Aug 082011

So, drama-free trip with Brussels Airlines, and I was soon making my way through Schengen Emmigration on the way to the FLounge when I got the message….the drama to potentially end all drama…from Matt:

“I’m still at London City – appears our inbound flight sucked in a SWAN into the engine…they’re assessing damage now.”  Now, on first thought, I chalked this up to drama.  We had 2.5 hours in Frankfurt to connect, and I wasn’t terribly worried.  As long as he was delayed less than two hours due to swan drama, things would be ok.  A quick check of expertflyer showed there was another LCY-FRA flight 90 min after his original, so I told him to watch both flights, and get on whichever left first.

That was a wonderful idea, until….the SECOND flight went mechanical due to some sort of sensor or another going tits up.  Oh, and plane number one?  Still having miscellaneous bird innards removed from its engines.  At this point, we were at a two hour delay, and I was getting worried.  How worried was I?  I’d spent over an hour in the Lufthansa FLounge, and was still only halfway through my glass of champagne, and hadn’t even hit the showers for the Lufthansa Rubber Duckie.  It was THAT bad!

Soon it become obvious that the inevitable was going to happen:  there was no way he would get to Frankfurt in time, and was going to miss the onward connection to Baku.  Now, normally this wouldn’t be the end of the world, but Baku isn’t one of those destinations with dozens of daily flights.  Lufthansa doesn’t even fly there daily.  So, I passed on the champagne, cornered a third lounge employee, determined to fix this.  Oh, I didn’t mention perhaps the biggest part of the drama.  I had Matt’s passport with the Azeri visa.  Plan was he would fly to Frankfurt on Passport #1, and then I’d give him Passport #2 with the Azeri visa, and we’d go to Baku together.  So, small problem!

Thankfully, after trying three lounge attendants (first two were the very rigid “sorry, there is nothing I can do” types) the third was awesome.  She agreed to hold the passport, and to rebook him on the only other option:  Frankfurt to Baku via Istanbul.  One small problem though:  It arrived Baku at something like 4am.  I don’t do redeyes unless absolutely necessary, and Matt definitely doesn’t do them.  I had her book that option, as well as an option where he got to Istanbul around 8pm, forced overnight, getting into Baku the next day at noon – I was convinced that given all the flight drama that was a pretty damn good solution.

That sorted, I advised him the backup plan, got in my Mercedes, and was driven to the plane…with perhaps the creepiest person I’ve ever met.  I had the honour of sharing the car with a guy who spent the entire 5-10 minutes on his cell phone calling every escort/woman for hire/friend he had in Baku advising them he was going to be in town that night and wanted to see them.  Ewww.  When he caught on I understood his German he switched to Russian.  BZZT!  You lose, it just got creepier!

Up to the plane, on board in Seat 1K and it was confirmed – we would have been the only two in first as expected.  Woo hoo – private plane for me!

I didn’t know at this point that Lufthansa was in the process of reconfiguring their A340s, and I happened to get lucky enough to get one of the very few reconfigured ones!  Excellent…and all to myself!

Lufthansa 612, Frankfurt to Baku
Seat 1K
Airbus A340-300, Registration D-AIFD, Manufactured 2002
12:35 – 20:00 – 4 hours, 25 minutes + 3 hour time change

Load today was incredibly light – less than 50% full in coach, less than 25% in economy, and, well, 1 of 8 in First.  Being a daytime flight that was just long enough (around 4 hours) I planned to enjoy it to the max, although it was kind of sad doing it alone.  See, Matt has a bit of drama when it comes to Lufthansa first.  If you’ve read my other posts, you know that he got denied a few months ago from DXB-MUC, but we were compensated with Emirates A380 First…not a bad deal!  I believe this was his third attempt at Lufthansa First, and third miss.  Hopefully next month our upgrades from business on HKG-FRA-JNB clear on at least one segment…he kind of deserves it!

So, time for food porn!  The purser was amazing, and let me know that service would still be 100% just for one person, and it was my duty not to waste!  Ut oh!

I suppose I should start with where we are up until this point. The champagne. Leaving the lounge drama and buzz behind, it was time to see what was on offer…which ended up being around 2 glasses before the door closed. Today’s treat was a 2000 Laurent-Perrier Millesieme, and I was determined not to commit a crime and let any of the bottle go to waste. A bit of a challenge since I was on my own. (Note: no clue how well I did before switching to red with my main, but suffice to say I made a really really good dent in the bottle.)

In traditional Lufthansa style, first out was the appetizer cart with the three tier appetizers.  Four choices today:

1)  Caviar with the traditional Garnishes
2) King Prawn Confit with Strawberry Salad and green Pepper
3) Jellied Veal with Chervil, Snow Pea Salad and Lime Vinaigrette
4) Zucchini and Bell Pepper Terrine with Basil Sour Cream

Now, on Lufthansa, you’re welcome to 1, 2, 3, or all of the appetizers. I sensed I was in trouble. I decided to go with the Caviar, as well as the King Prawn…since it was just three jumbo prawns and some strawberries – relatively light. Unfortunately, I devoured the caviar a bit too quickly, and out came a second “mandated” serving:

Next it was time to move onto the Salad and Soup course:

Mixed Lettuce with Pumpkin, Bell pepper, Cherry Tomatoes, and Pumpkin Seeds presented with your CHoice of French Dressing or Herb Vinaigrette

Chilled Vegetable Soup with Basil Oil

I had the salad which was good – albeit a slight be strange, and moved onto the main event. Now, here’s where I made a mistake. There were four entree choices, and I made the mistake of asking which of two of them was better….”I am not sure, they are both new I will heat both, and you can decide.” Ug! Danger Danger!

1) Medium rare Saddle of Lamb crusted with Gorgonzola Cheese and Herbs, Vegetables au Gratin and Potato Blini
2) Pizokel, Noodles Swiss Style with Mushrooms, Savoy Cabbage and Appenzell Cheese Sauce
3) Pigeon Strudel in Port Sauce served with Broccoli and mashed Jerusalem Artichokes
4) Files of Trout Meuniere with Almond Butter and Potatoes

At this point, with the lamb coming first, it was time to switch to a red. When I fly Lufthansa or Swiss, I make a point to drink reds that are slightly more difficult to find in the US, and today that meant a 2005 Redoma Tinto, Dirk van de Niepoort from Portugal. I was pretty impressed with it…and it went well with the next couple of courses!

First out, was the lamb, and fortunately, it was amazing….so amazing I declined the pigeon, which Lufthansa seems to have a fascination with lately.

I was already stuffed at this point on Champagne and food, but the cheese cart appeared, and those wheels just looked so lonely, so I accepted a taster of: Saint-Nectaire, Appenzell Cheese, Roquefort, Fougerus and Tete de Moine with Fig Mustard, Grapes, Pecans.

At this point, I felt like the guy in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life….Better. Better get a Bucket!

I had noticed at this point a very very unique desert wine on the menu, so I asked, and it was new. No reviews yet, so I had to try it! It was from Dresden, and was a Dresdner Weisses Wunder, August Rex – Koenigliche Destillate – yes, a milk wine! Closest thing I can compare it to is Baileys, but it wasn’t really that close. Think milk with a bit of grappa added in, and you’d be close. I actually really liked it, and it went REALLY well with the desert, which was practically forced on me!

The foul temptress would not relent, and insisted I try the desert: “Cold Elderflower Soup with mixed Wild Berries and Cassis Sorbet” which was awesome. Light, floral, and a perfect end to the meal…with yet another glass of the unique desert wine.

The next hour…yes, only an hour since I’d just spent three HOURS eating, is a mild blur…but I do remember landing on time. Oh, and being happy enough that my usually reluctant Russian was in full-on spewing from the mouth mode at the the immigration officers.

Out of immigration, and the usual bevy of “Service Taxi? Service Taxi?” I stood around for around 30 minutes, figuring out where Matt was (spending the night in Istanbul) and then I approached a lazy/lonely looking taxi driver in the parking lot and negotiated the ride with him. Well, I tried. English? No. Russian? Nyet. Azeri only…which wasn’t going to happy. So, I punched numbers in on the iPhone, he countered, back and forth a few times, and we had an understanding. Soon, we were arriving at the Park Inn.

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