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Travelling the world for 6 months... My sabbatical leave experience

Travelling the world for 6 months... My sabbatical leave experience

Old Oct 23, 18, 1:53 am
  #1  
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Travelling the world for 6 months... My sabbatical leave experience

Hi !

As I am currently sitting on the Allegro train between Russia and Finland and finished the visiting the first destination of my sabbatical leave, I thought I would share with the readers of FlyerTalk some of my travel experiences…In a nutshell, I am basically taking 6 months off-work, between mid-october 2018 and April 2019 to travel the world, and the travel part will be – mostly – in premium cabins (Business or First class) and will include some flights with some airlines I never travelled with.
I expect to take in total 80+ segments and will report the travel part on FlyerTalk (since I enjoy reading some trip reports on this website, I thought I would contribute…)
This is how my trip looks so far, with represented in blue the flight segments already booked, in red what needs to be booked, and in green the other means of transportation I will be using (train or boat). As I am writing those lines, I just completed the visit of Moscow and St Petersburg in Russia, and my next main destination will be Riga in Latvia and Dubai.


This was the initial plan, it had to be adjusted a bit during my 6-month trip... ANF, YVR, JFK, GIG, LDH, JOG, CNX and CTS out - SEA, BZN, PSP, PVD, ITM, WLG, DPS, AQP and PTY in...

Some of the nice segments I am looking forward are the first class on CX between BOS and HKG, the first class on AF between SFO and CDG and between CDG and GRU, the new business class on board MH 359 between KUL and SYD, the new TN dreamliner business class to LAX, the JL 789 business class between KUL and NRT, and also my first time on board a luxury cruise ship being relocated between Ushuaia and the Easter island…
While I was supposed to be travelling alone, a travel partner was assigned to me at the very last minute. His name is Oppossum van de Markt and the good thing is that he does not need much to be happy… and does not take much space in my luggage !



If ever you feel interested in knowing more about this trip or the destinations I will be visiting, I invite you to visit the blog I created for this occasion : www.boardingnow.net and follow my adventures on Instagram and YouTube !

Table of contents (As of July 17th 2019)
1, Air France Economy class A321 AMS-CDG-SVO + Marriott Moscow Novy-Arbat
2. Moscow-St Petersburg with Sapsan High Speed train in Business class
3. St Petersburg to Riga via Helsinki (Allegro train economy class to Helsinki and Finnair economy class ATR72 HEL-RIX)
4. Moving to warmer seas... Part 1 (RIX-AMS with AirBaltic CS300 business class, AMS-CDG-LYS on Air France Business and economy class)
5. Moving to warmer seas... Part 2 (Lyon-CDG with TGV 1st class, CDG-DXB on Air France 777-300 Business class)
6. Going to Africa with Kenya Airways dreamliner - Part 1 (DXB-NBO Business class)
7. Going to Africa with Kenya Airways dreamliner - Part 2 (NBO-JNB Business class)
8. "British Airways" to Namibia (Boeing 737-800 - JNB-WDH Business class)
9. British Airways/Comair to Cape Town (Boeing 737-800 WDH-JNB-CPT Business class)
10. British Airways/Comair to Livingstone, Zambia (Boeing 737-800 CPT-JNB-LVI Economy class) + Protea hotel Livingstone
11. British Airways/Comair to Johannesburg (Boeing 737-800 VFA-JNB Business class)
12. Kenya Airways red-eye to Nairobi (Boeing 737-900 JNB-NBO Business class)
13. Kenya Airways lounges in Nairobi (Simba and Pride lounges)
14. Kenya Airways back to Dubai (Boeing 787-800 NBO-DXB Business class)
15. Swiss fifth freedom route to Oman (Airbus 330-300 DXB-MCT Economy class)
16. Muscat MCT airport Primeclass lounge
17. Qatar Airways Airbus 320 MCT-DOH Economy class
18. Qatar Airways Al-Mourjan lounge DOH
19. Heading to Asia with Qatar Airways Airbus 350-900 Business class (DOH-SIN)
20. Singapore Changi lounges + Malaysia Airlines business class Boeing 737-800 Business class SIN-KUL + Sama-Sama express KUL transit hotel
21. One new country to visit : Cambodia ! Malaysia Airlines First lounge KUL + Malaysia Airlines business class Boeing 737-800 KUL-PNH
22. Giant Ibis coach Phnom Penh to Siem Reap + Ibis Styles Siem Reap
23. Laos is next door... Vietnam Airlines Airbus 321 Economy class REP-LPQ
24. Vietnam Airlines Airbus 321 REP-HAN Economy class
25. Vietnam Airlines Hanoi International lounge
26. Vietnam Airlines Airbus 321 HAN-BKK Economy class
27. Lounge hopping in Bangkok !
28. Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737-800 Business class BKK-KUL
29. Breakfast at the MH First lounge KUL...
30. Going to Taiwan on Malaysia Airlines Airbus 330-200 Business class KUL-TPE
31. Taipei Taoyuan airport lounges
32. Back to Malaysia - MH Airbus 330-300 Business class TPE-KUL
33. The Penang route (Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737-800 domestic Business class) KUL-PEN + Pictures of Penang
34. Back to reality but going to paradise... Part 1 - Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737-800 Economy class PEN-KUL
35. Back to reality but going to paradise... Part 2 - Malaysia Airlines Airbus 330-200 Economy class KUL-DPS + Bali pictures
36. Positioning to Jakarta on Garuda Indonesia Economy class Boeing 737-800 DPS-CGK
37. Kind of a mileage run... with a stopover ! Part 1 (Sri Lankan Buisness class Airbus 321 CGK-CMB)
38. Kind of a mileage run... with a stopover ! Part 2 (Sri Lankan Buisness class Airbus 330-300 CMB-DXB)
39. Coming back home for Christmas... (KLM Boeing 777-200 Business class DXB-AMS)
40. New year, new departure ! Part 1 (BA Airbus 321 Business class AMS-LHR + LHR T5 First lounge)
41. New year, new departure ! Part 2 (BA Airbus 380 Business class LHR-HKG)
42. Positioning in Kuala Lumpur, on my way to Australia. Part 1 (CX First lounge HKG + RJ Business class HKG-BKK) - Coming soon !
43. Positioning in Kuala Lumpur, on my way to Australia. Part 2 (BKK lounges + MH Economy class BKK-KUL) - Coming soon !
44. Onboard the new MH Airbus 350-900 Business class to Australia ! (KUL MH First lounge + MH Business class KUL-SYD) - Coming soon !

And many more ! Including reviews of Air France "La Première" First class SFO-CDG-GRU (Boeing 777-300), British Airways Airbus 380 Business and First class (LHR-HKG and SIN-LHR), LATAM Business class Boeing 787-900 IPC-SCL, Cathay Pacific First class Boeing 777-300 BOS-HKG and Business class Airbus 350 HKG-PER, Malaysia Airlines Airbus 330-300 and 350 Business class (KUL-SYD-KUL) and a fantastic experience on board Le Soleal cruise ship !
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Last edited by palmanfr; Oct 27, 19 at 12:05 pm
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Old Oct 23, 18, 3:51 am
  #2  
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My last night at home could be more considered as a nap, rather than a night. As usual, I decided to pack at the last minute, and got surprised by the smaller than expected dimensions of my new luggage (crossover from Thule). Considering also that I recently purchased some new electronic toys such as a phone gimbal and a drone, that also took more space than I anticipated. Anyway, after closing most of the utilities at home, I hit the road towards Amsterdam Schiphol airport at 5 am and arrived 2 hours and half later at the airport. Fortunately, Avis did give me a very nice rental car this time, a Volvo S90 automatic, so the ride to airport was really a pleasure. This car is really a plane J


Ready to go!


Checking-in at the skypriority desks in AMS


A bit of queue for check-in

Checking-in my luggage took only a few minutes using the KLM SkyPriority dedicated desks, although the area was a bit crowded at this time of the day. The agent was nice enough to allow me to check in my 24.4 kg suitcase (in theory only 23 kgs were allowed on my ticket). KLM was not known to me to be very flexible in the past with the luggage weight…Clearing security took about 5 minutes, using the priority lane and millimetric waves body scanners were in use. I then proceeded to the KLM lounge 25. I did not take any pictures there as I have simply been way too many times and there is not much to write about. I feel that the catering quality decreased over the past year or so. The lounge was packed and breakfast assortment of cold cuts, cereals and juices were available. It was really busy in the there, so busy that there was a line to use the restrooms…I stayed there only 20 minutes (and did not take any pictures) and then headed towards the gate C7, which was accomodating my flight to CDG that morning. Note to KLM and Schiphol airport : Why on earth do you accomodate every single time the shuttle AMS-CDG on those gates C3/C5/C7 ? The aircrafts used are typically quite big (approx. 200 passengers), with a lot of skypriority eligible passengers, and there is simply NO space to accomodate 200 passengers at that gate ! Boarding was a bit chaotic but priority boarding was somehow enforced. Like on most of the AMS-CDG flights, a quite significant amount of SkyPriority card holders were present. Boarding began a few minutes late, with the first passengers waiting in the jet bridge as the aircraft was not yet ready.

The usual mess when boarding the C gates in AMS



F-GTAU to CDG
Air France AF1241 – October 12th 2018
AMS Amsterdam Schiphol – 09:30
CDG Paris Charles de Gaulle – 10:45Airbus A321 – F-GTAU – Seat 10F, Economy, window, emergency exit. As usual on AF, the purser (or « chef de cabine ») was greeting passengers at the entrance. I was lucky enough to board with the first 10% so I still had some space inside overhead bins as I was seated on an emergency exit. My selected seat, 10F is located right next to the door #2 Right, and a crew seat is located right in front of it. So when the crew seat is not in use, there is unlimited legroom on that seat. I somehow started to discuss with Caroline, the flight attendant located on door #2, and started to talk, within other things, about my upcoming trips. The flight was packed to the brim, so were the overhead bins. Eventually, we crew managed to close the doors, but due to ATC (Air traffic control) restrictions at the departures of AMS, we had to wait an extra 5-10 minutes at the gate, followed by another 5 to 10 minutes of taxi time to the departing runway in operation.


Seat 10F at the emergency exit


View from the window in AMS

While Caroline got seated for take off and landing at the 3rd door, Alexa, another FA working on that flight took seat in front of me and we started to discuss until take off. The service on that short flight was swift and it looks like that the sizes of the croissants increased on AF since last time I took a morning flight !


That's his first flight !


Breakfast in economy AF AMS-CDG

We started the descent towards CDG about 30 after take off and landed about 10 minutes later than scheduled, and this followed a 5 min taxi time to our gate in the terminal 2F.Right before landing, Caroline came back and offered me a « good luck stone » (a Labradorite from Madagascar) to give me some positive energy for my trip. I though this was very thoughtful and really appreciated the gesture !


Nice gift from the crew!

I have to say that some crews on AF can be sometimes a bit distant and cold but this was clearly not the case with Alexa and Caroline, as they were very nice and friendly. So I am still happy to see that a 45 min hop can still be very enjoyable !

As a conclusion, the crew made the flight an enjoyable experience…
The connection in CDG, between terminals 2F and 2E was quite smooth, there was no need to clear security again and passport control to exit Schengen area took only a few minutes (I did not use the automated gates).
CDG 2E K gates




Lounge entrance CDG 2E K gates

I headed to the lounge located at the ground floor of the K gates. The lounge is divided in two sections, the left side having windows and a mezzanine, the other section being more inside the building ; with limited views. I found the catering to be much better than on the KLM Crown lounge in AMS. A warm and cold buffet was available, with multiple smaller buffet areas dispatched across the lounge. Champagne was available, with a couple of red and white wines. I spent a good 30 minutes in the lounge and proceeded to the gate 45 min before departure.




Right side area of the lounge




The left side is nicer in my opinion








Buffet area



Boarding was done via automatic gates with SkyPriority customers eligible to board first. I was one of the first ones to board the aircraft and took place in my seat 10F.




F-GTAH to SVO

Air France AF1744 – October 12th 2018
CDG Paris Charles de Gaulle – 12:55
SVO Moscow Sherementyevo – 17:40Airbus A321 – F-GTAH – Seat 10F, Economy, window, emergency exit. The boarding was completed on time but we had some technical issues with the push-back truck, so we left our parking position about 40 minutes late. This followed a 10 minutes taxi to the departure runway. So I had plenty of time to socialize with the stewardess seated in front of me J


CDG from above

The service started about an hour after take off, and considering the 3 hour journey to Moscow, a small lunch was served. It consisted in a small salad, a chicken casserole with mashed potatoes and a chocolate lava cake, in addition to the regular beverage service.


Economy class meal CDG-SVO AF

It was good considering this was economy and still within continental Europe. At some point above Poland, we encountered some turbulence and the service had to be paused by orders of the cockpit crew, this was right after my coffee got served. It did not lasted long and fortunately, there were no spills to deplore…A few duty free items were on sale during this flight. No WiFi was available, like on most (if not all) AF flights but USB ports were available at every seat (just like on the previous flight)




SVO approach


Home of Aeroflot

We landed in SVO with a 25 minute delay, and there was almost no line to clear immigration. The luggage arrived about 10 minutes after clearing immigration and I was outside the terminal by 18:35. I paid about 170 Euros one-way for this flight, and thanks to my Gold status with FB, had one free piece of luggage checked-in and an emergency seat selected, so I think this was very reasonably priced.Following the advice of my Russian colleague, I installed the Yandex app to order a taxi (That's the Russian Uber). Traffic was quite bad to get to the center of Moscow, where my hotel was located and it took a good 90 minute to get to my destination. But my driver, Sergei, knew some good shortcuts and had the local driving skills you need to go through the city… The Marriott Novy Arbat is located in the first « ring » of the city, meaning that most of the attractions are walking distance (less than 30 min walking) from the hotel. The metro station Smolenskaya is also about 5 to 10 minutes away. (I was doing on average 20000 to 25000 steps daily still…)
Marriott Novy Arbat Moscow













The executive lounge / Marriott Novy ArbatMarriott changed their program recently and I dropped of one level in their status, meaning that in theory, I would not be eligible with lounge access (free breakfast, drinks and snacks). However, after a bit of negociation with the agent at the reception, I got this benefit granted for this stay and enjoyed a nice breakfast at the lounge every day J. The wifi speed was excellent, better than what I have at home even, and I used a Marriott travel package of 7 nights to « pay » for this stay (270000 Marriott points, which gave me those 7 nights + 120000 Alaska miles to be used later…)
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Old Oct 23, 18, 5:04 am
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Cool trip, loved the map too.

When you’re in Ushuaia you could pick up a cheap last minute trip to Antarctica and knock off every continent. Antarctica is amazing.

Another tip, flights to Lord Howe and accomodation are restricted - there is a limit of the number of tourists allowed on the island and it’s expensive at best so get in early to avoid disappointment.

I look forward to seeing your future reports. Enjoy!
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Old Oct 23, 18, 6:31 am
  #4  
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Originally Posted by BSBtraveller View Post
Cool trip, loved the map too.

When you’re in Ushuaia you could pick up a cheap last minute trip to Antarctica and knock off every continent. Antarctica is amazing.

Another tip, flights to Lord Howe and accomodation are restricted - there is a limit of the number of tourists allowed on the island and it’s expensive at best so get in early to avoid disappointment.

I look forward to seeing your future reports. Enjoy!
Thanks BSBTraveller !
Antarctica is defintely on my bucket list. Actually the cruise boat I am going to take to Easter island is usually doing the season in Antarctica. But it zas too much budget wise... I will see if find something once there. Otherwise, next year :-)
For Lord Howe Island, I am well aware of the situation and this is why I actually want to go there ! Flights are very expensive as only QF flies there, I am still waiting to see if award availability will open up, but from what i am seeing, the trend is that availabitiliy tends to open up about a month before departure (when it opens...)
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Old Oct 23, 18, 6:39 am
  #5  
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Wow, some serious travels you've got planned! You'll need another sabbatical to recover from it all.

Looking forward to seeing this adventure unfold.
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Old Oct 23, 18, 9:38 am
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This looks like it is going to be an epic trip!!
Am following this one closely, and wishing you safe travels.
I see you are going through Johannesburg - if you need any advice, feel free to contact me.
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Old Oct 23, 18, 11:20 am
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Looks like an amazing itinerary! Would love to do something similar some day!

I've already been to Ushuaia, if you need anything I can try to help. Despite your trip already looking amazing I woulld not skip Torres del Paine National Park or Patagonia. Those are really special places.
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Old Oct 23, 18, 11:24 am
  #8  
 
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Also if you're going all the way to NZ don't skip Queenstown, that's an amazing spot.
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Old Oct 23, 18, 12:03 pm
  #9  
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Thanks for all your comments !
Yes, definitely Patagonia, Torres del Paine NP and Queenstown are on the to do list ! The map represented above are just the flights which were booked, but there will be some additional smaller distance transportation to be organized.
Wow, some serious travels you've got planned! You'll need another sabbatical to recover from it all.
Yeah, I told that joke to my boss earlier. Not sure she appreciated the joke :-D

Now I need to do some writing...
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Old Oct 23, 18, 12:12 pm
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Awesome! Looking forward to every stop!
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Old Oct 23, 18, 12:45 pm
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Wow that looks some itinerary you have planned!
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Old Oct 23, 18, 6:35 pm
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Great report. Looking forward to seeing the continuation of this trip - good stuff so far!
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Old Oct 23, 18, 10:58 pm
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Sounds promising!
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Old Oct 24, 18, 1:04 am
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Subscribing as look encouraging!
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Old Oct 24, 18, 2:31 pm
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Really impressive itinerary!. Have fun
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