Old Nov 6, 10, 5:41 pm
  #14  
Flying Buccaneer
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: TPA
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Posts: 2,199
Saturday, November 6: Tokyo to Istanbul

The long walks around Tokyo and the early mornings due to jet-lag were catching up with me. After Friday night’s visit to the Executive Lounge, all I wanted to do was sleep. I had planned to do some packing once I got back to the room, but I decided that could wait until the morning. I was asleep before 9:00 p.m.

Sleeping after 5:00 a.m. meant there would be no opportunity for seeing the tuna auction at Tsujiki. No biggie, I’ll do it next time I am in Tokyo. I got up and did some packing. I didn’t buy much during my stay, so it was just a matter of separating the clean clothes from the worn but will wear again and the worn and won’t wear again.

At 7:00 a.m., I headed upstairs for my last breakfast in the Executive Lounge. As usual, the staff in the lounge was extremely accommodating. The lounge is one of the many reasons I would stay at the Conrad Tokyo again without hesitation. However, the people are what really make this hotel what it is. They are polite, attentive, and they go out of their way to make the guests feel welcome.

After breakfast, I finished packing and got ready. I left the room a little before 9:00 a.m., and there was no line for check out. I had reserved the 9:15 a.m. departure on the Friendly Limousine Bus to Narita and billed it to my room. The reason I reserved such an early bus was because the next one departed two hours later. I thought getting to the airport about 90 minutes before flight time was cutting it close, and I preferred not to be in a rush, even if it meant I might have to wait about 30 minutes before Turkish Airlines check-in opened.

Even though we hit a few traffic snarls, the bus arrived at the South Wing of Terminal 1 at 10:45, about 5 minutes early. I got a baggage cart, located where the Turkish check-in desks would be, and headed for the Japan Railroad office in the basement to turn in my Suica card and get the 500Yen deposit refunded. After that was done, I still had about 10 minutes to wait before check-in opened.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Turkish Airlines 51
NRT-IST
Scheduled Departure/Arrival: 2:25 p.m/8:05 p.m.
Actual Departure/Arrival: 2:35 p.m./7:55 p.m.
777-300ER
Seat 1A


I positioned myself near what I thought might be the First Class check-in counter. I observed about 8 agents in a circle around another agent, each taking notes and listening intently to what the agent in the center was saying. They scattered, and check-in opened. An agent came up to me and asked if I was flying business class. When I told her I was flying first class, she ushered me to check-in. Another agent came along with a piece of paper bearing my name. She expedited the check-in, gave me a card for priority customs clearance in Istanbul, then took me through security. She walked through immigration and waited for me to get through. She met me on the other side and escorted me to the ANA Suite Lounge. On the way, we passed the United International First Lounge. She told me that I could go there, but that the ANA Lounge was better. It was also farther away, but I didn’t mind. I had lots of time. It took less than 25 minutes from the time check-in started until I was seated in the ANA Lounge. Impressive.

On the way to the lounge, I noticed that my boarding pass had me in seat 2D. However, I had requested and obtained 2A when I called Turkish Airlines in September. My reservation at usairways.com still showed me in 2A. The agent who was ushering me along said that first class was rarely full, so I could probably switch.

The lounge had a few snacks on offer: four different types of finger sandwiches, rice balls, two soups, etc. A little later, a couple of cooked entrees came out, as did sushi. The lounge had a nice open feel to it:



and it provided an opportunity to observe the comings and goings at NRT.



At 1:30 p.m., one of the ANA agents came over to tell me that my flight was scheduled to start boarding in 10 minutes. I decided to head to the gate and spend my remaining 760Yen on the way. When I got to the gate, I asked an agent about the seat assignment. She said that she had no idea why I was not given 2A, but first class was completely full. Hey, at least the plane had an F cabin! Then she said that I should go to the lounge. I told her that I just came from the lounge. She summoned an agent who took me to the United International First Lounge, where I was able to spend a grand total of 10 minutes. While I was there, I did get to see the infamous beer machine!



After a few sips of beer, I headed back to gate 34. On the way, I stopped briefly to take a picture of our plane.



When I arrived at the gate, the agent who had escorted me through check-in was there waiting. She took my backpack and led me onto the plane and to my seat. I got seated and took a look to the right at seats 2G and 2K.



I am scheduled to have 2K on the IST-JFK on Wednesday, but I guess that’s never a certainty.

What happened in the next 20 minutes or so was comical. There were 4 Japanese passengers traveling together in F, and 3 Turkish passengers. To make a long story short, we played musical seats so that the 3 Turkish passengers were in Row 1, 4 Japanese passengers were in Row 2, and I got seat 1A. Everyone, including me, was happy.

I settled into seat 1A with my champagne and nuts, ready for the long flight to Istanbul.



FAs came by with amenity kits and newspapers. The flight pushed back about 10 minutes late, and we took off about 20 minutes after that.

About 30 minutes after takeoff, one of the FAs took my drink order. While this was taking place, three or four passengers from business class kept coming up to visit with the gentleman in 1D. The FAs were very attentive to him as well. One of the visitors kept backing into my suite. I didn’t say anything to him, but it could have been uncomfortable for someone with space issues.

The meal service was uneven. The food was well-prepared and satisfying. The way it was served left something to be desired. With the beverages came canapés. So far, so good. Next, a FA came by to set my table, leaving a rose and a basket of bread. I asked for another glass of cherry juice, but it never came.

A good 20 minutes or so passed before the trolley with hors d’oeuvres came out. The caviar was placed on the table, and then I was offered a choice of seven dishes. I took the sushi, stuffed eggplant marinated in olive oil, humus, and spicy lentil salad and goat cheese, bypassing the smoked swordfish and “gardenfresh salad,” chicken Caesar salad, and home made cheese & spinach puff pastries.



About halfway through my plate of appetizers, a FA asked if I would like the creamy zucchini soup. I said I would. He came back and asked if I was through with my appetizer plate. He didn’t wait for the response. He took it away and served the soup. Why the sudden hurry?

The soup was delicious, but I was afraid that if I savored it, I might have it taken away! Next came the main course. I chose the Catch of the Day, which was grilled sea bass in a creamy mustard sauce, served with sautéed leaf spinach and leak, cherry tomato, and roasted potatoes.



This is the second time I have had a fish dish on Turkish Airlines, and both times the fish has been cooked just right. That’s quite a feat for a flying kitchen. The other choices were

Fillet of Beef: Rosemary sauce, grilled vegetables, parsley potatoes

Chicken Brochette Yakitori: Sauteed vegetables, rice

Asian Style—Fried Tofu: Soy sauce, fresh vegetables, steamed rice timbale.


Before the main course was served, I asked for another glass of water. As you can see, the glass was still empty. I had to summon another FA to get some water for me. This became a recurring theme during dinner and much of the rest of the flight. Requests were acknowledged but frequently forgotten. After I finished dinner, the FA who took my plates asked if I would like some coffee. I asked for tea. It never came. Another FA came by and asked if I would like some coffee or tea. She actually served the tea.

Another 30 minutes passed before the dessert trolley came by. I had the Tuskish pastries and chocolate soufflé with chocolate sauce.



The pastries were moist and flaky and tasted like they actually came from a bakery, not a box. The soufflé was a bit hard and the sauce was lumpy.

As a FA came by to take my dishes, she asked if I wanted her to make my bed for me. I told her that I did not just yet, and she said to tell the male FA when I was ready. She also asked if I needed anything else. I asked for water. I never got it.

While I was watching a movie, it cut off and the system rebooted. I started watching it again, and it rebooted again. This time, it froze. I was working on something else, and after about 30 minutes, I got up to tell a FA. He said he would check. About 15 minutes later, I went to the area where the FAs were and no one was there. I saw a bottle of water and grabbed it. One problem solved.

A little later, I got up again and found the FA who was going to check on the IFE. He said that they tried to restart it but it didn’t work. I asked if it could be fixed. He said he did not think so. OK. Then I asked if he could make my bed. About 10 minutes later, he prepared my bed for me.



It looked comfortable, and it was. I crawled into bed and took one last look at my dead IFE.



About four hours later, I was awakened by talking in the aisle. The visitors were back. I decided to get out of bed and hit the lavatory. When I got back to my seat, a FA came along with orange, tomato, and pineapple juice. A bit later, another FA came by to set the table. It was basically a repeat of the ritual before the first meal. Then came the first course. The two hors d’oeuvres were salmon tartar and “gardenfresh salad and tomato.”



There was a package of olive oil and lemon juice, but a FA came by with a bottle of Turkish olive oil and poured some on my salad. Even though she spilled some, I thought it was a nice touch. The tuna tartar was light and tasted fresh, almost making me forget that it had to have been prepared at least half a day earlier.

For the main course, I chose the grilled beef fillet, served with sautéed leaf spinach and leek and gnocchi with cream sauce.



The beef was cooked a little more than I would have liked it, but it was still a nice piece of beef—lean, tender, and seasoned just right. You’d think the gnocchi and beef would be very heavy, but the portion sizes made it a good combo. However, I wonder if Turkish Airlines got a deal on the spinach/leek side?

The other choice was “Porcini Panzerotti with cream sauce, sautéed mushrooms and leeks, and cherry tomatoes.”

For dessert there was a choice of chocolate cake and fruit salad. I took the cake, and the FA served a glass of Turkish tea with it. While I was finishing my dessert, the FA told me that the gentleman in seat 1D was the Turkish Sport Minister. A few minutes after that, she told me that he wanted to speak to me. We discussed my previous trips to Turkey and my plans to bring students to Turkey in May. I also told him that I had had quite a few Turkish students in my graduate students. He was proud of Turkey’s track record of graduating students in math, science, and engineering. It was a nice way to bring the flight to a close.

We landed in foggy Istanbul around 7:45 p.m. and taxied for about 10 minutes. When I deplaned, I saw someone holding a piece of paper with my name on it. He took me to a cart, where he was joined by a colleague, and they sped me through the concourse to get a visa. I gave his colleague my passport and US$20, and a couple of minutes later, I had my visa. Then they sped me over to immigration, and then I was in baggage claim. While we waited for my bag, he asked me what I was doing in Istanbul, and I told him that I was meeting with a professor to set up lectures for students in May. He asked what I taught, and it turned out that he was a graduate student. Before I knew it, my bag was there, hand delivered. We went through customs and then to the parking deck. My usher put me into the back seat of a Mercedes mini-van and said goodbye. All this took place in about 20 minutes after I deplaned.

Getting through Istanbul was another matter completely. Traffic was not that bad until we got within sight of the Galata Bridge. It’s always nice to see all the fishing poles hanging off the side of the bridge, but I wanted to get to the hotel. Traffic didn’t get any better after we crossed the bridge. In fact, it got worse. The 6 km. ride up Meclis-i Mebusan caddesi took about 45 minutes, but we eventually reached the W.

Mr. FB and I had stayed at the W in late 2008, and we fell in love with it. While it’s not in the center of Istanbul’s activity, I think it is in a good location. Three men greeted me as I got out of the van, and one of them helped me with my bags. As I checked in, Efe explained that no suites were available, but that I had been upgraded to a “Fabulous Room” with a balcony on the fourth floor. With check-in complete, the fellow who had helped me with my bags from the van showed me to my room. It is a bit smaller than the junior suite we had in 2008, but it has the same décor:



and the awesome shower:



Getting to sleep will be a chore, considering that this is about the time I was waking up every morning in Tokyo. For the first time on this trip, I might need to set my alarm for the morning.
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