Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Food as art at Johannesburg Airport's Slow Lounge, on the way to Durban for a spa holiday

At the Big Hole in Northern Cape,
South Africa

Last May, I was in South Africa, and it was a typical Travelife of a week.

I had just accompanied a large group of friends and readers on a marathon trip around Johannesburg, and to the Northern Cape and Pilansberg National Park.

This extremely enjoyable trip had included two safari experiences, five gourmet meals and even a helicopter ride at sunrise.

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TIME FOR "ME"

On the last day of the group’s trip, with almost everyone safely onboard an airplane headed back for Asia, I decided to get some “me time.”

I jumped onto a plane for Durban, and then got a driver to take me to the foot of the Drakensberg Mountains, two hours away.

Here, I checked into Fordoun, a luxury spa in Kwazulu-Natal (KZN), a region of South Africa that I’d never been to before.

Jumping into an airplane for Durban
at Joburg airport

SPA TIME AT FORDOUN:
MY SOLO TRIP FOR 2014

Frankly, I was quite excited as this was my first solo trip in a long time, and it involved three days of spa treatments in a lovely old-fashioned five-star country hotel with beautiful views, fresh air and good food.

It was the perfect combination, as far as I was concerned, after weeks of a fast-paced Travelife.


TOO MANY PLACES, 
TOO LITTLE DAYS

I would have booked a longer stay as well, except that my Travelife this year has needed micro-planning to fit as many destinations as reasonably possible into my limited available time.

In the last eight weeks prior to this particular trip to South Africa, I’d crisscrossed France and the Czech Republic, flown around Japan, spent a weekend in Macau and completed this road trip around South Africa.

A NICE HOLIDAY IN MOROCCO

On holiday in Fez, Morocco
at the Palais Amani

And then after Fordoun, I had two weeks in Asia before heading back halfway across the world for two weeks of holiday and fun in the sun in Morocco, staying in some beautiful riads and palaces, and enjoying dinners in amazing locations.

Followed by a two week foodie trip around France and Spain.

A never-ending Travelife is clearly not for the fainthearted, or for anyone who might suffer from jet lag.

With the world's best female chef
and Ireland's most famous chef,
in San Sebastian, Spain last month.

FOOD AS ART

But on that particular morning that I’d said goodbye to my friends and readers at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport, I was scheduled for some serious downtime.

I’d even kept my laptop closed to convince myself that I was putting work temporarily on hold -- which is something I almost never ever do, by the way.

And on the plane over to Durban from Joburg, I had a pretty nice breakfast onboard the plane. It was 10 AM and I had breakfast with a glass of red wine -- I was on holiday anyway, I figured.

Breakfast onboard Commair to Durban
from Johannesburg

THE MOST UNLIKELY OF PLACES

And perhaps this was how I managed to observe and appreciate in a few tight minutes before heading for my next airplane, the picturesque breakfast buffet I’d encountered in the most unlikely of places.



I was booked on a Cathay Pacific code-share flight on British Airways from Johannesburg to Durban, one hour away, and the lounge assigned to its business class passengers was ironically called the Slow Lounge.

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TRAVELIFE WITH US

SOUTH AFRICA


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As business class waiting areas go – and I’ve probably seen most of them by now – the Slow Lounge was tasteful and relaxing, decked out in muted earth colors that made me feel I was nowhere near an airport.

AN AIRPORT LOUNGE BUFFET
THAT ACTUALLY CAUGHT MY EYE



But what caught my attention was the food, which was either artfully arranged or carelessly arranged – take your pick.

Either way, I’d never seen a buffet at an airport lounge displayed in this refreshing way before: an entire watermelon was placed on a plate, while cheese was scattered on a large wooden board and muffins looked like they had been dropped from a bag above.



Some passengers might be offended by this rather informal display, but seeing this made my morning.

I was enchanted enough to take photos, as these images reminded me once more of how the joys of travel – as with the pleasures of life itself – can sometimes be found in the simplest and unlikeliest of things, in a never-ending, and never-endingly Travelife.






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