Thursday marked the final match we would see in the group stage: Italy versus Slovenia at Ellis Park. It was a 4:00 pm kickoff, and our shuttle driver had another group to pick up from the airport, so we got to the stadium quite early. We walked around the stadium, took a few pictures, checked out the apparel, bought an ice cream, watched a bit of the corny “entertainment” put on by a few of the World Cup sponsors and were still to our seats an hour before the game started.
The game was an exciting one but, apart from the final few minutes of the match, the Italians were disappointing. It was quite a shock to see the reigning World Cup champions fail to progress out of the group stage! Italy was very well represented in the stands. The Italian fans had very long faces on the walk out of Ellis Park, that’s for sure.
The walk out of the stadiums is always interesting. We never fail to see a handful of foreign reporters – television and radio – looking for a good interview from an elated (or distressed) fan of one of the participating countries. The world press is definitely present at this World Cup. The press box usually takes up a section or two of the stadium. Dozens of photographers, all wearing orange vests, are seated at the sidelines at every match.
After the game, we met our shuttle driver. He was kind enough to drop us off at Nelson Mandela Square so that we could squeeze in dinner and a little bit of shopping before we headed back to the hotel for the night.
We had dinner at a restaurant that overlooked Nelson Mandela Square. I was feeling adventurous, so I took the suggestion of the “must have!” printed next to the Oxtail Casserole on the menu and ordered that for my dinner. It tasted okay, but the consistency of the meat left something to be desired. There was a little bit too much connective tissue for my taste, unfortunately. It is the only meal I’ve had on this trip that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. And, in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t all that bad. Plus, we finished the meal off with chocolate mousse. Chocolate mousse heals all.
After finishing up dinner, we caught a cab back to our hotel. With the length of time that we’ve been in Johannesburg, we have a pretty good idea of the standard rate that it costs to get to or from our hotel to a few different points in the surrounding suburbs. It’s astounding how often we’re quoted a rate that is 50 Rand higher than the already inflated World Cup rate that the taxi drivers are charging. We’ve gotten quite good, and quite comfortable with, telling the cab drivers that there’s no way we’re paying such an astounding rate. And they always come down in price.
Back at the hotel, we got to bed earlier than we had been in bed during the entire duration of our trip. The alarm clock was set for 6:00 the following morning. No moaning about the early wakeup call allowed: we were getting up to go on a safari!