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Weekend in Johannesburg

Weekend in Johannesburg
Weekend in Johannesburg
via British Airways First Class
March 2022

After Covid unfortunately scuttled our January trip to Madrid and Budapest, DFW_CK and I are finally off on another mileage run, or as our wives say “another trip to nowhere”.

We had originally planned a day in Copenhagen and dinner at Noma, but the EU’s you-now-need-a-booster vax rules made us dump Denmark. Enter South Africa with a much more sane “test negative, welcome” policy. What a concept! That and the price was right… an amazing no minimum stay JFK-JNB roundtrip BA First Class fare of only $4,500 (or 293K Amex points). Yeah, yeah, it’s just BA and a bit of AA, but one can only take so much of La Première. LOL. And I will requalify for BA Gold (One World Emerald) with an additional 840 Tier Points, and even earn 65,000 Avios.

Here’s the line up for the next 5 days...

• United First Class from Denver to LaGuardia
• American Flagship First Dining at JFK
• American Flagship First Class to London Heathrow
• British Airways Arrival Lounge at Heathrow T5
• Heathrow Express First Class to Paddington Station
• Lunch at Michelin Star Trishna London
• British Airways Concorde Room Lounge at LHR
• British Airways A380 First Class to Johannesburg
• Four Seasons The Westcliff Johannesburg
• Lunch at Flames at the Four Seasons Westcliff
• Dinner at Marble Restaurant Rosebank
• Touring Joburg… Soweta and Constitution Hill
• Lunch at Qunu Restaurant at Saxon Hotel Sandhurst
• British Airways Lounge at JNB Airport
• British Airways A380 First Class to London
• British Airways Concorde Room Lounge at LHR
• British Airways 777 First Class to JFK
• Amex Centurion Lounge at LaGuardia
• United Club at LaGuardia
• United First Class from LaGuardia to Denver

I’m going to try to post pics and live stream on Instagram as we go.

After a seemless pass thru security thanks to CLEAR, we started boarding at T-35.

Denver to LaGuardia
United 399
March 11, 2022

Today's Pre Departure Beverage.  Sadly par for the course for UA these days.

On the other hand, the new egg scramble breakfast dish was very good.

Some instagram videos...


American Flagship First Dining at JFK

My Uber ride from LGA dropped me off at Terminal 8 some 7 hours before the departure of our flight to LHR.

In preparation for BA moving over to Terminal 8, the normal Flagship First Check-in was closed for renovation and replaced with an ugly and spartan temporary check-in.

Once inside Flagship FIrst Dining, today's menu...

Not the best start as there was no Grand Siecle. 

Yummy cornbread to start our lunch.

A few hours later, dinner...

More Instagram videos segments...


After nearly 6 pleasant hours and a sampling of most of the menu, we headed out the end of the concourse to Gate 2.

New York JFK to London Heathrow
American AA 106
9:25p-9:00am +1
March 11, 2022
Departed 8/8
American's Terminal 8... complete with modern payphones.  LOL.

What is with AA’s annoying habit of putting all the bedding on the seat?  WTF?  Are we trying to impress? And what do I do with this crap now so I can sit down??

Guess I could place it in the overhead but… there are only two large overheads on each side of the plane.

Except a crew member completely filled one of them with his/her oversized bag. Yeah, that’s the AA way. I moved it to a cross aisle overhead before that pax arrived, and asked the flight attendant to take the bedding away until I needed it.

OK, that looks a little better without all the bedding off of the seat.

And true to AA form, pre-departure beverage in Flagship First plastic “glasses”...

Tonight's menu.  No wine list was presented.

AA's new woke PJs.  These were so uncomfortable that they even felt every bit like recycled glass crAAp that you’d expect from Tempe gang.

Oh yeah, 40 minutes later, my “glass” is still there.  No refill ever offered.

After take-off, I passed on dinner, asked our FA to make my bed and slept for 4 hours. Prior to landing...

Clearly AA just isn’t just into international First Class and the hard and soft product show it.

Instagram videos...

After quick passport control, we stopped into the BA Arrivals Lounge for a quick shower and bite to eat.

Instagram videos...

Into the city and lunch at Michelin star Trishna London
After dumping our bags at Left Luggage, we headed for Heathrow Express and the quick trip to Paddington.

After a walk over to Hyde Park, we headed over to Marlyebone Village and a great Indian restaurant.

pic from trishnalondon.com

Great atmosphere...

Great service...

And great food...

And wonderful vintage pics and memorabilia...

On our way back. a stop at DFW-CK's favorite coffee place, Kaffeine.

Instagram videos...

Heathrow Express to Paddington Station
Exploring London
Fabulous lunch at Trishan London

The Concorde Room is a joke

Love the Heathrow Express which wisked us back from Paddington Station to Terminal 5 is just over 15 minutes.   We stopped at the T5 Left Luggage to collect our bags.

And then upstairs to BA First security.

One of us had no problem.  LOL.

Civilized BA First security. 

Which funnels into the BA/One World First Lounge.   You couldn't hide the extension cord, BA??

Down the hall is the Concorde Room, reserved to BA First passengers.

Once something special, it is definitely not so special anymore. 

BA closed it for a year for "renovations" during Covid but other than some new furniture, I don't seen much difference. 

The Terrace is as nice as ever with some new furniture...

But, they couldn't spend a little money to add power outlets, despite the nearby power?  Seriously, it's 2022.



Concorde Dining, which looks exactly the same as before "renovations".

The communal table seating is new and a nice addition.

But that assumes that you can find anything on the menu remotely interesting.   The Concorde Room menu... so 1970s, 1960s, 1950s.

Traditional British Sandwiches.   Yeah, that really sounds appetizing.

Spiced Cauliflower Pie.  Seriously??   And Mackerel??  The cheapest fish you can buy.   And the BA Burger??  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.

About the only thing that I figured they can't screw up.

I passed on food but DFW_CK threw caution to the wind and ordered a scone and the traditional sandwiches, none of which were edible with the scone being the consistency of a hockey puck.

After a couple of hours, mercifully it was time to leave to head out for the train ride to the C gates... BA's personal assistants and limo service not operational today.  LOL.


Instagram videos...


About an hour before departure, we headed out for the distinctly non-First Class trek to the C concourse and Gate C63.

London LHR to Johannesburg JNB
British Airways BA 057
9:10pm-9:15am +1
March 12, 2022
Departed 14/14


Once on board and leaving BA's miserable ground experience behind, today's flight was excellent with a wonderful crew.   Very nice and comfortable A380 First cabin, especially in the private row 1 suite.

A glass of Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle sets a great mood for the evening.

Nice video screen with numerous entertainment options.

PJs and a respectable amenity kit with some nice take away sizes.

Tonight's menu.


A nice touch is free Wifi for First Class passengers.  Just enter you seat and name.

After take-off, our cabin crew was quick to start tonight's stellar service.

Showtime, BA First style.

The Beef Carpaccio was tasty.

Not the most exciting menu, so I went with the 21 day aged beef.

Despite looking like it might have been in the oven for 21 days, it was actually quite good.

The Chateau Battaile Pauillac was excellent.

Yeah, just a little beyond well done.  LOL.

The cheese plate was very good.

To finish, the chocolate mousse...

... delicious.

After dinner, I slept for a solid six hours.

Not the best food in the sky, but this was an excellent flight.  Comfortable suite and bed and outstanding service from a wonderful BA crew.



BA First Class to Johannesburg

Four Seasons The Westcliff Johannesburg 

The Four Seasons is a short 30 minutes drive from the airport.  Our hotel arranged driver dropped us off at just after 11am.  The Four Seasons is a lovely classic hotel located in a series of buildings up the hillside from the main buildings.  Access is by golf cart and they are available on demand to all guests. 

Heading up the hill to our rooms.

The glass structure is an elevator to Flames, the hotel's signature restaurant with a view.

After we settled in, we headed for brunch at said Flames.

Great atmosphere, great view and great entertainment...

Later that afternoon, we relaxed by one of the hotel's pool areas.

Night time at the main lobby building. 


Instagram videos...

JNB arrival, passport and exit

Four Seasons The Westcliff Johannesburg

Sunday Brunch at Flames at the Four Seasons

Amazing Dinner at Marble Restaurant

When we decided to visit Johannesburg, our research discovered Marble, a wonderful restaurant in suburban Rosebank, just 7 minutes from our hotel.

We booked a chef's counter table which is always fun.

Outstanding bread with butter and dip.

Great view of the action.

We couldn't decide on starters so we ordere most of them. LOL.

Marble Snails... wood-fired oven, tomato and garlic stew, herb butter, mozzarella and gruyère.  Fabulous.

Marble "Avo Ritz".  Coal-fired prawns, avocado, prawn mayo and chives.  Simply divine.

Octopus... coal-fired with black sesame aioli, green pepper salsa, charred corn and green olives.  Outstanding!

Grilled yellowfin tuna... roasted gazpacho dressing, avocado, roasted garlic.  Excellent.

For our mains, we shared the Ribeye and Salmon, and an order of Marble Fries.

Amazing Salmon on the coals with béarnaise sauce, asparagus, potato and anchovy baked in cream.  OMG!

Coal-fired rib-eye with hassleback potato, Jack Daniels and butter pepper cream, mushrooms, roasted garlic dressing, parmesan.  Spectacular.

Despite being stuffed, we could not resist the ice cream sandwich trio...

And the star that made our desserts.

What a fabulous two and a half hours food fest at a great restaurant.  

Instagram video...

Our evening at Marble 


Ten minutes later, back at the Four Seasons...

Our Day in Joburg

Our very reasonable Four Seasons room rates including complimentary breakfast at Flames.  Beautiful late summer morning on the terrace.

We met our hotel arranged guide/driver Thomas down at the main building just after 9am.  

I video'd most of the Soweto tour so I don't have a lot of high quality pics.  Sorry for some of the screen shot from video pics.  The full Soweto video is available on my Instagram Soweto link.

The iconic Soweto towers, now used as massive billboards and for bungee jumping.

Nelson Mandela's one time Soweto home.

Next stop was back to Johannesburg and Constitution Hill, a living museum that tells the story of South Africa’s journey to democracy. The site is a former prison and military fort that bears testament to South Africa’s turbulent past and, today, is home to the country’s Constitutional Court, which endorses the rights of all citizens.  

From https://www.constitutionhill.org.za ... There is perhaps no other site of incarceration in South Africa that imprisoned the sheer number of world-renowned men and women as those held within the walls of Constitution Hill’s Old FortWomen's Jail and Number Four. Nelson Mandela. Mahatma Gandhi. Joe Slovo. Albertina Sisulu. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Fatima Meer. They all served time here, but the precinct also confined tens of thousands of ordinary people during its 100-year history. They were men and women of all races, creeds, ages and political agendas; children too, the everyman and the elite. In this way, the history of every South African lives here.

Number Four Prison, a sobering reminder of the dark years of apartheid.

Tributes to Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi.

Mandela's cell in The Old Fort.

With an amazing collection of Mandela's letters and writings.

Instagram videos of our time at Constitution Hill...


We headed back to the hotel prior to our 1pm lunch reservation at Qunu at the Saxon Hotel, a beautiful secluded hotel in tony Sandhurst.

Elegant Qunu, voted Best Hotel Restaurant in Africa this past year.

FIrst time I've seen baggie for masks.




Amazing desserts.

Wonderful food with excellent food service.

Instagram videos of The Saxon and Lunch at Qunu...

BA A380 First Class back to London Heathrow

After lunch, we returned to the Four Seasons to relax for a couple of hours before heading off to the airport.

Earlier in the day, we had both used our BinaxNow test kits with the Navica app and got our still-mandatory test results in less than 20 minutes from start to finish.  Just a great way to meet the stupid US testing rules for return.

We went with the $28 Uber Black option vs. the hotel arranged $125 option.  After two perfect weather days, it sure looks like we are leaving at the right time.  

Miserable conditions.

Thirty minutes later, we arrived at JNB and another 10 minutes later after two more doc checks, we were next in line for First Class check-in.

With no priority lane, security was another 15 minutes, and then 5 minutes for passport control. 

Another five minutes later, we're at the BA Lounge.

Large and boring Business Class lounge...

But fortunately with a separate and quiet First Class room.

Menu options with food and drink delivered to your table.  We were both still full from lunch so neither or us sampled anything from the menu.

My G&T and chips.

At around T-60, we headed out for our gate.  After yet another doc check, we're in the gate area waiting to board.

British Airways BA 54
Johannesburg JNB to London LHR
9:15pm-7:15am +1
March 14, 2022
First Class Suite 1A

Yet another pathetic BA First Class boarding experience as we waiting for handicapped, then dozens of families with small children, and then finally First Class.  Not that it meant anything as we waiting 10 minutes in the jet bridge before we were all allowed to board.​  This would never happen with Air France La Première.  

Ahhh, finally on board.  A380 pics from our earlier flight.

Another excellent BA crew providing stellar service again tonight.

Salmon and beet starter.

Beef was excellent, despite being well done again.




After dinner and a movie, I slept for another solid 6 hours.   

Again, I was really impressed by the service in BA First. Wonderful cabin crew providing stellar service.  It's a shame BA doesn't give them more to work with, and simply falls apart once you arrive at the gate, where the abysmal LHR ground experience is enough to make a First Class passenger avoid BA altogether.


Instagram videos of The BA Lounge at JNB and our BA First A380 flight to London...