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Tim Foolery

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Tag Archives: International

Vienna Airport Lounges

Leaving the Hotel Bristol at 08h15, I was at Vienna International Airport by 09h10. Passing through security and immigration was a breeze and I found myself at the Austrian Airlines Business Class Lounge about 40 minutes before our scheduled boarding time.

A Tale of Two Lounges

The Vienna Airport Lounges are interesting to me. There is the Business Class Lounge and the Star Alliance Lounge. Each time I fly in Business, I am relegated to the Star Alliance Lounge. The only explanation I get is that I have to go their since I do gave Star Gold Status.

While this is indeed true, I am flying Business Class and think I should be allowed in that Lounge. The Star side is utterly packed. Each time I enter this lounge, I find that every single seat is occupied and people are just standing around like vultures, waiting for a seat to open. It isn’t relaxing. Usually, I’ll just pop over to the Priority Pass Lounge next door, which looks like a mediocre restaurant at a mall. At least I can sit though.

This time was different, I was admitted to the Business Class side of the lounge.

Vienna Airport Lounge

Booze selection available at the Business Class Lounge

Vienna Airport Lounge

Breakfast Breads at the Austrian Business Class Lounge

Vienna Airport Lounge

Tea selection at Austrian Airlines Business Class Lounge

It wasn’t stellar, but I did get a seat. I also grabbed a pastry, some sparkling wine and the Monday edition of Le Monde.

Vienna Airport Lounge

Lounge water, bubbles and newspaper

I spent only about 20 minutes in the lounge then took the long walk to my gate.

Teheran Gate at Vienna Airport

Maybe I will go to Tehran after all

Austrians Business Class Lounge is head and shoulders better than their Star Lounge, but it sure isn’t anything to arrive early for. Show up early enough to grab a newspaper and a glass of bubbles and call it good.

Austrian Airlines Boeing 767

My ride to Chicago. Austrian Boeing 767

Which Lounge is your favorite in Vienna? Have you ever been relegated to the Star Lounge despite having a proper Business Class ticket?

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A Night In Vienna

The return home from my 68 Hours in Singapore afforded me the luxury of a night in Vienna.  While I could have found an alternate route home, it would have cost more miles and eaten into my time in Singapore (or added a day to this trip). I love Vienna.  This Vienna layover was short.  I had 15 hours from the time the door on my inbound flight opened until my outbound door closed.

What would I do with this time?  I had a a beautiful suite at the Hotel Bristol, so just relaxing in luxury was an option.  There were no shows at the stunning Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera), so that was out.  I wasn’t in the mood for fine dining experience (shocker, I know!), so what is a guy to do?

The Wiener Staatsoper / Vienna State Opera House.

The Wiener Staatsoper / Vienna State Opera House.

The hotel recommended that I hop on a street car and head out to a huge park on the edge of the City. That’s where the Viennese go when it is hot (and it was 33C when I landed at 19h00).  Splendid idea.  The street car took about 25 minutes to reach the end of the line.  The park was beautiful, very natural, with trails in various levels of manicure which led to a large lake. When I arrived it was getting dark, so not many people were left hanging out.  I spent about 45 minutes walking around, enjoying nature in a fabulous city.  It was starting to get dark and I was afraid I’d get trapped out here in the pitch black – there were NO LIGHTS in this park.

Vienna Erholungsgebiet Wienerberg

Sunset from the Erholungsgebiet Wienerberg

Vienna Nature Preserve

The verdant nature preserve offered a cooling refresh from the heat of Vienna

Heading back on the street car, I rode past my stop up to the Rathausplatz – City Hall Plaza. I figured I’d just walk around and make my way back to my hotel.  What do I hear, once I’m off the Street Car? Music. Laughter. A crowd.  Was this, what Chicagoans call, a Street Fest?

Rathausplatz Vienna

The entrance to the festival – Big Crowd for a Sunday night.

It was! But it wasn’t like a normal Street Fest.  This Platz was not only lined with food and booze vendors, but there was a large screen strung up in front of the Rathaus.  Surrounding the screen was bleachers.  On the screen: A 2002 production of Swan Lake. Yes, a 16 year old recording of the ballet had drawn several thousand Viennese out at 22h00 on a Sunday night. The Platz was electric.

Rathausplatz Vienna

Such a crowd for a Sunday night!

I’m not a huge ballet fan, but I do love warm weather, beer and dining al fresco.  I grabbed a lager, walked around the crowd, yes, even watched part I’d the production.

The most fascinating food booth called to me.  Wienerschnitzel. Made fresh while you watched.  This culinary assembly line kept the crowd as enthralled as the ballet.  It had been about 4 hours since I had the prelanding meal on Austrian, plus the beer, I was famished.

The Wienerschnitzel and Potatoes were amazingly perfect.  Usually I think if this as a cold weather dish, it paired perfectly with the heat, the beer and the fresh air.

Wienerschnitzel or Wiener schnitzel

Wienerschnitzel and Beer!

I had no plans for my time in Vienna, but stumbled upon this absolutely perfect evening.  Music, dancing, food and drink.  Who could ask for anything more?  Have you ever come across a surprisingly great event like this before?  What would you have done with your handful of hours in Vienna?  Would you have relaxed in the beautiful suite or would you have gone out to explore?

Hotel Bristol: A Luxury Collection Property

After flying all day from Singapore, I found myself in Vienna at 18h30. I had booked myself a room on points at the Hotel Bristol right across from the Opera House. This is the only hotel I’ve stayed in while visiting Vienna. I love it. I even used Suite Night upgrades which cleared a week in advance. These upgrades moved me to an Opera Suite. I’ve been fortunate enough to ONLY stay in the beautiful Opera Suites at the Hotel Bristol.

I arrived straight away from the airport at 19h00, timing on transfers were perfect. Upon check in, the man working reception attempted to down grade me to a normal room because “you are just one person here for one night, you dont need this much space, it is too hot.” He was accurate, it was very hot in Vienna (33C), but I didn’t follow, nor like his logic. After a bit of discussion, he allowed me to stay in my original room.

Opera Suite

This time, my suite was on the third floor, with the same stunning view of the Wienner Staatsoper (Vienna Opera House).

Bristol Hotel Vienna - Opera House

The summer view from my Opera Suite at the Bristol Hotel Vienna

The room was quite warm and being in the room for less than 5 minutes a knock came at the door. It was hotel maintenance. He came to check on the air conditioning. Evidently these large suites don’t cool down as efficiently. He was here to make sure certain doors and windows were closed to ensure the bedroom area was as chilled as possible.

Ah…so that’s what the guy at reception was trying to say…

Bristol Hotel Vienna

Main seating area – a Formal Affair

Bristol Hotel Vienna

Seating and chandelier in the main room

Bristol Hotel Vienna Coffee Service

Coffee Service for a Coffee City

Bristol Hotel Vienna

The romantic fireplace in the Opera Suite

I didn’t spend much time in the room, since I had a flight home before 10h00 the next morning. Plus, I wanted to explore Vienna in the summer.

I slept well, albeit not very long. The hotel is really wonderful. The rooms are so perfectly appointed and the service is always on point. Plus, the views cant be beat!

Bristol Hotel Vienna - Master Bedroom

The Main Bedroom – Luxurious

Bristol Hotel Vienna

The perfectly appointed bedroom in the Opera Suite

Bristol Hotel Vienna

Twin Vanities in the Master Bath

Bristol Hotel Vienna

The large soaking tub

Bristol Hotel Vienna

The separate shower was a bit small, but still quite luxurious.

Bristol Hotel Vienna

Le Chemin Bath Products

Bristol Hotel Vienna

Small Guest Bath in the Opera Suite

Bristol Hotel Vienna

Small Guest Bath in the Opera Suite

Bristol Hotel Vienna

A second bathroom is a lovely luxury in a hotel.

Have you had the opportunity to stay at the Hotel Bristol? How are the standard rooms? What is your favorite hotel in Vienna?

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Vienna

I mentioned about some excitement on the way to Vienna from Bangkok recently.  I was flying home from spending 68 Hours in Singapore.  My return flight started in Singapore and I connected in Bangkok and Vienna before landing in Chicago.  The longest leg was from Bangkok to Vienna, which I flew Austrian Airlines Business Class.

fun·ny -/ˈfənē/
1. causing laughter or amusement; humorous
2. difficult to explain or understand; strange
So this story uses the second definition of funny of course.

Doctor on Board?

About half way through the flight, the cabin was dark, I was napping.  A flight attendant nudges me and says: “Entschuldigung, sind Sie Arzt?”  My college German classes didn’t fail me.  I knew she asked if I was a doctor.  I answered and she thanked me and moved on to the next passenger.  Everyone asked for more details, but she wouldn’t say any.
I was awake now, I decided to go to the washroom.  As I came out, I heard the pilot speaking with a flight attendant.  He mentioned their plan to land in Delhi, India, but the ill woman wouldn’t be allowed in India.  We need to find another airport.
Austrian Airlines Business Class Seat
I don’t know why we couldn’t land in India.  Would the woman be restricted from landing because of her nationality?  Who is restricted from visiting India?  Was her illness restricting her from landing?

If not India, where?

I sat back in my seat and saw that our flight path had changed. We were staying on a southern trajectory, straight toward Delhi.  I wanted another glass of wine at this point, so I headed back to the galley.  This time, the pilot and flight attendant were looking at a print out of the manifest.  They then said, as she was filling my wine glass, that the second airport wouldn’t work either.  The plan was to land in Tehran, but one passenger wouldn’t be allowed.  That one passenger was likely me, as I travel on a US passport.  The pilots mentioned that the crew would time out while on the ground and there weren’t any replacement pilots available until the next day.
This was a bit concerning to me.  Firstly, because if this woman needed medical attention, we need to get on the ground.  Secondly because I sure didn’t want to run into issues in Iran.
I return to my seat, with my very full glass of wine.  The passenger across the aisle from me, rings the flight attendant call button and tells them he’s a veterinarian.  He heads back to lend a hand.  After 10 minute he returns to his seat and tells us (we were all staring at him, looking for an update) that she’ll be fine and we can land in Vienna.  He then said that “people are just big animals” and let out a booming laugh.

Vienna it is

So we continued on to Vienna without another word about the ill passenger, until we landed.  An ambulance met us and took the passenger off.   Nothing else was mentioned about this.  Have you ever had a medical emergency while en route?  What about restricting landings in a medical emergency for diplomatic / passport issues?
I’m happy that this woman was healthy enough to make it to Vienna.  People were very curious as to what was happening, but they also respected her privacy and didn’t hover over her.
Have you ever had an emergency landing in a country where you weren’t welcomed?  Did you get off the plane? How was this situation handled?

NOSHtrekker Private Dining Singapore

Finding a unique dining experience ranks among the top things we focus on when traveling.  This doesn’t have to mean a Michelin Starred restaurant or one ranked on the World’s Top 50 List.  Our requirements are more broad than that.  We want a good meal, with an equally engaging experience. Now that could be a tasting menu, a cooking class, or local casual food eaten on a squat stool.  In Singapore we found a private dining experience that was like nothing we’d had before. NOSHtrekker brings a truly unique experience to discerning travelers.

With only 68 Hours in Singapore, I knew I wanted to make the most of it.  The idea of a Michelin Rated Restaurant just wasn’t exciting me.  I decided to step out of my normal routine and after a bit of Googling, I found articles written about a newer service in Singapore.  This group offered private dining experiences, food tours and cooking classes that focus on Singapore’s rich cultural heritage.

The Selection

With more than a dozen unique options to choose from, you’ll have a hard time picking one.  I quickly decided that I wanted a full dinner and a relaxing space the day I arrived in Singapore.  A few emails and a Paypal payment later we were all set.

We’d be joining the Masala Mistress for dinner.  We wouldn’t be helping shop for or make dinner, we’d just be eating.  Just be eating.  Looking back on our time with Dhershini, it’s hard to say we “just ate” with a straight face.  Let’s start at the beginning.

The Experience

We arrived at her home at 19h30. Yes, we dined in her home.  It was about a 20 minute walk from the closest MRT station and upon our arrival, she greeted us like long time friends.  She welcomed us into her home, offered us some refreshing juice and escorted us to a lovely sitting area on her patio.  She had help in her kitchen, so the meal prep would continue uninterrupted while we chatted.

I can’t properly say how warm and welcoming Dhershini was.  She made us feel at home, in hers.  We initially talked travel – she was enthralled with the idea of my flying 45 hours to spend just 68 in Singapore.  She had lived much of her life in Singapore and was honest about that time.  While the discussion was mostly positive, she did talk about immigration struggles, political change in the City/State and the region and even discussions on climate change.

Her husband had recently passed away and that was still really impacting her. When she spoke of him – he was an avid traveler too – you could see how she both lit up and was hurting.  This wasn’t a restaurant meal.  This was a meal with a friend.

NOSHtrekker requires a minimum of two guests (which we had) but you can have many more depending on what you select as your experience.  Since there were only two of us, Dhershini was joined by another NOSHtrekker – Heather (I believe).  The four of us enjoyed drinks (both alcoholic and non), and talked throughout the whole experience.

The Meal

The meal was a traditional Indian from Kerala.  Served family style, we had vegetarian dishes, mutton and chicken.  The four of us sat at the family’s dining table while Dhershini’s assistant finished the meal.  She even continued to make more dishes as we ate.  Some things were just too good to stop eating!

We were encouraged to take photos and share our experience on social media.  I will say, it did feel odd to take pictures of this lovely woman’s home and blast it on social.  As you can see, my pictures are very limited and they sure don’t do the whole experience justice.  When taking photos, sometimes you have to step away – step out of the experience to get the right shot. I didn’t want to do that. I was having too much fun.

NOSHtrekker Dinner Table

Dinner is served with the Masala Mistress

Dhershini and Heather (?) seemed like they were our old friends.  These experiences are billed as about 2-2.5 hours long. We stayed there for just under four. There was never any feeling that we had overstayed our welcome – or that there would be a surcharge for the extra time.  We were just talking – telling travel tales, talking about food, life and the future.  At this point, I had been up for days, traveling half way around the planet and I was getting sleepy.  We needed to excuse ourselves.

This was so much like a friend’s dinner party, that Heather offered to drive us back to our hotel in her cute little convertible.  We reluctantly took her up on the offer, but made her agree to drop us off at the MTA station on her way home.  No need to go out of her way on our account.  I wouldn’t even ask a great friend to do that!

Final Thoughts

At the end of it all, our time with Dhershini and Heather was utterly stellar.  A completely new experience for us, but one that I wouldn’t hesitate to do again.  Dhershini is a cookbook author, former restaurateur and culinary ambassador for the Singapore Tourism Board – could you find a better dinner companion?  I think not.

Have you worked with NOSHtrekker before?  For a truly amazing private dining experience in Singapore, you really can’t go wrong.  Also, I should remind everyone that we did pay for this experience – no part of it was comped (other than the ride partway back to our hotel).  This is truly our thoughts on this unique experience.  Go give them a try and tell them Tim (that crazy guy from Chicago who spent just 68 hours in Singapore) sent you!