Thursday, 5 December 2013

Lost luggage at Heathrow

I have been doing this a long time, this travelling lark. I've been from one end of the planet to the other, across sea and desert, on foot, in the air and on sea, but I have never and I repeat never ever lost my suitcase.

That was until yesterday.

I was travelling back from a truly epic cruise experience on the Crystal Serenity, Casablanca to Heathrow, which by and large went without a hitch apart from Royal Air Maroc's rather curious cabin service, but that's another story.

So, reaching the baggage carousel in record time and spotting my case slowly circling the belt all alone was an unusual but nevertheless pleasant surprise. Only it wasn't my case, it was a Mr Mahoud's case, bearing a distinctly familiar look to mine. Same colour, same model. Only real difference was mine was a lot bigger.

So after spending a few minutes pondering in that state of mental hiatus where you don't quite understand what is going on, just gazing into nothingness for a while while your brain works out the logistics - no other bags are here just this one,  therefore someone (Mr Mahmoud presumably) has taken mine thinking it is his.

Then indignation kicks in, followed by a demand for a solution to this crisis.

The baggage staff at Heathrow who have obviously seen and heard all this before look at me with resigned pity and silently slide across a form for me to complete.

This is what it has come to. My belongings, my worldly possessions filed onto a single sheet of A4.

"Don't worry sir" a soothing voice in my ear "it will all work out OK."
Easy for you to say I mumble, what if Mr Mahoud likes my case better than his? What if his case was merely a prop designed for him to look like a normal traveller when instead he is a man who spends his life collecting luggage from all over the world. That's it! I have unknowingly uncovered a world wide scam to steal goods and sell them on the black market. I must be the victim of a gang of global sky thieves.

I go home armed with my reference number.

I call the help line later that night for an update. Nothing. I am resigned to my fate, my goods and possessions must by now be somewhere far far away, portioned out and fed to the highest bidder.

Morning comes and the despair is hanging over me like a storm cloud. Another call brings no further news. lets be honest here, if Mr Mahmoud was on the straight and narrow he would have realised by now? How would he clean his teeth or shave or do anything else without his real case.

And then a call from Raymond. Raymond is the man in the baggage hall. My go to man for all things bag related. " I have your case here now sir." he chirps to me, " Mr Mahoud sent his driver back with it and we will deliver it to you this evening. As soon as possible."

My relief is audible. Raymond has my lifelong love and respect. Of course my compensation plans are all in tatters now, as is my theory of global sky robbers.Still, an apology from Mr Mahoud would have been nice. The decent thing to do.

Still at least i didn't have to lug my case home eh?

Monday, 18 November 2013

UK Immigration fast tracking? Another rip off for travellers.

It seems the Home Office is about to approve a paid for fast track service at UK airport immigration points and for what it's worth this kind of nonsense makes me shudder. What are they thinking of. As if we are not already subjected to ridiculous amounts of red tape at airports, now we are faced with the added insult of smug looks on the faces of people who can breeze through immigration lines just because they can afford to do so.
I have long campaigned about all the unnecessary hoops we all have to jump through at airports, from the long lines at security to the morbidly morose faces we meet at passport control. Now, don't think for one second I am expecting our security measures to be relaxed, unfortunately we live in an age when we are all potential terrorist targets so we deal with this inconvenience as part of the airport experience.
My beef is the way certain airports try to make money out of this inconvenience, and the way we get treated by security staff.
Luton Airport is a prime example. Not only does the airport charge you to simply come in and drop someone off, it positively advertises a 'security fast track lane' where you can 'beat the queues' if you fancy stumping up a fee, unless of course you are travelling in any class above economy. This is just plain greed in my opinion.
For a start, we didn't bring in security lines, the airport did, and what happens when the so called 'fast track lane' is empty? Do the staff in this lane offer to take traffic from other overflowing lanes or do they just stand around talking about the latest episode of I'm a celebrity or TOWIE?
Then there is the inconsistency. Do I remove my shoes and belt or not. Take all coins out or not. Some say yes, others say no.
Passport control is the same problem. If you are unlucky to arrive at the same time as a number of other flights then you can bet on a long line. To have to pay for the benefit of making this inconvenience shorter is simply scandalous. After all, scrapping the IRIS system of retina scans which cost million to implement was a complete waste of money, the new e-passport system is slower than Ryan Air check in, and the staff  we see here, people who let's face it are the first face a visitor to this country sees, are often miserable and aggressive.
 Instead of creating a revenue stream through by-passing  a decrepit system imposed on us in the first place, airports need to focus on improving their existing staff and processes so we can all benefit and not just the smug passengers who can afford it.
Airports have to learn, at the end of the day it their passengers who are more important than anything else.
End of rant..

Monday, 7 October 2013

A lunch that was really out of this world!

Captain Jim and me. Two veterans from different worlds!

I had lunch last week with an astronaut.
Not just any old astronaut you understand, but one Jim Reilly no less, a veteran of four Atlantis Shuttle missions. We met in the unimposing restaurant facility at Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, during a recent visit there to unveil the brand new Atlantis attraction.
Jim was, I have to say, the complete opposite of what I expected, a somewhat self deprecating man who insisted he got into the Space business by accident. I am sure he has had his fill of nosey civilians who want to know all the ins and outs of life in space, mostly to do with toilet habits I might add. I on the other hand was like a breath of fresh air, testing him with questions on more simple things like God and religion; did he feel closer to the big guy up there, or did it give him more of an insight into how creation really happened etc.
He deftly dodged all the  tricky stuff and gave me answers that would avoid any politically incorrect incidents. Jim was, the perfect politician.
Having said all that, the Atlantis attraction was jaw droppingly good, and features at its climax the actual shuttle itself close up and personal. There was I have to admit, a tear in my eye.
Thanks Jim for a lovely lunch and a little insight into living in Space.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Supercar hell

I parked a rented Fiat Punto in the outdoor parking lot of a luxury hotel last week in Italy. It was empty, so naturally I parked as close to the ramp of the hotel entrance as I could. The next morning, I came out to drive to a meeting and found it surrounded by hundreds of supercars parked at all kinds of angles, as if they had been driven in at speed and left exactly as they had braked.
Imagine the sight. I am picking my way delicately through a maze of Ferrari's, Lamborghini's, Maserati's and Porsche's coming up against dead ends and reversing back and forth desperately attempting to solve the parking maze. It seems it was a weekend away for a Czech supercar club who had spent the day driving to Italy.My Punto was, fortunately small enough to squeeze through the tiny gaps left by the owners of these supercars, who thought perhaps that surrounding my little car was an amusing diversion to their day.
I on the other hand was terrified of incurring an eye watering repair bill.
That said, I eventually found the exit to my supercar maze some 20 minutes later.
I was not impressed.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Sunglasses. Hip ways to not to wear them.

Why is it some people feel compelled to follow stupid fashion trends thinking they are super cool. Is it for their own fragile ego or simply to try to impress the rest of us, the clearly uncool, decidedly warm even.  I have long ranted about stupid women wearing 6 inch or higher heels to go shopping; tottering around desperate to avoid breaking an ankle, and, clearly in agony, stubbornly continuing to walk around shopping malls.  However, this new preoccupation to wear sunglasses in ridiculous places on your head has taken top spot in my current trend of hate column.  Anyone who honestly thinks tucking their sunglasses under their chin whilst hanging from their ears needs some serious therapy. Listen up. You do not look cool, you look like a total idiot. For a start, they get in the way of eating and talking, you drip stuff down on them and they fall off given the slightest prompt.
The same goes for hanging them off the back of your head as far as I am concerned.
For me, having them perched on top of your forehead is adequately cool enough.

Monday, 29 July 2013

The Fab Four are still giants in Houston Texas.

Tucked away at the back of an outside lot in Houston Texas lie four remarkable giant statues of Paul, John, George and Ringo. Created by Texan sculptor David Adickes for a show that never happened, they now stand discarded in his now abandoned studio lot. Adickes has moved premises now but his giant fab four pieces in company with a few other notable huge heads, remain as spooky silent sentinels seemingly waiting for a new home.

The Fab Four (c) Andy Mossack

Friday, 12 July 2013

Manhattan Comes To Frankfurt

I was in Frankfurt last week to watch the annual Rhine in Flames festival. Some 50,000 spectators and a flotilla of 50 odd ships collected together to watch a fireworks spectacle lasting nearly 2 hours.
All wonderful stuff; the many castles lining the river lit up red with Bengal Fires adding to the atmosphere.
Anyway, whilst on a downtown Frankfurt walkabout before all the main festivities, I made a point of going to Neue Mainzer Strasse to see if it really does look like New York. This street is often used in European films to depict a Manhattan scene when the budget doesn't quite stretch to shooting in the real place.
Standing there, it really does look the part. High rises on each side of the street and plenty of traffic too. it also happens to be where the famed Helaba tower resides, the tallest building in Frankfurt offering some stunning 360 views of the city from the rooftop.

Touchscreen Windows in Trains Becomes a Reality

It was with some interest I read the other day about plans for touchscreen windows on the new High Speed 2 trains which will be travelling at speeds of around 225 mph. The windows and doors will have 'smart glass' in them so we'll have the opportunity to bring up information on our journey; current destination timings for example or more interestingly, details on the numerous landmarks as they flash by.
Perhaps there might even be some kind of food or drinks menu not dissimilar to the in-seat service you can order via your TV on Air New Zealand flights.
Either way, the technology is in place now for us to use smart glass touch screens to make our journey's more interesting.
The thing that bothers me, as someone who leans towards OCD tendencies, is having to swipe my fingers over glass a thousand other people have used. I can almost see me having a box of wet ones next to me whilst reading a magazine on the window next to me.
HS2 has come in for all kinds of flak but frankly anything that reduces journey times these days must be taken seriously.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

The Battle of Waterloo. Again!

I went to the re-enactment the The Battle of Waterloo last week. It takes place in June every year on the historical battlefield just a few kilometers from Brussels in the Belgian province of Wallonia and has a cast of over 600 actors watched by thousands.
Napoleon before it all went wrong (c) Andy Mossack
Much of this historical landmark has been preserved exactly as it was after the battle in June 1815. Napoleon and Wellington's headquarters and the battlefield itself (although the giant Lion's Mount erected a few years after by the Dutch King William to mark the spot where his son the Prince of Orange was wounded in the battle used some of the earth from it - significantly altering the sunken ridge which was Wellington's master stroke).
Me and my buddy the Napster. (c) Andy Mossack
I had the honour of a personal audience with Napoleon on the eve of the "battle" joining him with his elite battalion bivouacked at his HQ. Joesphine was there, with her maidens all looking suitably splendid, sipping tea from elegantly crafted teapots, and his generals were milling around him their boots shined and swords sharpened.
A squad of Wellington's finest (c) Andy Mossack
It was towards this somewhat fearsome gathering that I, a lonesome Englishman, approached and, after being ushered into Napoleon's tent, at the very heart of the enemy lines stood in front of the Emperor and asked him in flawless French "Do you speak English?"  Perhaps not my finest journalistic moment.
He looked at me as though he had just trodden in something soft and smelly, curled his lip in total disdain, spat out "Merde" and turned on his heel and marched out.

Not the best opening to an interview. Perhaps I should have wished him luck first.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Belgians bid to break golf world record

Golf fanatics Alexander Hautekiet and Kasper De Wulf plan to beat their own world record by playing and completing  9 golf courses in 9 countries in 24 hours on the 24th June! Ambitious? Most certainly. Insane? More than likely! I am pretty tired after walking one round let alone nine.
This is all the more audacious because they have to walk each course and hole every putt, but the good news is they have the use of a helicopter to ferry them to their next destination.
Their previous record was accomplished playing 8 courses in 8 countries so I suppose they know what to expect having done it before, but even so it's not something your average golfer could attempt.
The timetable kicks off in Tarviso, Italy  at 2.30am, Slovenia, 4.35am, Austria 6.50am, Czech Republic 10am, Germany 12.50, France 15.40, Luxembourg 18.15, The Netherlands 22.00 and finally Damme Golf Club in Belgium at midnight.
All I can say is good luck and good health!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Geoguessr makes my where in the world a doddle!

As someone all too familiar with the concept of "where in the world am I" it makes my heart glad to see a new online game which complements me perfectly. Geoguessr uses Google Earth to plonk you somewhere in the world using street view, and you have to guess where you are using as few moves as possible.
It's very addictive, trust me. Created by Swedish IT Consultant Anton Wallen simply as a way of using Google's street view as a bit of fun, it throws up all kinds of learning opportunities for teachers to use or just to expand your knowledge of our world.

The Epic Sana Algarve - New 5 Star Hotel Opening Defies Portugal Crisis

I've been in the Algarve this week checking out a just-opened 5 star hotel - The Epic Sana. This latest opening brings Sana Hotels' portfolio up to 15, with no less than three luxury hotels launched in the last 6 months- two in Lisbon and this one in the Algarve. An impressive statistic by any stretch of the imagination, but this is a Portuguese company we're talking about here, operating in a country gripped in economic free fall, with seemingly no end in sight.
In the midst of all this doom and gloom, it is amazing to see how ambition and single minded determination can achieve something practically no other company even dare attempt here. Some might call it foolhardy, but spending time here, seeing first hand how serious they are at creating contemporary high end hospitality, it made me think how it just might be possible for Portugal to drag itself out of this mess. The Algarve is blessed with wonderful weather, fine cuisine, and some incredible scenery. All the ingredients for the perfect holiday. What it needs now is to re-establish itself as one of Europe's finest destinations, by showing us what it is capable of. After all, if Sana can achieve success then why not other Portuguese entrepreneurs?

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Remote controlled passenger planes are here. Would you fly in one?

It seems the age of the pilotless' plane is upon us with the news that the first remotely controlled passenger jet flew over London last month. The test flight was part of the £62M industry and Government funded  Astraea project (Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation and Assessment Programme). This was a Jetstream plane specially kitted out with cameras, sensors and additional computer banks which enabled a team of controllers many miles away on the ground to control the aircraft in flight - although there was a crew on board in case of emergency.
On learning about this development, I had more than a few thoughts about it. Now, I know remote controlled drones have been a part of military hardware for years, but even so, the thought of me trapped in a metal tube thousand of feet in the air with my life in the hands of some controller somewhere is not at all comforting.
It's like that joke about the pilot telling everyone over the intercom to look left at the engine on fire and then look down at the raft where he is speaking from.
Mind you, these days aircraft fly on autopilot anyway but we still have the comfort of a warm body in front who does occasionally speak to us in calm reassuring tones.
Not quite the same as someone in a control tower somewhere letting us now our progress whilst doing a crossword now is it?
I suppose the next development after that will be flights devoid of flight attendants too, something for Michael O'Leary at Ryan Air to ponder on no doubt!

Monday, 13 May 2013

Welcome to the upgrade auction!

I recently travelled to Los Angeles on Air New Zealand and had my first taste of their new upgrade auction system. As I was confirming my seat online, I was invited to enter an auction for an upgrade by entering an amount I was prepared to pay. Actually, let me clarify that: Air New Zealand clearly pointed out no money would be taken, unless my bid was accepted.So, faced with pleasant prospect of perhaps crossing the Atlantic in the lap of luxury, I threw in a figure just for the hell of it. Of course, my generous offer was ultimately politely declined but it was an interesting experience, and begs the question:is the end of the road for free upgrades?
This ingenious auction system, which incidentally has been embraced by a number of major carriers including Etihad and Virgin,is down to PlusGrade, a US based software company which manages each auction via web pages branded with airline livery.
The plus side for airlines is they get additional money for otherwise potentially empty seats, and PlusGrade only get rewarded through money generated by the auction. So, a win win then. But is it also a  win for passengers?
I suspect that in no time there will be web postings detailing the amounts people have paid for their winning upgrades and that of course will lead to resentment in other quarters from passengers who missed out.
It can only end in tears I suspect.
What do you think?  What would you pay?

Monday, 29 April 2013

No free wi-fi? Stay somewhere else!

Having to pay for wi-fi  at your hotel may finally be a thing of the past as many hoteliers come to realise they are losing customers because of it. In a recent poll by where more than 8,600 hotel guests across 26 countries were surveyed, over 66% of them said free w-fi is the one thing they want to become standard this year. In fact, 34% said they would only pick hotels that offered free wi  in the first place. To put this in a better perspective, just 11% said they would be happy to pay for it, that's a whopping 89% who won't. I was in Italy last week and most of the hotels there now offer it free, and even more surprisingly, I was offered free surfing at The Luxor in Las Vegas earlier this year. Beware though, there are still many who may seem to offer "free wi-fi" but in reality cloak it with conditions:  the first 30 minutes free a cheap trick offered by Premier Inns, as a perk for gold standard loyalty card holders, or down in the lobby area where we all huddle around the reception couches just grateful for such a generous opportunity from the management.
I remember a GM once telling me they justified wifi fees because it was provided by a third party network who offered 24 hour support, a service the hotel could not provide. This is, in my view, a load of hogwash. Hotels see it as a revenue stream the same as a mini bar, and the classier the property, the more expensive the charges get. I kid you not when I tell you I have seen a 24 hour internet charge from one luxury hotel of £25. What they should be doing, is treating it as a cost, the same as soap, shampoo or laundry. And the truth of the matter is, once they see guests leaving them in droves for the lure of free on line access from a competitor, they will change their tune. So next time you are facing an internet charge, vote with your feet and go stay somewhere else.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

007 Plays Golf Again at Stoke Park

The iconic contest between Sean Connery's James Bond and Goldfinger at Stoke Park Golf Club in Buckinghamshire is one of those classic cinema moments that have become legend. Who can forget the gamesmanship or Oddjob's hat beheading a statue! Almost 50 years on, Stoke Park is partnering with EON Productions to host the inaugural James Bond Golf Day on 28th June 2013, with profits donated to Spinal Research. With Aston Martin, Virgin Atlantic and Champagne Bollinger sponsoring the event, the 25 teams will be Bond for a day with a typical black tie dinner finishing things off in the appropriate 007 style.

Stuart Collier, Director of Golf at Stoke Park:  ‘Next year will be 50 years since Goldfinger was released in the cinemas, and at Stoke Park, we are very proud of our Bond heritage. We have had two Bond films shot here and in 1997 scenes from Tomorrow Never Dies were also filmed in our Ballroom. The idea behind the golf day was to celebrate that heritage, and to create something truly unique and authentic.’

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Titanic 2: Thousands sign up for maiden voyage.

It seems on the surface, Clive Palmer's audacious project to build a replica Titanic has been embraced with open arms by an adoring public who yearn to see her sail once again. Reportedly some 40,000 people have signed up for her maiden voyage in 2016. However, many of those attending the flurry of presentations he has conducted around the world seem rather more dubious. Is this a genius idea, or simply a foolhardy project doomed to failure from a man with clearly too much money to burn. Palmer, a mining mogul and one of the richest men in Australia, sees the rebirth of the Titanic (an almost exact replica with a few modern additions, particularly in the health and safety category)  as a way of creating the ultimate romantic cruise; a piece of history yet to be written. Titanic finally sailing in to the port it was destined to. Others see it as a floating Edwardian theme park and quite possibly a cruise in the worst possible taste. Cunard who currently have the only Southampton to New York route, are naturally dismissive, primarily because they see it as "morally wrong", but I see their response as simply a way of dealing with a potential threat. There is no denying it is a fantastic  brand, after all, with one cruise ship looking just like any another on the high seas these days, you won't have much difficulty spotting Titanic. 

Titanic 2 is currently being built in China at a state owned ship yard that has never before built a passenger liner. That said, the new ship will have the best of both worlds; the exact style and luxury of the original, with the modern technology of today's super cruisers. The maiden voyage will leave Shanghai for Southampton under escort from the Chinese navy and continue on to New York. The British navy has been invited to escort it across, whilst the US Navy will bring it back on its return journey.

With some passengers rumoured to be offering up to £1M for a first class ticket, this will either be a project of visionary genius, or disaster waiting to happen again.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Tablet and E Reader take off and landing rules to be abolished?

In a recent study commissioned by the FAA (The Federal Aviation Administration) the thorny issue of passenger electronics was investigated. We've all had experience of having to switch off our e-readers, tablets and phones before take off and landing, even though many have flight mode enabled (the sole reason for having it there in the first place) and wi-fi and Bluetooth switched off too.

It seems the results indicate tablets and e-readers show no obvious interference with aircraft systems, and the FAA is seriously looking at allowing these devices to be used, by the end of 2013. Phones however, are still considered  to be a threat.

This does seem perfectly logical, after all pilots use iPads themselves in the cockpit, so it makes sense we should be allowed to carry on reading or playing games during take off and landing.
But this does beg the question about portable phones anyway. I know there has been the odd time when I have mistakenly left my phone switched on in my jacket stowed in the bin above and survived to tell the tale. I've also seen many passengers simply ignore the rules and leave them on anyway.
I'm sure if we were told that doing this would lead to our demise, no one would attempt to argue with impending doom, but there is simply no stringency in this area, with many flight attendants just giving a cursory check as they walk down the aisles.

There must be firm guidelines and this study is a welcome move in the right direction.

Let's just hope the rest of the world follows the FAA's example.

Air New Zealand, the World's best airline?

I recently flew to Los Angeles with Air New Zealand and tried out their Premium Economy Spaceseat and Economy Skycouch services. For me, this airline has long led the way in passenger facilities and service, but its new aircraft fleet  of Boeing 777-300's is another level entirely.
The funky music playing in the toilets and the in seat ordering and texting was a first indicator that this flight may be a little different. After all, the simple act of ordering a hot drink and a snack from the comfort of my seat  gets a thumbs up from me for a start. The full menu was available for me to look at too, along with a host of other interesting flight tit bits to browse  if the mood takes.
The Premium Economy Spaceseat however was a triumph. Equal to many other business class seats, this was a revelation. A wide pod like seat with a full size comfy pillow and a bean bag to rest my feet on, it's an area designed for you to literally use as a temporary home. Snuggle up with both feet on the seat (there is enough space) or stretch out and use the bean bag to support your ankles.The seats along the centre of the cabin are designed with couples in mind, sharing the combined space for even more comfort, facing each other for a meal or lying together. True cuddleclass!

The Spaceseats seats don't recline, they don't need to, so no infringing of personal space from the person in front of you. The meals were very impressive: proper plates and cutlery, a great choice and good New Zealand wine to back it up. There's even the same choice of power as business class,  USB and world compatible sockets so no danger of batteries running dry.

Skycouch is simply a genius idea. Whether you're a couple looking for some extra space or you have restless kids this solution provides you with your own row of three economy seats. But this is where the clever bit comes in. The arm rests fold up and the foot rests come up level with your seat to create what is effectively a flat bed space. You get two full size pillows each and special belts to keep you secure while you're sleeping.
Air New Zealand has set the benchmark for comfort for all classes, not just for those passengers who turn left when they board. The Premium Economy fare can be double that of economy, but well worth the money in my book and considerably less than business class. Skycouch at around $200 extra per person is an absolute must for anyone flying economy. Is Air New Zealand the best airline in the world? It certainly is right up there.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Air Cruising is the new way to travel!

Do you like the idea of flying in a private plane? No airport security lines, no long winded check in and you can drive right up to your plane! Just got back from trying out Mauiva Air's Air Cruise service which gives you exactly that and more.
Not only do you get the use of a private plane but you also have all your hotel accommodation , breakfast and dinner and guided tours included too.
Currently, Mauiva has three tours available: The Western Wonder which takes you around the
USA west coast including LA, San Francisco, The Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Las Vegas, The Eastern Experience taking in New York, Toronto, Washington and Niagara, and a sun and fun  adventure across  the Caribbean Islands.
I had a great trip! The tour bus drove right on to the air strip next to the plane,  the bags were transferred while I boarded  and the hotels were all four star standard.

If you want to grab a slice of the celebrity life, check out Mauiva Air Cruising.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Climbing Sydney Harbour Bridge

Another box ticked on my bucket list, or anyone's bucket list for that matter. Climbing Sydney Harbour Bridge is a must do experience if you ever travel to Sydney and want to see probably the best view of this stunning harbour as you could ever get.
This is a three and a half hour adventure where time simply whizzes by. I can honestly say there wasn't one moment when I felt in the least bit concerned for my safety, although the onesey you have to wear may not be too flattering.
The climb can be done during the day, or at night when a whole new dimension takes shape.
You don't need any climbing experience, it's not physically demanding and you are attached at all times to the bridge structure.
Take it from me, this will be one of the biggest thrills you'll ever get.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Flying with Cathay Pacific today

Taking a flight with Cathay Pacific for the first time today. Voted best business airline last year, Cathay Pacific has been quietly rising up the ranks of the major carriers which comes as no surprise to many people in the airline industry.
The London to Australia route is one of the busiest in air travel and competition for passengers is fierce. Cathay's impressive Hong Kong base gives it something of a advantage over say Emirates who have to fly via Dubai.
Does the cathay service live up to the billing. We'll find out soon enough!

Sunday, 6 January 2013

New Year's Eve in Istanbul

With over 120 years of history behind it, the Tarihi Cumhuriyet Meyhanesi , Istanbul's oldest tavern has celebrated quite a few New Year's Eve's in its time, nevertheless, the live Ottoman music, the great food and the non stop raki and wine ensured a night to remember for me.

Tucked away in a tiny street off ─░stiklal Avenue Istanbul's famous pedestrian thoroughfare in the Pera district, Cumhuriyet offers everything you would expect from an historic Raki Tavern, and by the number of locals packing out the place, it was clear to me i was in for an authemtic Turkish experience.

A hot and cold meze was followed by a choice of meat or fish for a main course with copious amounts of raki and wine inbetween. All this for 120 TL.

It was quite something to be in the middle of a throng of people all singing along with the band who were knocking out seemingly popular Turksh numbers, each one as incomprehensible as the one before. This was clearly a band who knew exactly what their audience wanted, weaving between the tables in a collective celebration of life together on the banks of the Bospherous.

At 2am we bid a sad farewell to our hosts and joined the rest of humanity strolling along Istiklal Avenue towards Taksim Square.