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Around the world in 80 glasses of Grand Siecle

Around the world in 80 glasses of Grand Siecle

Old Aug 14, 11, 4:55 am
  #1  
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: CDG, LON, IAH
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Around the world in 80 glasses of Grand Siecle

Preface

I should note two things.

First, this trip wasn’t really around the world. That being said, Houston to Paris via Malaysia and HK is nothing to scoff at. All the more so when it is done in 10 days.

And second, I probably didn’t manage all 80 glasses of Grand Siecle. In my defense, though, I was distracted by the always-tempting fountain of Dom, Veuve Rose, a nice Sauternes, and a fantastic Shiraz. Some Perrier Jouet in the Zurich FCL and, I hate to admit, even a few glasses of Moet Imperial in the Bangkok FCL. And maybe some port. In short, it’s a miracle I wasn’t stopped upon arrival at my final destination, Singapore.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Genesis

I needed to go from Houston to Paris for to begin my first job, and wanted a relaxing vacation between. In typical Flyertalker fashion, I pulled out the mileage chart and picked a destination largely on maximizing my time in First. Continental has (had?) a fantastic deal to South East Asia from the United States: 140,000 miles in First, minimal taxes, and you could route through Europe.

Where to, then? I travel for good meals and old friends these days. Hong Kong is a long-time favorite on both counts. I considered Laos and Cambodia, or Indonesia, but after a strenuous last few months I wanted something a little less demanding. Malaysia fit the bill, and a good friend agreed to join. We decided to drive from Singapore to Penang, picking the latter almost entirely because I enjoyed the char kway teow at Sedap in London:


I’ve justified trips on less. A brief perusal of Wikitravel mentioned some beaches, and so it was set. Hong Kong and Malaysia.

Booking

This trip changed four or five times. It began with quite a few United segments – shudder! - including the new-ish EWR-ZRH flight. A few days before departure, I was able to substitute the Swiss segments when they opened up. A lot of work but eventually I got what I wanted:



Last edited by marks88; Aug 14, 11 at 5:08 am
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Old Aug 14, 11, 4:56 am
  #2  
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First leg: IAH-ORD-ZRH-BKK-SIN

Part 1

I only had four days back in Houston. I neglected to do fairly important things like packing and checking the medical advisories for that bit of Malaysia in favor of sleeping and the jazz brunch at Brennan’s: http://www.brennanshouston.com/. Wonderful. They sang us Louis Armstrong’s It’s a Wonderful World. One of my favorite places.

Day of departure. Given how many times I have changed and reissued the ticket, I am half-expecting one of the partner carriers to be a few ticket iterations behind – that they will expect me in Frankfurt or Newark. But I manage to get the boarding pass in Houston for Swiss, and all seems well.

One hitch. I’ve been waitlisted for domestic First on IAH-ORD for a few days. I didn’t end up clearing because the CO elite check-in and President’s Club agents put me on the wrong type of waitlist. I suppose it made me appreciate Swiss First more?

Arrival in Chicago on time. The transfer was remarkably easy, surprising me given what I’ve heard about O’Hare. I took the little train over to the Swiss gates, got a new boarding pass – LX don’t skimp by using ‘one ply’ boarding pass paper – and queued for security. No priority lines, but through in 15 minutes.

LX lounge is just across from the body scanners. Sequestered F section but it is nothing to write home about. The same food as the J section, though there is some form of table service with boring pasta. I poke it a bit and then return to the smoked salmon:


I share the F side with some banker type who is loudly talking on the phone about an important-sounding transaction. I feel like I don’t belong, mostly because of my age. In time.

Boarding is called, and I settle into 1A. It is a light load: only four in F, and three of us seem to be on mileage tickets. I’m the first to change into the F PJs. The collared top is quite nice – I’ve worn it out and about – but the bottom is uninspired. Glass of Grand Siecle in hand, I make a few last calls and texts.


The cabin is beautiful. Just enough privacy, gorgeous wood paneling, wonderfully comfortable seat. The control panel for the seat is very comprehensive: I fiddled with the interactive display screen for a solid minute or two.




Long line for take-off, but we’re in the air soon enough.


IFE takes a long time to boot up. The meal service begins. I take two appetizers: the Balik salmon and the Swiss cured meats. Both quite tasty. I don’t miss caviar, and actually prefer the salmon. Another glass of Grand Siecle. For the main, I take a special course not mentioned on the menu: a Swiss veal sausage with onion gravy. Quite nice and comforting, but not as elegant as the other mains offered today. I pair it with a Swiss red. I tell the FA that, given that I’ve short-changed Switzerland twice with short visits – I have two Swiss entry stamps for a grand total of four hours in the country! – I owe it to them to go Swiss for the main at the very least.











I go to the bathroom to freshen up, and when I return the bed is made. A thin covering is placed over the seat, and I’m given two rather decent pillows.

The cabin is hot and I have trouble sleeping. By this point the others have fallen asleep. The cabin is quite private anyway so I just take off my shirt, which helps immensely, and pull the covers up. No one seems to mind, though I suspect this might give SQ additional ammo for barring *A from F redemptions on their metal. Another splash of Grand Siecle while I pass out to 30 Rock.


Breakfast is simple: some delicious bircher muesli, fruit, and rooibos tea. Quite enjoyably, the meal doesn’t conclude until about 15 minutes to landing.

Last edited by marks88; Aug 15, 11 at 1:29 am
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Old Aug 14, 11, 3:40 pm
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More! What a wonderful sounding trip.
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Old Aug 14, 11, 9:37 pm
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Sounds great. Can't wait to read the rest.
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Old Aug 15, 11, 1:59 am
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First leg: IAH-ORD-ZRH-BKK-SIN

Part 2

Right then. In Zurich now.

I look for the transfer desk because the Thai BP didn't print in Houston at the CO check-in machine. Neither the desk nor the Thai gate will print them just yet, so I wait for 25 minutes. I contemplate going to the FCL but the mini train, immigration, and a possible denial (no connecting flight on LX/LH) didn't make it an appealing option.

I end up using the lounge in the E gates, up top. Pretty disappointing: while the attendant is warm (not letting me leave without taking some Swiss chocolates) the lounge itself is crowded. No showers either, and cheap sandwiches. I don't bother with any of the alcohol. I'm not that pretentious: it was only a few years ago that I was drinking 4 EUR bags of wine at the Cite Universitaire dorms at the University of Paris. (Mitigating factor: peer pressure not to complain about the wine quality.) But I can already hear the Dom on Thai calling my name. Or maybe it was just a hallucination induced by jet lag and the LX9 excesses.

Anyways.

I head over to board. TG is a bit haphazard, and seems to let *G board with F. Maybe I missed the earlier announcement. In any event, J passengers were coming through the F cabin and using the F lavatories. Quel horreur. I hurriedly order the Dom and look away, out the window.





Only five people in F today. The cabin crew are wonderfully caring and attentive. At times I feel the language ability isn't fluent (but still quite good). But when more than half the words you say are 'Dom, please' it isn't hard to communicate.

I quite enjoyed the TG website, which allows you to preorder meals out of certain stations. Having spent the last year in Boston, I've eaten plenty of excellent lobster and not enough good Thai food. So I preorder the Prawns with Basil and Chili. There is also a peanut Chicken curry on the menu, so I order that too. I can exercise it off when I start work in Paris, I tell myself optimistically.

The curries are quite good. Very spicy. The rice is a bit disappointing, as are the vegetables on the side. But I can't complain: curries, Dom, and 'How I Met Your Mother' over the Black Sea make for a great stress-reliever.






The 11 hour flight passes by very quickly. I manage to sleep a few hours, and wake up wanting a snack. There isn't a menu, as far as I can tell, but they prepare some decent instant noodles. Also with Dom.

I think, at this point, it might be a good idea to try the Veuve Rose Vintage 2004.

Wrong. It is pretty disappointing, and I switch back to the Dom after a few sips. I tingle a little when I hear the pop of another bottle being opened.

Landing in BKK at 5:30am is a treat. The city stretches on and on and the lights aren't as organized as, say, Switzerland, making for a stunning landscape. The airport is quiet; I have a buggie waiting at the end of the jetbridge to take me through security and into the FCL. I've booked a 5hr layover to enjoy the 1 hour massage, have some breakfast and lunch, and send emails.
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Old Aug 15, 11, 12:17 pm
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Originally Posted by marks88 View Post
The cabin is hot and I have trouble sleeping.
I just don't get it. I purposely will not take redeyes on LH and LX now because of their insistance on making the F cabin a furnace at night. My last LX flight I asked them to turn down the temperature, and was told it is "not possible."
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Old Aug 15, 11, 12:29 pm
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Originally Posted by ironmanjt View Post
I just don't get it. I purposely will not take redeyes on LH and LX now because of their insistance on making the F cabin a furnace at night. My last LX flight I asked them to turn down the temperature, and was told it is "not possible."
On HKG-ZRH they noticed me again without a shirt - a bit riskier on the old A343 - and said they could have turned down the temperature...

Last edited by marks88; Aug 15, 11 at 12:47 pm
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Old Aug 15, 11, 12:40 pm
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Join Date: Sep 2008
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First leg: IAH-ORD-ZRH-BKK-SIN

Part 3

The Bangkok FCL gets rave reviews. It is nice and spacious; more than 5 hours felt considerably less than that.

I sit down and ordered the pad thai. The only decent pad thai I’ve ever had outside Thailand was at Chiang Mai Kitchen in Oxford, but I figured it would be less risky here. It was disappointing bland. I get a second glass of Moet Imperial to help things along. I schedule a massage, but am told that, as I’m connecting from F to C – and not departing in F – I can’t get the full 1 hour massage. Language seems to be the culprit here.

Soon, I arrive for my 6:30am massage. I’m escorted there even though it is almost exactly across the hall from the FCL. While waiting, I’m given the option of the one hour massage, and I take it.

This is where things start to get a little weird. Just a little.

I’m escorted to a beautifully decorated private room. Inside, a full walk-in shower, a bathroom, and a massage table. It is about twice as large as my apartment in Paris; je ne plaisante pas. And with better quality fixtures. I’m given a bathrobe and a little wooden box with what looks like a folded pair of black socks. I am given a choice of three oils.

The masseuse leaves, with me still a bit confused. I put the wooden box to the side, take off my shirt, and put the bathrobe on. The attendant comes back and is unsatisfied, pointing to my trousers. She leaves; I take them off; and am now in boxers and the bathrobe. Even this is not correct somehow. It finally transpires that I’m meant to wear the contents of the little wooden box. I have a look, and unfold a largely transparent, black cloth Speedo. I shrug and put it on, and wrap a towel around my waist.

I start on my stomach. The masseuse begins by folding up the bottom edge of the Speedo slightly, which disconcerts me slightly. She massages from near the ankle in a straight line all the way up to just under the Speedo line. Never anything inappropriate, I should stress, but close enough to make me quite tense. This goes on for some time, and eventually we repeat but reversed, on my back. This presents an additional worry, as I, shall we say, don’t want to display too much interest in the current goings-on. I manage to keep my composure, but at the expense of relaxation. The shoulders, arms, neck are all done quite nicely, and soon I’m off to take a shower and recuperate with the lemongrass tea I chose at the start.

Back to the lounge, though without the escort I had some difficulty walking the thirty paces across the hall. I sit down in a TV room and order a green prawn curry and more champagne. It is fantastic, actually: one of the best Thai curries I’ve ever had. Very, very spicy – and my tolerance levels are quite good for a white person.


Some light chatting to friends back in the US and Canada, some spring rolls, more champagne, and soon it is time to depart for Singapore.

I walk to the gate – no cart, and it’s the farthest one in that wing. After a slight wait, board the Thai 777 with slanted flat beds. I take an iced lemon tea while at the gate, perfect in the Bangkok weather, and put the bed in recline. Immediately asleep, though I’m woken up about an hour later per my request for a surprisingly decent stir fried chicken dish. I’ve gotten less on Continental in domestic First.

We land on time in Singapore and I’m through immigration rather quickly. The BKK-SIN hop was the perfect chance to sober up and sleep a little after the previous marathon sessions. The bag is out early, and nearly 20 minutes after landing I’m walking to the car park to head to a hawker centre for our first dinner.


It is National Day soon, and many housing blocks are decked in Singaporean flags.

Oyster omelette:


Mid evening snack of turtle soup.



And then the second dinner, chili crab flown in from Sri Lanka.

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