Tag Archives: airline

Making friends over the Indian Ocean

Posting a photo of a Japanese bowl cannot be anything too exciting, right?

Well, continue reading. I will tell you about a lovely meeting that took place during an Air Tanzania flight from Mauritius to Dar Es Salaam some years ago. Japanese bowlThe project I was working for in Dar Es Salaam was coming to end. Two colleagues had left the country, leaving me alone in this huge three-bedroom apartment near the Sheraton Hotel. I knew there was an abundance of things to wrap up professionally, but I also knew that I had a free return ticket to Mauritius to use –a corporate gift from someone working for Air Tanzania. So, what did I do? During the last weeks of the project I worked like crazy, allowing myself to catch a flight to Mauritius with a good conscience on August 3, 2000!mauritius stampsDuring my stay in Mauritius, a lush, volcanic island in the western part of the Indian Ocean, I mainly dived. I had just completed my SSI Open Water Diver course and Mauritius is famous for rich sea life. When I didn’t dive, I moved to a different part of the island, practicing my limited French with whoever was patient enough to listen to me.

But back to the Japanase bowl!

On my way back on August 8, I was seated next to a Japanese couple. We begun talking, exchanged personal and professional information, and I learned that the couple plans to stay for a week in Dar Es Salaam because they are in used cars’ trading business. I don’t remember how the idea came to me, but I suggested they stay with me –in the flat paid by the company, which has two empty bedrooms. To my surprise (and probably to theirs, too), the couple said yes!

During that week, I was busy writing and editing, and the couple was engaged in closing car deals. When I came home from occasional meetings in town and opened the door, the couple had cooked Japanese food for dinner. I already had a cook, but my Tanzanian cook was specialized in Swahili dishes, not in maki and miso, so it was a refreshing change to eat differently.

Eventually, the couple left. Soon after them, I left Dar Es Salaam, too. Our co-habitation had ended smoothly, and until now, we still sometimes talk by email. Last Sunday, when I was emptying our cellar in Paris, I came across this bowl, that traveled with me from Tanzania to Paris. Even within Paris, this bowl has moved from one arrondissement to another, and it is only now, thirteen years later that I actually refound it. This is the bowl the couple served my miso soup in.

Isn’t this such a lovely story?!  I have plenty of stories like this and I think they should be told to remind us of positive consequences of globalization. What do you think?

PS Attention those of you who follow me on WordPress Reader: there was an issue with the RSS feed, and nine of my last posts have not shown up.  You may want to check some of the last ones out. There is a review on the famous Le Train Bleu restaurant https://pearlspotting.wordpress.com/2013/09/12/le-train-bleu-exquisite-and-elegant/ and several articles on my trip to Crete (search by “Crete” tag). Enjoy!

Catching the last rays of the Mediterranean summer

I spent this summer pretty much working in front of the computer and piles of papers, but to be honest, I do not mind spending the summer in Paris. Less traffic, less pollution, less people, less stress, less everything –in my opinion August in particular is the best month in Paris!

However, now that my contract is going to end in few weeks’ time, I can finally start planning for holidays. Our last trip to the Mediterranean basin took place in May (Crete), and we would like to catch some more of that southern sun before the autumn really begins…sky is the limitWhen I was preparing Sicilian Caponata: a perfect autumn dish yesterday, I was pretty decisive about  flying to Sicily and renting a car to explore the island. I am very intrigued about the culinary culture there. In addition, we could have free tickets with Easy Jet, and there are several flights per week (did you know that since last year you can use your Emirates miles to buy Easy Jet tickets?). The Sicily option sounds tempting for many reasons, but I do wonder about the weather. Would we be able to swim in the sea?

This morning I turned on the computer and there was an email from Transavia (http://www.transavia.com/hv/en-EU/home), a low-cost airline that is part of the Air France-KLM group. They have super-hyper-cheap flights to destination where many airlines stop flying around the time when the schools start, so now I am looking at returning to Crete (Heraklion 69€ one way) or flying to Turkey (Antalya 79€ one way). There is also Sicily (Palerme) for next to nothing: 39€. Hmmm… How about flying to Antalya and catching a return flight from Heraklion? How long would the island hopping take?

So many choices, so many wonderful destinations! Whether we choose Sicily, Crete, Turkey or something else in that part of the Mediterrenaen, it will be a fantastic choice, full of culinary experiences I am sure!

If you were me, where would you go and why?

PS Have you already checked Pearlspotting’s Facebook page?

Special caviar delivery from Kiev to Paris, facilitated by Czech Airlines

Flights between Paris and Kiev became very familiar to me during the year I worked in Ukraine. I think I knew the timetables of Air France and Ukraine International Airlines by heart. Not only I accumulated a crazy amount of miles, but I also got involved in international trade. When I left Paris for Kiev, I brought French red wine with me (my colleague was a big fan of CrozesHermitage), and when I left Kiev for Paris, I carried Russian caviar in a hand bag.

So, when a friend from Kiev informed me last week that she will be flying to Paris and asked what she can bring to me, I knew the answer: икра! A Russian word for black caviar.osetrova caviar from RussiaYesterday evening I went to pick up my friend from the Air France bus station. She had asked an air hostess if it is ok to store the caviar in the airplane’s fridge, and they allowed her to do so. My precious cargo was cold upon arrival in Paris, which is why I hereby send special thanks to Czech Airlines for facilitating the good and safe delivery of 100g of osetrova caviar to me!

Lao Airlines and other means of transportation to and from Laos

Some of the most popular search terms of my blog are related to Laos and how to get there, so I decided to write more about this lovely country that I visited in February 2013.

We flew with Lao Airlines from Siem Reap, Cambodia, to Vientiane, Laos, and spent two very pleasant days in Vientiane. To read more about the World’s Cutest Capital, as I call Viantiane, see my previous articles The Sleeping Beauty: Vientiane (part 1) and The Sleeping Beauty: Vientiane (part 2).take off from Luang PrabangFrom Vientiane we took a bus to Luang Prabang (read Bus ride from Vientiane to Luang Prabang) and from Luang Prabang we traveled by air to Bangkok. However, if you are doing more or less a similar kind of itinerary but traveling on a shoestring budget, then you may want to consider visiting Lao Airlines check-inLuang Prabang first, descending to Vientiane by bus and spending few nights there, and continuing to Thailand by land.

The travel time (by land transportation) from Vientiane to Thailand is significantly less than travel time from Luang Prabang to Thailand. A lot of other travelers we met arrived from Hanoi, Vietnam, were using Luang Prabang as an entry point and Vientiane as an exit point.

The national carrier Lao Airlines (http://www.laoairlines.com/) deserves some words, too. The Internet is still full of worrisome questions about the safety but in overall, Lao Airlines is “as safe as it gets”. In the past I used to fly old Tupolevs and other planes with questionable reputation in countries where sanctions often put limits to airplane maintenance. Once in Uzbekistan the plane was taking off and the flames were coming out of its engine. Another time the plane was filled with chicken (talking about avian influenza…)! All this said, I am still here and I felt safer with Lao Airlines than with many other airline I have tried, and I have comparison material!Lao AirlinesFebruary and March 2013 we flew Laos Airlines on ATR72 airplanes, which are French-Italian manufactured twin-engine turboprop planes, thus considered very reliable. In 2011 Lao Airlines purchased two Airbus A320 aircraft and in an interview given in January 2013 with Mr. Sengpraseuth Mathouchanh, Vice President of Lao Airlines, it was announced that the number will increase to four by March 2013. ILao Airlines route mapn the same interview, Mr. Mathouchanh revealed the next new destinations: India and the Middle East. He emphasized that the airline is currently working hard on the safety management system (SMS), aiming at the IOSA accreditation in 2014 (the IOSA accreditation will allow Lao Airlines to fly to Europe). In terms of the pilots, they are trained in Toulouse, France.

(Interview can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbMc3fa_oi8)

An Englishman we met at Chokdee Cafe in Vientiane said he had flown from Luang Prabang to Vientiane on an A320 aircraft and it was excellent. I bet that the more you stick to the more touristic routes, the better your chances of getting the newest aircraft is.

Lastly, Laos being one of the only remaining Communist countries in the world provides tourists with one benefit: the price fluctuation is weak. Each time we flew Lao Airlines we purchased the tickets one day before (and this was during the high season!) and the price had not changed at all. For example, Luang Prabang-Bangkok (one way) costs 120USD and Bangkok-Vientiane round trip  135USD.

ຍິນ​ດີ​ຕ້ອນ​ຮັບ​ສ​ປ​ປ​ລາວ! (welcome to Laos)

En route from Paris to Kuala Lumpur via Dubai

It was probably the very last time we try to take the RER train from Gare du Nord to Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG). Recently, every time we have tried to do so, we have failed. This time it was because of a body found on the tracks… sad but not atypical, and as a result, all trains cancelled. Taxi!

Safe and well ahead of time, we arrived at the terminal 2C at CDG airport, and you know what: it immediately felt like traveling toward affluence and prosperity. Terminal 2C caters for travelers flying to Asia and Africa, where the world’s economic growth is happening, and it was clear that the terminal was ready to serve clients with high purchase power. There was a seafood bar serving the best champagne, oysters and caviar, and Ladurée for those with a sweet tooth; not forgetting all major French and international fashion houses.CDG airport terminalLaduree, CDG airport terminalOur Paris-Dubai leg was flown by Emirates A380 aircraft and the terminal where we landed in Dubai was brand new, opened in January this year, specifically designed to cater A380 aircraft travelers.

Once again, we were spoiled by a beautiful terminal with shops and restaurants one would not typically see at airports.  One of those restaurants is the Belgium Le Pain Quotidien where the concept it to share a cozy croissant, sandwich or salad moment in a wooden, rustic setting. Le Pain quotidien, Dubai airportFor beer lovers, there is Heineken Lounge, and New York-style hamburger lovers have their Shake Shack. Both have a reputation for serving delicious food.Heineken Lounge, Dubai airportShake ShackBoth in Paris and Dubai, I felt that this was the right direction: people spend so much time at airports and different terminals, and it is really no longer enough to provide just a few restrooms and wireless internet. Travelers want more comfort but they also want more variety. Terminals do not all need to look the same and it is OK to make interesting choices in terms of the offer. People want to see terminals and airports as places where one can spend nice, quality time. A bit like at home!

I look forward to my return to Emirates A380 Hub in early March –who would not like to spend some fun time in a terminal as lovely as this!?

Emirates A380 Hub: http://www.emirates.com/english/flying/emirates-a380/hub.aspx

Shake Shack at Emirates A380 Hub: http://www.shakeshack.com/location/dubai-dxb-airport/

Air Asia: Making flight reservation fun

Have you ever flown with Air Asia? If yes, then you know that the fun begins with making a reservation (and no, I am not getting paid to write this)!

The closest destination this Malaysia-based low-cost airline flies to Europe is Saudi Arabia, so it comes as no surprise that many Europeans are not very familiar with it. Besides the fact that Air Asia is Asia’s largest low-cost airline, it has been named the World’s Best Low-Cost Airline in four consecutive years (2009-2012).

When I started planning our Southeast Asia trip (Cambodia, Laos and Thailand), I only knew we will depart Paris with our usual airline, Emirates (I love their A380, my favorite airplane, and we like flying via Dubai). It was the arrival point in Southeast Asia that we were not sure about. Bangkok seemed like an obvious entry point, but I soon realized that flights from Bangkok are rather expensive (maybe because of the arrival timing: Chinese new year). So, I unfolded a map in front of me and started wondering what other options we may have? Flying via China seemed like soooo far away. Vietnam will be a trip of its own, we decided. Singapore? I suddenly had this flashback of reading about an airline called Air Asia, so I googled it. Wow. Kuala Lumpur Siem Reap (one-way) around 80€ per person (the prices can go as low as 33.51€ or 44.61USD in February). All hesitations were gone.

Yesterday I bought two one-way tickets (KUL -> REP) and after providing the usual contact information, the fun begun: choosing our in-flight meals! Bukhara chicken briyani combo, fried rice with satay combo, tandoori chicken tortilla wrap combo, black pepper chicken combo, spaghetti bolognaise combo for those craving Italian cuisine, and many more. We had 19 options to choose from, and honestly, how wrong can you go when prices are around 2-3€? We will see soon!