe, middle class, ethnically mixed suburb of Melville to the northeast of downtown. True to the B&B name, there is a second building of rooms on the hill right behind the main house. Despite the safe neighbourhood, the B&B is fully surrounded by a wall topped with an electric fence. A convenient side-gate leads to a narrow public stair/walkway up the hill to the foot of 7th Street, the 3-block long main restaurant- and shop-lined business street in Melville.
The good breakfast of cereal, yoghurt, fruit, coffee, eggs, ham, tomato, toast and cheese was filling.
The owner, Jannie, is an accomplished musician and the walls of the common areas are adorned with posters from his gigs. He recently released a CD, with a great video on YouTube of the choral classic Pie Jesu.
Samson the restaurateur We walked up and down both sides of 7th Street, searching for a resto that grabbed our fancy. Samson, a smartly dressed black guy in front of Melville Grill, drew us into an interesting conversation on the sidewalk, though we had already decided on a light meal at Abyssinica (an Ethiopian resto). It turned out Samson, an Ethiopian-born American from NYC and a former journalist on assignment in South Africa, owned both of these restaurants. He bought Melville Grill a year prior, and had just opened Abyssinica one month earlier. Unfortunately we had to overeat at the buffet, as the regular menu was not available that night. When the bill came, we were genuinely surprised that a glass of house wine cost R25, as we had been paying R5-12 for a glass elsewhere. Samson's business partner said R25 was typical in Jo'burg, but kindly gave us 2 additional complimentary glasses of wine.
Soweto Soweto: We did a 4 hour tour of 5 of 5 stars - do not miss! Soweto with knowledgeable Oupa ("grandfather"), an older Black man from Soweto, whom our B&B recommended. We had booked this in advance, since this was our last full day in Jo'burg, and for that matter on the ground in Africa!
We were the only guests, so the 3 of us set off in his car.
Soweto, an abbreviation of SOuthWEst TOwnship, is 16km southwest of Jo'burg and much different than we expected. In the early 90s it was one of the most dangerous places on Earth, but now it is essentially a sprawling Black city, minus a business downtown core. There are even B&Bs and a backpackers there, mostly near the key tourist attractions around Vilakazi St in Orlando West.
There are four distinct types of housing visible: squatter slums (relatively few), plus low, middle and upper class housing meaning there are Blacks in all economic classes here (in contrast to most townships, where are virtually all poor with some middle class homes). Oupa mentioned that a few dozen Whites live here too, not to mention many Coloureds (mixed race) and Indians (Asians).
Much like in other townships, the people seemed happy.
Miscellaneous sights from the tour, some just seen from the car:
  • Lots of gold mine slag hills in/around Jo'burg
  • Many hostels (men's residences, not the youth hostel/backpackers variety)
  • Cell towers disguised as fake pine trees
  • A taxi stand with minibuses, and a fresh meat stand nearby
  • A big modern hospital
  • 4 types of housing: upper, middle, low, and "ugly" squatter slums
  • Kliptown - the Freedom Charter was signed here in 1955, now a centre of development
  • Driving past Winnie Mandela's house and crèche, we saw a funeral across the street
  • Vilakazi St, the only street in the world where 2 Nobel Prize winners have lived:
    - Archbishop Desmond Tutu's house
    - Nelson Mandela's original house, now a museum (which we should have visited)
  • Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum, commemorating the June 16, 1976 events here that turned the world to actively oppose against apartheid (students killed in peaceful student protest against Afrikaans as primary language in schools)
senufu Rosebank: To end our tour, at our request Oupa dropped us off in Rosebank, another Jo'burg suburb 4km northeast of Melville, instead of back at our B&B. The Rosebank Mall is a typical western mall, with the attraction for us being an African curio market and Sunday rooftop market that day. We ate lunch at Nino's, sitting almost outside at large open windows with a fine view over the parking lot and some of the market. Then we meandered through the market (not the mall), searching for another African mask, almost all of which came from other African countries, mostly West Africa (e.g. Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Senegal). At the last moment, we bought a framed trio of senufu from Ivory Coast, which are badge sized masks used by tribes as a sort of inter-tribal "passport" to identify their tribe.
A taxi back to our B&B, going past a golf course estate, cost R60.
Live jazz trio Final 24 Hours: Back in Melville, we enjoyed a lovely evening at the Melville Grill (also owned by Samson). The house specialty is name-brand steak - very good! - and we had a "front row" seat to the excellent jazz trio.
The next morning we had a leisurely breakfast, chatting with a Canadian cameraman who had been filming an AIDS documentary near Kruger NP and was now on a week break before flying home. With an early 10:00 checkout, we packed up and left our bags in the B&B's storage for the day.
Briefly used the Internet in the back of a used bookshop, where I also sold my "Naked Bachelor" book.
Susan w/ cappuccino We ate a very tasty Greek lunch at Paros Taverna, sitting in the sun on a narrow patio. After a little rest and journaling on the B&B grounds, we returned to 7th St to browse the shops, finally stopping at De La Creme for a coffee on their sidewalk tables in the final sunlight.
We bought a nice bottle of wine, L'Ormarins Merlot 2003, for R70 at a bottle shop - it was recommended and cost R120 (a "reasonable" markup) in the resto the night before, but they were out!
We weren't starving, but we figured we should eat something before the airport, so we ate tasty appetizers in the romantic courtyard of Café Mezza Luna before returning to the B&B for a quick shower made available in a bathroom in the main house (not in a guest room).
Airport Departure: Summary: We flew overnight from Jo'burg to London, then to New York's John F. Kennedy airport.
At 19:00 Badia drove us to the airport, and seemed genuinely surprised when we tipped her.
On checking in, we were sad to hear that our 21:25 flight, to New York's John F. Kennedy airport via London's Heathrow airport, was very full (unlike our flights over to Africa) so we wouldn't be able to stretch out on this first overnight leg. We stopped at the customs booth to get VAT receipts stamped (yes, we had to show the goods) before returning the rental cell phone and then going through security. Inside were a large number of shops (Susan found a stuffed Vervet Monkey toy), plus the instant VAT refund desk, which rejected one of our receipts. We chose the "refund to credit card" option to avoid a cheque-cashing charge at the bank booth next door.
The flight was indeed full, with lots of French aboard due to the strike in France against the new youth labour law (which makes it easier for employers to fire a new employee). The plane, with a 3-4-3 seat configuration, was indeed quite full. I watched a movie or two on the in-seat entertainment screen before the 2nd sleeping pill finally got me enough rest (despite the upright seated position) before arriving in London at 7:30.
We made our way from Terminal 1 to 4 for our 10:25 (7hr20min long) flight to JFK. Again our flight was full; we chatted in French with the guy next to us, and he explained the strike situation in France. Then I realized that our flight had actually avoided French airspace the night before.
A taxi from JFK to LGA cost $27.60 + tip, taking less than ½ hour since it was early in the afternoon.
Buffet dinner at AbyssinicaR180 + tip
buffetR60 pp
glass red wineR25 x2
500mL waterR10
Lunch at Nino'sR112 + tip
Lucchese saladR32
extra fetaR7
Italiano paniniR37.50
red grapetizerR10.50
cafe latteR11.50 x2
Lunch at Paros TavernaR87 + tip
mezes plateR42
hummusR15
3 drinksR30
Coffee at De La CremeR24.50 + tip
cappuccinoR10
coffee latteR14.50
Appetizers at Mezza LunaR98.50 + tip
soup of the dayR25
stuffed calamariR38
passion & tonicR10.50
glass Riesling wineR25

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