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Fly Eat Sleep
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Changing planes in Abu Dhabi makes for a long journey to Tokyo, but Eithad's open-jaw tickets meant that it was the most cost effective option when I was planning a complitcated trip. Besides, I was also curious to try out Etihad and, as a side benefit, their flight arrives in Tokyo mid-afternoon; most of the European carriers arrive early in the morning, which makes mitigating jet lag all that harder and can add expense if you want to check-in to your hotel early. Etihad operates from Terminal 4 at Heathrow. Having not used T4 since BA moved out a few... Continue reading
Posted Jan 25, 2012 at Flying | Eating | Sleeping
Despite being downgraded to business class, Thai still gave me the full first class treatment when I transited through Bangkok. I can't lie - the whole experience was fantastic. For reasons known only to Thai, after landing, our aircraft taxied past dozens of empty gates before parking at a remote stand, forcing most of the passengers to wait for buses. I, on the other hand, was met at the door and escorted to a waiting minibus. Once we reached the terminal, a golf buggy sped through the long councourses at Bangkok, paused to clear security, then droped me at the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 19, 2012 at Flying | Eating | Sleeping
The Suite's Lounge is ANA's first class facility at Haneda's new international terminal; I was there as a Thai passenger. The lounge offers great views across Haneda's buslting apron and has plenty of gorgeous furniture to work or relax on. Serivice is enthusiastic, but the food and drink isn't, perhaps, what you might expect at an airline's flagship first class facility. In particular, it was clear that the food was no longer being replenished - it was late at night, but there were still a slew of international flights yet to depart. Continue reading
Posted Jan 16, 2012 at Flying | Eating | Sleeping
Booking hotels in Japan can be slightly intimidating - the majority of hotels are run by domestic chains, unknown in the west, while the well known properties (Park Hyatt, Peninsula et. al.) are eye-wateringly expensive. The Metropolitain Marunouchi is a great choice in Tokyo. It occupies the top floors of the Sapia tower, so every room has great views, while the location can't be beat. Sapia Tower is part of the Tokyo Station City development, a minute's walk from the Shinkansen platforms at Tokyo Station and practically on top of a metro station. Trains on the Yamanote and Chuo Lines... Continue reading
Posted Jan 15, 2012 at Flying | Eating | Sleeping
Reaching Australia from Japan is surprisingly difficult. Both QANTAS and JAL operate daily flights from Narita to Sydney, but both take-off around 7pm which doesn't leave nearly enough time to reach distant Narita after working a full day in Tokyo and would still require a connection to reach Melbourne. Rather than spend another night in Japan, I decided to take an indirect flight to Melbourne from Haneda, a short monorail ride from my hotel. Through a quirk of BMI's (presumably, soon to disappear) award chart, Star Alliance connections between Japan and Australia are priced as a regional flight, so a... Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2012 at Flying | Eating | Sleeping
I've flown almost 110,000 miles in 2011. Of those, only the 20,000 miles shown below have been unrelated to work. A few weeks into 2012, I'm swapping the job that has generated 90% of 2011's travel for a new role, based entirely in London. Clearly, this means a lot less in the way of flights to write about. In all probablility, there will be more discretionary travel in the coming years, but that's not going to come close to the milage I've been doing since 2008, so the content of this blog is going to be substantially re-balanced. That's probably... Continue reading
Posted Jan 1, 2012 at Flying | Eating | Sleeping
Both Sao Paulo and Rio have downtown airports which are extremely convenient for domestic flights. Congonhas, in Sao Paulo, is in the middle of the city, surrounded on all sides by dense housing, offices and warehouses. In contrast, Rio's Santos Dumont sits on the seafront, creating some of the most scenic approaches and take-offs imagineable - be sure to snag a window seat. Curiously, in stark relief to the mayhem prevalent at Sao Paulo's main international Airport, both Congonhas and Santos Dumont give the impression of calm, if crowded, efficiency. Similarly, in contrast to the dissapointment of their long-haul business... Continue reading
Posted Dec 27, 2011 at Flying | Eating | Sleeping
Flights to Sao Paulo are at a premium these days since Brazil’s ongoing failure to upgrade airport infrastructure, coupled with a booming economy, has ensured that demand has overwhelmed supply. Both British Airways and TAM offer non-stop flights from London to Sao Paulo, but business class fares are significantly lower if you can stand a stop in Europe. The lowest fares are normally with TAP via Lisbon, while Iberia can also be good value through Madrid. Beware that, in addition to the main airport at Guarulhos, TAP also serves Sao Paulo’s secondary airport at Viracopos; a hub for Azul’s domestic... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2011 at Flying | Eating | Sleeping
Given that this is the second Lufthansa First segment this year (I know, I know...), I'll focus on the big difference between the flights. Specifically, this flight featured one of Lufthansa's new First Class seats. Lufthansa is doing something rather odd with it's First Class product - installing three variations of a new cabin in different aircraft. Deliveries of their A380 aircraft come with the standard new seat, which appears to be a re-working of the old layout with more contemporary materials and a larger screen. I understand that this cabin also includes personal storage lockers, which is really the... Continue reading
Posted Dec 1, 2011 at Flying | Eating | Sleeping
I think it's pretty safe to say that we've found the bottom. Given that we were escorting somebody else to JFK, the original booking was on a JFK to National flight. Just as we were about to leave Manhattan an e-mail arrived from Delta informing me that our flight was cancelled due to bad weather (heavy-ish rain...). As a bonus, Delta had automatically re-booked us on a new routing, changing planes in Atlanta; turning a 200 mile journey into a 1300 mile trek. Within the next thirty minutes, the $5 a month I pay to access Expert Flyer repaid itself... Continue reading
Posted Nov 29, 2011 at Flying | Eating | Sleeping
This was a long-planned trip, cashing in miles as a 60th birthday gift for Blondie. I might as well say from the outset that this was, by a large margin, the best flight I’ve ever taken. The only criticisms that could, conceivably, be made, centre on the pre-boarding experience. The Concorde Room which BA offers only at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and JFK’s Terminal 7 are reserved only for passengers holding a First Class boarding card, unlike the regular First Class lounges which are open to top-tier BA and One World frequent flyers. As a result, the large facility at Heathrow... Continue reading
Posted Nov 21, 2011 at Flying | Eating | Sleeping
You know that dreadful combination of anger and self-loathing that overwhelms you after you’ve willingly embarked on a course of action which you know is going to end badly? No? Try eating out in Windsor – it’ll soon become familiar. I’ve said before that Windsor is a culinary wasteland, catering only to coachloads of tourists who’ve been told that British food is bad and so have no expectations of being served anything other than expensive filth. Antony Worral Thompson’s Windsor Grill used to be decent and reliable, but standards there seem to be falling at an alarming rate – each... Continue reading
Posted Nov 17, 2011 at Flying | Eating | Sleeping
The story of Von Essen hotels is a curious one. I don't claim to be familiar with the details, but the gist of it seems to be that they emerged from relative obscurity to, seemingly, purchase half of England's country house hotels, before descending in a murky bankruptcy. A quick search on Google News suggests that company is being broken up, with the hotels being sold to various parties. Looking for a last-minute weekend away, we ended up staying at Mount Somerset, one of Von Essen's properties, a month or two after the initial bankruptcy. While the companay was, if... Continue reading
Posted Nov 16, 2011 at Flying | Eating | Sleeping
This was a surprise. Looking online for somewhere to grab lunch in Taunton, we came across Brazz, one of the restaurants at The Castle Hotel in Taunton. First impressions were not fantastic - the hotel seems to be completely hidden from our sat-nav system, so there was a good ten minutes of driving in circles, catching glimpses of the building but unable to access it. Once parked and inside, expactations sank as we took in the extraordinary decor; Brazz is a proper throwback to the 1980s, complete with chrome and a selection of ceramic oddities hanging on the walls. Any... Continue reading
Posted Nov 15, 2011 at Flying | Eating | Sleeping
An odd thing seems to happen to European and American visitors to Japan – as soon as their aircraft wheels touch Japanese soil, many of them loose the capacity for rational thought. Inconveniences and delays (and they do happen, regardless of anything you may have heard), which people would rail against as a national disgrace back in London or Paris, go unnoticed while perfectly ordinary experiences are described in terms of slack-jawed wonderment. I can think of no clearer example of this phenomenon than the Adam and Eve Spa; lauded by guidebooks, patronised by Tyler Brule (yawn), and mentioned in... Continue reading
Posted Nov 14, 2011 at Flying | Eating | Sleeping
Having, happily, used Finnair's business class service to Asia on multiple occasions over the last few years, this set of flights to and from Japan was a somewhat dispiriting experience. In fact, I've rather fallen out of love with Finnair. These flights were a let down on three main counts: The "enhanced" catering experience The new lie-flat seats The Air France business class experience. In the past, Finnair's business class food has been pretty decent; unexciting but generously portioned and not completely annihilated by the onboard cooking process. Earlier in the year, as part of the airline's (generally perplexing) brand... Continue reading
Posted Nov 4, 2011 at Flying | Eating | Sleeping
Another flight on in BA's long-haul business class, this time using a mileage award ticket for fun, rather then travelling for work. To be honest, this, more than other sectors I've flown in Club World, was something of a mixed bag. Although, to be fair to BA, this was coming only a week after the inbound flight in Lufthansa First, so I may be carrying expectations set in first class through to a business class flight. The seat is still, to my mind, the best business class product when it comes to actually sleeping; it's wide at the shoulders and,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 7, 2011 at Flying | Eating | Sleeping
Another foray into the realm of endless wonder that is air travel within the United States... This was my first time flying with American for the thick end of twenty years and that was in economy. Overall, the experience was mixed and, sadly, the overwhelming impression is of a company staffed by people who, for the most part, don't really care about customers. The first class check-in counter we used at Miami was staffed by two ladies who made it quite clear that the few of us waiting for service were really messing up their day. During the check-in process,... Continue reading
Posted Aug 15, 2011 at Flying | Eating | Sleeping
Intrigued by a post from The Henley Traveller, we headed to Orwell's for lunch with Friends last Sunday. Without exaggeration, it was one of the best meals we've eaten all year. The food was excellent, the service was great - nobody had a bad word to say about the experience and they charge less than £25 for three courses. Apologies in advance - even by my low standards, these photos are poor. The menu offers a selection of fish delivered fresh from Brixham, most of which were sampled by the table during the course of the meal. I started with... Continue reading
Posted Aug 11, 2011 at Flying | Eating | Sleeping
I worry that I'm turning into miserable old bastard; the frequency of posts complaining about one thing or another seems to be on the up. In my defence, most of the grumbling is about service providers failing to deliver on the expectations they set, rather than general whining about not being treated like royalty. A case in point in the Viceroy Hotel in Miami. The Viceroy is a nice hotel by any standards, just not as nice as it thinks it is. Also, before the point is overlooked, the staff we met were all helpful and unfailingly polite. There are,... Continue reading
Posted Aug 8, 2011 at Flying | Eating | Sleeping
There are endless online reviews of Lufthansa's First Class product - principally because, of all the Star Alliance members, they are amongst the most generous when it comes releasing first class seats for purchase with miles. And so it came to pass that, after cancelling a long-planned trip to Japan, British Midland's call centre were able to offer two Lufthansa Fist Class tickets from London to Miami at a couple of week's notice. The flight was via Dusseldorf, so we didn't have a chance to use Frankfurt's First Class Terminal or the private car service that shuttles your from the... Continue reading
Posted Jul 25, 2011 at Flying | Eating | Sleeping
Or Searcy's at The Commonwealth Club, or whatever else this venue may be calling itself. I'm trying my best to remain polite as I write this, but apologies in advance if this post should deteriorate into a barely coherent rant - seldom has a dining experience left me so angry. Also, lest it be overlooked in the froth, let me state form the outset that the few staff we encountered here were very polite and clearly trying hard with limited tools. With those provisos out of the way, let's talk about the most frustrating meal I've had in London for... Continue reading
Posted Jul 14, 2011 at Flying | Eating | Sleeping
Lufthansa is refurbishing many of the older short-haul aircraft they own, including the 737-500s that cover some of the rotations between Heathrow and Dusseldorf. A Flight International article on the refurbishment notes that the new seats are so much lighter than those being replaced that they enable significant fuel savings. As if by magic, Lufthansa has also managed to fit additonal rows into the aircraft... The seat's Germany-based manufacturer Recaro replaced almost all conventional foam padding with an elastic polyester netting material, which made the seat-back profile much thinner. With the literature pocket moving up from the knee area to... Continue reading
Posted Jul 5, 2011 at Flying | Eating | Sleeping
Reaching Taipei from London is a supreme pain in the arse. For various tiresome political reasons, no European airlines fly non-stop. British Airways will sell you a ticket which includes a Cathay Pacific connection from Hong Kong, but it's on the expensive side, while KLM have a service that stops somewhere en-route. China Airlines did start a thrice-weekly non-stop service from Heathrow recently, but anytime I checked, the prices were laughable, twice what anyone else was charging; I had assumed this was an indication of high demand, but the service has just been cut back to twice weekly. That leaves... Continue reading
Posted Jun 6, 2011 at Flying | Eating | Sleeping
Intrigued by a post on the, excellent, blog of The Critical Couple, three of us decided that we'd arrange a day trip to Cheltenham and enjoy a long lunch at Le Champignon Sauvage. Now, while I'm sure none of you have the remotest interest in my medical history, before we begin, I should qualify this post by noting that, after looking forward to the meal for a few weeks, it was gutting to wake up on the big day with what seemed like a filthy cold but transpired to be a rather grim bout of bacterial tonsillitis. We pressed on,... Continue reading
Posted May 31, 2011 at Flying | Eating | Sleeping