Apr 032017
 

I don’t usually get too excited for flights, especially when they mean getting up early, but the combination of my room being slightly warm along with my upcoming flight on my favourite product had me up even before I needed to be.

Walked over to the B terminal of the airport, and stopped at Starbucks for a bit of caffeine to get me motivated for the long day ahead. Back to the Sheraton, packed, checked out, and then did the brisk 10 minute outdoor walk to the First Class Terminal. They’re definitely not used to people arriving on foot, but were excellent about checking me in and getting me sorted out.

The lounge was actually rather busy for 8am, and I got the last table in the dining area. I’ve never been here hungry before (usually coming off a redeye) so was nice to be ready to tear into some serious breakfast. Nice table setting to start:L

IMG_3099

This morning’s breakfast menu:

IMG_3100

I decided to go for the eggs benedict and a fresh orange juice. The eggs were actually really good, with just right amount of hollandaise sauce which was just the right tartness. Once again, Lufthansa delivers in my book.

IMG_3101

Now, I may not be Madonna who is rumoured to require Voss water to take her baths in, but I was pretty impressed that the First Class Terminal also has a water menu, which somehow I’ve never noticed on prior trips. Voss for me today!

IMG_3102

Spent a nice 90 minutes in the lounge today, before being told the car was ready to take me to the plane. Unfortunately, there were five of us in the lounge all going to the same plane, so we were packed into one car for the ride. How uncivilized! ūüėČ But seriously, it’s still a special feeling being driven around the tarmac for a bit before parking right next to your plane:

IMG_3103

There was a long queue in the jetbridge after we took the elevator up, and the driver was having absolutely none of it. “Entschuldigung, bitte!” all the way down, pushing his way passed all the queued up passengers to get on board first. It was on the verge of mildly embarrassing, but at the same time a bit fun to be treated like a celebrity.

Lufthansa flight 430
Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
Depart 10:40, Arrive 13:10, Flight Time: 9:30
Boeing 747-8i, Registration D-ABYG, Manufactured 2013, Seat 2K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 31,507
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,395,908

Good to see after my last couple of flights that the macadamia nuts are back, and the champagne remains cold!

IMG_3105

After takeoff, an amuse-bouche of tomato gelatin, a mini tomato, mozzarella, pesto, and a crostini:

IMG_3107

Clearly, Lufthansa has gotten the message that I enjoy my caviar. Despite being booked six of eight in first today, the portion took up half of the plate! I should start traveling with my own bread crumb scraper…I clearly make a mess!

IMG_3108

Today’s appetizers were tasty, but not mind-blowing. ¬†Tuna with Caper and Veal Sauce, accompanied by green Asparagus. ¬†Quail Egg and Black Salsify Salad presented with Bolzano Sauce (this one was super tasty), and Grilled Vegetable Terrine, Chive Curd and air-dried Beef.

IMG_3109

I liked how they did the salad after the apps…more courses, and extended things a bit more. The passion fruit dressing, as usual, was weird. One thing I don’t like about Lufthansa is how the feel the need to try funky dressings. Of course, maybe I should be thanking them for broadening my horizons…who knows.

IMG_3110

Went with the sous-vide prime boiled veal with red hot pepper mostarda, root vegetables, and parsley potatoes. Honestly, it wasn’t that good. The veal was flavourless, and the whole thing tasted like something out of a 1970s British cookbook. Boiled and bland.

IMG_3111

But not all was lost…cheese was on the way, and delicious as always. How can you not love a cheese cart like this when everyone else serves you dried out pre-plated crap. Rock salt cheese, St. Agur, Goat Cheese with Honey, L’Explorateur and Langres.

IMG_3112

Gorgeous cheese course. I’m not sure anyone does it quite like Lufthansa.

IMG_3117

My usually Johnny Walker Blue and a couple of chocolates to finish things off. No room for a full dessert today.

IMG_3119

After eating, I was stuffed and tired from being up early, so I shut the window shades to catch some zzzzzs. Rose, silhouetted by the one light…

IMG_3120

After four solid hours of sleep, I woke up just in time for the pre-landing snack. The new snack/landing menu are the same, and you just order from it as you please during the flight. I went with the Italian Spuntino plate with melon and ham skewer, bresaola with creem cheese, guinea fowl confit, arugula veal roll, and parmesan cheese and tomato olive tepanade. Definitely a winner for a second meal. Plus…pretzel bread!

IMG_3123

She insisted I also needed some greens, so I agreed to a salad with chicken as well.

IMG_3125

…and some sweets to finish it off. Not because I wanted them, because she insisted. They were, of course, delicious.

IMG_3127

Once again, a fantastic Lufthansa experience. The food today wasn’t exactly my thing for a few of the courses, but the fantastic service more than made up for it. Unlike lots of other folks, I actually find the Lufthansa seat great for relaxing and sleeping, although it is slightly lacking in the privacy front. I feel like they do classy in a great way that is refined and attention to detail without being at all pretentious. I won’t claim it’s the “best” product in the skies, but is probably the one that meshes best with my personality.

Upon landing, I was worried that once again the Global Entry machines would declare me persona non-grata since I was on a one-way ticket from Egypt. I’ve had very unpleasant experiences with this in the past, so really wasn’t looking forward to what might await me. This time, however, no problems at all and I was through immigration in maybe five minutes and on the way to my connecting flight.

Monorail over to the United gates, not too bad of a line at TSA PreCheck for once, and a quick stop at Starbucks for some caffeine. The wait at Starbucks was much longer than TSA (ugh!) but soon I had my caffeine and was ready to struggle through the last leg home.

United flight 622
Chicago O’Hare (ORD) to Washington DC, National (DCA)
Depart 16:00, Arrive 18:55, Flight Time: 1:55
Boeing 737-800, Registration N33266, Manufactured 2001, Seat 3B
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 33,119
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,396,520

What can I say. Generic non-meal United flight so not much to report on. Was too full to attack the snack basket, so had a super uneventful flight.

IMG_3129

With that, another great trip came to a close! Now, what next…

Mar 092017
 

Woke up right on time, nice quick check out from the Le Meridien, and a short walk over the bridge over the airport road and I was in Terminal 3. There is a baggage x-ray before you can get into the check-in area, and the guards will not let you in without either a printout or phone copy of your ticket. That accomplished, over to the check in desk where there was no line.

Asked about getting a seat with nobody else in the row, but the check-in agent informed me that all seats would be taken on the flight today. Oh well.

15 minute wait for immigration because the priority line wasn’t open, which left me 15 minutes to “enjoy” the EgyptAir Lounge. It’s gotten even worse (if that’s really possible) than the last time I was there, because on top of the horrible food offerings, they no longer have Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi either. The espresso machine was reasonably functional, so had a quick coffee then off to the gate.

Security at the gate was pretty easy, and we boarded right on time. All things considered, for Cairo, it was a pretty easy and relatively pleasant transit to get on board.

Lufthansa flight 587
Cairo, Egypt (CAI) to Munich, Germany (MUC)
Depart 7:35, Arrive 10:40, Flight Time: 4:05
Airbus A320, Registration D-AIQT, Manufactured 2000, Seat 4C
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 26,977
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,391,378

Upon boarding, it was clear why we were full today. There were six rows of EuroBusiness today, which meant 24 seats, and at least 10 of them were filled with uniformed Lufthansa crew. Not sure if a plane broke down in Cairo or what, but that explained all the full seats. Fortunately for me, my window seat was taken by a teenager who slept the whole flight and never got up once, so for being a full flight it wasn’t bad at all.

Breakfast was another story – definitely not the tastiest thing I’ve eaten. My request for champagne was met with “we don’t have that.” So I asked for sparkling wine. Ok, that she could do. Normally I love Lufthansa crews, but for whatever reason this one definitely wasn’t having a great day. I probably wouldn’t be either if I was working a 7am flight out of Cairo.

IMG_3016

Other than that, flight was super uneventful. Immigration to get into Germany had no line, but unusually they actually asked questions like how long I would be in Germany and what I would be doing there. Avoided “no clue, I had planned to go to Paris but changed my mind at the last minute” in favour of “three days, just a bit of tourism.”

Nice and easy, security was also quick, and I had time for a bit of time in the Senator Lounge. I’ve never actually been in the Munich Senator Lounge, only the first class lounge, so this was a new experience.

To go with that white whine, a bit of white wine:

IMG_3017

There’s something about the Lufthansa pretzel bread with cheese, salami, and tomato that I love. Unfortunately there was no cucumber today.

While in the lounge, I looked up the registration of my upcoming plane, and was excited to see it was one of Lufthansa’s relatively brand new A320-neo planes!

Lufthansa flight 105
Munich, Germany (MUC) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
Depart 12:00, Arrive 13:05, Flight Time: 1:05
Airbus A320neo, Registration D-AIND, Manufactured 2016, Seat 3F
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 27,163
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,391,564

Unlike the last flight this one was totally empty in business. 24 seats again, but only four were taken. Can you believe this was the meal on a 40 minute flight…and that refills on beverages were offered? It was much tastier than the meal from Cairo, especially the salmon, and I actually enjoyed most of this one.

IMG_3020

When I had changed two days prior from Paris to Frankfurt, the Airport Sheraton was by far the most reasonable Starwood option, and being on top of the airport (and thus Starbucks and an ICE station) made it a very convenient choice for me. My two nights here would be the closest I’ve ever come to living in an airport, and I have to say it was kind of fun.

Stopped at Starbucks after landing to get some coffee before checking in, and then after a shower I headed out for a bit of a walk around the city. I’ve never had the time to do much exploring of Frankfurt, so I just went on a bit of a random wander. Caught the train into the city, and then just started walking. The giant Euro symbol in front of the European Central Bank:

IMG_3023

Walked for a while and came upon the main square:

IMG_3024

…and Frankfurt Dom/Cathedral:

IMG_3026

IMG_3026

Kept walking for a bit, and eventually decided to check TripAdvisor for somewhere tasty for dinner. Settled on a place called Na√Įv which was a bit of a Germany craft beer geek’s heaven. German craft beer sampler:

IMG_3028

Bacon wrapped dates…which were absolutely amazing!

IMG_3029

Why a German beer is called Miss Florida IPA is completely beyond me, but there you have it….(and it wasn’t very good)

IMG_3031

I was still a bit hungry, so asked the bartender for a light recommendation. I was told I had to try the Handk√§se mit Musik – or “handcheese with music” salad because it was a Frankfurt specialty. Definitely tasty and different!

IMG_3035

I was exhausted at this point from a very early morning, so headed back to the airport to head to bed in my unusually warm room. It was winter, and being Germany they had the heat on, and there was really no way to cool the room down much. They were happy to deliver a fan to me, and perhaps the nicest thing about the Towers Lounge is their happy hour goes until 10:30pm and they leave beer, wine, and snacks out until that time. Rather nice!

As tired as I was, it didn’t bother me that it was warm, and I passed right out. It would be another early morning with the daytrip I had planned!

Jul 132016
 

One of the nice things arriving at Frankfurt in the morning is there’s not such a heaving mass of humanity at immigration. Wait, why was I clearing immigration if I was just connecting between international flights? Well, I had over three hours for my connection, which meant two things: I had time to go to the landside Starbucks (of course!) and two: I was finally going to check out the First Class Terminal.

All my other transits of Frankfurt I’ve been content just going to the first class lounge, which honestly has facilities just as nice as the terminal. But, the First Class Terminal is something special that only Frankfurt does, and I figured I should finally do it. After grabbing Starbucks, I headed downstairs from the check-in level (key point here), out the front of the terminal, walked left for 5-10 minutes, and I was at the elevator to head into the terminal. I think they’re more used to people driving to the terminal (since it really is meant to be a Frankfurt-origin terminal) but no problem at all.

Grabbed a quick shower, and asked the attendants if they could arrange any of the UEFA special edition rubber duckies. No problem, she would search for them while I was showering. As usual, the lounge was heated to a temperature somewhere between roasting and blazing hot, and even a good 15 minute cool shower didn’t help too much. Oh well, the biggest downside of Lufthansa in my book.

Since I hadn’t had breakfast on the plane, I decided to actually have a formal sit-down in the restaurant in the terminal – something else I’ve never done before because I’m always too full from the shorter transatlantic. The sit down menu:

IMG_1587

I had unfortunately just missed breakfast, so lunch it would be. My Wiener Schnitzel arrived maybe ten minutes later, and was an absolutely huge piece…and served with a super tasty potato salad and a couple other sides. Naturally, some champagne to go along with it:

IMG_1588

Look at the size of that cheese wheel on the buffet…it’s like they knew I was coming!

IMG_1589

There was a glass case in the lounge showing many of the limited edition ducks they’ve given away over the years. Just wish I had more of them. A bit of polite begging and I was able to get a couple extra UEFA ones, so if anyone out there is interested in a trade….

IMG_1593

Unfortunately no Porsche for me today, but still a rather nice ride to the plane:

IMG_1595

Lufthansa flight 630
Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Dubai, UAE (DXB)
Depart 14:05, Arrive 22:30, Flight Time: 6:25
Airbus A330-300, Registration D-AIKD, Manufactured 2004, Seat 1K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 114,022
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,304,159

Upon boarding, I was only one of two in first class on this flight, and the other passenger informed the purser she would skip eating and sleep the entire flight because she was fasting for Ramadan. Works for me! The usual macadamia nuts and champagne to start things off:

IMG_1596

Today’s menu:

IMG_1597

IMG_1598

Amuse bouche:

IMG_1603

Have champagne, am happy:

IMG_1605

The great thing about inflight internet is you can chat with other friends who are also in-flight. A quick chat with my friend Jason on his American Airlines London to JFK flight revealed that I was much happier to be flying Lufthansa First than American today. This looks one step above cat food:

IMG_1606

Whew, now that that trauma was over, we can get onto the serious business: caviar. Large serving number one:

IMG_1607

…and since I was the only passenger eating today, well, this might have happened after serving one was gone:

IMG_1613

All three appetizers and salad. The only one I was really a fan of was the tuna. The grilled vegetables and goat cheese was also decent, but I wasn’t a big fan of the other one.

IMG_1614

This is where it got interesting…I decided since it’s Spargelsaison, which is apparently a big deal in Germany, I went with the asparagus entree, and it was absolutely delicious. The sauce really made the dish, and there were some smoked meats served on the side to ensure the carnivore inside you stayed happy.

IMG_1615

I was getting seriously full by this point, but I had to try the cheese…in the name of science.

IMG_1617

…and finally the chocolate dessert which was absolutely fantastic and worth the splurge. It also paired really nicely with the wine I was drinking. Thankfully I was already way past full, or there might have been a second.

IMG_1618

That didn’t stop me from a couple chocolates and a glass of Johnny Walker Blue.

IMG_1620

…at which point I passed out. For another three hours. That was the end of the flight. Unfortunately I can’t report back on the snacks that were on offer because I slept right through it, but clearly I hadn’t sleep quick enough on the previous flight. Another extremely solid Lufthansa First experience in the books – and even better – it’s now been several flights since they turned it up to sauna temperatures. Maybe Lufthansa finally has lowered their in flight temperature protocols.

I’m definitely going to miss flying Lufthansa first in the immediate future, but after this trip report is done I think I’m going to do a comparison of first class products. Although Lufthansa isn’t perfect (especially on privacy of the seats) they do as good of overall job as anyone!

Next up, off to the hotel for a rather short night in Dubai, and then on to Turkmenistan!

Jul 102016
 

After exiting the airport I called an Uber, which was slightly confusing to find. Las Vegas has an Uber waiting area in the parking garage, and the signs to find it aren’t great. I suspect the local taxi mafia is behind it, but in the end it worked out fine, and was a convenient way to get to the hotel.

When I booked my hotel, I had one primary motivation: don’t stay anywhere too exciting so I can manage to get a reasonable amount of sleep. I chose the Westin which was off the strip for this reason. Waited in line over ten minutes to check in, and when I did was told they were 100% full, so I ended up with an old unrefurbished room. Pretty poor platinum treatment, but they did offer 500 starpoints as an apology.

That said, the room was cold and functional, and I slept well, so can’t really complain. Best part…they was a Starbucks in the lobby which was great in the morning. I’d definitely stay there again for a quiet Vegas stay if the price were right, but overall for a Vegas hotel it was very, very unimpressive.

Uber to the airport in the morning, where I got a super awesome driver. She’s a kindergarten teacher who drives Uber in the summer “because I meet all sorts of fascinating people.” She was really awesome, and the first driver I’ve ever given a cash tip to! No line at security, and off to the packed Centurion lounge. Was super impressed to see dragonfruit, but the rest was awful. The waffle was rock hard and the eggs were awful, cold, and rubbery. At least there was Veuve…

IMG_1552

Small rant. The lounges are nice enough, but they’re way, way too packed. Maybe that’s expected with a Platinum Card, but they really need to do something for Centurion members. When you pay six times the annual fee, you shouldn’t feel herded into the same cattle lounge. Ok, end rant.

Delta flight 976
Las Vegas, Nevada (LAS) to Los Angeles, California (LAX)
Depart 11:03, Arrive 12:20, Flight Time: 1:17
Boeing 717, Registration N969AT, Manufactured 2001, Seat 3C
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 105,204
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,295,341

Nothing much to say about this flight. I’d originally booked on American, but it got delayed 90 minutes, so I bought a last minute ticket on Delta which was super reasonable. Short flight, and I recommend the firefly vodka and lemonade as a beverage ūüėČ

Thanks to the semi-new connector tunnel at LAX was able to walk to the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) without having to reclear security. My first time in the Star Alliance first lounge there, and was very nice. Small, but functional and plenty of space that even when it got full it didn’t feel crowded. The menu of to-order items:

IMG_1555

Nothing caught my attention so I decided to stick to the buffet and champers instead:

IMG_1556

Great cheese selection AND macarons? Best lounge in the US for sure!

Was offered an escort to the plane by the lounge agent, which I turned down because it just felt awkward. Should have taken it, because when I got to the gate there was already a huge line to board, and when I walked to the front I got yelled at by a couple of angry Europeans that “we’re all waiting in line here!” Rather than get in an argument I just ignored them and walked to the front of the queue, where the agent was happy to board me right away.

Lufthansa flight 457
Los Angeles, California (LAX) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
Depart 15:25, Arrive 11:20 next day, Flight Time: 10:55
Airbus A380, Registration D-AIMH, Manufactured 2010, Seat 1K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 111,010
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,301,147

Nice matronly crew today, and it didn’t take long for bubbles and macadamia nuts to appear:

IMG_1557

Today’s menu:

IMG_1559

IMG_1560

IMG_1561

IMG_1562

IMG_1563

IMG_1564

Did something I never do, and changed into the pyjamas before the door closed. This was a long flight, and I wanted to be comfortable. Oh, and first was full today…three couples obviously on “once in a lifetime” trips and their excitement was contagious. They were all in their PJs the moment they got them, and I have to admit it kind of felt like a fun pyjama party up in there! Other reason is I was nervous Lufthansa would do it’s “turn up the heat to Mediterranean levels” thing, and I didn’t want to sweat through my clothes. Fortunately, nice and cool today, as it has been my last few flights.

Before the door closed amuse bouche was delivered…mmmm Spargelsaison!

IMG_1567

Shortly after takeoff the crew was quick to action, and it was caviar time:

IMG_1572

I’ve never had such a large portion, AND such an artistic presentation:

IMG_1573

Next, the appetizers came around, and I wasn’t given a choice. I was told I would try all three of them plus the salad. For once, they were all super tasty, and I may have finished it all…

IMG_1575

Took a risk and went with the filet and pork belly main, and it was delicious. The beef was even cooked medium well, which on a plane I consider a huge success! The veg was good, but too much sauce. It was easily avoided though.

IMG_1576

I can never say no to cheese, and today’s selection was super tasty:

IMG_1578

Since it was a long flight, I decided why not keep going. The tart was superb, and washed down with a couple of glasses of Johnny Blue it was delicious. Unfortunately, yet another crew who doesn’t understand “one ice cube.” Oh well!

IMG_1582

Before the meal, the flight attendant asked if I wished to be woken for breakfast. I told her no, on the off chance I was still sleeping. Since it was a far longer flight from the west coast I expected to be awake, but….seven solid hours of sleep, and I was woken up about 20 minutes from landing. Just enough time to get out of the pyjamas and guzzle a bunch of water. Another superb Lufthansa first experience.

After this trip is over, I’m going to do a comparison of first classes from this year, but so far Lufthansa hit another home run! Next up, the first class terminal and onwards to Dubai…

Jun 232016
 

4:30 in the morning came early, very early. I had set everything out the night before so I could make a very quick escape, and it all worked out well. Rolled out of bed into the bathroom, brushed teeth, put contacts in, and made a quick escape from the room. The plan was to get going as quickly as possible and shower in the lounge at the airport if I still had time in order to try and not wake Ian up. Actually woke up 5 minutes before my alarm (I love how the internal clock works like that sometimes) so think I was out the door in under 10 minutes flat. Called an Uber, and it arrived just five minutes later…and I was off.

With no traffic, ride to the airport was nearly 30 minutes, and when I was dropped at the curb this sign awaited me…it’s like they knew I was coming or something:

IMG_1378

I already had my boarding pass from the previous night, but the line for passport control was over 30 minutes…and that was the priority line…due to a group of 100+ Turks with diplomatic passports that all looked barely 25 congesting the line. There was a large German schoolgroup in the main line, so it wouldn’t have been any better. I wondered¬†where 100+ Turkish diplomats were headed at 5:30am, then saw one of their boarding passes: Pristina. I’m not sure what 100+ 20-something Turkish diplomats were up to in Kosovo, but I’m probably better off not knowing.

Stopped at Starbucks, where apparently Jason sounds like Corsim today. Fortunately, they let me bring it into the lounge where I enjoyed it with some cheese and olives for breakfast:

IMG_1379

Just in case you’re a raging alcoholic, there’s plenty of wine ready at 6am as well:

IMG_1380

Had plenty of time to grab a shower and such before the flight, before heading to the gate. Anyone who’s read my blog knows how I feel about the Istanbul airport. Great facilities, huge lounge, connections to everywhere, but the throngs of humanity make it a nightmare. Think Frankfurt or Heathrow, except instead of 90% passengers from developed countries, you have the other 90% – those who can’t get a visa to transit Europe. People being pushy, disrespecting queues, eating with their hands straight from the lounge buffet, etc. At least you don’t have the self-important scream into the mobile phone types…

The grand staircase in the split-level lounge:

IMG_1381

Bit of a hike to our bus gate today, where I found out the planned A330 had been swapped for an A340 overnight. Ugh, the Turkish A340s are almost as old as some of the United 747s. Hey, it’s a three hour flight though, can’t really complain about even an ancient widebody with nearly lie-flat seats!

Turkish Airlines flight 1587
Istanbul, Turkey (IST) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
Depart 07:55, Arrive 10:10, Flight Time: 3:15
Airbus A340-300, Registration TC-JDN, Manufactured 1997, Seat 4K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 99,297
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,288,822

First impressions on boarding were wow, this is nice for a three hour flight!

IMG_1382

IMG_1383

Chose the pre-departure lemonade this morning:

IMG_1384

The chef went around offering people drinks as they boarded. He had it down to a science. Let them board, sit down, and about a minute later come and offer them a drink. Very nice, and personalized:

IMG_1386

He offered me a second, so I went with a fresh-squeezed OJ:

IMG_1387

Today’s menu…looks pretty identical to the flight from Dakar the day before:

IMG_1388

Unfortunately, departure time passed, and without a word we just sat there. And sat there. After 20 minutes I rang the call button to ask why we hadn’t left. The flight attendant had no idea but “I am sure we will be going soon.” Another 20 minutes, nothing. At the hour mark, the pilot finally came on and said “something was wrong with the plane, but I think it is ok now and we will leave soon.” Nothing inspires confidence like that! Fortunately about 10 minutes later we were off.

After takeoff, the captain announced we had good winds, so should only arrive about 40 minutes late. Shortly after, the starters for breakfast were delivered. Since the crew the previous day didn’t know what a mimosa was I didn’t want to take any chances, so I asked for an orange juice and champagne…and got one of each. Waste not want not!

IMG_1389

Since the other option didn’t look appetizing I went with the bland cheese pancake thing. It was really bland again, but with the honeycomb I pretty much forgot…and the refills on the beverages weren’t hurting things:

IMG_1390

We ended up actually getting a gate in the B terminal in Frankfurt, and the German border police were waiting at the top of the jetway to check documents. I’ve only ever experienced this on flights from Africa and Turkey, which apparently have a large number of people flushing their passports and trying to claim asylum. For the first time ever I got a bit of a grilling for trying to speak German with them, but was let go after a couple of questions.

Had to re-clear security in order to get back into the B terminal area, so opted to go through immigration and clear that security first as the line to get back into the B area was rather long. The agent was confused why I was going into the B gates when my flight left from the Z gates, and didn’t seem to understand the concept of wanting to using the first class lounge. I’m still completely confused why Lufthansa has a first class lounge at the A gates but not the Z one, when that’s where most longhaul flights depart from!

Once inside, grabbed a quick shower, and unfortunately they only had the generic rubber duckies this time. I’m still trying to get either the rarer silver one or the new European Cup soccer one. Hopefully next time!

Some bubbly and cheese while I waited for my flight. Unfortunately, my lounge time was cut short by a delayed arrival. One of these times I’m going to have a proper meal in this lounge and try the eggs benedict!

IMG_1391

Today’s transfer from the lounge to the plane was in a nice Mercedes S Class, and we took the long way to the plane. I was one of four in first today, and unfortunately three of us had to share the car together. I know, I know, #FirstClassProblems…

Lufthansa flight 418
Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Washington, Dulles (IAD)
Depart 13:15, Arrive 15:55, Flight Time: 8:40
Boeing 747-8i, Registration D-ABYL, Manufactured 2014, Seat 2A
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 103,454
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,292,979

Welcomed aboard with some mixed nuts and a glass of bubbles…

IMG_1392

salmon amuse bouche…

IMG_1393

Takeoff from Frankfurt:

IMG_1397

Today’s menu:

IMG_1398

IMG_1399

IMG_1400

IMG_1401

IMG_1402

IMG_1403

The Tattinger Mill√©sim√© is a nice bottle of bubbles, but not one of my favourites. I appreciate that Lufthansa doesn’t just go easy with the Dom or Krug and tries to get creative, but while this is a very nice champagne, it’s just not one of my faves. No problem, that will just make the switch to red wine easier.

Table was set right after takeoff as I asked:

IMG_1404

Caviar was served. I was even offered seconds, but declined today:

IMG_1405

IMG_1406

Appetizers came out next, and the flight attendant insisted I try all three as well as a salad. “You do not have to eat it all, but you should at least try it!” I like her attitude!

IMG_1407

Continuing my unusual streak of fish on planes lately, I went with the turbot. I have to say, I wasn’t impressed. It was a bit dry and tasteless, and I didn’t feel the least bit bad enjoying the Flagstone shiraz with it for a bit of zing.

IMG_1409

Now THAT is a cheese cart. I was in heaven. A little of each please…

IMG_1410

With more shiraz, of course…

IMG_1411

I was too full desert, but again the flight attendant insisted I at least have a couple of chocolates. With that, I asked my bed to be made and passed out for nearly 5 hours.

IMG_1412

I had asked not to be waken for a snack, so I was allowed to sleep until 30 minutes before landing. I think that’s a first for me on a transatlantic, and shows just how little sleep I’d gotten the night before. Boarded, watching a movie, and ate until landing.

Immigration at Dulles wasn’t too bad, was through Global Entry in under five minutes, and then I saw the line for customs. It was the longest I’d ever seen, and people were saying they had to stand in line over 90 minutes for customs! Thankfully, there’s a special line for Global Entry customs at Dulles, and I was out in under five minutes.

Managed to stay awake maybe another six hours after landing, and then crashed hard despite the five hours on the plane. This was really a new experience for me choosing to sleep the daytime flight away, but to me it shows what Lufthansa really excels at. You’re in first class, and you’re in charge – whatever and however you want to use your time you are free to and the crew will see to it that you get the experience you need at that point.

One of these days I’m going to actually do the frequent flier geek thing and try and “maximize the experience” but for now, I’m extremely content just enjoying it as I think it’s meant to be – what you need, when you need it, to minimize the stresses of traveling.

With that, the trip is over, and it’s time to hit my penultimate country in just another week: Turkmenistan!

Apr 252016
 

Before heading home, only fitting to add a few shots from Cape Town. Like the sunrise view from the Westin Executive Lounge:

IMG_6845

View of Table Mountain from the waterfront:

IMG_6851

Another view, this time from the water:

IMG_6860

Fantastic sunset on the water:

IMG_6861

IMG_6867

Looking back towards Cape Town, and a full moon:

IMG_6875

The Cape Wheel lit up at night on the V&A Waterfront:

IMG_6880

One last sunset from Camps Bay:

IMG_6890

Another daytime view from the Westin Exec Lounge. This hotel was absolutely fantastic in every way. Great rooms, fabulous Platinum treatment, great restaurants, and the brightest star was the staff. They went out of their way over the course of a week to accommodate every request I had and went above and beyond the fall of duty. It’s hard to fail, though, with a view like this:

IMG_6906

Soon enough, over a week had passed, and it was time to get back home. My hockey team had made the championship game in the meantime, and I was anxious to get back in time to play!

Check-in was easy, although they were only able to check me in as far as Johannesburg. Long line for security, and took nearly 30 minutes to clear. Once through, the walk to the South African lounge wasn’t too bad, and there was great plane spotting today. TAAG 777:

IMG_6909

Kulula 737 with a very awkward “this way up” paintjob. Just in case, idk, the plane gets turned upside down?

IMG_6910

…and my ride for today for the short hop to Joburg, a South African A340-600:

IMG_6916

South African flight 346
Cape Town, South Africa (CPT) to Johannesburg, South Africa (JNB)
Depart 15:20, Arrive 17:15, Flight Time: 1:55
Airbus A340-600, Registration ZS-SNG, Manufactured 2003, Seat 4D
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 41,950
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,231,475

Once airborne, a small snack was served. The couscous, cheese, tomato, and olives were ok, but the mystery meal was…pretty nasty:

IMG_6919

Other than that, not too much to say about this short flight. Same wine selections as the flight down to Cape Town, friendly crew, and about 80% full in business, but the seat next to me remained empty which was a super nice surprise. The crew didn’t even say anything when I used the seatbelt to buckle in my laptop bag for landing! Nice!

Bus gate in Josie, and unfortunately we had to wait to fill up the bus – no special treatment for business class! Rather long walk to the international gates, and another 30 minute wait for passport control. Ugh! But once through, the South African lounge was absolutely packed for evening departures. Since the onboard meal wasn’t really edible, I grabbed a small snack in the lounge – I jokingly told friends back home this was crocodile stew, and most believed it. Goes to show how even South Africa is considered exotic!

…that said, it wasn’t labeled. Tasted like lamb, but there’s no guarantees…

IMG_6920

Long walk to the gate for the Lufthansa flight, and waited forever to board as the crew was stuck in traffic. This was to be the first time I transfered 747-8i to 747-8i and I was looking forward to a very comfortable trip!

Lufthansa flight 573
Johannesburg, South Africa (JNB) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
Depart 19:40, Arrive 05:25 next day, Flight Time: 10:45
Boeing 747-8i, Registration D-ABYF, Manufactured 2012, Seat 8D
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 47,330
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,236,855

So…what’s for dinner tonight?

IMG_6922

…after a couple glasses of wine in the lounge, I decided to try out my very limited German, and ordered my wine and starter. The super friendly FA continued in German, so I decided to see how long I could keep this going. I always joke that I don’t speak German – I speak Lufthansa, and the extent of my German is to tell you that¬†Zu jedem Sitz geh√∂rt eine Schwimmweste. In der First und Business Class finden Sie die Shwimmweste unter der Armiehne!

I must have been reasonably understandable, because I got my wine and mixed nuts. I’m so glad Lufthansa has finally upgraded from the pre-packaged nuts:

IMG_6924

I went with the sweet chili beef for the starter, and it was reasonably tasty:

IMG_6927

I’m not sure why I decided on the pasta as a main, but it was pretty bland, as expected. I won’t do shrimp on a plane, and I’ve been burned by bad beef so many times that I guess the pasta was a default. Maybe I should have risked the beef after all…

IMG_6931

Tasty, but incredibly stingy cheese portion:

IMG_6932

After eating, I passed out for over seven hours of sleep, and slept right through the pre-arrival breakfast service. No matter, I wasn’t really hungry anyways.

Passport control agents were waiting at the top of the jetway as they often are in Frankfurt for Africa flights, and after a quick flash of the passport (without even opening it) they waived me on. Several others weren’t as lucky…

Through formal passport control, again managing the whole very brief exchange in German, and I was in the airport at 5:30, only 5 minutes after scheduled arrival. Very short walk to the airport Sheraton, quick check-in, and by 6am I was in bed and sleeping soundly. Clearly seven hours wasn’t nearly enough, and I managed another 4 hours of solid sleep.

Grabbed a quick shower, followed by coffee and pastry in the Sheraton exec lounge, and then headed back to the airport. Stop for the obligatory Starbucks to finish waking up, where once again my name was strangely misspelled:

IMG_6938

Through immigration and security. It was the day before Easter, and this group of Chinese tourists was absolutely fascinated with this random duty free person posing as the Easter Bunny:

IMG_6940

Quick stop in the Senator lounge for a pretzel and easter eggs, along with a glass of riesling:

IMG_6941

Then, very short walk to the gate and it was time to board.

Lufthansa flight 418
Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Washington, DC, Dulles (IAD)
Depart 12:50, Arrive 16:55, Flight Time: 9:05
Boeing 747-8i, Registration D-ABYR, Manufactured 2014, Seat 7D
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 51,411
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,240,936

Having slept 11+ hours I was pretty sure I was going to stay awake this whole flight. The flight to DC was completely full in all classes, and they were offering a 200 euro voucher to go the next day. Um, no thanks. So now, let’s eat!

IMG_6944

Mixed nuts and red wine again, are you sensing a pattern?

IMG_6946

The medium-rare roast beef as advertised. Tasty, especially with the pretzel roll:

IMG_6947

A rather anemic salad:

IMG_6948

The tandoori chicken breast was ok, but nothing special.

IMG_6951

Much better serving of cheese…and a dessert! Bonus!

IMG_6952

Plus, mark this as the flight where I learned Lufthansa has an on-board espresso machine. This was the first of four double espressos consumed in the next eight hours…

IMG_6953

After lunch, I spent several hours doing work and watching tv, before it was time for the pre-arrival meal. The salad was pretty sad, and the curry soup was even worse. The whole meal was pretty poor…the riesling was the star…

IMG_6961

So what to do? Another glass of riesling and dessert. Best part of the meal!

IMG_6962

Landed at Dulles right on time, immigration was a zoo but was through in two minutes thanks to Global Entry. The line for immigration stretched down the hallway and looked at least 30-60 minutes long. Fortunately, the Global Entry line was much shorter and I was through in five minutes.

Taxi ride home, quick shower and pick up the hockey gear, eat a pack of fig newtons, and it was off to the hockey rink, where I arrived just in time 30 minutes before the championship game. The picture below tells all the story…it was well worth rushing home for!

IMG_6971

Stay tuned…next up is my next attempt to check off country #192 visited – Tuvalu!

Jan 262016
 

Fortunately, my adventures on the RER were much less of a problem today – and not only that – I managed to catch and express train and was at the airport barely 45 minutes after leaving my hotel…which gave me 3.5 hours to spare. I was going to need it, however, to figure out my way through this maze of an airport.

Leaving the RER station, there were a bunch of Air France kiosks, which made checking in and getting my boarding pass easy. So far so good. Rather long walk, but eventually navigated my way through the sea of checkin counters and found the area for departures. Exit immigration was a breeze with no line at the business class counter, and priority security was also rather empty…save the woman with about 200 metal bracelets and trinkets all over her body. Seriously, do people not thing ahead when they are flying?

Regardless, found my way to the lifts underground, and to the Air France lounge with plenty of time to spare. To top it off, my flight would be leaving from the main terminal 2E building, meaning a short walk from the lounge. Looked like everything was going well today!

Since I’d only grabbed a quick coffee at Starbucks, I decided to find out what my food options were in the lounge.

A lounge with real cheese and not Tilamook? Score!

IMG_6078

Main course of a chicken and mushroom stew of some sort, and cheese wrapped in ham…with an apple tart for dessert. Not at all bad for lounge food Air France. Not bad at all!

IMG_6079

Since I had plenty of extra time thanks to the RER running well today, it left me a few extra hours to get some work done in the lounge before it was time to take the short walk to the boarding gate.

Air France flight 770
Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) to Freetown, Sierra Leone (FNA)
Depart 13:35, Arrive 19:10, Flight Time: 6:35
Airbus A330-200, Registration F-GLCB, Manufactured 2001, Seat 5E
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 9,374
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,176,412

As soon as I was seated, pre-departure champagne was offered along with amenity kits. I decided to fit in this time, and when I wasn’t offered a blue one on the tray, asked if they might have any blue ones. The flight attendant apologized, and immediately went off to fetch one. Hah!

IMG_6080

Today’s menu…rather tasty looking once again!

IMG_6081

Today’s flight was the same number as my flight from Conakry two days prior, and apparently it does a circle Paris-Freetown-Conakry-Paris every couple of days. Worked out perfectly for me, and obviously lots of others because today’s flight appeared to be completely sold out in all classes. Everyone I could see in business had either American passports of Chinese, leading me to believe it was largely a mix of development workers and the usual Chinese “infrastructure” people. Tasty snack of cashews and cranberries along with a creamed pea mousse:

IMG_6082

Shrimp starter, along with more fois gras. Looking around – I found almost everyone poking at…and then refusing to touch the fois gras. Next time I’m on Air France I’m going to ask for them to take double helpings for me from all those who can’t or won’t appreciate it!

IMG_6083

Extremely tasty risotto, and cheese! I’m branching out from my usual beef offerings this trip with vegetarian risottos, scallops, monkfish…what is this world coming to?!

IMG_6084

Trio of desserts. It’s no Jeff Sundae, but it’s way tastier!

IMG_6085

My impression after two medium-haul flights on Air France: nobody can beat them for business class food. Sure, Emirates and Singapore can try and be “fancy” but they save the truly impressive stuff like lobster and caviar for first class anyways. Air France serves good, solid, high quality food in business class that doesn’t taste and look like it came out of the dollar bin at your local WalMart. Normally I’m the first to find airplane food boring and meh, but I can honestly say the Air France meals were things I would order in a restaurant. Well done Air France!

…and as a nod to Air France, my seatmate was displaying extremely Haute Couture – a bedazzled New York Yankees sweatshirt:

IMG_6086

This is where stuff got interesting. After a great flight, we landed at Lungi International Airport where the passport queues were extremely slow and sweaty. Country #189 visited! Now, Lungi Airport is rather interesting. It’s about 10 miles or so from the capital of Freetown, but those 10 miles are if you can walk on water. If you can’t you take the long way around the bay by car, which usually takes 3-4 hours. Yes, that’s right, hours. So, what most people do is take the ferry.

I had read nightmares about the ferry, and the process of procuring tickets, which were approximately $35-40. For $60, the Radisson would send someone to meet you at arrivals, transfer you to the ferry, give you your ticket, and pick you up on the other end. Sounded like a bargain to me…and I went with it.

My driver was waiting for me in the arrivals area, and handed me my ticket. He took me to the bus area, where I would wait for the bus to the ferry. Yes, that’s right, first you need a ferry ticket. Then the ferry company drives you to the pier. Then you take a ferry. Then you need transport on the other side. Well worth the premium I paid.

Fortunately, the ferry company’s van had awesome air conditioning, and soon we were off. About a 10 minute drive to the pier in complete darkness, but it didn’t matter, because once we got to the pier we waited nearly an hour to board the ferry. No answer why, other than soon soon. Eventually we boarded, and it was clear they were going to cram an entire A330 of passengers on a ferry which was marked “Capacity: 55”

I personally counted at least 80-90 people, and there was lots of yelling and complaining about the boat being overloaded. But, see, there’s a problem. It had one deck. With one door. In my foolish rush to board I had moved away from the door, and if this thing sank, there was absolutely no way I was getting off on time. I was hoping reason would win it, but no, they just slammed the door. A staff member gave some half-hearted safety demonstration that included comments about life jackets and the easter bunny…not sure if either really existed..and the motors sputtered to life.

Fortunately, it was pitch black outside, and we couldn’t feel the terror we were about to embark on…the first five minutes weren’t too bad, but then the waves started, and the boat started pitching pretty hard side to side as the waves would hit the boat which was loaded down worse than a pregnant woman well past her third trimester. I tried to strike up a conversation with the local couple seated next to me (we were some of the lucky ones with seats) but that didn’t work when they told me they’d taken this ferry dozens of times…and it had never been loaded down this badly. They were clearly worried.

I started looking for small and weak people between me and the door, deciding who I would trample when we capsized. I also started practicing holding my breath, trying to figure out how long I would have to get to the door once the water came rushing in.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, that’s when it started. Now, Sierra Leone had recently been declared free of Ebola, and to do so they constantly reminded people of the way it spread: avoid bodily fluids of sick and dead people. Well, that’s when the first woman lost her cookies…all over a couple of people also standing in the middle of the boat.

A couple of minutes later, it happened again with another person. All told four people threw up all over other passengers. While it made the time pass by quickly, if a sinking boat didn’t kill us there was a reasonable chance Ebola would. Eventually, we made it to the other side…the air heavy with the smell of vomit and fear.

True to their world, the Radisson shuttle driver was waiting for me, and soon we were off to the hotel. Quickly messaged Jordan and Dan that I’d arrived, and that they were free to meet me in the hotel bar/restaurant as after checking in I would need something to make me forget my near death experience.

This item on the menu didn’t reassure me:

IMG_6088

Yes, you may have a beer, but only after you sanitize your hands:

IMG_6090

After a couple of beers and some food, it was time to head to bed so I could get up at a reasonable hour and maximize my time in Sierra Leone. Unfortunately, the room air conditioning in no way met my standards, nor did the internet which only reached about a foot into my room. I was too tired to care, and had good data service on my cell phone, and eventually passed out for eight solid hours of well-needed sleep.

Got up to have a bit of breakfast before heading out, and was surprised to run into Dan and Jordan there. They had some sort of buy one get one free rate that didn’t include breakfast, and given the hotel wanted over $25 for it I hadn’t expected to see them. The buffet was rather basic, but enough to do the trick, and certainly better than several we had had on this trip.

They had arrived the prior day, and agreed to show me around the area near the hotel so I could maximize my time before leaving. We headed down to Lumley Beach, which thanks to “National Exercise Day” on Sunday, was packed:

IMG_6093

I was doing my best to “STOP the EBOLA Virus” but given all the vomiting on the ferry the night before, I wasn’t overly confident.

IMG_6098

The beach was packed with people playing football, lots of people just walking, and vendors selling water and other drinks in the incredibly hot sun:

IMG_6101

IMG_6104

I spotted one football team getting ready to take a picture, and rushed over to ask if I could take their picture as well. This got them to do their championship pose, and I found out they had just won the beach league tournament of some sort. Given the dozens of games going on at the beach, there seemed to be tons of different leagues and casual games going on, and most of them even had referees. It was a rather large affair and apparently THE thing to do in Freetown on a Sunday.

IMG_6106

After a while of walking around we eventually headed back to the Radisson to try in vain to cool down ever so slightly with some cold drinks before heading to the airport for our onward flight to the final new country of this trip: Liberia!

Dec 022015
 

It felt like it had only been days since my last trip, but in reality it had been nearly two months since I got back from my big Africa and Mongolia trip. I think that’s probably a commentary on how busy things were with work and life in general that it flew by without me even noticing that it had been a while since I’d traveled. That and the fact that I kept myself very busy with planning future trips and how I would finish every country in just under a year.

Fortunately I’d been able to get a good flight of of National Airport for this trip, and being right before a holiday I had the extra time to fly up to Newark to make the international connection. Dulles isn’t a bad airport, and I really appreciate the nonstop options, but when my choice is a 15 minute Uber or 45+ minutes out to Dulles, National wins. Factor in the fact that Dulles security can get pretty ugly in the mid afternoon leading up to international departures…not to mention how crowded the clubs are, well, I still prefer DCA to Newark (even with all its delays) any day.

Speaking of clubs, I’d already checked in online, so was able to sample a bit of the new fare in the United Club. I love the historic club at DCA, even more so now that they opened the back room to make it a bit roomier. I’m a big fan of the new hummus and olives, but a big BOO to the cheese cubes. I really miss the Tilamook pepperjack and wish they would bring it back:

IMG_3083

As soon I’d gotten to the airport I was hit with an hour delay, which made me glad I’d booked a 2.5 hour connection in Newark. I’ve learned that lesson before and won’t make it again. Two hours in Newark in the winter is my absolute minimum when I have an important connection to make. We eventually left just over an hour late, but with winds it was announced we would be only about 45 minutes late into Newark…not bad at all.

United flight 3304 (operated by Republic)
Washington DC, National (DCA) to Newark, New Jersey (EWR)
Depart 14:28, Arrive 15:39, Flight Time: 1:11
Embraer ERJ-170, Registration N651RW, Manufactured 2005, Seat 2A
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 106,887
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,144,727

I was so incredibly excited for this flight, more than I probably should be for a DC to Newark flight. See, I remember the good old Continental days, when they used to fly 737s from DCA to Newark. Sure, they had a small first class of only six seats sometimes, but at least it was an option. I know it’s like 45 minutes in the air, but when it’s the start to a big international trip there’s something a bit exciting about having a bit of room, time for a beverage, and just relaxing. Speaking of beverage, pre-departure beverages were offered:

IMG_3087

Once in flight, beverages were again offered, along with a rather feeble snack basked. But hey, not complaining at all, when this route is its usual ERJ-145 nothing is offered at all…even a drink usually. Plus the fig bars was actually kinda tasty…although I’m sure it was loaded with sugar:

IMG_3088

Got to Newark, gate right on time, and still had a bit of time to hit the United Club since my arrival, departure, and the club were all within a three minute walk. Sometimes you luck out! I’m going to complain a bit here, however, because flying first out of Newark really should be branded Global Worst instead of Global First. Firstly, the only lounge experience is the super packed United clubs. On top of that, you still have to pay if you want anything other than the $5 a bottle swill they pour for free. It’s just a rather unpleasant experience.

I understand that first may not be around long so they don’t want to invest too much, but they should take a lesson from Lufthansa. Cordon off a small corner of the lounge for first passengers. Offer the drinks which you normally have to pay for for free (or at least two or so) and give the people who have chosen to pay for first a little something extra on the ground. But, I guess United isn’t trying to win customer experience of the year award yet, despite things having gotten better recently.

That said, I was only too happy to board as soon as announced:

United flight 70
Newark, New Jersey (EWR) to Amsterdam, Netherlands (AMS)
Depart 18:00, Arrive 07:15 next day, Flight Time: 7:15
Boeing 767-300, Registration N656UA, Manufactured 1992, Seat 1K
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 110,551
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,148,384

Crew was rather distracted upon boarding, but did manage to offer up a menu and amenity kit within a few minutes. I like the look of the new amenity kit, although it’s a bit bulky for my tastes, especially to consider re-using it:

IMG_3091

I was excited to see what was on offer on the recently revamped United international menu, but unfortunately it was nearly identical to my last flight in United first. Disappointing:

IMG_3092

Pre-departure bubbles in the ever-classy United plastic flute were offered, no refills:

IMG_3093

Load was two of five tonight…wait I mean five of five once the nonrev party boarded. I mean party because it was three people traveling together who talked loudly the whole time, and the crew spent more time paying attention to than to the two paying passengers. Par for the course unfortunately. Before anyone asks why I continue to pay for it, the extra space more than makes up for it to me at 6’4, and I’ve never had a problem getting sleep due to the nonrevs, so, yeah. The usual Ch√Ęteau le Oscar 2015 and warm mixed split cashews:

IMG_3096

After the mixed nuts and a glass of wine, all was forgiven, when I found out they had indeed loaded garlic bread tonight, and the flight attendant gave me a wink and promised “I’ll save you as much as you want sweetie!”

IMG_3097

Strangest appetizer ever…ONE tempura prawn and a bit of roasted corn…with BBQ sauce. Points for originality:

IMG_3098

Mushroom and leek soup. Sort of bland, but at the same time it was somewhat tasty and felt like home cooking:

IMG_3099

The salad, unfortunately, was disappointing. Couple of limp wrinky olives, and flavourless tomatoes. Usually Global First has pretty decent salads, but this one missed the mark:

IMG_3100

I’ve had the pork chop before, and remembered it being pretty good. Unfortunately, tonight, it was pretty dry…as was the stuffing…which is one of my favourite foods on earth. Even the white asparagus was overcooked and limp. United was not having a good food night, unfortunately:

IMG_3103

As disappointing as the meal was, the cheese selection was definitely way above average for United. I asked for, and did receive seconds it was that good. Unfortunately, there was a limited quantity of my preferred sweet biscuits, but minor details:

IMG_3104

Finished it off with a sundae with hot fudge. Tonight’s request of “with cherries” was met with three cherries, which is pretty much the average response based on my extensive research ūüėČ

IMG_3105

After dinner, I passed out for four solid hours, which is pretty good considering the total flight time was just under 6.5 hours total, and the dinner service wasn’t too fast. Had to be woken up by the crew, which to their credit despite not asking if I wanted breakfast or not before takeoff, let me sleep until we were barely five minutes off the ground. My first look at the screen through blurry eyes actually showed that we were already down to 5,000 feet! I don’t wear my glasses too often, but had taken my contacts out on this flight to avoid my eyes drying out too much, so it looked like I’d be going through the airport in glasses today. Oh the horrors.

Immigration was quite a walk today, but was fast once there, and anyone who knows me well doesn’t have to ask where my first stop was. Apparently, with glasses, I look like my name should be Jordan:

IMG_3107

After coffee I had plenty of time to hit the Priority Pass lounge for a bit, which turned out to also conveniently be the Lufthansa lounge. Fortunately wasn’t too crowded, and was able to wash up a bit, put a pair of contacts in, brush teeth, and basically make myself feel presentable enough until I could make it to Frankfurt for a proper shower. Had a few bottles of water, and got to the gate just in time to board the flight to Frankfurt.

Lufthansa flight 987
Amsterdam, Netherlands (AMS) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
Depart 09:00, Arrive 10:05, Flight Time: 1:05
Airbus A320, Registration D-AIUE, Manufactured 2014, Seat 6F
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 110,779
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,148,612

Fortunately, the flight wasn’t terribly full, and was able to change my seat on the Lufthansa app to have a whole row of glamourous EuroBusiness to myself. Again, short flight so it’s not a big deal, but it’s always nice to have the extra space when possible. Speaking of possible, it always amazes me that Lufthansa is able to serve great snacks on a 45 minute flight. Look, more cheese!

IMG_3110

Once in Frankfurt, we’d come in at the extreme outer A gates, which meant a rather long walk to the tunnel to the B gates, and eventually to immigration. Fortunately, once to immigration the line wasn’t too bad, and I was soon in the lounge enjoying a bottle of water while waiting on a shower. For some reason, the lounge was absolutely packed, which I later found out was because we were right next to the gate for the A380 to Singapore which was about to leave. Once that left the lounge cleared out, I got my shower, and it was time for a very German breakfast:

IMG_3111

But no sooner was I finished with my breakfast snack than they changed the buffet over, so had to have a lunch snack too:

IMG_3112

Soon it was time to board the incredibly full flight to Cairo. Apparently the recent bombing of a Russian aircraft over the Sinai hadn’t detoured most travelers, and the flight was absolutely packed.

Lufthansa flight 580
Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Cairo, Egypt (CAI)
Depart 13:30, Arrive 18:35, Flight Time: 4:05
Airbus A321, Registration D-AIDM, Manufactured 2011, Seat 9E
Miles Flown Year-to-Date: 112,594
Lifetime Miles Flown: 2,150,427

I’d managed to grab 9D for this flight, which is my favourite seat on the Lufthansa A321 since there is no 9F, which guarantees you get the whole row of two to yourself. Considering we had 14 rows of business class today (seriously!) I considered this a pretty lucky break. This was going to be my first time in what I’d consider longhaul Eurobusiness with a flight of four hours, and I was curious how the service would be. It started out with packaged nuts, which was fine considering they were cashews…my favourite!

IMG_3113

What’s this…a printed menu on a shorthaul? Impressive!

IMG_3114

The chicken was actually super tasty, and was super impressed with both the burrata cheese starter and the delicious desert. The saran-wrapped salad was a little tacky, but overall a great meal for such a short flight. No comments on the white wine…for some reason it just sounded unsually tasty to me for a change:

IMG_3115

After lunch/dinner, chocolates were passed out, which were also super tasty:

IMG_3116

IMG_3117

All in all, considering the long routing I took to get there, the whole journey passed quite quickly. It was nothing spectacular or glamourous, but an overall solid performance that went by quickly. Considering I’d taken a longer routing because I was a bit short on miles quick and painless and comfortable was all I was expecting, and United and Lufthansa definitely lived up to expectations so overall…it was a good set of flights.

Next up, time for Egyptian immigration, a short overnight, and then off to Algeria!

Jul 282015
 

The flight from Chennai to Frankfurt leaves very late at night / early in the morning, so after a full day of worked headed back to the hotel to pack, have some dinner, and generally take it easy. The one thing I definitely didn’t want to do is fall asleep. Generally, I have really good luck sleeping on westbound redeyes, and I hoped this would continue. Since they leave late at night you’re tired enough to fall asleep, and then assuming the flight is long enough, when you wake up even though it might be 5-7am local time, it’s afternoon for your body clock, so you’re well-rested. I hoped to get lucky again!

Before heading to the airport around 11pm, I did one last check of the seatmaps online and discovered two cool things. There were still about six to eight seats open on my first flight, so I decided to switch to the fifth row in hopes of keeping an empty seat next to me. More importantly, on the second flight, they had substituted an aircraft with the old configuration…meaning the old first class seats upstairs were available as business class! It let me select one, and I hoped it would hold!

Check-in was remarkably easy, and the lines for immigration and security were reasonably short as well. Security wasn’t quite sure how to deal with my arm being in a sling, so decided to do the typical Indian thing and make it as much of an absolute bureaucratic nightmare as it could be. Go through metal detector, get metal detected again by hand. Have the sling swabbed for explosives. Write the details of my passport in three separate ledgers along with the time and details, etc etc, but finally I was free to try and find the lounge.

The lounge tonight was the Travel Club Lounge, which is also a Priority Pass lounge. I wondered why Lufthansa didn’t use the Air India lounge since they’re both Star Alliance, but one peek inside it looked pretty grim. The Travel Club Lounge was absolutely packed to the point it was hard to find a seat (and impossible to find an outlet) but it was cool enough. The Malaysia Airlines flight began boarding soon after I arrived, so that helped the lounge empty out just enough to be reasonable.

There was a buffet that everyone seemed to be avoiding, but the bar was quite popular. Most everyone was drinking scotch on the rocks, and going back for serving upon serving, but the strangest thing was the lounge had absolutely no wine at all – sparkling or non. I settled for a few last bottles of Kingfisher, before heading to the gate. Fifteen minutes before scheduled boarding it was already approaching chaos in the gate area, so I decided to use the sling to my advantage and fight for priority boarding. Unfortunately, I had more than a little competition tonight:

IMG_9534

After being told by one agent that I was “not disabled enough” another agent very kindly escorted me to the front of the boarding zone, and let me board first. Points to her! …well, not exactly first, but somewhere in the middle of the 50+ wheelchair scrum:

IMG_9536

The agent who had checked me in greeted me at the door to the plane, and with a big smile said “you look like you need to be comfortable, I managed to reserve the seat next to you” – wow, this was going to be a good flight…I hoped!

Lufthansa flight 759
Chennai, India (MAA) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
Depart 01:50, Arrive 8:30, Flight Time: 10:10
Airbus A340-300, Registration D-AIGY, Manufactured 2000, Seat 5D

Flight attendants were great, and hurried right over when they saw the shoulder, and were more than happy to help lift my bags into the overhead for me…and bring me a glass of wine!

IMG_9537

Two seats to myself, it promised to be a good flight…

IMG_9538

With a very late night departure I was curious what the menu would be, and as I suspected it was a snack followed by breakfast before arrival…it didn’t look too appetizing once again, and I suspected Lufthansa has contracted catering out to either IAMS or Purina lately…

IMG_9539IMG_9540

…but hey, I had two seats, and the wine and cashews arrived moments after takeoff. This crew was clearly going to let us get as much sleep as possible:

IMG_9541

The Fancy Feast chicken and Linguini tasted about as good as it looked, and I ate the chicken and peppers and that was all. Oh, and the dessert of course…and the poor pretzel roll which didn’t even get its own plate:

IMG_9543

…at least the sleep-aid was in plentiful refill:

IMG_9544

Fell asleep shortly after dinner, and managed to sleep almost eight straight hours. I will continue to love westbound redeyes, it was fantastic!

…which is more than I can say for the breakfast. The fruit was dry and sad, and I could only manage a couple of bites of the egg. At least the muesli was pretty tasty.

IMG_9545

So overall, the seat was below average, but I’ll give it above average because I had two. The crew was great and helpful, and very friendly, and the food was some of the worst I’ve ever had on Lufthansa. But, at the end of the day, on a flight like this I want somewhere comfortable to sleep and don’t expect a flying restaurant, so give me cool, quiet, and comfortable with adequate space and wine, and I’m pretty darn happy. Overall, it was a good flight.

Landed, through immigration, and off to Starbucks for my usual triple iced espresso. But, then back through immigration, to the lounge for a shower, and some breakfast. Hey, it’s afternoon somewhere!

IMG_9556

Wasn’t a long layover, but fortunately the gate was only two down from the lounge, so managed to linger a bit longer. The boarding area was just as chaotic as the flight from India, mainly because all of the Africa and India flights connect to this one…and I think half of Africa and India was on this plane. Again, I used the sling to push my way to the front, and was soon on board. It took me several years of travel in the developing world to get used to doing it, but I’m finally comfortable doing as everyone else does and pushing to make sure that I don’t get trampled and taken advantage of.

Lufthansa flight 758
Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Washington DC, Dulles (IAD)
Depart 10:45, Arrive 13:25, Flight Time: 8:40
Boeing 747-400, Registration D-ABVM, Manufactured 1998, Seat 83H

Got upstairs, and SCORE! It was the old configuration, and I’d scored a first class seat. Even better, only four people were smart enough to move upstairs, so the cabin was only half full!

IMG_9558

…business class service, but hey, with one flight attendant for four people it was a pretty sweet deal!

IMG_9559

I wasn’t going to complain at all!

IMG_9560

…even the menu looked almost promising!

IMG_9561

More bubbles after takeoff, and the now-familiar cashews in a bag:

IMG_9563

The duck starter was actually pretty tasty, despite the tiny portion:

IMG_9564

But oh dear, the tenderloin of beef and braised beef cheek. Catering by Purina strikes again, and I ended up sending it back mostly uneaten. I think this is the last time I give Lufthansa a chance to cook beef in business class. It just doesn’t work.

IMG_9565

The cheese and dessert more than made up for it, however, and I might have had two servings of cheese ūüėČ

IMG_9566

…and after a few glasses of wine crawled out of the seat, and onto the adjoining bed, and crashed for several very comfortable hours.

IMG_9568

The pre-arrival chicken stew and salad was kinda odd, but it came with pretzel and riesling, so wasn’t all bad. I have to say, on previous trips I’ve been very happy with Lufthansa catering, but this trip was one hot mess after another. To the point I’ll probably eat before flying Lufthansa business next time, and just enjoy some cheese and dessert along with a bit of wine.

IMG_9571

Landed just slightly behind schedule at Washington Dulles, and the trip was over. No checked baggage, so into an Uber and home barely 30 minutes after landing thanks to Global Entry. Despite the disappointing food the amount of space I had on both flights was amazing, and it was a great flight experience thanks to the crews!

Jul 222015
 

This will be largely a photo report, as Lufthansa has been pretty extensively reviewed around the internet. Main things I want to share on this trip report is the challenges of traveling shortly after surgery, while confined in a shoulder/arm sling, and perhaps impart a bit of advice about Lufthansa’s service to India as well as Starwood hotels in Chennai. Unlike my normal reports, there won’t be a lot of destination information here, as it was a work trip and that occupied the vast majority of my time. That said, hope there’s some helpful tips in her!

Got to Dulles about 2.5 hours before my flight after a short Uber ride with a driver who actually happened to be from Chennai. What are the odds! He informed me his sister still lived there, and she was single, and “perhaps I would like a tour guide since you seem a successful man.” Uhhhh, yeeeahhhhh….about that ūüėČ

Check-in was quick, no TSA Pre-Check since I was on Lufthansa, but I have to say TSA was pretty good about the sling. Fortunately, I got directed to a line that was a regular metal detector, so no need to “opt-out” on the nude-o-scope since raising my arm above my head is an impossibility. I was given two choices: wear the sling through the metal detector and have it swabbed for explosives, or take it off and send it through the metal detector. Since removing it was pretty time consuming and challenging at this stage (about three weeks post surgery) I opted to leave it on and get swabbed. No drama, and soon I was in the Lufthansa Senator Lounge.

The lounge was the most packed I’ve ever seen it. At this hour, flights from SAS, Lufthansa, Austrian, COPA, Air China, as well as Avianca were using it. It was standing room only, but fortunately I looked disabled enough that someone cleared a seat for me at the counter. Also, it was the first time I’ve seen the bar area in this lounge staffed. Usually you have to flag someone down and ask them to go get a drink for you. (Un)fortunately, that meant refills on the bubbly were quite easy:

IMG_9215

After a short stay in the lounge it was time to board our plane through the jetway which was directly connected to the lounge.

Lufthansa flight 419
Washington DC, Dulles (IAD) to Frankfurt, Germany (FRA)
Depart 18:05, Arrive 8:00, Flight Time: 7:55
Boeing 747-8i, Registration D-ABYF, Manufactured 2012, Seat 8D

This flight was completely full in business class, and I chose 8D for a couple reasons. Mainly, we only booked a week before the flight, so seat choices were pretty limited. My main concern was to get in the middle section, since the plane has a 2-2-2 configuration in business class, and I hate having to step over someone or get stepped over. Plus, with the sling, I didn’t want anyone bumping it, so I wanted a D seat so it would be on the inside. Overall, it was a great choice. The cabin view from my seat:

IMG_9216

Pre-flight bubbles:

IMG_9218

Tonight’s menu:

IMG_9222

When I asked for red wine, the flight attendant insisted I try both offerings. I think that’s a first in business class. I went with the Italian red, which was pretty decent, while snacking on sad packaged cashews (which were at least whole) and watching some bad movie I’ve already forgotten:

IMG_9224

The charcuterie appetizer, it was actually surprisingly tasty!

IMG_9228

The seared beef filet main, which was absolutely awful. The meat was shoe leather, and I think I ate one bite, the carrots and asparagus, and sent the rest back in exchange for more wine.

IMG_9231

Cheese AND ice cream for dessert along with vintage Lufthansa chocolates. I can forgive the beef for this.

IMG_9233

Then, I absolutely passed out, for nearly six hours, waking up just 15 minutes off the ground. I actually took the sling off to sleep, and it was the first time since surgery I’d done that. The crew was great, lifting my rather heavy rollerboard into the overhead for me, getting me extra pillows to put under my elbow to rest the shoulder in a good position, and of course providing plenty of liquid painkillers to aid with the flight.

As a side note, I was also given Lovenox injections to take before the flight. They’re a pretty hard-core blood thinner, and the idea was just in case there were any post-surgical clots hanging around we wanted to thin the blood since it would be very long flights. Unfortunately, this also makes bruising super easy, and I ended up post flight with some pretty epic bruises on my legs. I must have been a bit restless with them in flight!

We arrived in the B gates in Frankfurt a little early, and I decided to enter Germany so I could do my usual between flight routine. Quad iced espresso at Starbucks, walk around a bit in the terminal, and then make the long flight over to the C Terminal for our departing flight. Very few Lufthansa flights leave from C, and I can never determine the logic. It seems to be Johannesburg, Bangkok, Hong Kong, and India, along with a random few others. Maybe it’s longhaul eastbound flights, but I don’t know the logic behind it. Anyone want to chime in?

The lounge had nice showers, however, which despite the 15 minute or so wait felt amazing:

IMG_9240

More water to fight off the post-flight dehydration, another double iced espresso, and my morning lounge usual – a brown roll with tomato, cucumber, salami, and cheese. I couldn’t resist trying their new offering this time of some sort of curried pineapple spread…which was just as awful as you’d expect.

IMG_9241

Our flight was right next to the lounge, and boarded right on time.

Lufthansa flight 758
Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) to Chennai, India (MAA)
Depart 10:50, Arrive 23:50, Flight Time: 9:30
Airbus A340-300, Registration D-AIGV, Manufactured 2000, Seat 3D

Despite having the “new” business class seats installed which went completely flat, this plane felt really ratty. Plus, as this pre-departure bubbles picture shows the centre armrest is tiny, and my seatmate was a bit of a ¬†footsy player:

IMG_9243

The menu looked to be one of the least appetizing I’ve ever seen on Lufthansa, and generally I love Indian food!

IMG_9244

IMG_9245

The same Italian red wine was offered with lunch, and the same sad bagged cashews. I know it’s not a big deal that they’re in a bag, but it takes absolutely zero cost or effort to offer them in a bowl. I’m just curious why Lufthansa which generally tries to be rather classy just doesn’t even make this little effort.

IMG_9246

The murgh salad / spicy poulard salad appetizer. It looked like cat vomit, and didn’t taste a whole lot better. I left it mostly untouched.

IMG_9247

The lamb main course, aka flag of India entree. It was ok, but again, meals that are pretty much 100% shades of brown just aren’t very appetizing to me. It just didn’t have much flavour or spice to it, and for Indian food was seriously underwhelming as a business class main.

IMG_9248

Even the cheese was pretty sad, but the dessert was a bit better.

IMG_9249

I spent the next several hours doing work and watching a little bit of tv, and soon we were about 90 minutes out and it was time for the “dinner” course. I decided to do something I never do, and enjoy it with a bit of German white wine. The riesling was pretty nice actually. I decided to go with the potato gratin main, and it was ok, but again, for business class it was a SERIOUSLY underwhelming meal.

IMG_9253

Now, a few more thoughts on this flight. The crew was good, the seats were well below what I expect in business class, being seriously narrow and feeing really packed in. I know this part is beyond Lufthansa’s control, but of the 30 seats in business class 12 were occupied with children aged approximately 8-15, traveling with their families. As kids do, they get antsy, and they were running up and down the aisles during the flight, talking loudly, and in generally not making it a very “business” class experience. I don’t usually work in flight, but this time I needed to, and it was the one time fellow passengers made it very difficult. I tried asking the crew to intervene, but was told “this is just how flights to India are, you need to adapt.”

Oh, and one of the kids decided to sleep on the floor in the aisle, and I accidentally stepped on it and got yelled at by the parent, hahahah…it wasn’t exactly the best of flights! But hey, there are a LOT worse ways to make a 20 hour trip than this! Despite all the little complaints here, it was still an excellent experience.