Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spending Christmas and New Year in Paradise: Paris to Houston via London


We arrived at the airport much earlier than we’d like to since our missing bags were still not found at this point. The baggage handling agent on Emirates claimed that our missing bags had already been checked in on the flight to London and onto Houston. Sure enough, this turned out not to be true as the British Airways check-in agent could not find any record of our bags. I appreciated that she made a couple of phone calls trying to help us out but made no progress.

We were resolved to simply filing a claim once we got back to the Austin but Lydia smartly realized that Emirates was in the same terminal as British Airways and thankfully Emirates also had a morning flight so their check-in counters were opened. We made some fuss to what appeared to be a supervisor and after realizing that we were first class passengers she promptly looked into it. She confirmed that they still could not find the bags and was shocked that we had no case number filed and quickly got a case opened for us.

Once we got through security, we saw a Laduree shop and bought the biggest box of macaroons they had. We initially had wanted to try these world famous macaroons in Paris itself but ran out of time.

With only 10 minutes to go till boarding, we decided to still head to the Cathay Pacific lounge that British Airways uses in Paris. It would be my first time in a One World lounge and I liked it. It was spacious and well furnished. Since we were short on time, we didn’t get anything to eat but I did sneak a can of Asian soya bean milk (yum!) out of the lounge to be enjoyed later.

Boarding was underway when we got to the gate. There were no hot towels or pre-departure drinks served which made my decision to sneak the can of soya bean milk to enjoy pre-departure on the flight a good one!

The English breakfast served on this short flight was pretty decent. The scrambled eggs were creamy just the way I like it! Overall, just another uneventful flight one would expect on this short hop.

Our flight landed in Terminal 5. It would my first time connecting through Heathrow and I can see why people loathe it. Even bypassing most of the lines as first class passengers, we were stuck in a security line for a good fifteen minutes.

I was excited to try the British Airways first class experience but was left pretty underwhelmed. We had made reservations for a head and neck massage through the YouFirst service. It was one of the worst massages I ever had. We were seated in a massage chair with wasn’t too bad but the masseur simply wasn’t good at all. There was no pressure at all from the massage and was just a waste of time.

The Concorde Room, reserved for British Airways first class passengers, was average for a first class lounge. There wasn’t a “wowness” to it similar to Lufthansa’s first class terminal or Thai’s first class lounge in Bangkok. We were still full from breakfast so we didn’t eat anything but enjoyed a couple of glasses of champagne and coffee.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Spending Christmas and New Year in Paradise: Exploring Paris


With a couple of hours wasted at the airport trying with the luggage situation, we were only left with a couple of hours of daylight to explore Paris. Wanting to make the most of our now shorten layover in Paris, we immediately headed out after a quick freshen up at the hotel.

First up were the obligatory pictures of the Arc. 

Guided by directions from the hotel concierge, we next made our way to the Eiffel Tower on the metro. The concierge’s recommendation to get off at Trocadéro stop was spot on as it provided great views of the tower while walking towards it from across the river Seine.

By the time we got to the towel itself, the sun was beginning to set allowing for some different scenery. I guess I can thank Emirates for that.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Spending Christmas and New Year in Paradise: Radisson Blu Champs Elysees


Hilton Arc De Triomphe had been one our list of hotels to stay at if we ever visited Paris. However, the hotel left the Hilton brand a couple of months ago. We decided to use some of our Club Carlson points earned during their generous 50,000 points promo and instead stayed at the Radisson Champs Elysees. The redemption for 50,000 points was another steal considering that the hotel was retailing at ~300 Euros a night.

Check-in was pleasant and efficient. We were upgraded to a nice corner room with a balcony room either because of my lowly Carlson Silver status or the agent was being nice after finding out that we had problems with our luggage.  The staff of this hotel is definitely an asset since they were extremely friendly and helpful. The concierge proactively offered to follow up with Emirates on our missing luggage.

The room we were upgraded to was on the small side but functional which I assume was the norm in Paris.

The best thing about the hotel is definitely it's location. It's close by to Arc de Triomphe and the metro giving easy access to other tourist attractions like the Eiffel tower or the Lourve. The main shopping street of Champs Elysees is just a couple of minutes walk from the hotel. We would definitely return back to this hotel if visiting Paris again.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Spending Christmas and New Year in Paradise: Dubai to Paris: Emirates First Class


The fifteen minute complimentary shoulder massage for first class passengers was the perfect way to wake up after our a couple hours of sleep on the lounge chair. We would continue to skip booking a hotel for such a relatively short layover but nothing beats sleeping on a real bed.

After freshening open with a shower, the Dubai sun was now already out and we headed to the dining room for some breakfast. I was getting bored with eggs for breakfast and decided to do some sushi instead and the kitchen was nice enough to make me some fried quail and foie gras from the lunch/dinner menu.

"Breakfast" dessert
It was time for boarding right as we got done with breakfast. Our boarding gate was right outside the lounge and first class passengers board directly from a dedicated gate on the same level as the lounge allowing us to bypass any lines and get on the plane within minutes of leaving the lounge.

As usual on Emirates flights, we were warmly welcomed and shown to our seats before being served pre-departure Dom and Arabic coffee and dates. The captain came on the PA and announced we would be delayed for several minutes as they sorted out some baggage issues. The delay didn't bother us too much especially with the comfort of traveling in first class. While on the ground, the crew kept the Dom flowing and together with the couple seating in front of us, we probably finished of a bottle and a half while still on the ground.

A380 taking us to Paris