August, 2011

now browsing by month

 

Fugu!!

So as one of the things I had decided to add to the “things I should do on this trip” or one of the “things I should do before I die, but not really all that important” list was to try Fugu. The infamous or notorious blow fish, puffer fish or fugu, whatever you want to call it, is a delicacy in Japan (and around the world really). I had been given a tip by some people I did my fish markets tour with on a restaurant to try it out in Osaka. So that’s what I was going to do!

Thankfully my new british companion clare was also in the area and she decided she was up for a bit of craziness so she joined me. We made our way to the restaurant just off the famous Dotonburi in Osaka and were ready to put our lives in the hands of the master chefs. The restaurant “Genpin” is a chain of Fugu restaurants all over most of Japan and it seems fairly touristy’ish, however not even the Ritz could find anywhere else open on a Sunday night that serves fugu in August (as apparently it is not at its most prevalent at this time of year).

So once I was chastised for wearing my shoes and grabbed by the waiter (that shocked me a bit) I removed my shoes and we had the traditional, sit on floor experience. The meal was set and not cheap (about 5000 Yen) for 6 courses of fugu. A Starter of Boiled Fugu Skin, Sashimi of Fugu (super thin so you could see the vein pattern, like paper thin), Fried Fugu, Fugu Hot Pot (the famous Shabu Shabu style… awesome 2 birds one stone) then Hodgepodge Porridge (we were not sure what that was to start with) then Dessert (which was going to be ice cream, we knew it).

So we ordered that set menu and figured we may as well enjoy it. Lots of jokes were made while we waited for the first course if “intentionally eating poison fish” is counted on our travel insurance policies, what we would do if someone else got sick, would this be the first time we ever made a runner if need be etc. Good way to break the tension. When the first course arrived, we made a pact to take a bite together at the same time. None of this “you go first” stuff.

I won’t break it down for you course by course or anything like that, the photos will do that for you when I upload them, but to be honest, It just tasted like any other fish, nothing special. No tingly sensation, no numbness, no death. The Hot Pot was really good and the porridge turned out to be using the leftover hot pot stock with bits of noodle still floating in it, to make a congee style dish with egg and rice etc. Was really yum.

We finished off the night with a few photos, I got to hold the Fugu and when they haid it all blown up and im holding it in the middle of the street, you could hear the screams of “FUGU!!!” coming from people everywhere and I became quite the spectacle (well probably the fish was not the gaijin holding it). All in all a good night and something I can tick off the list and say “Yep I’ve eaten fugu and lived to tell the tale”

Current Location: Crowne Plaza ANA Hiroshima, Japan

Ritzy

Well I thought I would post again this morning since I have a bit of time while I relax in my room after a light breakfast. When I planned this trip I had originally intended on staying at a cheap Comfort Hotel here in Osaka. But then for some reason I was just not happy with it. Over and over again I searched for something better. Then I started getting all the industry rate deals and I had settled on changing the hotel. I pulled the trigger on the Swissotel in Osaka cause it was such a good deal. But then for some silly reason i emailed the Ritz and well, it was to good a price to turn down!

Well I am here now and I am blown away. Although it does not look like the most modern of interiors, thats the Ritz Carlton way. It is meant to feel old and english style. The service here is impeccable. Nothing is to much at all for anyone and they apoligise if they cant help you the very second you come near someone. They are always there to help and hell, they go out of their way to do anything they can for you. I wanted to access the gym before opening hours tommorrow, not a problem, I just need to call the front desk and they will open it for me!

Although I don’t feel like paying a fortune for a breakfast I won’t really eat (after Kyoto i would rather not risk it), they have the best pastry shop next door to the hotel where I picked up some beautiful wholemeal bread that was fresh and gorgeous for like 160 Yen (about $2AUD) and add that to the cheap and plentiful bananas that are around here in Japan (all imported) and I have a relaxing morning in my lovely comfortable room (since most things dont open till like 10am).

The other thing with this hotel is they will do everything for you. I saw someone in the gym having their training shoes and gear carried into the gym for them by the staff. In the room service menu you can pay (5000 yen) for someone to get dressed up as the Ritz Carlton Lion and they will come into your room and get a photo taken with you and it comes printed and framed with a basket full of goodies.

This kind of craziness comes with a price though. I can afford it thanks to industry rates but staying here normally… no way!!! I feel totally out of place though with designer clothes, bags etc and lots of luxury cars in the drive way. Hell I will probably be leaving, dragging my beaten up suitcase up to the station for the train back to Shin Osaka tomorrow morning… lovely!

Current Location: Ritz Carlton Osaka, Japan

Shrines & Temples…

After making it out of Kyoto without the feeling of having seen to many Shrines or Temples I am starting to think that I liked it more than everything else I have seen in Japan so far. Even though it is a little bit more touristy and I did not have the most pleasant experience with a prepaid breakfast at the hotel (which is a whole other story) I really did enjoy my time in Kyoto.

The town is home to some of the biggest and oldest temples & shrines in Japan and has about 6 or 7 World Heritage Listed sites located within the city limits. I only managed to get to see 1 of these sites but I did get to see some of the biggest Temples in town along with some very small local temples and a few shrines that are out of the way.

It is a small sleepy village atmosphere in certain parts but then other parts of the city have that touristy mecha feel that the other parts of Japan i have experienced have had, however they seem to be able to control it more.

One thing I will recommend is a tour called “Walk in Kyoto, Talk in English” run by Johnny Hillwalker. He must be almost 80 years old and does the tour 2 days a week. It is a bargain at only 2000 yen but it is well worth it to see the side of Kyoto not many get to see. It is only about 4 or 5 hours and you don’t cover much ground overall but you do get to see some good things, like some of the home industries in Japan, some of the more traditional kyoto style treats like Inari Sushi (vegetarian sushi) and also the Japanese pastries which Kyoto are famous for.

One good thing came out of the tour and I have met up with an awesome girl by the name of Clare. A British girl who did the tour as well and we kinda spent the afternoon together randomly exploring Kyoto and now also going to meet up tommorrow night here in Osaka for some fugu!

The comparisons between Kyoto and Osaka though, MAJORLY different. I have gone from Big city to older smaller city, back to BIG CITY! Osaka is like bedlam to me right now. It puts me off a little when I am getting poked, prodded, pushed, pulled, stabbed and stood on in a foreign country and people just don’t seem to care. At least in Germany or France they actually apoligised however here, they just ignore me and treat me like crap, so I have given it back a little at times.

I did get to scope out Osaka castle today and the International Peace Museum as well before the rain destroyed the rest of my plans for the day but it was well worth it. I have decided to make the most of tommorrow my only other day in Osaka and cram in as much as I can hopefully in the morning before the rain hits. At least this time I am planning a bit better to coincide with opening times!

Current Location: Ritz Carlton Osaka

Turning Japanesa

Yes I’m turning Japanesa, I really think so. Ok enough bad music puns now but Tokyo has been great, frustraations and all. Even though I speak no Japanese and have had bugger all luck the last day or so it has been great. After my day spent exploring Tokyo with Rumi it was time to explore on my own but I had booked one thing, a Tsukiji Fish Markets tour. I had found a reccomendation online from one of the blogs I read and the price wasn’t bad for a guided tour through the market to areas you really shouldnt be able to access and also a maximum group of 6.

The down side.. meeting at 4am so that you get to experience the Tuna auctions. Now thankfully I had been living on coffee, adrenalin or some combination of the two over the last month or so as I only had like 3.5 hours sleep before getting up roughly 230am so that I could get an expensive cab ride to the meeting point. Thank god for convience stores selling giant bottles of coffee at 4 in the morning. The tour was great and our group of 4 including the guide got to see heaps in the markets and experience so much. The tuna auction was unbelievable. It was like a song and I got some video along with dozens of photos.

After the auction unfortunately our guide had left so he could make his normal job but the market was now in full on crazy mode as the auctions were closing down and the selling was about to begin. Since I couldnt really enter the other areas and didn’t feel like getting run over by the bikes, automatic trolleys or dozens of trucks I high tailed it towards the restaurants. Our guide had pointed out what he thought was the best in the market for sushi. 3500 yen for a set and it was worth every yen. It was amazingly fresh and delicious. No soy or wasabi needed unless already on it. This was I think the best sushi I have ever eaten and thats a big call after Tojos (sorry Cory).

After my breakfast of fish, rice and green tea I moved on to the stalls around the market area that sold the other goods to the shoppers etc full of fruit, veg, random assortments hell even some souveneirs. I picked up a tshirt (cause i can) and also some fantastic looking Japanese peaches which were more like nectarines but they were the size of a softball and cheap to, 125 yen each. With this it was time to brave the rush hour subway rides back to the hotel but I did not spot a push man :(

Pretty much the next two days was spent exploring random areas of Tokyo including most of Shinjuku, Ginza, shopping for plastic foods in the area where all the restaurants shop, Shibuya, Harajuku and Ameyoka. Some highlights include spending 45 minutes trying to pick a bento box for lunch in Shibuya for lunch, eating random foods at dinner in Shinjuku and walking through Harajuku all the way to Shibuya seeing the transition from cheap youth clothing and craziness to the high end brands like Louis Vuitton etc within 100m.

There has been some frustrations though. The language barrier is massive, but I knew that coming into Japan. I have barely spoken as most people just don’t understand me so I just point, nod and gesture, usually works the best. I also seem to have broken my ipod so will have to pick up a temporary replacement to get me by as this one can be fixed under warranty (thankfully).

All in all I have enjoyed Tokyo. I will be back so that I can see more of the parts I missed like the Ueno Zoo, Akihabara at night, the Imperial Palace and the Park Hyatt in Shinjuku.

Today though was an utterly random day. I planned to visit Yokohama on my way to Kyoto for purely one real reason. The Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum. This place is totally random. A museum dedicated to Ramen. The people in Yokohama love their ramen so why not dedicate a museum to it. The ramen was good with different kinds from all over Japan. I had two types (thankfully you can buy half bowls) so I had a bowl of Tonkotsu and also Miso ramen. Both were unbelievably good. It’s a bit of a toss up which one I like better. I must have more to experiment ;)

Pretty much I realized though, Yokohama really is pretty boring other than that. But what was not boring for me today was riding the Shinkansen. I had two journeys on it today and it was a child hood dream come true. You can read more about it in my trip report in a few days time after I put all the journeys together in one easy post, but seriously loved every minute of it!

Current Location: Citadines Kyoto Karasuma Gojo

All the Queens Horses and Queens Men

My site is finally back up after a server crash so I can thankfully post again. London is been and gone and it was a great time. I only had a few days but as usual for me they were jam packed full of things to see and do.

After arriving off my flight from Berlin the train from Heathrow to Paddington was such a breeze and the short walk from Waterloo Station to my hotel was something I did about a million times on the trip. The hotel was amazing. I stayed at the Park Plaza Westminster bridge, and if i leaned a certain way I could just see Big Ben out the window of my room even though I officially had an atrium view and for £65 a night a total bargain for what I got. Was worth probably 4 or 5 times that amount.

I did all the usual touristy sites, changing of the guards, big ben, london eye but I also did a few less advertised ones like the RAF Museum along with the Guards and Household Cavalry Museums. There was a few big highlights for me though on this trip that stood out.

1. Ceremony of the Keys at Tower of London on my first night. This ceremony dates back almost 700 years so was a great honour to be able to see it.
2. Randomly finding a Jamie Oliver restaurant and being able to walk in, get a table and have a meal at a reasonable price (2 courses with sparkling water for £27) all before the theatre.
3. Catching up with Ross & Cat a couple of old Contiki friends and going to the world’s first Gay Ice Cream Bar which is also the same place that made the famous/infamous Breast Milk Ice Cream
4. Enjoying the sunshine while eating lunch in a deck chair in Green Park near Buckingham Palace even if only for a few minutes before being chased away for not paying.

But London is now gone and I am over East, the Far East as it was reffered to quite a while ago. I flew into Japan on Sunday and have so far had a great time. It is totally surreal. I am in a very foreign land where I do not speak any of the language at all and to be honest I feel slightly out of my depth, but that has not stopped me using the resources at my disposal namely the internet and the hotel concierge.

But yesterday i had the morning in Akihabra exploring what is really tech geek heaven with plenty of toys and gadgets to drool over. Then after getting onto the Tokyo Metro for the first time (had been using JR lines till that point) i hopped on over to Tokyo Tower to meet up with my old friend Rumi. We had a good day and she showed me many things and let me experience some more Japense food including cold Soba noodles with Yam (which was pretty yum) and some Little Red Bean cakes.

Rumi took me to my first buddhist temple at Asakusa and I did pretty much most of my souvenir shopping here (the street leading up to the temple is full of souvenir stores and thats a traditional thing to help serve the pilgrams journeying to the temple) and she also took me to my first ever Aquarium Art Event.

This is a little bit different and definately not something I ever would of thought of going to. It is essentially gold fish aquariums put together as art installations so lots of different coloured fish or lights and shapes of bowls/tanks to make it artistic. Sound also played a big part with light effects changing for the different sounds or beats. It was fascinating and beautiful. This is also where another one of my random events happened. I got interviewed for NHK which is an internationally broadcast Japanese TV channel. Im a tv star again!

It has been an amazing journey so far with more to come. More tails of Japan to come including a sushi breakfast.

Current Location: Hyatt Regency Tokyo, Shinjuku
Countries: 7

Trip Report – Around the World on a Star – London to Tokyo

After what was a good day spent exploring more of London, I ended up heading back to the hotel on foot from Waterloo station in the rain. Not a good start unfortunately. The day was meant to go better as I was going to go by Tube from Waterloo to Paddington and then pick up the Heathrow Express from there. Yeah that is not going to work in the rain. So after running from the station to the hotel (a good half a kilometre) I grabbed my bag and jumped in a cab for Paddington Station.

The almost 20 Quid cab ride was pretty much as expected, was over half what I paid for my HEX ticket but to be honest, a 500m walk in the rain with a suitcase was not ideal. But I was at Paddington Station, dry and relaxed. First hurdle over. I walked towards the HEX platforms (6&7 according to the signs) and it turns out I had literally just missed the last train by like a minute or two. Damn. But that meant I had a good amount of time to sit, relax and enjoy the free wifi in my first class seat while I wait. Yeah not gonna happen.

Pretty much I was the only person in the carriage for quite some time, but the wifi just would not connect. Bummer. Even after speaking with the conductor he just didn’t seem to care, so by the time I gave up on trying to get it to connect we were on our way to Heathrow. A family of 4 had joined us by this stage and the train journey just does not feel like 15 minutes. This train is amazingly good. Gotta love it!

Soon enough I was being dumped out at the station between terminals 1 & 3. I made my way up out of the rabbit warren that is the Train Station up to street level and to the Departures area of Terminal 3. But here is where plans go awry again. I had planned to be at the terminal nice and early, to hopefully check in and get lots of plane spotting done, as I was still hunting the Retro jet and I was sure I was going to get some weird, wonderful and random aircraft. Hopefully. But check in was closed and wouldn’t open for another 30 mins. So off I trapsed to get some cash converted, but I couldn’t even do that as he did not have enough Japanese Yen.

So after waiting it out in the line for check in (no seats around so may as well act like a gate lice) check in opened and I was checked in first for the business section (another man was checked in first for first class.. lucky bugger). But with that done, I walked around and checked out departures, got my cash exchanged as suggested at the main point (then found out that there was a 2nd brand of Currency Exchange so might of gotten a better rate… damn) and went in search of some “Tablet” a kind of Scottish Chocolate Fudge, but I could not find any.

Cleared through security using Fast Track which was actually very Fast but I was very slow, making sure I had everything out and did not get frustrated as I stripped off for the dignity dance. No shoes off though so that was a change. Through security, through “Passport Control” where it was a “Did you enter on this passport” “Yes” “Thank you”, all of a few seconds, wow… thorough. Then you are dumped out at what seems the worlds largest duty free store. I browsed through the watches as they had the brand I like, but did not buy as I was keeping all my shopping now really for Hong Kong. But I did end up picking up some Shortbread as a gift using the last of my coinage and some mens cologne as I was running out.

With that I wandered the halls a little, managed to score a photo of a Turkmenistan 757 at one of the gates, gave up and headed for the Singapore Lounge to see what it was like and I was told it had good views. They let me in surprisingly as I was instructed to go to the London Lounge. The Singapore Silver Kris Lounge was ok, nothing spectacular but it would do the job. Unfortunately it did not have the best views and it seemed what I thought was the London Lounge did, so I was going to change over (but what I saw was the Cathay Lounge instead).

I trapsed the short distance to the London Lounge and this is more my style, love the Scandanavians really as this is the SAS lounge, so fully of Ikea and Sven from Sweeden. Hah. But really the views were awesome, so out came the SLR, the food was good, lots of vegies for me to graze on with a good variery of snacks etc. Lots of them. But all in all, it was a good choice. I grabbed some drinks, some nibbles and camped out by the windows where I had good views of the active runway and was pretty much in the right spot for some shots of the landings as they pulled onto the Taxi Ways.

Lots of good things went past, Korean Cargo, Singapore Cargo, Emirates, Etihad, Royal Air Maroc from all the ones I remember but I am pretty sure I took several hundred photos again. Soon enough it was time to head to the lounge after picking up a few magazines to get me through the flight just in case. I headed towards the boarding gate a little early to make sure I got onboard with plenty of time to take some photos of their new product.

All Nippon Airways (ANA)
NH202
London Heathrow to Tokyo Narita
1935-1520
Boeing 777-300ER (JA785A)
Business Staggered – Seat 7A

Boarding: 1855 (Gate 307)
Push Back 1929
Take Off Roll: 1949 (Runway 27R)
Top of Descent: 1440
Touch Down: 1513 (Runway 34L)
Shut Down: 1518 (Gate 57)

Boarding was called about 5-6 minutes after I got to the gate so that was good timing! Gotta love it. I was the first person down the Airbridge for Business Class, again beaten by a man in First and some Unaccompanied Minors for Economy. But this meant I had heaps of time to explore the seat in all its goodness.

The first thing that strikes you about the new Business Staggered seat with ANA is the privacy. I could not even see anyone else in the Aircraft without really pushing to try. But to be honest that is probably what they were after. The seats were good and comfortable, plenty of nooks and crannys for storage and a decent overhead bin just for my bag as their seemed to be more than enough space.

The view out my window though, if I turn and look back, a Giant GE90 engine. God DAMN those things are huge (and loud when powering up as well). But that is a good thing, cause I love those buggers. I asked for some water, as the Pre Departure beverages offered were only Orange Juice & Champagne, so I could take some medication. The Flight Attendant actually was very kind and brought me some warm water to help with the medication, love the Japanese service!

After all the playing around getting myself sorted the boarding just flew by and before I knew it, the doors were shut and the air bridge was towed back. But that’s a good thing to as it meant I was now able to sit back and relax. Lots of photos taken as we taxied out and we passed the A380 ramp which was pretty much full (one each for QF, EK & SQ) and headed for 27R the active departure runway. We were about 3 or 4 in the line as we waited and I got to enjoy the Nose Camera View.

As we took off and roared down the runway (and I mean roared as the GE90s have that sound level)we were up in the sky, turning right towards Asia and my next part of this journey. The seatbelt sign stayed on for what felt like an eternity and it turns out it was kept on just in case of Turbulence. But then as they announced this, it came off. Funny that.

I browsed the menu which was at the seat and the Japanese menu sounded amazingly good so thought I would give it a try, gotta get used to Japanese cuisine I guess. But it was going to be a good service as the flight attendant serving my section just could not do enough. So with drink ordered and then shortly drink provided with a few little bites the service began.

The few little bites were like a small medly of yumminess with what I think was some duck, some weird jelly like thing, a little tartlet and also a medly of vegetables and lobster. It was yum++ I asked for some nuts and they didn’t have any but some rice crackers (close enough). Love it with a good drink as I settled in to watch a movie.

As the main meal service started it was looking to be good. The service was just excellent and the meal looked fantastic, full of vegies and some lovely looking smoked salmon. But there was also a few random things for me to try. Looked good. Tasted even better (especially the salmon which was not as smoked as I thought it would be).

The main meal was brought out pretty much as I finished the entrée and then that was just gorgeously prepared, the Sabelfish was tender and the rice and pickles made for a good filler with some warm miso soup. The Dessert though. AWESOME!!! This Ice Cream Parfait beat the pants off the Ice Cream Sundae on Air New Zealand but not as good as the ice cream I had in London at Ice Creaminista (which is a whole other story). After the meal and a quick cup of coffee, I put the seat fully flat and tried to get some shut eye.

The seat, well lets make some reviews shall we. The seat is great in the flat mode, but one little problem. It’s a little narrow around the shoulder area for me, but in saying that, I got about 3 or 4 hours sleep before waking up to try and reset my body clock to Tokyo time. So after a little snack of fruit, some tea I started working on this review and started a new movie (Adjustment Bureau).

As we cruised over Russia the scenery below was great, but after the movie finished I had the window open while I was working (its daylight I wanna be able to see things) I was asked to close the shades to help the baby in the cabin sleep. Damn babies ? O well. I grabbed a snack of some fruit & some cheese and settled in for another movie and did a bit of duty free gift shopping (they have something that would make the perfect gift for someone back home and since I was WAY under budget in Europe and Britain I just had to!) The service on my side was great but at times I wondered if they had forgotten me but to be honest they were just making sure everything was perfect.

After my “breakfast” of cheese & fruit I had asked to have my “lunch” served to me in about an hours time to try and sync up my body clock. I had thought they had forgotten as it came about 20 mins later than what I had wanted but I did not really mind. When I asked for some coffee to go with it, the first cup came cold, so when they refilled it, I mentioned this and the flight attendant brewed a fresh pot for me! Awesome++

Pretty soon after another movie and some more coffee they started warning us about the descent. Now what I did not like was that they took away your headphones a good 30 mins prior to arrival and because the plugs wont accept even normal airline double sockets I could not even use mine. O well. The descent was pretty much cloud and even with the nose camera all I could see was the front nose gear down and nothing but cloud till pretty much the runway but unlike the last landing I had in Narita, this one was smooooth.

After deboarding fairly quickly after a smooth taxi to our gate, it felt like I had to walk the entire terminal to get to the Immigration area where I was through with barely a question. It was baggage that was the issue. Bags took forever. I had to wait a good almost 45 minutes for my bags before they arrived and this was WITH a priority tag. The economy bags had not even started to come out at this point.

With baggage in hand, I went through customs and headed for the JR office to exchange my JR pass. Then it was time to pick up all my rail tickets for the next 2 weeks and then onto the next Narita Express into town. I had expected to get to the hotel around 630pm a good 3 hours after arrival (when my bags started taking their time) and I wasn’t far off it. I was on the 1645 train from Narita to Shinjiku and you are looking at a solid 80 minutes of journey time to Shinjiku (which is the end of the line pretty much). The Narita Express (NEX) was effortless and I paid for an upgrade to the Green car for today as to be honest, I just wanted some space. All my other journeys on JR will be Ordinary Car to keep the $$$ down.

By the time I got to Shinjiku and weaved my way out of the Station (muttering to myself West Exit, West Exit) it was just after 1830 by the time I got to the Shuttle stop and watched the Hyatt Shuttle pull around the corner having just left. O well, a quick 2 min taxi ride to the hotel and I was there and in my room before the next shuttle would of even picked me up!

Trip Report – Around the World on a Star – Berlin to London

Not to early a wake up this morning but still fairly early but unfortunately things didn’t start going my way pretty much first thing, not a good sign. I was intending on eating Breakfast in the lounge and with some financial issues that needed to be worked out, well that meant getting out of the hotel a bit earlier to a place with a more reliable wifi connection (wifi at the Pullman was pathetic!).

I was intending on getting the buses out to the Airport after one from the hotel to the Ubahn Station, then another bus from there to Tegel. But that first bus was running late (as usual it seems in Berlin) and just as I was walking to get a cab from the hotel, bus shows up. Typical. As I roll up to the station, my bus rolls out of the station. Dammit! At least time to grab coffee #1 for the morning. Next bus rolls up late as well but soon enough I am heading towards the airport only about 10 minutes later than I had hoped. The bus ride to the airport was painless.

Upon arrival at Tegel this is where the fun starts. I had read before that at Tegel all the security is done at individual gates so the lounge is landside (awesome), what I did not find out is that check in doesn’t open till just before your flight and that the only way to check in earlier than this is to use the Self Serve Kiosks. So here I am trudging almost the entire length of Tegel to find the right gate, only to be told check in at the gate doesn’t open for 2 more hours. Not even an explanation of what to do. Thankfully a sign close by explained where to check in and drop bags. So with this done, rather than get stuck into some work first I was a bit all over the place so took some time out to eat breakfast and do a bit of errands in the terminal (shop, convert currency that sort of things).

With that all sorted, then it was time to use the internet for a while in the lounge and do all the other things I wanted. I had pretty much decided to head to the gate about an hour before departure to give enough time to go through security and immigration and do a touch of duty free shopping. Glad I had left extra time as once I got through security screening I was pulled aside for secondary, except at Tegel, this means they take you back landside, rescan you, then you have to go back through security, AGAIN! Retarded++

So once finally out into the terminal area and into the tiny little airside area, I had about 10 minutes or so to do some duty free shopping before boarding, perfect timing. Pretty much as I finished shopping, boarding was called.

British Midland(BMi)
BD842
Berlin Tegel to London Heathrow
1100-1200
Airbus A319 (G-DBCK)
Business Class – Seat 1F

Boarding: 1030 (Gate 5)
Push Back 1056
Take Off Roll: 1107 (Runway 26L)
Top of Descent: 1108
Touch Down: 1151 (Runway 27R)
Shut Down: 1155 (Gate 106)

Was one of the first few dozen people onboard which did not worry me as this was my third Euro flight so I knew the service was going to be Spartan. To be honest, I can see why people mainly fly economy in Europe as its pretty much economy in business as well, just with food and extra luggage.

Boarding was uneventful, the whole flight was really uneventful, nothing special to talk about spotting wise, the service onboard was pretty average really. I got fed some fairly good food, some coffee, some diet pepsi, a nice lunch, a good book (well over a quarter into war and peace so far). The eventful part was not really until landing.

We got to burn donuts in the sky over heathrow (expected) but then as we landed it seemed awfully fast but from watching a few landings while we taxied that seemed normal. However what I had also expected was an infamous Heathrow Bus gate. Figures. They had put us into the Domestic Terminal, so we had to be bussed to immigration. Unfortunately the staff onboard this flight, didn’t want to do anything good for the business class guests. As someone came to door 1L they advised we had to disembark by the rear doors but she asked how many business class guests, as she would get them off separately. This is the reply that came “don’t bother there is only 6). So unfortunately I was the very LAST person off the plane onto the bus, so didn’t get to take any shots on the tarmac ride (there was a Star Alliance painted A330 from US Airways I think).

Immigration seemed to me that I was the only person from our flight not from the UK or an EU country so I had to wait behind a flight full of American’s recently arrived onboard United. O well. Immigration took a little while in the queue and then only a light grilling before picking up my bag which was sitting on the baggage belt when I got there, but then only about 3 other bags were left.

I made a mad dash for the Heathrow Express and got onboard just as the doors closed and before I knew it, I was already at London Paddington Station, where a quick stop to get an oyster card and a tube map and I was on my way to Waterloo Station and my next hotel down near Westminster Bridge.

Ich Bin Ein Berliner

Well my time in Berlin is fast drawing to a close as I sit here in the Lufthansa lounge at Berlin Tegel airport. It has been a whirlwind few days but damn it has been good.

The first day in Berlin after flying in from France was spent doing some laundry at Freddy Lecks this random as hell Laundry in berlin that is also a cafe and has free wifi. Explaining it is hard, but the pictures will explain more at the end of the trip, it was fully decked out laundromat and was awesome++ I also checked out Legoland and did a bit of browsing the shops and met up with my friend Melissa who was joining me for the Berlin portion.

Day 2 was spent doing the Free Berlin tour with New Europe Tours in the morning and then in the afternoon doing their Third Reich Tour. Unfortunately it started to bucket rain that afternoon but it was still a great time. The tours are fantastic and gave good insight to both Berlin in general as well as the whole Nazi history of the city.

Yesterday my last full day in Berlin was spent with the morning doing some random bits and pieces, bit of this bit of that, and then in the afternoon looking at the Cold War side of Berlin with a Red Berlin tour. Again this tour was fantastic and gave me more insight into the cold war part of the city history.

I really wish i had more time here in Berlin as with everything here its just so much to see and do. There are 128 museums here in Berlin so I definately want to come back and see everything in the future. Berlin was so cheap compared to other cities so will definately be returning.

I got my German staple foods in during this portion of the trip being a Pretzel and some Weiner Schnitzel. Along with this I got a few Berlin traditional things such as Curry Wurst and also a Doner Kebab (which apparently comes from Berlin, but they serve them in Bread which is kind of wierd).

Today I fly out to London to bring my European portion of this trip to an end. This will be great to head into a portion of the journey where I have a familiar language but also getting to catch up with so many friends.

Current Location: Lufthansa Business Lounge, Berlin Tegel Airport

Paris Whirlwind Take 2

Well the 2nd take on Paris is now complete. What a crazy time it has been. Don’t get me wrong I loved the time I had there so much, but it is a city that is not without its flaws. In saying that if you want my version of the negatives just ask but I will instead tell you about the fun stuff.

On thursday after getting back from Bayeux, FMY had to head across town to run a few errands and she left me to my own devices to go shopping and explore the Champs Elysees, which I did, but didn’t buy anything. I then headed by foot to meet up where we had planned near Pritemps and Galleries Lafyette two big shopping stores near the Opera district. It was at Pritemps I came across the fanciest pay toilets I have ever seen. I mean seriously who would pay €1.50 just to use a bathroom. After a healthy lunch at Lafyette it was a stop at a post office to battle my way through try to get a non english speaking frenchman to understand the word tube and then back to the hotel before hoofing it over to hike up the eiffel tower.

I had expected a long arduous climb up the tower but really its a bargain. The line was heaps smaller, took me 8 minutes and wasnt as hard as expected so really I came out on top! Plus its free to walk down. With that done and a billion photos taken, FMY and I headed back to the hotel to get changed for dinner.

Yena’s friend Christobel was meeting us near the lourve and we were heading to the Les Halles district for a night of strange porcine goodies. We dined at Au Pied De Cochon which is famous for its pig parts it serves up, mainly the pigs trotter. However they do have the St Augustines platter which is what I had and it includes the Pigs Trotter, Ear, Snout, Tail and also the (insert). It was deliciosly fatty but it was way to overpowering. It was a serious amount of pork fat. Crazy++

We finished off with a visit to Haagen Daaz which I didn’t get to enjoy due to a rude family who let their children shove their way around and as usual a language barrier. O well excuse to have it again I guess. The last full day in Paris was again planned to be crazy busy. First up the lourve and the Mona Lisa. Essentially in and out as quick as possible. Managed a look before the crowds got in, smaller than I expected. Then it was cheap food day beginning with a breakfast of coffee and crossaint for €1.50 and lots more walking to see Notre Dame, Les Halles, Latin Quarter where we had a bargain lunch for €4 of a warm panini and drink. From there it was a stop at the post office before sillyness at the Arc de Triomphe and a metro ride out to La Defense for some shopping.

A final evening in Paris pretty similar to how it began. Good food, a roof top, good friends and a view of the eiffel tower. A final night time stroll down the Champs Elysees and we were golden. Paris may have been fast but it sure was awesome.

Current Location: Pullman Hotel Berlin
Countries: 6

Trip Report – Around the World on a Star – Paris to Berlin

After a late final night in Paris and a wake up at OMG Oclock for a work out to work off that fine french food, I was in a Cab on my way to Charles De Gualle Airport. I made sure I got their early as I knew it could be one of the most confusing airports in the world. Thankfully the taxi drive out (still not a mercedes taxi :( ) was pleasant and over quick and easy. 45 Euros later (pretty good price for it from what i can tell) I was dropped outside Terminal 1 at CDG ready to brave check in.

I found a sign which told me where to go in the airport but it was over quick and easy and quite painless as check in for all Lufthansa flights for Business/First was pretty much empty and soon enough I was boarding pass in hand and with a map from the info booth I was heading towards the gates I needed. I just kept following the signs to the right pier and then I was spat out right at Security.

The Pier Lufthansa use at CDG is quite small (the 60 gates) and once through security I headed straight for the lounge as it was dark out so no good for photos and I had plenty of stuff to do on the laptop as I have been without net for much of the last week, so plenty to plan for the coming week ahead.

The lounge was downstairs in what seems the basement of the Pier and with no windows was quite, how can i put this, clostrophobic. However in saying this it was well lit, nicely appointed and had just about everything you could need/want. I was not going to complain. The lounge had free wifi, free booze (albeit limited) and some free breakfast food if needed (i didnt ablige but it was pretty limited to a french style breakfast really). A few coffees and some wifi was all I needed.

After about an hour or more of work I headed out of the lounge to the gate area to explore the shops a little, work out where I was going along with doing a touch of spotting. Got a good range of Lufthansa aircraft (obviously) and a few other bits and pieces but nothing that exciting (still no retro jet). As the time approached and the gate found, I headed towards the desk as it seemed my seat was not really going to have good views for spotting on the taxi out. So I approached the desk and they moved my seat. Literally as they did this, boarding was called.

Lufthansa
LH3241
Paris Charles De Gualle to Berlin Tegel
0855-1030
Boeing – 737-500 (D-ABIX)
Business Class – Seat 3F
Boarding: 0831 (Gate 62)
Push Back: 0850
Take Off Roll: 0858 (Runway 27L)
Top of Descent: 0956
Touch Down: 1017 (Runway 26R)
Shut Down: 1020 (Gate: 10)

Once down the Air Bridge I was the 2nd person onboard the aircraft and noticed that this 735 was fitted with the new Slimline seats. Although typical Euro Business (ie economy seat just with middle blocked off) the seats were super thin, super hard and quite uncomfortable. Meh not worried, flights in Europe really aren’t that long. I settled into the seat and pretty soon at 0845 more than 10 minutes before scheduled departure the “Boarding Complete” announcement was made, doors shut quickly and off we were going! Gotta love German Efficiency. Obviously not a full flight and Business wasn’t very full at all, but it was ok.

A quick taxi out and no wait for the active departure Runway. We turned quickly, takeoff power set and we were heading for the sky. As we turned back around over Charles De Gualle Airport you can see just how big this airport actually is, but why they make it so hard and complicated I have no idea. Once Seatbelt sign was off, i headed for a quick pit stop (all the coffee and water does that to you) and once I was back at my seat, the breakfast try was already there.

With breakfast all laid out, it was a light, cold breakfast, pretty similar to the swiss flight on the way down but a touch more german (ie cold meats and cheese) and a little bit snacky kind of with cheesecake thingy. But really with coffee I wouldn’t care.

Tablet out to read, music on (since these aircraft don’t seem to be fitted with any form of IFE), coffee in hand and breakfast in front of me, I enjoyed the flight as it seemed to just waste away. What more can you ask for! I will tell you that the flight was super easy although I felt bad having to keep asking for more coffee. The service was decidedly cold and for some reason they just never seemed to be around. No pre departure beverage, no service really all to speak of unless I asked for it. meh!

Pretty soon we were at top of descent and a quick descent down to Berlin Tegel and a quick taxi to the gate. As we disembarked you don’t have to go far for the bags as they come out at the gate! 4th bag off the line (priority tags work yeah!) and i was off to pick up a Berlin Welcome Ticket and jump the bus to my hotel. The Pullman Berlin.