Hiya, folks. I don't usually do these, but given that I don't fly first class that often, wanted to share
I had a rather elaborate itinerary this winter, driven by three requirements:
1). Go somewhere I haven't been before (in Europe, because (3)) and fly there direct.
2). If (1) happens to be somewhere in reach of Great Britain, go to a soccer game involving one of my two favorite clubs (Manchester United or West Ham).
3). Make (1) and (2) relatively short so that I could spend as much time as possible with my girlfriend (she lives in St. Petersburg, Russia).
This even merited its own thread
. So, I ended up going by train to Chicago, enjoying the hospitality of the funky Aloft O'Hare on SW points and grabbing an ORD-DUB flight on EI (also somewhat of a travel bucket list cross-off as I'd never flown them before). I ended up working out a "stopover" for two days in Dublin with Manchester as my final destination (took a phone call to EI instead of an online booking), where, lo and behold, my two clubs were playing each other. From then on, it was off to LED on LH via FRA and then a week in Tallinn (by bus). I was originally scheduled to fly back in Business, but then the Polar Vortex hit the NorthWest, United (which had sold me the original ticket) stopped accepting phone calls and tweets and I figured better safe than sorry and switched my flights. For an extra $120 or so and 17,500 miles (which, thankfully, I managed to accumulate with my Chase Sapphire), I upgraded from Business to 1st on a flight two (technically, three, more on that later) days later. My second time ever in 1st class (the first was on an LAX-LHR flight a couple years ago), so, needless to say, this wasn't an experience I was totally used to and I felt a bit out of place at times.
So, on with it, then. The two extra days were much appreciated by all parties involved, but as all good things go...I'll skip the emotional details for your reading pleasure
. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like I have any photos of the TLL-FRA flight itself, so a couple of shots of the respective airports will have to do (let me know if the images are too big and I'll resize).
I rather liked TLL. Nice little airport, lots of little cafes and shops, free Wi-Fi with an uncomplicated access system.
The flight itself (LH883) was rather uneventful. As the LH A320 family doesn't have a true 1st class (not sure I've ever seen a narrow-body that does), my first leg was in Business. Can't say I saw much by way of difference between it and Economy except the middle seat was empty (so, too, was the aisle as the flight wasn't exactly full). The meal was decent, though I neglected to take a picture. One of the most memorable things was the bird's eye view of Frankfurt in the dark. Unfortunately, the iPhone can't quite capture those kinds of photos, so I don't have any of those views, either.
In addition to being a newbie (despite my 10+ years of flying) air geek (who just happens to enjoy everything about the travel process except the actual flying), I'm also a car nut. So, needless to say, I was pretty happy to see the 435i.
My FRA-DTW flight (LH442) wasn't until the next morning and I had booked a room at the Meininger Hotel right by the airport (really wanted to stay at the "cruise ship" Hilton, but no rooms were available, so I went with the fifty-buck option). I wasn't quite ready to leave the airport, though - I was on a 1st class ticket, surely I could get into one of the lounges. Would that it were so easy - as I had arrived on a Business ticket and my next flight wasn't until the next morning, the attendant at the Business lounge informed me that he couldn't let me in, then went and consulted with someone and said: "Oh, but you should be able to get into the 1st class lounge!" which resulted in a bit more walking, but finally did yield admission into what was truly an eye-opening experience, both in terms of courtesy and quality of service. I was greeted, asked if I had a hotel reservation and informed that in any event I was free to stay there until they closed, to which I sheepishly said: "Thanks, but I am just going to make a phone call and be on my way in a half an hour or so." Sure enough, I stayed until the very end
. Lead a budget traveler to a smorgasbord of great food and drinks and you will find before you an awkward kid afraid to ask for anything more mature than a Coke Zero and hold the ice, please. I kid you not, the full meal I ended up having was probably in my lifetime top-5. Plus, I had a secluded cubicle all to myself in which I ended up actually getting some work done (as I would be three days late getting back to the office).
I swear, I'm not as much of a bumbling hillbilly as I may have made myself out to look by this OMGLOOKATALLTHISFOOD picspam, but, having been to the DTW Delta lounge on numerous occasions (thank you, Platinum Amex), I wasn't quite prepared for this. Admittedly, I already felt weird snapping photos away at the buffet, so I wasn't about to whip out even the Canon S110 I carry around in my man-bag, so, unfortunately, iPhone quality will be it. Hidden beneath the Spanish antipasti are chunks of chili beef the likeness of which I have never tasted.
Love the MP4-12C, especially in this color.
The experience at Meininger quickly brought me back down to my rather more modest travel level. Worst. Beds. Ever.
When that nightmare (actually, I wish - I don't think I ever fell asleep long enough to have one) was over and done with, I was on my way to the airport, fully intent on utilizing that flatbed on the flight home. I made a stop by the 1st class lounge as well - a different one this time, much more crowded (which made sense), but just as nice (it even had a quiet room with leather cots full of snoring travelers). Grabbed a bit of breakfast, made a couple of calls and successfully killed an hour or so.
Kinda diggin' the old-school flight board.
Sigh. Not this time, 747-800.
As it happened, our flight got switched from an A340-300 to an A330 (don't remember the variant, -600 sounds about right, but I can't be sure). Still, to date, I don't believe I've ever flown in an Airbus quad-jet. Oh well.
I was greeted by a flight attendant, given a set of PJs (which I never ended up utilizing as I was already wearing sweats and a long-sleeve T-shirt), slippers, socks - the usual (ha!) 1st class kit I had already been exposed to on my BA trip. The toiletries kit was in a miniature Rimowa hard-shell case which I ended up keeping for future trips.
Ready to go!
Them nuts were quite salty. G'head, make the funnies.
Someday, Dreamliner. Maybe someday when your batteries stop spontaneously combusting.
F1 advertising =
And, to complete the trifecta of "somedays"...
As we climbed out, I La-Z-Boyed my chair into a semi-horizontal position - comfortable AND upright enough to grab hold of the sides of the chair in what ended up being some fairly rough air (am I right in assuming that turbulence is felt differently in different parts of the aircraft and that the nose isn't the nicest place as far as rough air is concerned?) and began fumbling around with the remote, looking for a way to pass the time.
Midway through an episode, the purser came by and introduced himself to me, by getting down on one knee at eye level (I felt bad, yet again, for having reclined so far back). He handed me the menu, informed me that I could have my meal(s) at any time if I wanted to sleep and generally made me feel way more "waited on", than I have ever been (notice a pattern yet?), even on that BA flight. As I wasn't sleepy, but already managed to discover free Wi-Fi (I knew LH transat flights had Wi-Fi, but didn't realize 1st class had what must have been a dedicated router the login functions of which were remarkably similar to those in LH's lounges), I asked for the meal at its normal time. No problem, sir.
Fantastic Norwegian Salmon hors d'oeuvre.
I'm Russian, so red caviar does grace our tables on special occasions. Black, on the other hand - not so much, unless you count the little container of "seaweed topping" from IKEA I currently have in my fridge
It's a bit tough to read the menu in the photo above, but this was the coconut mousse with curry and aubergine (I love that word - so much better than "eggplant") and the yogurt and tandoori chicken breast. With dark rye bread - why can't I find it in the States???
Didn't realize that "pulpo" stock was, in fact, octopus broth. The sea bass was good, but I'm not a fan of the weird stuff.
Thoroughly stuffed, I asked that the cheese and fruit dessert be postponed, but did ask the flight attendant to take a photo of the cart. She would then come by no fewer than five times and ask when I wanted it. The attention was appreciated, but also slightly overkill.
After the meal I started feeling my eyes getting heavy, so I asked for the bed to be made and two minutes later was lying down flat, thinking that this would be my chance to pass a few hours. Sleeping on planes is a task I haven't mastered in Economy, so the only time I ever actually did manage to nod off for more than a couple minutes was, you guessed it, on that BA flight. The difference between the two was, though, that the air above the U.S. was quite calm on that day in Fall 2011. The second I laid my head down and closed my eyes, I realized the pointlessness of this endeavor as we hit some rough air yet again, this time more of the roller-coaster, pit-of-your-stomach, Christ-when-will-this-flight-end variety. Twenty minutes or so later, when it was all over, thank you, very much, England with your crappy weather, I was wide-eyed and awake yet again. And even in the few seconds before the turbulence, the reality of essentially flying through the air horizontally, feet-first dawned on me and the sensation was enough to ensure that there would be no sleep had. Oh well. I sat up yet again, fended off another attempt of the flight attendant to fatten me up and resumed trying to dull the sensation of an on-again, off-again panic attack by watching The Big Bang Theory. I also put on Malavita, but quit midway through.
Eventually, I did finally give in, folded the sheets and mattress and put them on the empty seat to my right, sat up and downed about a million calories' worth of cheese and crackers. Well worth it. And, hey, there were some fruits and veggies there, too...
The lights were turned off, so forgive the poor quality, but I couldn't help but want to document this. You know how they say on flights within the U.S. that Skype or YouTube won't work with GoGo. Yeah, nobody gave Lufthansa the memo. I was able to call my girlfriend via Skype and videochat with her using Facetime. Freakin' amazing, even though logic tells me it should be par for the course with today's technologies.
When I ran out of BBT, I passed the time watching Law and Order episodes on my iPad and messing around online. The nine-some hours wheels up to wheels down did end up dragging along a bit, despite the entertainment, but finally we were over U.S. airspace.
After a "light" meal of lentil soup with spaetzle, a bit more salmon and some petit fours for dessert, I popped open the shade and looked outside into the tundra that awaited below.
It was 50 degrees Fahrenheit (around 10 Celsius) when we left Frankfurt. Oy.
Turns out I had picked the good side of the plane and was able to snap some pretty decent shots of Detroit from above, even if the color ended up being so poor that I had to B&W some of the photos.
Final approach. Fairly certain we landed on 21L.
As I was the first one off the plane, I had to wait a bit for my luggage, which was finally wheeled to me by an attendant after I didn't see it on the carousel. She mentioned some kind of three-letter abbreviation, but I was too tired to ask what it meant. Started with an H, I believe. A coworker picked me up and I actually made it in to work for a couple of hours.
Time to start accumulating those points for the next trip, I suppose
. Planning AMS in March, but I doubt I'll get lucky with my Delta Silver.
Thanks for reading, folks - sorry if it got a bit lengthy.