Tim Foolery

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Monthly Archives: May 2013

#SNAPChallenge Round 2

I completed my first #SNAPChallenge in January and I had every intent on doing it each month in 2013. Unfortunately life, work, travel all got in my way. Not a valid excuse, I know.  I decided to do Round Two of Tim’s #SNAPChallenge starting next Tuesday (May 28-Monday June 3).

You can read about my first experience of this Challenge here.  I’ve got a decent amount of food left over, so this time I think I can start by adding some more healthy veggies and legumes and less carbs.  MS will be out of town the week I do this, so I won’t feel obligated to stray from this Challenge.

I’m also starting this the day after Memorial Day as I will be spending a good portion of that day on a plane, returning from London — can’t really do the Challenge whilst airborne.

Have any of you tried this Challenge since I did it in January? Do you have any more recommendations on food or recipes for me?  Who wants to join me in this #Challenge? As you read before, it isn’t easy, but it makes you really feel for others.

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Frankfurt Airport: Check-in and Lounges

We headed back to the Frankfurt Airport after spending a few hours exploring the City.  Our bags had been checked through to Hanoi, but every other time we’ve flown with various carriers we’ve had to get new boarding passes with the carrier we were actually flying on. In this instance, we figured our Lufthansa boarding passes for the Thai flight wouldn’t cut it.

We found the Thai check-in counter and the Economy line was quite long – but the counters weren’t even open yet. The first class check-in wasn’t even set up (the stanchions weren’t in place and the first class carpet wasn’t extended). We stood in what appeared to be the first class check-in area.  After about 15 minutes, a woman with a trolley stacked with 6 suitcases all wrapped in cellophane cut in front of us.  I didn’t care for that one bit. The conversation with the cutter went as follow:

Me (to MS): I guess we weren’t already standing in line here, were we?
MS (to me): Grumbles and is frustrated that I’m being rude to Line Cutter (LC).
LC: Oh, I’m sorry, did I just cut the line?
Me: Yes, but that’s ok. Go ahead, you’ve got so much more luggage than we do, it just makes sense for you to go first.
LC: Oh, thank you…wait, that doesn’t make sense, please go ahead. Being number three in the Business Class Line isn’t that bad.
Me: OH! You’re flying business class?  We are flying First…go ahead to the front of the business class line.

The line opens up and the first class ticket agent collects our passports and types away for probably 5-7 minutes without saying a word. She initially claimed she had problems with our Vietnamese visa.  Once she let us go, we turned around and we were greeted by a Thai Airways representative, who would act as our escort through the airport.  Score!

While our escort didn’t speak much to us, she did push her way through the crowds and made sure that we were closely following in her wake. Several times she did loudly exclaim “First Class passengers coming through, First Class”.  I must admit, I loved this — absolutely loved it.

We headed to security and the lines were outrageously long.  Our escort didn’t like the lines, so she bypassed the lines she planned on taking us through and took us to another security area. This time there was no line.  Loved it.

Our escort showed us the Lufthansa Business Class Lounge (even though we were flying First Class, there was no other lounge for us to access).  The escort told us she would be back to collect us and bring us directly to the plane — handing us off to the flight attendant.  Loved it.

We took a quick shower in lounge and had a bit of a snack.  The food was pretty blah – much better than what you get at a US based lounge. There was hot food and a full bar. I enjoyed the tortellini, but that was really all that I found to be edible.

After relaxing in the lounge for a couple hours, we headed out to find me a new camera and MS wanted to find an inexpensive travel watch. I was successful, MS not so much.  We walked around the airport for about 90 minutes then decided to return to the lounge and wait for our escort.

Since we knew the in-flight experience to Bangkok would be phenomenal, we wanted to be one of the first people on board.  We were quite excited and couldn’t wait for our escort. 30 minutes before departure we head for the gate.

We arrived before boarding had commenced and who did we run into shortly after our arrival? Our escort. She found us and, like earlier in the day, she pushed her way through the crowd noting that “First Class Passengers, Coming Through”.  Loved it.  There were really so many people all crowded around the doors to the jet bridge, but not in a line — just a mess.

The sea of humanity crowding around the door to the jet bridge.

The Thai Airways A380 that would be our home for the next 10 hours
Part way down the jet bridge, we took the upper
path which led us to the first class cabin.

She walked us all the way down the jet bridge and handed us off to the First Class Stews…

What is your favorite Ground Experience when traveling?

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Sunday Morning in Frankfurt

We had a 7 hour layover in Frankfurt. While I haven’t heard many (or any) redeeming things about the City – I often hear it is the “Dallas of Germany”, we figured we’d at least give it a try.  There is a train that takes you from the airport to downtown with only two stops. The ticket was about 8 Euros round trip. We didn’t do a stitch of research before we left. We figured we’d find an old square, a beautiful train station and someplace to have breakfast.

Snowy countryside view from the train.

  The train station was not as beautiful or ornate as I was expecting, but it got the job done.

Haupt-Bahnhoff in Frankfurt

The street outside the main train station was snowy and at 08h00 was very dead.  We watched the street car go by with what looked like a bunch of people heading off to work.  No tourists. No locals heading to the market.

Snowy cable car line outside the Haupt-Bahnhof
Snowy roads were not part of the plan for a 2 week trip to SE Asia…
We wandered aimlessly around the area surrounding the Haupt Bahnhof and we stumbled on the European Central Bank, with the Euro Monument.
Euro Close Up

Old Frankfurt – with the Frankfurt Cathedral in the background.
Fountain of Justice near the Frankfurt Cathedral.

After walking around in the snow and the wind and the miserable winter weather in Germany, we decided to head back to the airport for a shower in the lounge, a quick meal and some duty free shopping. I found that my camera was a broken while we wandered around the old square.  Good thing I discovered this now, at least I had the opportunity to hit duty free before we head off to Asia.

So, what did I think of Frankfurt?  It wasn’t as bad as Dallas, but from what I could tell, there wasn’t much to write home about.  We were there on a Sunday morning, so that might have been part of it. We couldn’t even get a bit to eat or a drop to drink as everything we came across was closed up tight.  If I had a layover in Frankfurt again, I would definitely consider exploring the City, but would not do so if it was a Sunday morning.

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Vietnam and More: Introduction

Our #Vietnam Vacation was two years in the planning. We had to delay this trip by 1 year because of my quick descent down the stairs in February 2012.  We chose Vietnam because the group of travelers (me, MS, JB and RK) all wanted to visit a place that none of us had been — and that list is getting pretty limited now.

We took two weeks to explore Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand – while JB and RK skipped Thailand, as they visited last year and ended their trip in Singapore.  We cashed in United Miles for premium cabin round the world airfare.  We stayed in mostly local hotels, except where it made much more sense to stay in western chains.  We more often than not, ate at local establishments, but as you will see at this trip report progresses we did make a few interesting choices.

Over the next few weeks I’ll tell you all about the trip, in the following installments:

This will be my longest trip report to date, but it has also been my longest vacation in history.  I’ll do my best to keep the installments coming at a regular pace.  As questions pop up, just ask.

LH 431: ORD-FRA (Lunfhansa Business)

Our trip to Vietnam started off with a quick business class flight on Lufthansa to Frankfurt.  I had only flown Lufthansa intra-Europe before. We all know the business class flights on intra-Europe flights are just an economy seat with the middle seat blocked. No lay flat seat, no improved IFE, nothing special whatsoever.  I was excited to try a real business class product on Lufthansa.

Carrier: Lufthansa (ORD-FRA)
Flight #: 431
Seat: 11D
Departure: March, 16, 2013 – 17h00 / 16h59
Arrival: March 17, 2013 – 07h20 / 07h05
Travel Time:  8 hours 20 minutes / 8 hours 4 minutes
Flight Miles: 4,342

Lufthansa leaves from Terminal One at O’hare (along with United and ANA).  Both Lufthansa and ANA have separate check-in areas at the first door as you approach T1.  There were a surprisingly large number of passengers just milling about. It was obvious they were flying on the Lufthansa flight that evening, but it was unclear exactly what the hell they were doing. The business class check-in counter was empty and the rep was very helpful. We had a minor hiccup as she said she couldn’t check my bag all the way through to Hanoi — since technically we were arriving two days later.  After a bit of help by the supervisor, we were all set and ready to go.

After a quick stop at the United Club we headed to the sea of humanity that is the boarding mayhem of a Lufthansa flight.  We were flying on a Boeing 747 – the first time I’ve been on this amazing plane since I flew an old United version to Denver in 2002. Love that plane.

The business class configuration on this plane was a 2-3-2 and we were in the middle section. MS was generous enough to take the middle seat.

My legroom.

Pre-departure champagne and the Lufthansa Bird.

I always attempt to speak only German while on a Lufthansa flight and this time was no exception.  The flight crews always humor me. I think I do pretty well, but then again, I’m not chitchatting with these folks either. I’m ordering food, drink and water without ice (Wasser ohne Eis).

I really enjoy flying on Lufthansa, but they sure aren’t known for their food.  A couple of the items I really enjoyed and would actively order again at a restaurant, but most I could take or leave.

Seared tuna salad – favorite part of the meal.
Salad course with a pretzel roll – why isn’t this always an option?
Official Lufthansa Spork
The cassoulet was flavorful, but dry.
The fruit, cheese and chocolate course was pretty damn good.
The beautiful 747 we flew from Chicago — in snowy Frankfurt.
Our flight was quick and quite uneventful – just the way a trans-Atlantic flight should be.  We even remarked upon landing that the flights to Europe seem so short, we can easily handle a flight like this even in economy…
What do you think of Lufthansa’s trans-Atlantic business class?  How much better is the First Class product compared to Business?  If you had to fly economy to Europe, would you choose to fly United or Lufthansa?

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