Gourmet dining at 30,000 feet

I found trip reports to be incredible useful when planning a trip especially on deciding which airline to fly and finding out what to expect once on board.   So I thought to try my hand at writing one and hope that it will be useful to some other traveler.  I was able to snag a first class ticket to Tokyo on ANA and another first class ticket from Tokyo to Singapore on United using miles.  Overall, a wonderful way to travel half way round the world.

A typical trip report would start with the airport lounge experience.  I got to use the Lufthansa Senator Lounge at Dulles.  I found it small and dull.  The only thing I was looking forward to was the supposedly delicious Bavarian pretzels but I couldn’t find any which is just as well because eating one would have a challenged my ability to give the ANA offerings due justice.

I was excited to fly ANA because of its reputation for excellent food and over the top service.  I was not disappointed.  Upon arriving at the aircraft gate, I was immediately greeting by name and escorted to my seat where upon I proceeded to get a several gifts presented by more flight attendants “eager” to serve me during the flight.  After checking out the amenity kit in a miniature Rimowa case, I changed into the pyjama top. I had not planned to change prior to takeoff but the flight attendant kept on asking if she could escort me to the bathroom to do so, so I caved.  They were so nice and sweet, it was hard not to do what they ask – that’s probably the source of their power.

Soon after takeoff, the meal service began.  Now I had a glass of Kruger champagne prior to take off and it was so delicious I asked for another one when the service began.  It was served with a selection of hors d’oeuvres.

Champagne with snacks
Champagne with snacks

I ate the prosciutto with melon before I remembered to take a picture – I think this will be a common theme on this blog. Everything was delicious – cheese bread sticks, the aforementioned prosciutto, the goat cheese tart, and the lightly seared rare tuna. All washed down with yummy Krug – and I generally don’t like champagne!

 

 

What followed was a two-hour leisurely lunch:

Caviar with the fixings.  The bellinis were particularly good.
Caviar with the fixings. The bellinis were particularly good.

 

Octopus, shrimp, salmon roe
Octopus, shrimp, salmon roe
Sashimi
Sashimi

 

 

 

 

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Duck, steamed cod in cabbage, rice, miso soup, pickled vegetable

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Followed by dessert…

Tea with petit fours. Notice one of the fours mysteriously disappearing before I could snap the photo.
Tea with petit fours. Notice one of the fours mysteriously disappearing before I could snap the photo.

 

 

 

and more dessert …

 

 

 

 

Chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice cream.
Chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice cream.

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Now it’s nap time. ANA offers a turn down service that transforms your seat to a comfortable bed.  Lie flat seats on airplanes are a great invention but the cushions can get hard and the seams between the parts of the seats create bumps. ANA solves those issues by putting a thick foam layer on top of the seat.  Voila!

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Mt. McKinley. Can't tell which peak but it's the tallest one : )
Mt. McKinley. Can’t tell which peak but it’s the tallest one : )

 

After I woke up, the flight attendant excitedly told me that we were flying over Mt. McKinley.  Her enthusiasm was so infectious that I had to take a picture.

 

I could go on and on about how great it was to fly ANA but this post is getting to long as it is.  To sum, I’m saving up miles to fly ANA again

Functionality

My friend, RC, and I are about to take a 2 1/2 week trip to Asia with the bulk of it on a cruise.  With the United miles great devaluation looming, we decided to cash in our miles to fly first class on Asian airlines which are renown for their service and “suites” in the air.  This prompted other friends to request that I blog about the experience, especially since I am not likely to experience it again any time soon.  So for the next few weeks, this blog will be part trip report, part culinary adventures (or just overindulgence), and sights of Southeast Asia.  RC also agreed to guest blog so we will enjoy the perspective (and good writing) of a published author.

To preview the trip, I looked back at my last trip to Asia.  My first stop was in Tokyo where I did a whirlwind 24 hour tour of the city.  I will again lay over in Tokyo but will not have enough time to visit the city.  The one thing I still appreciate from my last trip is how well the Japanese think about functionality.  Although I do not speak Japanese I managed to get to, from, and around Tokyo, seeing lots of sights, because everything made sense, was logically laid out, and anticipated needs that you did not know you had.  Take for example my ramen noodle experience.  At the time, I was on a ramen noodle kick and wandered around the Ginza area to find some hole in the wall place that served good, home-made ramen.  I found it between two office buildings run by a couple.  Again, without speaking a word of Japanese, I was able to order exactly what I wanted from a menu on a vending machine.  I sat at a narrow bar waiting for my bowl of noodles to come and saw that they anticipated customers with long hair may need some help in eating the noodles the way it should be done – hunched over the bowl and slurping at the soup.

Notice the yellow hair tie.  The little things that help you enjoy your meal!
Notice the yellow hair tie. The little things that help you enjoy your meal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am so looking forward to my flight on ANA – more ramen noodle!

Baseball at Tokyo Dome
Baseball at Tokyo Dome

I  also managed to sneak in a baseball game .  Standing room only The carnival-like atmosphere reminded me of a football (soccer) game in England, just not with the violence. If there were cursing it went over my head.

3 Islands, 28 Hours, and Unexpected Miami Bonus

I’ve been lazy in posting to this blog and my brother’s blog of his cross country car trip inspired me to continue with mine.  So here we go…

I let my friend, MM, convince me to take a quick weekend trip to the Caribbean.  Ok, I admit it – did not take much arm twisting.  The ambitious plan was fly to St. Maarten on Friday morning, take a ferry to Anguilla on Friday afternoon and return to St. Maarten in the early evening.  Go to St. Barths for the day on Saturday and then return to St. Maarten in the evening.  Spend Sunday morning in St. Maarten before heading home on Sunday afternoon.  The trip did not go as planned- the pace was even more frenetic.

Years ago, I took a bus from Oxford to London.  A few minutes after the bus pulled out of Oxford I needed to pee.  The bus did not have a functioning bathroom but I thought I could hold it since it was 1.5 hours away. Then we hit rush hour traffic and the trip turned into a 3.5 hour ordeal.  That trip traumatized me so much that I avoided intercity buses since then.  But, in the spirit of adventure, I overcame this trauma to take an intercity bus to NYC to take a flight from JFK to St. Maarten.  While I survived, I don’t think I’ll repeat the experience anytime soon.

After a routine flight to St. Maarten, we checked into the Beach Plaza hotel in Marigot on the French side.  Because of some hiccups at the hotel (note to self – listen to TripAdvisors), we got a late start to Anguilla.  The ferry ride was bumpy but short, thank goodness.   A very friendly taxi driver drove us to the famous Blanchard Beach Shack on Meads Bay and was willing to wait to drive us back to the ferry when we were done.  Can’t beat that friendly island service. The food was delicious but I think almost anything would have been delicious given that a) nothing beats the ambience of a beautiful and nearly deserted crescent-shaped beach; and 2) I was starving.  Alas, we were able to stay only about an hour before we had to head back to ferry.  It’s such a small island that I think everybody knows each other – our taxi driver pointed out when we passed the owner of Blanchard’s on the road.

Ordering at Blanchard's Beach Shack
Ordering at Blanchard’s Beach Shack
Eating on the beach in front of Blanchard's
Eating on the beach in front of Blanchard’s

The overnight bus ride to JFK and the mad dash to and from Anguilla caught up to us (well, me at least) and we ended up crashing at 9:00.  So I can’t report back on the night life of St. Maartens but I’m sure it’s lively and fun based on the locals we met.

It was a good thing I went to sleep so early since MM wanted to take the 7:15 am ferry to St. Barths.  After sorting out another mix-up over our ferry reservation by the hotel’s concierge, we boarded the ferry – it’s the “nicer” one and shows an in-cruise movie.  We got to watch 30 minutes of “Love & Basketball” before docking at Gustavia, St. Barths.

Since we were catching the 10:30 am ferry back to St. Maartens, we hurried to St. Jean Bay to have breakfast followed by a quick walk through Gustavia’s waterfront for some souvenir shopping.  I had hoped that the ferry back would show the ending to “Love & Basketball” but instead it showed the same 30 minutes – I guess they figured that no one taking the 7:15 ferry would actually take the 10:30 ferry back.  I need to see whether it’s on Amazon Prime so I can find out who won the one-on-one.

Boats docked at Gustavia
Boats docked at Gustavia
Luxury yacht leaving St. Barths.  Wonder if anyone famous on board.
Luxury yacht leaving St. Barths. Wonder if anyone famous on board.

When we arrived back in St. Maartens, MM was concerned about whether we would be able to get back home the next day given the flight situation.  So we made a game-time decision to catch a connecting flight through Miami that night.  We theoretically had 3 hours to connect in Miami.  However, there was an over 2 hour delay because the aircraft had mechanical problems, and then the St. Maarten airport closed to allow a rain squall to pass by, and then we had to wait at the Miami airport tarmac for another plane to leave the gate, and then I was stuck behind a slow moving woman and her children.  MM and I booked it through immigration, custom, and TSA screening to the gate and…we missed the flight by 1 minute, literally.  And it turns out that the flight left 5 minutes early.  So we got to spend the night in Miami but we managed to get on the first flight out the next morning.

Now, would I do this again? No but I do not regret doing this trip this time around.  Not many people can say that they visited 3 Caribbean islands and overnight in Miami in less than 48 hours.  Final thoughts, St. Maarten, Anguilla, and St. Barths are wonderful islands that I will likely visit again at a more leisurely pace.