Old Nov 3, 10, 7:00 am
Flying Buccaneer
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: TPA
Programs: DL Plat, AA Plat 2MM, HH Diamond, WoH Explorist, SPG Gold
Posts: 2,199
Day 2: Munich to Narita

My first experience with Munich’s airport was in 2006 when I was transiting through it with 25 students on the way from Amsterdam to Krakow. I was impressed with the airport’s design and functionality then, and I still am.

The LH F Lounge was easy to find after I cleared the security screen. I gave the attendant my boarding pass and she directed me to passport control, where the officer held my passport until departure. I asked the attendant if I needed a code for wifi in the club, and she gave me a t-mobile card that was good for two hours.

I found a comfortable spot on one of the sofas in the lounge and placed my bags there. Someone came over and asked if I would like something to drink, so I ordered a pot of tea. I walked over to take a look at the food choices, and the variety was dizzying: some breakfast items, breads, soups, sushi, salads, etc.

I wasn’t hungry, and with nearly 7 hours in the lounge, there would be more than enough time to eat. As I walked back to my sofa, I passed trays of cookies, bowls of chips, and dishes of Mozartkugel. When I sat down, I realized that what I thought was a decoration on the end table was actually three carafes (yes, carafes) of nuts! The food was everywhere.

I spent some time on the internet, checking email, seeing that the Giants had won the World Series, and editing a flier that my travel vendor had prepared for the Turkey trip in May 2011. That took a bit of time, and while I worked on my next pot of tea, I took care of some advising duties that I had put off on my day of departure. The last time I was on sabbatical (Fall 2001), I returned to campus for a week to take care advising during pre-enrollment. With all of the information on the campus network (and no more computer-illiterate students), the process can be done from anywhere at any time.

Before I knew it, the two hours of wifi had come to an end. I went back to the food area and got some of the cream of mushroom soup and a pretzel with sweet mustard. The pretzel was almost as good as those I enjoyed in Munich last year and better than anything I could get in Tampa! The soup was excellent, worth a trip back for seconds. While I enjoyed those, I worked on the first installment of my trip report.

A little before noon, I explored the club a little more extensively and found the showers. I figured it was about time for that, so I grabbed my bags and returned to the shower area. The attendant was very cheerful and directed my toward one of the rooms. The room was fully outfitted—sink, toilet, shower, towels, and toiletries.

The room was clean and a wonderful place to wash a way a day’s worth of travels and prepare for another. A shower and a change of clothes later, I was back in my familiar spot on the sofa.

I considered sitting at one of the restaurant tables instead, but I was not ready to eat just yet. The lounge had been busy during the first hour after my arrival, but much less so since. I went back to the attendant at the door and got another 2 hours of wifi. I posted my trip report and did a little research on getting into Tokyo from Narita. I went back to the food area and decided that a plate of sushi and some chocolate mousse would tide me over until I had dinner on the flight. As I returned to my seat, I noticed someone walking around the lounge taking pictures. Perhaps he was a fellow FTer?

I spent the rest of my time in the lounge updating my vita so that I could escape the wrath of my dean’s administrative assistant. Even though I am on sabbatical, the day-to-day stuff is still taking place back on campus, and deadlines apply to me, too. While I took care of that, a gruff-looking man sat on the sofa perpendicular to mine and took off his shoes while he grunted. Beautiful! Then he put his socked-feet onto his sofa, no more than a meter from me. Really beautiful! Before long, he was cuddled up and asleep. Every time an attendant walked by, he/she would look at the man, then look at me, and we would share a smile.

Before I knew it, it was 2:30 p.m., and about time to head to my next flight.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Lufthansa 714
Scheduled Departure/Arrival: 3:35 p.m/11:20 a.m. (+1)
Actual Departure/Arrival: 3:40 p.m./11::00 a.m. (+1)
Seat 2A

It’s amazing how quickly time can pass in an airport lounge when you are occupied. When I booked that 7-hour connection, I thought that I would get stir crazy in the lounge, but the opposite happened. I had so much to do while I was there that I was not really sure that my next flight was only an hour away. I collected my passport from the officer at control. The attendant at the front asked me where I was headed. She pointed me in the direction of gate H-38 and wished me a pleasant trip.

The gate was maybe a 10-minute walk from the lounge. Boarding was still about 10 minutes away, so I put my bags on a seat near the window and took pictures of the plane.

Once boarded started, I took the long walk down to the plane and saw an F cabin identical to one in the A-330 from CLT. I was welcomed aboard (in German) by a FA, and I found my seat. Once everything was put away, the FA came back and said something else and handed me the pajamas, amenity kit, and slippers, and I said “thank you” instead of “danke.” When she returned, she asked if I spoke English, and we had a normal conversation! She brought a glass of champagne and some macadamias, and I watched boarding continue from my window.

When boarding was complete, I realized that I was one of only 2 passengers in F on this flight. With the other one in 1K, I felt as though I had the entire left side of the cabin to myself. The jetway to the forward door had pulled away from the plane a bit earlier, and the other jetway retracted at scheduled departure time. About five minutes later, we began push back. The taxi to the runway was slow, perhaps because of the overcast weather. We took off about 20 minutes after we pushed back. Our initial course seemed to be to the ENE, and somewhere near the German-Czech border we banked to the left for a more northeasterly track toward Berlin, giving a beautiful glimpse of the clouds below and the sun.

Another FA came by with entry documents for Japan and asked if I would like to be awakened for breakfast about 90 minutes before arrival. I told her that I did. In the meantime, I read my Tokyo guidebooks and did a little more research about how I would spend my time there.

The dinner menu for this flight was separated into “Western” and “Japanese” sections. At first, nothing really appealed to me from either side, so I decided to wait until the FA came back to make my choices. Before the appetizers, I was offered a plate with smoked salmon, mustard sauce, and avocado sherbet.

The sherbet was interesting with a citrus flavor, and it contrasted well with the oily salmon. Next came the cart of appetizers. There were three Western choices:

Caviar with the traditional garnishes

Salad of Bacalao with Oranges, black Olives and Sherry Dressing

Cecina de Leon, grilled zucchini and shaved Manchego Cheese

I figured these might have been the three saltiest appetizers ever offered together on one menu, so I opted for two choices on the Japanese side: a sushi plate and “Boiled Tofu Balls with Crab Meat and green peas marinated in Gin sauce.”

The sushi was OK, but I guess it was very good considering that it was being served in the dry air of an airplane. The tofu ball was served cold, and it was not bad.

After the salad of “Frisee, Chicory, Romaine Lettuce and Radicchio with Cherry Tomatoes, Olives and Beetroot” with the Tomato and Tarragon Dressing, I was served my main course: “Saffron crusted Halibut with Sauce Bouillabaisse, Bell Pepper and black Venus Rice.”

The other choice from the Western menu was a Lufthansa Classic: “Roast Goose with Red Cabbage, Potato Dumplings and Herb Crumb Butter.” On the Japanese menu, the two choices were

Slices of Saddle of Wild Hog with Sweet Potato Noodles, black Salsify, Silk Tofu, Arugula, Chinese Cabbage and Spinach Roll, Carrots, Shiitake, served with Miso Sauce accompanied by Japanese Rice and Sesame

Boiled Japanese Cod, Radish, Carrot, Shiitake, Leaf Spinach, Tofu and Vegetable Roll in dark Fish sauce served with Japanese Rice and Sesame

I think I made the right choice. The black rice was nice and chewy, and the halibut was light, moist, and flaky. For dessert I chose the “Truffle Cream of Chocolate and Olive Oil with Flor de Sal, Raspberry and Bell Pepper Jelly.”

It was certainly one of the most unique desserts I had ever eaten, but as you can tell from the photo, I could not wait to dig into it. The chocolate and olive oil flavors were two I had never experienced together, but they created a curious (not in a bad way) combination that made me want to eat more of it!

After the last dishes were cleared, a FA came by with bottles of water. I put my seat into the bed position at around 2:30 a.m. Tokyo time (6:30 p.m. Munich time) and relaxed. Sleep came a little faster than it did the night before. I woke up a few times but went right back to sleep. Finally, around 6:30 a.m. Tokyo time, I decided to wake up. Maybe this will get me acclimated to Tokyo time for the three days I will be there?

Almost as soon as I returned from the lavatory, a flight attendant was at my seat offering snacks and asking if I would like anything to drink. I asked for a pot of Assam tea and took one of the pears she offered. I decided to use the time productively, so I worked some on a paper that a colleague and I hope to submit by the end of the week—universities expect productivity from faculty members on sabbatical—and I did a little bit of work on the second installment of my trip report.

After a couple of pots of tea, I raised my window shade and saw that it was light outside. The landscape below looked rugged and treeless.

A glance at the flight map suggested that we were somewhere near the border of Russia and China, maybe over part of Mongolia?

This is one of those times a larger video screen with higher definition would have come in handy. I returned to work, and before I knew it, it was time for breakfast. Again, there were Western and Japanese choices. I started with a croissant, glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, and another pot of tea. When the FA came by with the other choices, I ordered the scrambled eggs with bacon and chives. She said that the chef would prepare it and apologized that it would take a few minutes. As someone who has eaten more than his fair share of hours-old eggs on airplanes, I didn’t mind having to wait for some that were freshly prepared. A few minutes later, the other FA came back with the best breakfast I have ever eaten on a plane.

After breakfast, the FA with whom I had had the most contact cleared away the dishes. She asked if I wanted more tea. I think I was on my fourth pot, so I told her that I should probably stop. I added that I probably drink more tea than any passenger she has ever served. She laughed and asked if I was British, and I told her I was from the US. She was Japanese and said that she had been an exchange student in Maryland. She asked where I was from, and she said that she had visited Florida once when she was in the US. She said that the humidity reminded her of Japanese summers! I am sure that she experienced a bit of humidity in Maryland as well.

Once again, LH provided an outstanding experience.

As we began our descent into Narita, I put away the bag I had taken down and admired the view outside. We had crossed Honshu and were heading back over water just south of Iwaki. I was about to take a picture of the city below, but the plane banked to the right before I could. We landed at 10:45 a.m., and even with a long taxi, we still reached the gate about 20 minutes ahead of schedule. I was first off the plane, and after a long walk through the deserted concourse, I reached immigration. There were no lines; this must have been a good time to arrive at Narita!

Next came the long wait for bags. After that, customs was a breeze, so I exited into the arrivals lobby. I found an ATM and got some cash, then went downstairs to get my Narita Express ticket for the 12:16 p.m. to Tokyo Station. The train arrived on platform 1 at noon, but workers cleaned the inside of each car meticulously. It was fascinating to watch. Boarding started a little before 12:10 p.m., and the train started moving at 12:16 p.m. sharp. After a brief stop at Terminal 2, we were on our way.

Tokyo Station was wild. People were everywhere, and trying to find my way to the exit was an adventure. I kept seeing signs for the exit, but I began to wonder if there really was a way out. Finally, I escaped and found a taxi line. I hopped into the first one, and the driver seemed puzzled when I said “Conrad Hotel.” I gave him a hotel map, and he studied it for awhile. Finally, I found the hotel’s name written in Japanese in my Lonely Planet guide to Tokyo, and that cleared everything up.

We pulled into the hotel, and someone greeted me, took my bags, and escorted me up to check-in on the 28th floor. The gentleman welcomed me, and told me there was an upgrade to the executive (37th) floor for me. However, it was for a smoking room, so I settled for a standard room on the 34th floor with access to the lounge.

At this point, I was happy just to have a place with a real bed that was not going at 600 mph. For a standard room, it was really nice.

With a day and a half of flying and the trip into the city behind me, I decided to take a walk to get familiar with the area. The real exploration begins tomorrow.
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