Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Sleeper Train Review

If your heading for Thailand, one thing for the to do list is a trip on their excellent train network.

If your heading for Thailand, one thing for the to do list is a trip on their excellent train network. One of the most popular routes is up to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, the sleeper train gives you the best of both worlds , experiencing life on the rails, whilst saving the price of a hotel room and no pesky baggage limits, it’s a win win all round. The route has undergone an upgrade in 2016 with fancy new electric powered rolling stock from China added on this route, which makes for a much smoother ride.

Its best to book as early as possible, seats are released up to 3 months in advance. I recommend using a booking agent who can secure your chosen seats for a relatively small booking fee. I used 12gotoAsia, and was able to pick up my tickets from their offices across the road from the station the day before departure, with minimal hassle, and well worth the modest booking fee. If you want to make the most of your time in Chiang Mai, I recommend booking your seats on train number nine , this is one of the upgraded train, which gets into Chiang Mai around 7am.

This is my Thailand Railways on board experience …..

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All aboard to Chaing Mai

Route Hualamphong Station, Bangkok to Chiang Mai ( Train 9 )

Duration: 12 hours Dep 18.10 Arr 7.10

Class : 2nd Class with Air Con

Seat Lower bunk 25 / Upper Bunk 26

Fare : 941 Baht ( £25 gbp / $ 30 ) – upper bunk 1041 Baht ( £27 gbp / $33 ) – lower bunk ( plus agent booking fee 250 baht / £6.50 / $8 per ticket )

At The Station

Hualamphong train station is adjoined to Hua Lamphong metro station on the blue line, you access the train station via an approx 10 minute in a thankfully air conditioned underground walkway. Due to the notoriously bad Bangkok traffic, this is the best way to travel to the station if your travelling light.

On the platform there is a food centre with vendors selling hot food as well as a coffee house , dunkin donuts stall and a small supermarket, perfect for loading up with snacks & drinks for the journey, though its worth noting alcohol is strictly forbidden on the train, along with smoking.

Boarding

Passengers are advised to be on the platform approx 30 minutes before the scheduled departure time, as soon as the train pulled into the platform, staff went to work loading clean linen and food supplies and cleaning down the cars ready for the next journey.

After approx 20 minutes the train was ready to go again, and passengers were allowed to board. All the seating on the sleeper is allocated, you are assigned your carriage and seat number when booking, there’s a choice between an upper or lower bunk, the lower bunk is slightly wider and longer than the top bunk and a 100 baht more.

In the Carriage

Upon boarding, I noticed that everything was spotlessly clean, which for the time they had to clean, was pretty impressive. When I booked approx 6 weeks in advance, I was unable to secure a first class cabin, and I was very dubious about what the second class experience was going to be like , thankfully all my doubts were squashed when we boarded.

Each carriage has 40 seats / bunks , 20 on each side arranged over 10 bays of an upper and lower bunk. each bunk has its own reading light and more importantly a plug / usb socket , though sadly  there was no wifi onboard this service.

Upon boarding the upper bunk was locked , At roughly 8pm the steward came into the carriage and started making up everyones bunks ready for bed.

All the linens ( sheets and pillow cases ) were sealed in plastic bags straight from the laundry, a blanket is left on your bunk still sealed.

Settling down for the night I was quite surprised as to how spacious the lower bunk was, at 5ft 7 I’m hardly tall, but there was bags of room at the end of the bed .

Shortly after the steward had finished setting up all the beds , people started drawing their curtains and retiring for the evening. The curtains gave total privacy, but one thing to note is the carriage lights are on all night, so if your a light sleeper, I’d recommend bringing an eye mask. The air con is also pretty fierce, so long trousers and a fleece are necessary so you don’t wake up freezing.

One of the main concerns I had about travelling 2nd class was the shared facilities, each carriage had three toilets, and they were kept scrupulously clean throughout the journey, as well as a separate double sink.

After a solid six hours of sleep, the steward came thru the carriage at around 6.30am gently waking everyone, and began changing the beds back to seats ready for our arrival into Chiang Mai.

Whilst waking up at 6.30am whilst on holiday is not my idea of fun , it gives you a chance to catch a glimpse of rural Thailand from the train.

Food & Drink

I was expecting great things in regards to food offerings on this journey, but I was sadly disappointed. As I boarded the train, a staff member came through the train offering orange juice and fruit plates, be warned this is NOT FREE , someone will come back and charge you 50 baht for each item , which for Thailand is grossly overpriced, so you have been warned.

After we settled in, someone came round with menu and was taking food orders. There was a choice of just four set menus. There were no other food options available, so as we hadn’t eaten before boarded the train and had anticipated a better selection, we were forced to go with the set menu. Sadly the quality was very disappointing , I went for Menu B , the duck was very fatty, the chicken sauce was very gloopy and there were more nuts than chicken plus the jasmine rice was rock solid, I barely touched it, a waste of 210 baht.

I’d advise checking out the food options at the food centre in the station before you board the train, as there will more choice and probably a lot cheaper than eating on the train, there seemed to be any issue with people bringing their own food on to the train.

Small bottles of water were also handed out by the steward free of charge , though i’d would advise to bring at least a 2 litre bottle each as the carriage gets very dry due to the air con, as none of the windows open.

In My Opinion …..

If your looking for side trip out of Bangkok, Chiang Mai is a great place to escape to for a few days out of the hustle, bustle and heat of Bangkok, where the temperature is cooler and the hotel rates are cheaper. The sleeper train is great to do with kids, as there’s loads more space on the train for them to stretch their legs than being trapped in a plane seat , and for a sleeper service its bargain, especially as you save on a nights accommodation.

Second class was perfectly fine, and much better than I expected, the carriage was a mixed of locals and tourists and as soon as the bunks were made up, people drew their curtains and went to sleep. I would advise bringing something to chain your luggage to your seat for extra piece of mind , but your carriage is looked after by a dedicated steward so it would be pretty difficult for someone to make off with your luggage without being noticed , but you can never be too careful. I slept with my valuables ie phones passports and money in a backpack in my bunk, with my luggage stowed under the seats.

When you arrive at Chiang Mai , you will be met by a sea of taxi drivers all fighting for your business , a tip, when choosing a taxi, I was reliably informed that it should cost more than 200 baht to get anywhere in the city.

For further info regarding routes and schedules, please got to Thailand state railway website here . For information regarding other routes in Thailand, and around Asia , check out Man in Seat 61 a worldwide rail travel website.

8 tips to flying on the cheap with Ryanair around Europe

Ryanair, the low cost airline europeans love to hate but can’t live without. It’s CEO Michael O’Leary was famously quoted as saying “Are we going to say sorry for our lack of customer service? absolutely not.”

Ryanair, the low cost airline europeans love to hate but can’t live without. It’s CEO Michael O’Leary was famously quoted as saying “Are we going to say sorry for our lack of customer service? absolutely not.”

With fares regularly as low as £5.00 one way, if your looking for cheap fares to fly around Europe, Ryanair begrudgingly is the only way to go. But in order to get those bargain fares, there’s a fair few hoops to jump through first.

Here’s my top tips for flying on the cheap with Ryanair

1. Be Prepared

If your going to be a RyanAir regular its worth investing in some Ryanair friendly luggage, aim to make it as light as possible a couple of good options are:

From Argos.com a great budget option

Or another option is CabinMax.com who do a range of soft bags, rucksacks and wheeled trolleys.

2. Bookings

All bookings must be done via their website http://www.ryanair.com but in order to find the cheapest fares I use google flights putting in ‘Europe’ as the destination and it will bring up the cheapest destinations in Europe from your chosen airport, 9 out of 10 times Ryanair will be the cheapest flight , then you can go through to the Ryanair website to book.

3. Check for Errors

So you’ve found your bargain fare and you’ve made your booking and everythings great , that is until you realised you’ve booked the wrong day/ month/ airport. Amazingly Ryanair now allow you to make amendments up to 48 hours after your initial booking free of charge , trust me this is going to be the only thing your getting free with this airline.

4. Check your Baggage

Ryanair are continually changing their baggage rules, the rules last changed at the end of 2018. Passengers can no longer bring a small case onboard for free. The only way to travel for free is with ONE small bag/ rucksack measuring max 40x20x25cm that will fit under the seat in front, this is strictly enforced. There’s an urban myth that staff will bring out a tape to measure the dimensions of your case if there’s a chance of squeezing a few more pounds out of you, so check the current baggage rules very carefully before you fly , you have been warned, if you mess up and are made to check your case in at the gate thats £25 down the drain and thats each way, an expensive mistake to make.

If you really can’t cram everything into a small backpack , the next option is to pay an extra £6-£10 each way (depending on route) and get priority boarding which includes what effectively you used to get for free, two carry on bags a small bag that goes under the seat and a case up to 10kgs. If you want to check a bag in the hold this is where it starts to get expensive and your probably best looking at other airlines, Ryanair is primarily best for short trips around europe.

5. Check in Online

Ryanair doesn’t have any check in desks , if you have to check in at the airport its going to cost you dearly , €55 per passenger each way, to check in for free you must check in online from two days to two hours before your flight. Ryanair will send you a txt / email to alert you when to check in, its best just to do it as soon as you get it to avoid any mishaps.

6. Print your boarding cards

Another area Ryanair cleans up is with passengers who dont print off their boarding cards. Michael O’Leary branded passengers who forget to print off their own boarding cards as “idiots”. if you want them to print of your boarding card thats another €25 boarding card reissue fee thank you very much.

Ryanair introduced their mobile app in 2018 with mobile boarding cards, which should cut down on this, but I always print out a paper boarding card as well as having it on my mobile just in case …

There are a few airports which dont have facilities to accept mobile boarding cards, I’ve listed the current airports below but again its always best to have both the paper and mobile version.

  • Agadir (Morocco)
  • Essaouira (Morocco)
  • Fez (Morocco)
  • Nador (Morocco)
  • Oujda (Morocco)
  • Marrakesh (Morocco)
  • Rabat (Morocco)
  • Tangier (Morocco)
  • Kefalonia (Greece)
  • Volos (Greece)

7. Seating

Predictably if you want to secure a certain seat ie window or aisle, Ryanair’s charges for seats for by the row. You can do this when booking or again when checking in. the bonus is if you pay for a seat when booking, you can check in up to 60 days in advance rather than the usual two days.

  • Rows 1, 2 (seats DEF), 16 and 17 have extra legroom and cost from £7.
  • Rows 2 (seats ABC) to 5 cost from £7.
  • Rows 6 to 15 and 18 to 33 are standard seats. They cost from £3.

If you don’t want to pay for a seat you’ll be randomly allocated a seat when you check in.

** If your travelling with children under 12 please note that if one adult pays for seating in rows 18-30, you then get free allocated seating for up to 4 children per adult. Whilst the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) rules states that airlines should “aim to sit parents close to children”, or if this isn’t possible, they should not be separated by more than one aisle and by no more than one seat row, if your travelling with under 12’s its worth paying for one seat to avoid having to have hassle at the gate.

8. Bring your own snacks …

Even once you make it onboard Ryanair will still be finding ways to seperate you from your cash. Your flight doesn’t include any refreshments even on their longer flights nada, nothing, you might be able to squeeze a cup of water out of them if your really really lucky.

With a meal deals of a hot drink , a chocolate bar and a sandwich at a hefty €9 it’s best to either bring your own snacks from home or grab something in the airport before you board. Though I usually bust the budget and stretch to hot drink at €3.

I hope these tips have encouraged you take the plunge and get out and explore more of Europe, whilst Ryanair is far from perfect it does enable more people to travel due to the low fares. As long as you stick to the rules and don’t incur any extra charges, you can easily pick up return flights for less than £50. Just know you get what you pay for , Ryanair is basically a bus that flies , the journey is never going to luxurious but if you get to another countey for the price of their onboard meal deal whats not to like ?

Bon voyage !!!

EL AL 787 Dreamliner, Premium Economy Cabin, Tel Aviv to London Heathrow Flight Review

EL AL was formed in 1948, when it operated its maiden flight, bringing home Israel’s first President, Professor Haim Weizmann, from a diplomatic visit to Geneva. EL AL owes its name to David Remez, the first Minister of Transport, who based the name on a passage from the book of Hosea. With a current fleet of 42 aircrafts including 9 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, EL AL now flies to over 50 destinations in Asia , Europe , Africa and North America.

EL AL Security

Famous for their tight security measures, If your nervous about security when flying , EL AL is your go to airline. Security checks are said to start from the moment you book your ticket, as I was on the return leg of my journey, I had effectively already been screened and cleared on my outgoing flight from London. It’s worth noting everyone is interviewed before being allowed to check in, I was only asked a couple of questions at Tel Aviv and I was waved through in literally 2-3 minutes , but allow at least three hours when checking for an ElAl flight just on case you get delayed in security.I found the whole EL AL Security experience a tad nerve racking, just make sure you can account for everything in your luggage or things could get awkward.

This my premium economy cabin experience flying from Tel Aviv to London Heathrow…

Flight LY317 5.20PM

Route Tel Aviv – Yafo to London Heathrow

Cabin Premium Economy 2-3-2 Configuration

Seat 20K

Flight Duration 5 hours 25 minutes

Plane Type Boeing 787-900

Checked Baggage allowance 2 x 23kg

Boarding

When reaching the gate there were again extra security checks just before boarding, I wasn’t selected this time, but If picked you out will need to make all your hand luggage available for further screening, this delayed boarding somewhat but impressively we still managed to get away on time.

El AL crew on board the new boeing 787 dreamliner

Premium Economy passengers were able to board after Business class passengers, I received a warm welcome upon boarding the aircraft from the two dedicated crew members assigned to our cabin. After I got seated I was offered a hot towel and drink whilst economy passengers were boarding.

Cabin & Seat

The premium economy cabin is located in rows 17 to 20, inbetween the business and economy cabins, featuring 28 seats arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration.

Seat Map ( courtesy of SeatGuru.com )

Each seat has a pitch of 38 inches and is 19 inches wide. Sitting in the last row of the cabin sometimes can be uncomfortable , but if anything I felt I had a bigger recline than normal due to there not being a seat behind me.

On my seat I found a comfortable pillow , and a decently thick blanket and I was handed an amenity kit after takeoff.

ELAL Premium Economy Dreamliner seat

The Amenity kit was a nice surprise, especially as most airlines are cutting back on offering them. Whilst the kit is quite basic, it contains the essentials , and I found the eye mask to be of a good quality.

ELAL Premium Economy Amenity Kit

ELAL Premium Economy Amenity Kit

Entertainment

For a new aircraft , I found the ELAL entertainment offering to be quite limited, though the screen was a generous 13 inches, there were only a few current blockbusters available on this flight which were straight out of the cinema, but in addition there was a large number of classic English and Isreali films and music so there was plenty to watch on a relatively short flight. Im also a fan of the moving map so I can keep track of my wereabouts in the air

The Dreamliner is WiFi enabled and I’m happy to report that I had a strong signal throughout the flight and was able tweet and post to my social media with no problems., which is no easy feat especially when flying internationally. The WiFi is available to purchase on the flight using a credit card. A free package is available, but its only for using the Whats Up app.

Food & Drink Service

After take off there was a full alcoholic bar service, with my drink I was served with a small snack bag of crackers and dinner menus were handed out ( please note all meals served onboard ELAL are kosher ).

Approx 90 minutes into the flight dinner was served, the crew member came and took everyones order individually and the meals were brought out one by one. Playing it safe I plumped for the cooky bag spring chicken, intially when presented with the chicken in a plastic bag, I wondered if the crew had forgotten to plate my meal , but after a quick explanation, a cooky bag I was advised, ensures that the chicken complies with kosher rules.

There was one meal service on this flight , the food served was delicious hot and well presented on china plates. To be honest I could have easily managed another cooky bag of chicken.

In My Opinion…

I was originally booked into the Economy Cabin, but was offered an upgrade to Premium Economy cabin for $250 / £190 at the check in desk. It must have been popular as the cabin was full , but to answer the burning question of is it worth splashing out for the upgrade ? If it was a night flight or I was 6ft plus yes absolutely, but in all honestly for this early evening mid haul flight I would have been fine in the economy cabin, so this was a bit of a indulgence for me.The cloth seat was very comfortable with plenty of room to stretch out. I could also get out of my seat without disturbing my seat mate, which is always a plus, and as the cabin was only over four rows, the crew were always on hand, and were pleasant and efficient and didn’t do a disappearing act after the meal service. The only downside was on the ground with the constant security checks, but it wouldn’t put me off flying with ELAL again.

For more information on EL AL and their routes and fares check out their website https://www.elal.com

Please note I was travelling as a guest of EL AL in economy, but paid for the upgrade into premium economy myself, but as usual all opinions here are my own

Easy Jet London Gatwick to Reykjavik, Iceland #A321Neo Flight Review….

EasyJet was established in 1995, by Greek Cypriot businessman Stelios Haji-Ioannou , as a low cost airline that served all of Europe.

Now as one of Europe’s leading airlines, EasyJet is currently operating on over 900 routes across more than 30 countries with a fleet of over 275 Airbus aircrafts.

Here’s is my Easy Jet experience flying from London Gatwick to Reykjavic Iceland.

Flight EZY 8503

Cabin Economy – Easyjet operates all planes with one cabin

Seat 16A

Flight Duration 3 Hours 20 minutes

Plane Type Airbus A321Neo

Boarding

Passengers who purchased speedy boarding were allowed to board first , though since the introduction of allocated seating, I fail really to see the point of speedy boarding.

Boarding was done via external stairs to the front and back of the plane onto a brand new A321Neo aircraft.

Cabin & Seat

The A321 Neo is the largest aircraft in the Easy Jet fleet with a whooping 235 seats, in a single aisle, 3-3 configuration

The first thing I noticed about the seats were, they looked a lot slimmer than usual , which initially was worrying, but with a seat width of 17.3 inches , I didn’t notice any difference once I sat down.

With a standard 29 inches of legroom, and new look pleather seat covers instead of the usual fabric seat, I definitly found the seat a lot more comfortable that usual.

The only difference on the new seat that I noted was, they no longer recline, which in my opinion is a good thing, theres nothing worse than having your someones head literally in your lap even if it a short flight.

Food & Drink

There is no complimentary food or drink service included on any Easy Jet flights , but there is a pay on board option of snack type meals, consisting of toasties , sandwiches as well as drinks including some alcohol, available from the Easy Jet Sky Cafe.

The only issue I have with the food service is they understandably only carry a limited amount of food, but sometimes they tend to run out, before they reach your row if your sitting near the rear of the plane. So I normally just bring my own snacks, or buy something before boarding at the airport.

In my Opinion …..

Easy Jet provides exactly what it says on the tin, low cost no frills air travel, and with return fares regularly as low as £50 return to Europe from the UK when booking in advance, Easy Jet provides a solid low cost service. If you travel light, and bring your own snacks on board you can keep your costs to a minimum.

Whilst I personally have a Easy Jet limit of flights under four hours flying time , this new more comfortable aircraft could be a total game changer for travelling beyond Europe for Easy Jet in the future. Great flight , good service , massive network , really what’s not to like ?.

For more information on routes and fares , check out the Easy Jet website

http://www.easyjet.com

Please note I purchased my ticket for this flight and recieved no concessions to write this review for Easy Jet. As usual all opinions are my own.

Emirates A380 Business Class Dubai to London Gatwick Flight Review

The Emirates story began in 1985 when the airline launched operations with just two aircrafts, Today, they fly the world’s biggest fleets of Airbus A380s .

emirates gold logo

Flying to more than 155 destinations in more than 80 countries around the world, more than 1,500 Emirates flights depart Dubai each week on their way to destinations on six continents from their dedicated terminal in Dubai Airport.

This is my business class experience flying from Dubai to London Gatwick….

Flight : EK009 14:35

Route: Dubai (DXB) to London Gatwick (LGW)

Seat : Allocated 10D (aisle) then switched to 8B (partial window)

Cabin : 76 Business class seats / 1-2-1 Configuration

Flight Duration: 8 hours

Plane Type : Airbus A380-800 (3 Class)

Check-in

The best way to travel to the airport is by metro, which comes straight into the Emirates-dedicated terminal 3 at Dubai airport. It was then a short walk over to the raft of check-in terminals.

emirates check in information stand
Emirates check in

There is a dedicated Business Class check-in desk, and due to the sheer number of desks available, there was no passengers waiting. When I checked in, I was informed that there were no window seats left, which was disappointing, so I was allocated one of the dreaded middle seats. Thankfully, there are two types of middle seats on the A380: one suited for couples (no console between the seats—nice and cosy) and one for solo travellers who failed to nab one of the single window or partial window seats. These have the consoles in the middle as well as a privacy screen, and I had a promise from the agent of the possibility of a move once I had boarded. After getting this squared away, I headed for the lounge.

Emirates Business Class Lounge

As a semi-regular Business Class traveller, I’m partial to a nice lounge. It’s a nice addition to the whole Business Class travel experience, but Emirates take lounges to a whole new level. Located a short walk from security via a lift to concourse A, the Business Class lounge at Dubai Terminal Three is HUGE. It literally stretches the whole of the concourse. A word of warning: if you want to try everything on offer, you’ll need to arrive in plenty of time.

There thankfully is a map just past the lounge reception area to help you plan your visit.

Emirates Dubai lounges is so big your gonna need a map

There are two fine dining areas, which are both buffet style, as well as a number of snack and coffee areas. You’re never going to be searching for somewhere to sit even on the busiest of days as there’s loads (if not way too much) seating, with desk space to catch up on work as well as loungers for taking a quick nap. There is also a kids contained play area with PlayStation consoles, a pay spa, and showers. To be honest, it didn’t feel like a lounge but instead like a massive posh terminal—just without the crowds, which is always nice. I wouldn’t mind being delayed here for a few hours.

Dubai business lounge

Boarding

Boarding for Business and First Class passengers is straight from the lounges onto the walk bridge, which saves passengers from dragging themselves out of the lounge and trying to find their gate—a definite plus.

Boarding is done simultaneously for the Business Class and Economy passengers as they are on different decks, which cuts down the boarding time, and with only 14 First Class passengers who are boarded first, I was able to enter the cabin with no delays.

As expected, I was greeted by name and shown to my seat, which they had been able to switch as requested to 8B, a semi-window seat.

Cabin & Seat

The Business Class cabin on this three-class A380-800 has a whopping 76 seats split over two cabins located in the middle of the upper deck. The very front of the deck is taken up by the First Class suites, and the rear of the cabin has the famous Emirates in-flight bar.

The front cabin has 58 seats, and the smaller rear cabin has 18 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. All seats have direct aisle access without having to climb over your seatmate, which is a plus. If you are travelling as a couple and are not worried about a window, the best seats are E and F.

If you’re a solo traveller who prefers a window or wants to get some shut-eye, you need to go for seats A and J, as these have the console on the aisle side so it’s best for privacy.

Seat map courtsey of seatguru.com

If you miss out on these, try for seats B and K. You will still get a window, you just have to lean over your console to check out the view. I ended up in this seat and it was perfectly fine, I still managed to film the take off as usual.

And then there’s seats D and G. If there can be such a thing as a “bad” seat in Business Class, these would be it. They’re out on the aisle so constantly disturbed by people moving up and down, and you’ll be too far away from your adjacent seat mate to hold a conversation.

I was surprised to note that the Business Class seat was only half an inch wider than the economy seat at 18.5 inches, but to be fair (being on the slightly chubby side myself), I didn’t feel squeezed in, and with a pitch of 48 inches there was plenty of room to stretch out on the fully lie-flat bed at the press of a button.

Emirates Business Class Seat 8B

On the seat was an almost full-size comfortable pillow with a lightweight blanket and a pair of noise cancelling headphones with the kleptomaniac-proof two-pin plug just in case you were tempted to take them home. I was disappointed to note that there were no amenity kits available on this flight, there was a packet with socks and an eye shade in the console.

There were also toothbrushes in the Business Class toilet, but I felt this was a bit of a cut too far. I know there are amenity kits given on Emirates Business Class, so I can only presume they are given just on certain routes or on flights over a certain flight time.

The well-publicised seat console had an array of goodies to play with during the flight: there was a central panel containing a single reading light, a multi-charging point for two USB points, a 110-volt power point, and the headphone jack. There’s also a mini soft drinks “bar” containing a bottle of water, juice, and two soft drinks.

Emirates business class seat console

There was also a tablet which acts as a controller for the excellent ICE entertainment system—if only I could have gotten it out of its docking station. Not wanting to break anything, I enlisted the help of the cabin crew, but it was firmly wedged in, so sadly, I didn’t get to try it out.

img_-kqhr922589424588409455441.jpg

Also there’s the option if you tire of your seat, you can take a short walk to the rear of the plane and hang out with the other passengers in the bar area, which the A380’s have recently been fitted with new a table area , which is a good place to socialise.

Emirates new A380  business class bar area seating
Emirates new A380 business class bar area seating

Entertainment

Emirates’ on board entertainment system, ICE, is as good as in-flight entertainment can get with over 4,000 channels of movies, box sets and music. There’s plenty to keep you entertained. If you’re a sports fan, you won’t even miss the game whilst you’re in the air; Emirates streams live sport straight to the plane, where you can watch it on your in-seat screen. There’s also a large screen in the bar area if you’re feeling sociable.

20181208_2032404648769284747243953.jpg
Watch the match on the big screen whilst at the bar

As well as the entertainment channels, you can follow your flight’s progress on the moving map or see the world from 40,000 feet on the plane’s external cameras.

Whilst the plane was wifi-enabled, sadly, I was unable to connect as the system was not accepting my Emirates Skywards number despite a number of attempts, so I’m unable to provide any feedback on this.

Food & Drink Service

Upon boarding, crew were offering a pre take-off drink of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label champagne, which was offered along with water and juice. A drinks and food menu was handed out by the crew before take-off and orders taken. All meals served on Emirates are Halal. This is not something that concerns me personally, but it’s worth noting. With a mid-afternoon take off, the food service started approximately 90 minutes in.

Having a scan through the menu, I went for the lamb shank, sadly the presentation was poor, and apart from the lamb looking wholly unappetizing, the gravy was slopped all over the edges of the plate and the vegetables looked soggy and overcooked, so I sent it back untouched.

img_we9xpu3298222600307370560.jpg

The crew did ask if I wanted to try something else, but luckily, I’d already eaten in the lounge, so I wasn’t particularly hungry. I had great expectations for the Emirates onboard food service, but sadly it fell well short of a Business Class standard on this flight.

In my opinion….

Emirates was the last of the big three Middle East carriers I had to fly, and I was not disappointed. Emirates works hard on providing an all-round experience rather than just the flight.

This experience was excellent, from arriving at the enormous lounge at DXB with two fine dining restaurants and a spa as well as a fully-equipped kids gaming room and being able to walk straight from the lounge onto the plane, to hanging out at the on-board bar at the rear of the plane where the crew are happy to snap a souvenir photo of you behind the bar to take home.

As far as downsides, there were a couple I noted: firstly, the onboard food service was not up to scratch on this particular flight, which was disappointing, especially flying from their home airport. The second was the lack of an amenity kit, which I had expected.

In conclusion, Emirates go out of their way to make your flight memorable, though the experience doesn’t come cheap. A return Business Class fare on this route averages around £3,000, but there’s definitely above-average bang for your buck flying with Emirates.

For more information on Emirates’ latest routes, and fares check their website at http://www.emirates.com.

Please note, a complimentary upgrade into the Business Cabin was kindly provided by Emirates, but as usual, all opinions are my own.

Royal Air Maroc Rabat to London Economy Class Flight Review

Royal Air Maroc Rabat to London economy cabin flight review

Royal Air Maroc , more commonly known as RAM, is a four star rated airline by Skytrax

RAM logo

RAM is fully owned by the Goverment of Morocco and has it headquarters located within Casablanca Airport. From its Casablanca base, RAM operates a domestic network within in Morocco, as well as scheduled international flights to Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America.

Ram route map
RAM Route map

This is my Economy Class experience flying from Rabat, Morocco to London Heathrow.

Checking in

Flight : AT804 Departure 15.10

Route: Rabat (RBA) to London Heathrow (LHR)

Seat: 19F (Economy Class )

84 seats / 2-2 configuration

Duration: 3hrs

Plane Type: Airbus Embraer E190

RAM Embraer 190 Seat map
Embraer E190 seat map ( via http://www.seatguru.com )

Boarding

Boarding was a swift affair due to less than 100 people boarding , just having the one aisle was tricky with everyone trying to stuff their luggage in the overhead lockers , but once boarding was complete we were up and away on time.

on board ..

Cabin and Seat

The economy cabin on the Embraer E190 has 84 seats in a 2-2 configuration , with a seat pitch of 32 inches and width of just 17 inches. I found the actual seat pretty comfortable with good padding, but a tad snug around the hips.

Economy Cabin view

At 5ft 7 I found the leg room ok, but I would have struggled if the flight was much longer. pillows and blankets were avalible on request, but the cabin temperature was fine for me. As on most short haul flights, there was no seats back TV’s nor were there any amentiy kits, also no in seat power.

Food Service

I was surprised to see that a full meal was on offer on this realitively short flight. There was a choice of pasta or fish , I prefer to stick to quite plain food when I fly, so I went for the fish , which was hot and surprisingly tasty. There were two drinks services during the flight, though sadly just soft drinks in the economy cabin , with tea and coffee being served after the meal.

Economy Class meal

In My Opinion …..

I’ll be honest , I’m not a fan of smaller planes , purely down to the bump factor , smaller the plane bigger the bumps during turbulance. The flight whilst a tad bumpy over the English Channel, the rest of the flight was fine. The service onboard was prompt and efficient. and the meal service and complimentary drinks was a welcome change to pay food & drink charges on most airlines these days. My only annoyance was the single aisle , it was nigh impossible to go to the toilet and get back to your seat without getting stuck behind the catering trolley, but it’s not really something that can be avoided.

RAM Short Haul Economy Class flights include :

One piece of checked luggage weighing 23kg

One piece of hand luggage weighing 10kg

Full meal service

Complimentary soft drinks

For more info on more destinations and fares, check out the Royal Air Maroc website at http://www.royalairmaroc.com

Looking for Accommodation in Rabat ?

Check out the best hotel in town Sofitel Jardin Des Roses

http://www.accorhotels.com/gb/hotel-6813-sofitel-rabat-jardin-des-roses/index.shtml

For things to do and see in Rabat , Check out how I spent my time there using the hashtag

#SeemoreofMorocco

Please note my flight was kindly hosted by Royal Air Maroc in order to write this review , but as usual my thoughts & opinions are all my own.

Gulf Air A330 Bahrain to London Heathrow Economy Cabin Flight Review

gulf air economy flight review

Gulf Air is the principal flag carrier of Bahrain, the airline operates scheduled services to 41 destinations in 23 countries across Africa, Asia and Europe, all flights transit thru their hub airport in Bahrain. Gulf Air operate two cabins of service , Economy and their aptly named Falcon Gold Business Class cabin.

This is my Economy cabin inflight passenger experience from Gulf Air’s Hub airport in Bahrain to London Heathrow.

Time to fly …

Flight: GF0003 10.10am

Route: Bahrain (BAH ) to London Heathrow (LHR )

Duration: 7 hours 35 mins

Seat : 20A ( Economy Cabin )

172 seats / 2-4-2 configuration

Airbus A330

A warm welcome aboard

Boarding

Boarding started promptly approx 40 minutes before take off , Falcon Gold passengers boarded first and then there seemed to a bit of a scrum for everyone else.

The Crew welcomed everyone on onboard at the door, even those of us turning right.

I note that economy passengers are permitted to pre book lounge access for approx £49 per person when booking your flight.

Falcon Gold Lounge – Bahrain

Falcon Gold Lounge – London Heathrow

Seat & Cabin

When flying in the Economy Cabin with Gulf Air on the A330 , If you want legroom for days, I highly recommend you to consider paying to reserve a seat in row 20 ( approx £40 per person per leg ) As a frequent flyer never have I seen the legroom that Gulf Air offers in their bulk head seats, like never ever. If your beaten to row 20 , you can try row 40 , but as these are exit seats there are strict rules as to who is & isnt allowed to occupy these ( ie no under 12’s ).

Gulf Air A330 Economy seat map

When arriving at my seat to the envy of the other cabin passengers who not been quite so diligent with their seat choice research ( check http://www.seatguru.com for the best seat info ) , there was a small but adequate pillow , but sadly no blankets or amenity kits are given out in the economy cabin.

Seat 20 A/C

Bulkhead rear seat view

Leg room for days

Economy cabin view

Entertainment

This is the area in which Gulf Air could improve the most. I had flown out two weeks earlier and was disappointed to note that they were still showing the same movies as on my outward journey. The movies are extremely limited ( approx 10/15 current block buster movies) , and a number of bollywood movies. The TV offering was also quite limited, so probably best to load up the i pad with your favorites shows. On the plus side the tv monitor had a USB charger point which is always useful in keeping things charged.

side mounted tv screen

If your sitting in the bulkhead seat the tv screen is located down the side of the seat, which again restricts the width of the seat some what.

Sealed headphones were handed out upon boarding , they were perfectly fine to use and were promptly collected before landing.

sealed headphones

Food Service

The first drink service was approx 30 minutes after take off , with a drink and a small snack.

first drinks service

After my excellent Falcon Gold experience on my outbound flight ( Read about it here https://wp.me/p4AB93-25T ) I knew that the Economy food offering was always going to be a bit of a come down. I have a criteria in regards to plane food , can I identify it ? , Is It edible and is it hot ? If It passes all that I’m good to go.

Approx half way into the flight lunch was served, I was surprised to note that there were three meal choices on offer, chicken , fish and veggie. I plumped for the chicken & mash which despite it’s appearance was both hot and edible, this was the only meal served on the flight.

There was another drink service after the meal, and crew were happy to serve individual drinks when requested.

Main Economy Meal

In My Opinion……

Economy plane travel is never going to be a particularly enjoyable experience, more like something to be endured. With some careful planning, the right seat choice and a loaded i pad, the Gulf Air experience was certainly bearable. Whilst I personally found the seat width quite snug around the hips (18 inches ), the legroom more than compensated and I was perfectly comfortable on a relatively short 7 hour flight, and I would certainly consider Gulf Air for long haul journeys. I also note that its possible to bid for an upgrade prior to the flight, so you could strike lucky and grab a cut price upgrade.

For more information and fare details, check out the Gulf Air website http://www.GulfAir.com

Please note my flight was kindly hosted by Gulf Air in order to write this review , but as usual all views & opinions are my own.

Virgin Atlantic A330 London Heathrow to Dubai Premium Economy Flight Review 

I’ve always been a fan of all things Virgin, back in the 90’s, it was my airline of choice when I worked in the US . My last jaunt on Virgin Atlantic was well over a decade ago, so I was excited to get back onboard to see what they had to offer. Here’s my onboard Premium Economy experience.

London Heathrow (LHR ) to Dubai ( DXB )

Seat 20 A

48 Seats / 2-3-2 formation

Boarding

Upon boarding I found my seat with a pillow & blanket and an amenity kit placed in the seat pocket.


The pouch was by trendy bag brand Herschel and definitely worth taking home, though its contents were pretty disappointing. The kit contains a basic toothbrush & toothpaste , pen , eye shade and socks. I suspect by the quality, its what was previously given out in economy, which has now been shifted up to Premium Economy. That said , i did use the eye shade and toothbrush and I took the pouch home , which i intended to use as a make up bag until it got swiped by my teen as a pencil case grrrr.
After taking my seat I was offered a complimentary glass of champagne for take off, sadly this was the only time complimentary champagne was offered during the flight.

Cabin & Seat

Premium Economy is located in it’s own cabin between Upper Class and Economy from row 18 and 25.

The seat was comfy and spacious, upholstered in Virgin Atlantic’s signature purple leather, with a generous seat width of 21 inches and 38 inches of legroom.

Premium Economy seat 20 A/C

The central arm rests is an extra flat surface for drinks to be placed, and there’s also a pull out footrest for extra comfort.

Entertainment

The seat back TV’s are 10.5 inch touch screens with the remotes located in the side of the armrest and a handy USB socket for keeping everything charged.

There is an extensive library of movies , TV , games and music system called Vera ( nope me neither ) which is guaranteed to keep even the pickiest viewer entertained.

The headphones are the same as the economy cabin and pretty poor quality, so I’d strongly advise to bring your own.

Food & Beverage

As this was an evening flight ( 10pm departure, delayed until 10.30pm ) the drinks service started promptly approx 30 minutes after take off , with the usual spirits and snacks, I was sad to see they no longer serve Virgin Vodka.

Food menus were handed at the same time as the drinks service for the evening meal which was served shortly after.

The main difference with the Premium Economy food service in comparison to the Economy cabin is, the main dish is served on china crockery , as well as having a proper metal knife and fork and a cloth napkin, which is a nice touch. You also get Virgins most “pitched item” , the Wilbur & Orville plane salt and pepper shakers ( no i didn’t, if you were wondering ! )

The evening meal came with one starter option , a salad and then a choice of Beef & Mash , Chicken Tagliatelle or Vegetable Curry. I plumped for the Beef and Mash which despite appearances was hot, tasty and very filling. The meal also came with a delicious mango cheesecake and cheese and crackers. The meal ended with a nice touch , tea served in a proper china mug lovely !!.

As soon as the meal service ended the lights were turned off in the cabin, as it was nearly midnight UK time. I found the seat pretty comfortable to sleep in.

After a getting nearly four solid hours of uninterrupted sleep , I was woken by the cabin lights being turned on for breakfast. Sadly no hot items were served, but as it was less than an hour to landing the fruit salad, yogurt and danish were fine with another mug of tea until i made it into the terminal.

In My Opinion ….

With fares on this route sometimes as low as an extra £100 on top one way of the economy fare , its definitely worth stretching the budget a little for an extra 7 inches of legroom. My Premium Economy experience overall was a positive one , I particularly liked the small cabin which means service from the crew was prompt , plus as there was a bathroom located either end of the cabin, so there was no stream of people walking through, and I loved the mugs of tea.

I was initially worried that the leather seat would be uncomfortable to sleep in, but i actually managed to get a good sleep which is no mean feat on a plane, but it turned out to be pretty comfy. I didn’t like the deep seat recline though as I was literally watching the top of my seat mates in front’s head. If i were to fly this cabin again, I would try and get a bulkhead seat, but all in all a good experience, which I would recommend.

For more information on routes and prices check out the Virgin Atlantic Website

Please note I purchased an Economy ticket, and received a complimentary upgrade, but as usual all opinions are my own

Five things to know before you go to Cape Town 

Known as South Africa’s ‘Mother City’, Cape Town sits nestled at the foot of Table Mountain. If you’re visiting for the first time, here’s five important tips to know before you go….

1. Download and register with Uber

Uber is king in Cape Town, as a lone female, I felt perfectly safe jumping into an Uber, the minimum fare is a tiny 20 rand (£1.25!! ).Grab an Uber from the airport into the center of Cape Town for around 200 rand (£12 ). There’s a designated Uber pick up spot in the airport, just ask at the information desk and they’ll point you in the right direction.

uber-logo

Uber

2. Prebook major attractions
The weather in CapeTown is extremly unpredictable, despite having a reservation to Robben Island booked well in advance, the tour was cancelled due to rough seas. As I had the tour booked it on my last day in CapeTown,sadly I didnt make it to the Island. Try and book it in the begining so if need be, you have time to reschedule.

I nearly didn’t make it up Table Mountain either due to the high winds which constantly shut down the cable car. It took three visits to the cable station before I made it up. Pre book your cable car tickets and go early or late or you’ll be caught in the queues.

Table Mountain Cable Car

Robben Island official website

Table Mountain Cableway

3. Bringing the kids with you ? be prepared

If your travelling to South Africa with a child under 18 , you’ll need to produce the childs full long version birth certificate showing both parents details, along with their passport. These rules includes all UK passport holders , please note you need the original certificates, photocopies are NOT ACCEPTABLE.

South african imigration

South African Immigration info

4. Take a Tep

Wifi in South Africa is notoriously expensive, to ensure you stay connected. Consider hiring a Tep, a mobile hotspot unit that fits in your pocket, and provides unlimited data for up to 5 devices from £7.95 per day.

Tep Wireless

Tep wireless

5. Hop on and off around the City.
If your not comfortable driving in Cape Town, the best way to get around the main sights is using the City Sightseeing Hop on Hop bus. With buses routes going to Cape Point , a mini wine route, a hour long pennisular tour and a stop off the Table Mountain cable way base station.

Cape town sightseeing bus

City Sightseeing Cape Town

For more information on CapeTown and south Africa, check out the tourist information below.

South African Tourism

Cape Town Tourism

Ten Photos to make you fall in love with Cape Town… 

10 shots that will make you fall in love with cape town, south africa

As I craned my neck to look out of the plane window, there was no mistaking the moment I had my first glimpse of Table Mountain out of the plane window.

After years of seeing Cape Town on the telly and pictures in a book, I was worried that I’d be bitterly disappointed with the reality on my visit to Cape Town. I needn’t of worried , it was everything I’d hoped for , a wall to wall smorgesboard of sights, sounds and vibrant colours everywhere, but none more that in the lively Bo Kaap district where I based myself for my whistle stop tour of the city.

Here’s ten of my favorite shots that I captured during my time in Cape Town ….

View of Table mountain from the plane
Great view from the Plane

1.Table Mountain

If your lucky enough to visit Cape Town in the future, be sure to ask the flight crew, which is the best side to sit to capture this magnificent view.

Walking in the Bo Kaap
The Colourful houses of the Bo Kaap

2. The Bo Kaap

Be sure to bring your sunglasses, it really is that bright, a fun vibrant neighbourhood, a short walk from the main area of the city , a great place to base your stay.

Grilled Crocodile
Getting exotic with Grilled Crocodile

3. Eat something “Exotic”

Cape Town is a city of meat eaters, in fact Capetonians joke that chicken is classed as a vegtable in Cape Town. I reluctantly tasted Crocodile, despite my reservations, it really did taste like chicken !!!.

View from Table Mountain
View from Table Mountain over the Lions head

4. The Cableway

Getting up Table Mountain was no easy task , during my stay I tried three times to get up the mountain. I learnt that the weather is extemely tempermental in Cape Town , the wind regularly shuts down the cable cars. But on my last morning my luck was in, and up i went.

Capetown Street Art
Capetown Street Art

5. CapeTown Street Art

Cape Town has an exciting emerging Street Art scene, if you fancy spotting some for yourself, then head to Woodstock or Salt River areas.

Charlys Bakery Cape Town
Best cakes in town at Charlys Bakery Cape Town

6. Charlys Bakery

Its cake , damm good cake what more is there to say ?

CapeTown Wine
Wine is always a good idea in CapeTown

7. Cape Town Wine

See above and replace cake for wine, CapeTown has some of the worlds best wine , and at a fraction of Uk prices. There are wine shops all over the city, offering tastings and wine tours.

8. Hit the Road

Within an hour you can be out in the winelands of Stellenbosch or whale watching in Hermanus. Or go a bit further and watch the road unfold in front of you, on a drive along the Garden Route.

District Six Museum
District Six museum

9. Make time for a history lesson

District Six was a multi cultural area in Cape Town that was dismantled by the goverment during apartheid. The District Six Museum attempts to recreate a picture of the community, well worth a visit.

10. Take a Tour

I’m a big fan of the free walking tour. Its a great way of getting your bearings in a city, and I usually make It the first thing I do.

Fallen in Love ?, then it’s time to plan your own Cape Town adventure

My flight from London Gatwick direct to Cape Town was kindly provided by Thomas Cook Airlines For flight and fare information go to

Http://www.thomascookairlines.com

For more information on Cape Town contact the tourism board

at http://www.capetown.travel

Are pay to enter airport lounges, worth the money ?….. 

I hate to travel , If I won the lottery tomorrow I’d be down to the Lear jet showroom in a shot . For me it’s  the whole rigmarole of dragging to the airport , going through numerous security checks then having to trawl round the terminal looking for a spare seat away from the crowds with a plug socket and some free wifi is like mission impossible. 

So when the lovely folks at Plaza Premium  Lounges offered me the chance to check out their Abu Dhabi pay airport lounge on my way back home to the UK this week, I was more than happy to stop by and take a look. 

  
Usually in order to enter the world of the plush airport lounge you either have to shell out  megabucks on a premium ticket or amass a squillion airmiles to step over the threshold. But not anymore , with lounges in 35 airports including a brand new opening in Heathrow T4 just this month, Plaza Premium are bringing a bit of luxury to the masses. 

So after getting airside , I made my way to the Alreem Lounge. I was greeted at the entrance desk desk, and with a quick scan of my boarding pass, I was rest assured that even if  I was having a good time I wouldn’t miss my flight which was reassuring.

 
Inside, the lounge is on 3 levels, with zoned areas for eating , watching the big screen TV , a bar and most importantly a quiet zone ideal for grabbing a snooze on one of the lazy boy chairs. 
 

  

   
As with a traditional lounge there was plenty of  food on offer from a snack to a full hot meal with a an alcoholic bar.

 

  
   
As someone who usually avoids plane food,  eating in the lounge is the perfect solution, I would normally pay to eat in one of the airport restaurants before my flight , where here a meal is already included in the entry fee. As well as a constant supply of tea,  I had a lovely Thai green curry which was excellent. 

  
And with plenty of plug sockets to go round and fast wifi access, my 2 hour stay flew by. 

  

But Is it worth it ? entrance  here is 150Dh so roughly £25 or $40 for a 2 hour stay. For me its a small price to pay to escape the crowds in the terminal , especially when your travelling in economy on a long haul flight, I found it the perfect way to relax, so I’ll certainly be looking out for Plaza Premuim’s other 34 locations in the future.
For more info on Plaza Premium lounges and their locations check out their website https://www.plaza-network.com

Please note I was given complimentary access in order to write this review  

5 Reasons to fall in love with San Francisco 

If America were a school playground, you’d find all the cool kids hanging out in San Francisco corner. 

There’s just so much to love about Americas second biggest city, so I’ve picked my top five things, that’ll get you putting San Francisco at the top of your travel list. 

1. They have a great free walking tour 

Every day there’s a great free walking tour that leaves Union Square at 10am. You don’t need to book, and in 3 hours , Filip, the tours founder will uncover all of the cities hidden gems. From secret public roof spaces for an alfresco lunch, to a fortune cookie factory buried in the middle of the China Town district, it’s a great way to get an overview of the city. 

For more info check out  http://www.freesftours.com, although it is a free tour , tips are gratefully received.  


2. They have great vintage trams  

If you love vintage transport, San Francisco is the place to go. As well as being the only national historical monument that’s able to move, There’s a great tram museum located at one of the tram stops. you’ll be in tram heaven in no time. 

For more info on the museum check out http://www.cablecarmuseum.org/


3. They have great wine 

It would be criminal to visit San Francisco, and not visit a vineyard or two for tasting some great California wines. Instead of heading out to the Mecca of wine Napa , I went low key to avoid the crowds and headed over the Golden Gate bridge to Napa’s kid brother Sonoma. Located 45 minutes from San Francisco, and with over 400 vineyards to choose from you’ll be spoilt for choice, without the flashy price tags. 

I took a day trip with local tour company Green Dream Tours,  a wine tour specialist, which included a trip to 4 wineries for tastings as well as a picnic lunch, check out their tours here https://greendreamtours.com

 For more info on Sonoma county check out http://www.sonomacounty.com

4. They have great Art 

After being shut for major renovations for the last 3 years, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), finally reopened in May this year. 

It’s one of the worlds biggest modern art museums , with over 33,000 works. If your a fan of modern art , this is a can’t miss. To get the most of your visit , go on a Thursday when the galleries stay open til 9pm. It’s pretty goddam amazing. 

https://www.sfmoma.org

5. They have great views 

San Francisco is best seen by foot , from walking over the iconic Golden Gate Bridge , to hiking up the hill to get a glimpse of the painted ladies. San Francisco is definitely a city where you’ll be able to keep up with your fitness regime, just don’t forget your comfortable shoes or its gonna get painful. 

So these are my SanFrancisco favourites , what’s yours ?, is there something great that I missed? ,if so let me know !! 

For more info on SanFrancisco check out http://www.visitcalifornia.com

48 hrs in Budapest ….

Budapest, is hands down one of my favorite European cities, with great architecture, great food and a thriving nightlife, even on my second visit there was still loads to see. It’s a great place to explore on foot.

If your off on a weekend in Budapest, and wondering what to do, here’s a few of my favorite things to do in Budapest.

Jump on a tram…

Riding the number 2 tram is a ‘must’, from the parliament buildings, it travels along the Danube , past St Stephens Basilica to the Chain Bridge, with Buda Castle across the Danube in the distance , then down to the Liberty Bridge, where you can jump off for a stroll round the central Food Market. Free travel on the Tram is included with a Budapest Card

Budapest no2 Tram

Chain bridge Budapest

Eat strudel… 

My favorite place for strudel in Budapest,  is the Retesvar bakery up in the castle district, just steps from the Fishermans Bastion. It’s a great place for a quick cheap lunch of sweet & savoury strudels



Buy great chocolate…

Down by the Liberty Bridge tucked away on a side street is Rozsavolgyi Csokolade, a husband and wife chocolatier team, Conde Nast recently voted their chocolate in the Top Ten in the world, as if you need pursuading  http://www.rozsavolgyi.com


Take a Bath… 

Budapest is awash with thermal baths, It’s a great way to relax after a day of pounding the streets sightseeing.

There’s free entry into the Luckas Baths with the Budapest Card, which leaves plenty left over for a massage .

See some Art…

Get a culture fix at the Hungarian National Gallery ,  Hungary’s finest Art  is spread over four floors, including the ‘Hungarian Nabi’ Jozsef Rippl-Ronai. Free entry is included with the  Budapest Card.

Go for a posh cuppa…

Lotz Hall aka The Book Cafe , is located within the Alexandra Book shop on Andrassy Avenue. Possibly one of Budapests most grandest place to stop for a cuppa. If your lucky you might even catch a pianist having a tinkle on the ivories.


On my weekend, I used a 48 hr Budapest Card, check out more info at http://www.budapestcard.org

For more information on Budapest and Hungary check out http://gotohungary.com/

10 things to do with your teen  in Berlin, Germany.     

I really thought I was going to struggle, to find enough things to keep my 12 year old entertained whilst in Berlin. The plan was, that in the evening we would visit the Christmas markets, then in the day we would do family stuff. To be honest I could have easily filled another week, Berlin certainly gets the  family friendly seal of approval!!

Here our top 10 things to do in Berlin …… 

1. Learn about the Story of Berlin 
The story of Berlin, is a unique interactive museum where visitors can explore 800 years of Berlin history. In 23 themed rooms where visitors  can experience everyday life of the people of Berlin during different eras.

The highlight of the exhibition is a guided tour of an original nuclear bomb shelter from the Cold War below the museum,  which still can be used in case of an nuclear attack today.

http://www.story-of-berlin.de

Ideal for children aged 7+


2. Pop into the Natural History Museum and say hi to Tristan the T Rex 

The Museum für Naturkunde, now exhibits one of the best-preserved T Rex skeletons worldwide. The museum also holds more than 30 million items relating to zoology, palaeontology, geology and mineralogy, which are highly significant for science as well as for the history of science.

http://www.naturkundemuseum.berlin

Ideal for children aged 5+


 

 

   

3. Check out what life was like in the DDR 

The DDR Museum is located in the former governmental district of East Germany, right on the river Spree, opposite the Berlin Cathedral.

Its exhibition shows the daily life in Deutsche Demokratische Republik aka DDR. The museum prides itself in being totally “hands on” , kids will love the new interactive Berlin Wall with a chance to try virtual graffiti or belt up and drive a virtual trabant round Berlin.

http://www.ddr-museum.de

Ideal for children 7 +

 

 

 

 



4. Go all retro at the Computerspielemuseum

Computerspiele Museum is the first European museum for video and computer games, and a must see for any gamer . Containing over 300 exhibits, including rare originals, playable classics, from classic arcade games to a giant pac man. Be prepared to drag them out kicking and screaming.

http://www.computerspielemuseum.de

Ideal for gamers young & old




5. Step into the future at Game Science centre. 

The Game Science Center is an interactive Future Museum, run by a team of game developers. the exhibition presents a lineup of innovative technologies and playful projects. Where you can try out futuristic ways to interact with computers , where you can even try out controlling games with your eyes!!.

http://www.gamesciencecenter.de

Ideal for children 10 +


  

6. Strike a pose at Madame Tussaud’s 

Be whisked off into a star-studded world with interactive exhibition of fascinating waxwork figures getting up close to Hollywood stars, sporting heroes, famous figures from the past and present as well as new Star Wars figures.

http://www.madametussauds.com/berlin/de/

Ideal for children 7+


  

7. Find some animal magic at Berlin Zoo 

The Berlin Zoological Garden  is the oldest and best known zoo in Germany. Opened in 1844 it covers 35 hectares  and is located in the heart of Berlin’s Tiergarten. With about 1,500 different species and almost 20,500 animals the zoo presents the most comprehensive collection of species in the world.

http://www.zoo-berlin.de

Ideal for all children


  

    

8. Walk the Berlin Wall 

You can’t visit Berlin without a visit to the Eastside Gallery,  and check out a vital part of Berlin’s history. The wall was constructed overnight on 12 August 1961 and divided the city of Berlin until 9th November 1989.




9. Get your photo in a vintage  photomatic booth 

For €2, squeeze into the booth, close the curtain, and strike a pose and wait for your strip of black and white shots to emerge.

Two Berliners, came up with the idea of buying and restoring an old analogue photo booths in 2003. The first Photoautomat was stationed at the city’s central Rosenthaler Platz intersection , now there are machines dotted all over Berlin, a great unique souvenir.


10. Climb up to the dome of the Berlin Catherdral  

The Cathedral of Berlin is the largest church in the city, and it serves as a center for the Protestant church of Germany. The Dome walkway is reached by 270 steps (no lift ), and once you’ve made it to the top  your rewarded with a view of Museum Island, the synagogue, Gendarmenmarkt, the Reichstag. Please note unusually there is an entrance fee of 7 euros, but 3 kids go free per adult.

http://www.berlinerdom.de

Ideal for children 7+


  

10 Must have photos of Greece 

This summer I was lucky enough to Discover Greece, check out my top ten must have shots that every photographer should have for the album. 

1. The classic whitewashed street avalible on every island 

  

2. Boats it’s got to be small and greek 

  

3. Classic churches a bell tower and a blue roof are essential  

  

4. The perfect Greek Sunset  is happening everywhere not just in Oia !! 

5.   The Foodie shot a perfect summer salad, as long as it’s Greek.

 

6. The Locals fishermen,  grandmas in black ,  but it’s gotta be candid 

  

7. The Shirley Valentine under 40?  ask your mum  

    
   

8. Sweeping Skylines  head for the hills for the perfect view 

 9. Iconic History  wall  to wall history,  just there for the taking 

  
   

10 Animals  cats, dogs,  donkeys you names they just look cuter in Greece … 

   

   
 

 

Etihad Airways #A380 London Heathrow to Abu Dhabi Economy Cabin Flight Review …. 

Etihad airways A380 flight review

So after months of trying to get on an A380, I finally managed to nail one down for my flight over to Abu Dhabi .

Here’s my In flight review….


A friendly welcome from the etihad crew 

Prior to my flight I’d pored over the seat map, with all the premium seats upstairs and the whole lower deck all economy, there was definitely a touch of  them and us. The  stairway to heaven was firmly  roped off during the flight,  lest one of us commoners should manage to stumble our way upstairs for a peek.


etihad a380

This way to plane heaven ….. 

I hit the jackpot when I managed to bag seat 76k , it’s a window seat in the rear section of the plane, where the seat in front has been removed on both sides so A or K is a winner. The rear section only has 9 rows so it felt far less crowded than the front cabins,  plus you got served food & drink faster so I would definately pick the back section again.

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The rear cabin 

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Magic seat 76k , legroom for days …. 

So once I got settled in my seat , it was time to check out the in seat entertainment ….

inflight tv screen
A massive 11 inch screen with in seat power 

The inflight entertainment has piles of channels than I could hope to get thru in a 7 hour flight , there was plenty of choice from the usual latest blockbusters to a good choice of classic favourites. Plus due to the USB seat power you can keep your own devices fully charged throughout the flight. The noise cancelling headphone are pretty nifty too, complete with a nick proof adapter , I mean where is the trust these days ?. 

etihad airways in flight headphone 

Kleptomaniac proof headphones 

I also found the onboard camera fascinating, and got a bird eye view of one of the best takeoff’s, I’ve had like ever , I found the A380 unbelievably quiet and smooth on both take off and landing . 

Take off A380 style 

Food wise I was kept well fed & watered, I ordered a low calorie meal and it was delivered promptly to my seat at the start of the meal service , consisting of steamed cod and bizarrely mushy peas,  but it was tasty and hit the spot and drinks and snacks were availible on demand unlike some other cost cutting airlines who think you can sit on a flight for 10 hours with only 2 drinks services, no such problems here.

 etihad airways low calorie in flight meal
So in review, my first A380 experience was pretty amazing , it was great to watch the plane in flight on the cameras and service was prompt and efficient what more can you ask ?. As a regular visitor to the Middle East,  would definitely reccommend giving Etihad a try.

 for more info on getting on board check out http://www.etihad.com

Five Top Budapest Foodie HotSpots…. 

Budapest is one place you certainly won’t go hungry in Hungary, there’s plenty of foodie hot spots to discover both sides of Danube. Here’s my top 5 must try’s.

1. The Book Cafe ( Lotz Hall ) 

Tucked away at the back of  of the Alexandra bookshop, the book cafe, not visable from the street, you have to step inside & take the escalator to 2nd floor to find this gem. The café is decorated with beautiful chandeliers and a fresco-style ceiling, painted by German-Hungarian artist Károly Lotz. Hence the official name for the cafe is Lotz Hall. The interior makes you feel like your just about to have tea with the Queen in the renaissance style ballroom.  Serving a cup of tea to light snacks this is a foodie & interior fans must visit destination. With a piece of cake & a pot of tea a reasonable £8-10 a head and free wifi it’s a great place to take a break and gawp at your palatial surroundings. 


2. Nagy Vasarcsarnok- Central Market Hall

If your feeling peckish head straight for the first floor to the food court. Packed with vendors selling everything from an Hungarian hot dog’s  to goulash soup , if you don’t mind roughing it with the locals for some authentic Hungarian cuisine,  then this is the place for you. With cheap eats its a great place to pick up lunch on the go and they even serve beer, it’s a popular lunch spot for locals so be prepared to queue or go early.

3. Budavari Retesvar – Strudel central 

Located up in Buda’s castle district, this hole in wall strudel shop is another great cheap lunch option, in a pricy tourist hot spot. With both savoury ( spinach & cheese ) and traditional sweet fillings (cherry & apple ) it’s nothing fancy but grab one of each and your set til dinner.

   

4.  Rozsavolgyi Csoklade 

Rózsavölgyi Csokoládé is an artisan bean to bar chocolate company based in Budapest. Founded by Zsolt Szabad and Katalin Csiszar a husband and wife team in 2004, they source their cocoa beans directly from the growers in Venezuela. The chocolate slabs are moulded to look like a intricate tile and everything is excellently hand wrapped. There’s something for everyone to like from  77% dark chocolate with sesame seeds to white chocolate with matcha tea, which is coloured green but I’m told tastes divine just the same. Well worth stopping by and picking up some for posh gifts check out their shop at  Királyi Pál u. 6.

 
5. Go Traditional at Elso Pesto 

Elso Pesto is the one of the first strudel houses of Pest, five minutes from St Stephens Basilica , if its traditional Hungarian food you want in typical Hungarian surrounding this is for you.  With Goulash for starters , Ducks leg for main and Apple strudel for dessert it’s an Hungarian food fest all in one place. 
 


Visiting Sheik Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi – The etiquette  guide  

Rihanna got asked to leave mid a sultry photo shoot, whilst Selma Gomez got blasted for flashing an ankle. The Sheik Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi  is the biggest mosque in the UAE, and 3rd in the world , it’s a must see for any visitor to Abu Dhabi. Everyone  is welcome to visit, but here’s some essential information to know before your visit.

   

There is a dress code and it is riguarously enforced so it’s good to check it out what’s acceptable before your visit.   

As a woman visiting the mosque you are required to wear an abaya, no abaya no entry, it’s as simple as that, so if you not happy to comply there is really no point turning up. 
  

As soon as you arrive at the mosque,  you’ll  be directed downstairs to the dressing room. You need photo ID ( driving licence is ideal they don’t take passports ) which they will keep, until the abaya is returned. Everything  is drycleaned between lending so there’s no hygiene issues, though I would advise you to bring your own scarf to cover your head. 

 

I highly recommend arriving in time for one of the ‘behind the scenes ‘guided tours , it’s free of charge and you don’t need to pre book, you get to see a lot more of the mosque plus someone is on hand to answer questions and provide explanations. 

  

The tours are held at 10am, 11am and 5pm sunday to Thursday, on Saturdays there is an extra tour at 2pm though due to Friday prayers the mosque is not open to tourists until 4.30pm on Fridays. The meeting point is in the main lobby entrance. 

You enter the mosque via the main courtyard, be careful if your wearing sandals or flip flops, the marble floor is extremely hot and can burn your feet,  I speak after a very painful experience !!. 

 

Once you’ve made your way across the courtyard you will need to remove your shoes before entering , luckily there’s mats down to save the aforementioned burning feet. 

  

Once you get inside, unless your on the tour you just follow the ropped off path round, it takes approx 15-30 mins to check out the inside, heres a sneak peek Enjoy !!! 

   
       
For further  information check the Mosque website http://www.szgmc.gov.ae or Visit Abu Dhabi http://www.visitabudhabi.ae 


Sky Gardens London’s best views for free  

Visiting Londons best free view at the sky garden

It’s been criticised for feeling like an airport terminal, perched on top floors of London’s walkie talkie building.

 Sky Garden london

The Sky Garden is officially London’s highest public garden , and the waiting list for a free entry slot is now rumoured to be over 3 months long, the word on London’s best new freebie is certainly out of the bag.

 

As soon as you step out of the lift on the 35th floor, there’s an airport terminal feel about it., but don’t let that put you off. To be fair the garden part is pretty sparse , but this is totally forgotten when you catch sight of the view.

sky garden london
Londons best free view

 

The Shard is slap bang in the middle of your eye line. You can be smug in the knowledge that you’ve saved yourself the Shards pricy £25 entry fee,  and the angle is perfect for that Shard Selfie from the outside terrace.

 

Shard selfie time …

 

With the Gherkin and Cheese Grater building to the rear , and a birds eye view on the Tower of London to the left, the view is pretty amazing from all angles.

 

View down the Thames

 

Great views from all angles …

And with the entry money saved you can splash out a glass of wine from the Sky Pod, located on the atrium floor which serves coffees , wine , and bar snacks . 

 

Great spot for a glass of wine

My top tip is to book a late afternoon slot, when the day trippers have all gone home then you can watch the sun sink into the Thames. So hurry and book your slot now , and you might get in before the summer !! Highly recommended.

Book your free slot through http://www.skygarden.london  

 

Night time at the Sky Garden

 

Ten Things To Do in Derry, Northern Ireland 

As Northern Ireland’s second city , Derry has certainly had a troubled past . But after being named 2013’s City of Culture and named by Lonely Planet’s as one of the top 5 cities to visit, things are certainly very much on the up for Derry.

Derry is a safe , vibrant city, rich in cultural heritage and more importantly compact with the help of the walls is easy enough to cover in an extended weekend break.

1. Walk the Wall
Built in the early 17th century, Derry is the only remaining completely intact walled city in Ireland. The Wall celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2013 and has been listed as one of the ‘World’s 1001 Historic Sites You Must See Before You Die (UNESCO)’. The wall is over a mile in circumference, standing 26 feet high and 30 feet wide in places, it also boasts twenty-four original cannons , including the mighty Roaring Meg and is popular with the locals for an afternoon stroll to take in the great views over the River Foyle.

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2. Have some Proper Irish Stew
An Irish staple, made with mutton, root vegetables, potatoes and lashings of gravy, be sure to make time to have an authentic Irish stew.

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3.Discover Derry’s Story at the Tower Museum
The impressively Tower Museum tells the story of Derry’s history, from its geological formation millions of years ago, right up to the present day, covering everything from the Plantation, through to the Siege of Derry and the city’s troubled political past. The museum also houses the Armada Shipwreck exhibition which deals with the recovery of La Trinidad Valencera which was shipwrecked off the coast of Donegal. Well worth an afternoon visit.

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4. Get the guided tour with Martin
What local man, Martin Mc Crossan and his team don’t know about Derry, just isn’t worth knowing . With 4 walking tours a day at 10am, 12 midday, 2pm and 4pm , there’s no need to book just turn up. Its a great way to get your bearing and an overview of the cities history. http://www.derrycitytours.com/

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5.The People’s Gallery of Murals
The world famous open air People’s Gallery consists of twelve large scale murals by 3 brothers known as the Bogside artists. The People’s Gallery, is located in the Bogside neighbourhood of Derry and depicts the events surrounding sectarian violence and civil rights protests in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Well worth a look.

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6.Walk the Peace Bridge
The Peace Bridge is a cycle and footbridge bridge across the River Foyle in Derry. It opened on 25 June 2011, connecting Ebrington Square with the rest of the city centre. It was built to help to improve relations between the largely unionist ‘Waterside’ with the largely nationalist ‘Cityside’, by improving access between the two areas.

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7.Visit the Bogside
Whilst Derry is now moving forward into the future, and trying to leave its previous troubles in the past. Its impossible to ignore what happened here, over 40 years ago on Bloody Sunday. There’s a Bloody Sunday Memorial garden, as well as the iconic, You are entering a Free Derry wall.

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8. Visit St Columb’s Cathedral
St. Columb’s Cathedral was built in 1633 by William Parrot for the Honourable The Irish Society, The Cathedral has many fine stained glass windows, regimental flags, memorials and a large collection of historical items. And is the city’s most historic building

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9.Check out the Peace Flame
Situated at the side of the Guildhall in the center of Derry, you’ll find this small park, In May 2013 a perpetual Peace Flame Monument was unveiled by Martin Luther King III and is one of only 15 such flames across the world. Great place to stop and take a breather on one of the benches.

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10. Get out of Town
After taking in sights of Derry, its time to get out of town and on to the Causeway Coastal Route. Rated as one of the Top Five Road Trips worldwide. The route runs between Belfast and Derry and follows the coast road through the nine Glens of Antrim, winding between various picturesque villages, deserted sandy beaches and unforgettable scenic locations. The route highlight is the unesco world heritage site, the Giant’s Causeway on the North Antrim coast which is approximately an hours drive from Derry. If you fancy taking in sights at a leisurely pace check out Causeway Campers, they have cute converted original VW camper vans, perfect for a few days on the road. http://causewaycampers.com/

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