Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Trip Report 9, Part 2 LH HKG-FRA-BHX

I managed the first part of the morning pretty well for someone with four hours sleep. Shower, breakfast, extra coffee, finish packing and out to a taxi to HKG.

On arrival, it took me a little while to find the Lufthansa Check-In but I soon had boarding pases and my bag was on the way to BHX, festooned with various tags including another HOT tag (this time for a 2:40 transit!). I then made my way through exit immigration and security, there was no priority line for either which I found a bit odd (or I didn't spot one if there was).

I then perused my way up through various duty free shops and via several smoking rooms of varying quality to the United Airlines International First Class Lounge - which is a designated Star F lounge. What a dismal dump.

I was the only person in there, but there were still plenty of traces of former occupants, cups, saucers, spillages etc. The furniture looking like it needed a good clean and the air-conditioning was set to sweaty. Having perused the selection of cheap spirits and two-buck-chuck wines, I settled for a quick Perrier and then went back to mentally pricing up cameras. To be fair, there seemed to be a reasonable food selection. I dread to think what the Faded Carpet Club proper was like. I was going to try and glom into the Thai lounge, but I found myself lost in shiny electronic toy world for too long.

Our steed today for the trip back to Frankfurt was the mighty Potsdam, a 747-400, sadly not refitted with the New First Class. Boarding was nice and fast and I swiftly settled into 84K on the upper deck. The crew for First consisted of two ladies assisted by the purser, who all introduced themselves, offered drinks (Ginger Ale for me) and handed out various amenities including the piss-poor amenity kit, a rather nice jumper and some magazines etc.

We were off on time and spent about 20 minutes having a bit of turbulence whilst climbing through the murky clouds which had infested the Hong Kong area throughout the trip. After that, we had post-take off drinks and the distribution of the menu with an amuse,

The amuse was a asparagus frittata, quite pleasant. I didn't get my first choice of main, which would have been the salmon, but I honestly wasn't that bothered, I would have happily tackled all four. From what I know of LH's catering that means 4 out of the other 5 pax ordered salmon.

The HorsWagen turned up - I had the caviar and Courgette/Parma Ham/Parmesan

Some people dislike LH's farmed caviar, I would agree that is isn't as nice as SQ's, but it was more than acceptable. The other plate was some quite delicious ham, nice parmesan and slices of courgette - light and pleasant. I skipped the salad course, nuts lurked within it.

For mains I had Agnolotti with Porcini Mushrooms and Thyme Cream Sauce with braised leek and more courgettes. The Agnolotti were delicious. but I was feeling a little over courgetted by then.

I failed to take a photo of the cheese course, there was  Edam (OK), Double Gloucester (a bit meh), Brie (good), Goat (very good) and Danish Blue (avoided). I then went onto the Ricotta Cheesecake with Berry Compote and a glass of the offered dessert wine which was a Auslese and quite nice - but not as nice as the Yquem I'd had back in Birmingham just before leaving.

I avoided the pralines, they did look very nice and settled down to a few hours of fizzy water and doing some writing on the MacBook. I was mildly chastised for working so hard, and explained that it wasn't echt work, but some creative writing - I was writing another couple of chapters of an alternate history (entitled Where you still up for Balls) and catching up on the last episode of series 4 of Dexter on my much larger screen on the MacBook.

Drinks were constantly offered and a tray of cakes, rolls and fruits was wheeled out at about half way as I watched various places ending in -Stan through the window. I took a nice selection of tropical fruit (dragonfruit, melon, papaya, pineapple) and some coffee.

About two hours before landing, there was another meal. This was slightly larger than expected and stopped my plans dead from taste testing the FRA F-lounges renowned Schnitzel Wiener Art. To start with there was an HorsWagen containing, Bayerisch Wurstsalat, Obzatda and something oriental. I took a small plate of the Wurstsalat, although a larger plate was offered with more if it was wanted.

The Warm plate was a choice between a Dim Sum basket and a traditional Biergarten snack. I foolishly chose the latter and waved bye-bye to the schnitzel.

It was quite large, three Nürnberger Röstbratwurst, a piece of smoked pork loin, mash, sauerkraut and gravy, nice gravy. Nom, Nom, Nom.

I didn't really have room, but it would have been rude not to have a tiny bit of Strudel with Vanilla Sauce followed by another cup of coffee.

By this time we were somewhere just to the north of Prag and so, I packed everything up and prepared for landing. It had been a nice, but somewhat lengthy flight and I thanked the crew on leaving. I must say this was a great crew, all three were helpful, drinks were constantly topped up, nothing was too much trouble and they had time to chat etc, especially during the last couple of hours, when every one was awake feeling at bit "have we got there yet"ish. They stood out sufficiently from the fairly high standard Lufthansa set that I sent a compliment through to Lufthansa.

We arrived at B28, which is right next to the First Class Lounge, but this is Frankfurt, there was a considerable walk on a high floor, which I think was round in a circle to get to the B-B transfer security - which was slow, bored and lousy. But a couple of minutes later I was welcomed into the B First Class Lounge, I headed straight for the Cigar Room, which was even more impressive than the München one and consumed two cigs with a nice cold Coke Zero.

At that point I went in search of the showers, they weren't busy and they were really rather good. Having washed and changed, I had a little prowl around, the buffet looked delicous with all the jambon Iberico and salads and Zander with fava beans and decent wines with real stemware, but I couldn't manage a single mouthful. Not even a pretzel passed my lips, not even a gummibear could have been managed.

However, I did save my alcohol ration for something from the Wall of Whisky.

Which turned out to be some of the 18 year old cast strength The Macallan, they have lurking there. A very large shot of it, far more than I should have had. They did have an nice selection of Schnapps and offered to make a number of cocktails - perhaps I should have had a WooWoo.

After that, I spent a quiet hour drinking black coffee, coke zero and having the odd cancer stick before going to get my connection. Now, the great thing about this is that the bmi A320's (who are the wet lease for LH on 3 out of 4 BHX-FRA's) end up out on remote stands, which means you get a car from the First Class Lounge to the aircraft. However, this is not just a car, but Mercedes S-Class. Very nice (and the driver was rather delectable as well) which makes for a very nice ride out to the remote stands.

There were downsides, all the other passengers were on board, so you get the full "evils" treatment as the sole pax to board last. But we were ahead of time and bounced out onto the runway at precisely the right time. The flight itself was pretty fast, we left on time and arrived 12 minutes early. I could have had a hot meal but I just took a diet Pepsi as I couldn't have eaten another thing. The crew seemed nice enough and we helping always offering drinks etc.  Note to LH, I know you are going to sell BD, but can we keep them on BHX-FRA please, the 320's are much nicer than those 735's you used to inflict on us.

The final bit to mention is that incredibly, I was home within 30 minutes of the wheels touching down. Now it's true that  I've moved a bit closer to BHX, but given their track record on arrivals so far this year, it was straight to immigration (no queue), 5 mins wait for the bags to come off and my bag was first, off to the ATM, taxi queue and a driver who knew the shortcut through Sheldon and Olton. I was greeted by an ungrateful feline demanding food and was in bed by 11:45pm, about 23:30 mins after waking up.

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