EL AL 787 Dreamliner, Economy Cabin London Heathrow to Tel Aviv 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.

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, when arriving at Heathrow Airport to check in ( allow at least three hours ) your met by armed police. Before your allowed to check in you are met by Israeli security officers for your pre boarding “interview” (note everyone without exception is interviewed). As a Travel Blogger I came under special attention, especially as I recently spent time in the UAE

Questions ranged from the usual why are you visiting , how long , where are you staying, moving onto countries you’ve visited recently, to personal questions about your job , partner, family etc . After 20 minutes of questions and having the entire contents of my hand luggage swabbed for explosives, I recieved a sticker on my passport indicating who knows what, then I was finally free to check in.

ELAL security notes … nope me neither

Whilst the whole experience is a tad nerve racking, the security officers were polite and repacked my bag as they found it after the search. Just make sure you can account for everything in your luggage as anything deemed suspicious will be questioned.

This is my EL AL Economy cabin flight review ….

Flight LY 318 22.20PM

Route London Heathrow to Tel Aviv – Yafo

Cabin Economy 3-3-3 Configuration

Seat 26K

Flight Duration 4 hours 45 minutes

Plane Type Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner

Checked Baggage allowance 1 x 23kg

A warm ELAL welcome aboard

Boarding

Its worth noting that when you reach the gate, there are even more security checks just before boarding. As I’d already been extensively searched before checking in, I was waved straight through to board the aircraft. But If you are picked for further checks you will need to make all your hand luggage available for further screening including any duty free purchases. After been waved through boarding was a pretty easy affair and I was able to find my seat 26K and get settled in.

When entering the cabin it felt light and spacious, and I was grateful for the soft led lighting which continually adjusted between light and dark throughout this overnight flight. I also noted the generously sized overhead bins which ELAL claim are 30% larger than standard.

20190313_2139412880838491523952598.jpg

Economy Cabin

Cabin & Seat

On this new dreamliner there are 222 seats in the Economy Cabin from rows 21 down to to 59 in a 3-3-3 seat configuration.

ELAL Dreamliner Seat Map – image source http://www.seatguru.com

The Economy Cabin bulkhead seats

The bulkhead seats in row 21 are definately the seats to aim for, these are classed as a ‘preferred’ seats and are avalible to pre book from $60 depending on route flown. If your heading beyond Tel Aviv its a sensible investment for that extra bit of comfort.

ELAL Row 26 Economy Cabin

The standard economy seats on the Dreamliner are ergonomic and designed for long haul flights, with a 6 way adjustable headrest which really helped when trying to sleep as it wraps round your head as well as being height adjustable.

ELAL Dreamliner Seat

There was a small pillow on the seat, though sadly no amenity kits , blankets were available on request , rather than being on each seat.

I personally found the seat rather snug around hips at 17 inches wide, but the 31 inch leg room was fine for myself at 5ft 7 ,

All important in seat legroom

Entertainment

For a new aircraft , I found the ELAL entertainment offering to be quite limited, the seat back screen was a decent size, but there were only a few straight out of the cinema blockbusters available on this flight, but in addition there was a over 100 classic English and Israeli movies and a number of music channels, so there was plenty to watch on a relatively short flight.

ELAL inflight movies

I’m also a fan of the moving map so I can keep track of my whereabouts in the air, and theres lots of inflight information to keep the av geeks happy.

Flight tracking

In flight info screen

Seat back USB plug keeps everything charged up throughout the flight

The headphones supplied were pretty useless , I’d definitely advise to bring your own.

ELAL Headphones , best left in the bag imo

Food and Drink Service

Due to the late take off time , the food service started promptly approximately 30 minutes after take off.

First was the bar service, with a packet of a bagel type biscuit snack and a drink, as it was so late I just stuck a soft drink, but alcohol was available.

Once the bar service was completed the dinner service started immediately after, sadly no menus were available in economy, so it was a straight meat or chicken choice ( pls note all meals served on ELAL are Kosher ) but I must confess that I didnt actually eat much of the meal served, as I felt it was far to late to be eating and it might have been better to have been served prior to landing rather than serving a hot meal at nearly midnight.

ELAL meal service

But for a five hour flight the meal was quite substantial and I can report it was served piping hot, but it seemed such a waste as I observed a number of meals being collected hardly touched.

In my Opinion…..

Despite all the rigmarole of the ELAL security before check in , this was a pleasant flight on a literally brand new plane. The legroom was decent for me at 5ft 7 , and the cabin was felt spacious down the back with the 3-3-3 configuration. As this was a night flight it was literally a case of get onboard and try and get some sleep, as i said previously I would have rather skipped the hot evening meal just after take off for a hot breakfast before landing, even if it would have been in the early hours.

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

Looking for accommodation in Israel ?

Check out Israels two premier hotel groups with a number of properties in both Tel Aviv & Jerusalem

http://www.isrotel.com

Http:// http://www.fattal-hotels.com

Please note my flight was provided courtesy of ELAL , but as usual the opinions are all mine.

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 Economy Class London Gatwick to Dubai Flight Review

The Emirates story started in 1985 when they launched operations with just two aircrafts a leased Boeing 737, and an Airbus 300. Fast forward and now Emirates are flying to over 155 destinations in more than 80 countries around the world. Over 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 Economy Cabin experience flying from London Gatwick to Dubai…

View from the  emirates A380 cockpit
View from the A380 cockpit

Flight EK012 9.40am

Route London Gatwick to Dubai

Cabin Economy 3-4-3 configuration

Seat 68A

Flight Duration 6 hours 50 minutes

Plane Type Airbus A380

Boarding

Boarding started promptly at approx 9am, economy & business boarded at the same time due to the cabins being on separate decks , which ultimately cut down on the boarding time.

Boarding on Emirates A380
Boarding on Emirates A380

I recieved a warm welcome from a crew member and the flights Cabin Manager who were at the aircraft door welcoming passengers onboard.

Emirates crew in A380 entrance door
A warm welcome upon boarding

Cabin & Seat

The economy cabin takes up the entire lower deck on the A380, from rows 52 to 88, with seats in a 3-4-3 configuration.

Seat map courtsey of SeatGuru.com

The cabin is split into three sections , with the rear section being the smallest with only eight rows.

I was sitting in the middle section in seat 68A , in my opinion one of the best economy seats in the cabin, this is due to the seat in front being removed due to the curvature of the plane. The seat is classed as an extra legroom seat, which is £75 to pre book , or you can take your chances at check in and nicely ask if its available for allocation on the day.

Seat 68A

Its worth noting that on the A380 seats rows 68 & 81 A& K in the economy cabin all have no seat in front of them , which means these are the ones to aim for if you need plenty of legroom.

Legroom for days

A regular economy seat has a pitch of 32 to 34 inches , I’m 5ft 7 and found it comfortable when I tried out the empty seat next to me in 68B.

Legroom in a regular economy seat

Arriving at my seat I found a decent cotton covered pillow, a lightweight fleece blanket and a pair of headphones for the flight.

Whilst there were no amenity kits in the economy cabin, I noted there were toothbrush packs stocked in the restrooms for passengers to take.

On the seat

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 your a sports fan you won’t even miss the big game whilst your in the air, Emirates streams live sport events straight to your seat in all cabins.

Emirates pull out entertainment screen

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

Emirates moving map
Emirates moving map

Whilst the plane was wifi enabled, sadly I was unable to connect as the system was not accepting my Emirates Skywards number, so despite a number of attempts, so im unable to provide any feedback on this, but wifi is avalible up to 150mb or up to 500mb for a fee paid onboard by inputting your credit card details.

Inflight wifi charges

Food & Drink Service

Upon boarding crew were handing out menus and serving water and juice with a small bag of pretzels before take off.

Once in the air, I noted there was no drinks service before the lunch service which started a tad early at 11.25am in my opinion, especially as I’d had breakfast in the terminal just moments before boarding started.

Emirates economy cabin food menu
Emirates economy cabin food menu

On the menu there was a choice of two mains , a chicken curry ( pictured below ) or a braised beef, I was surprised to see that there was no main vegetarian option offered on the menu.

The meal was served with a small appetiser of coleslaw, finishing with a desert of apple and blackberry torte , which was more like a crumble. It’s worth noting, all meals served on Emirates are halal as standard.

The meal was tasty and served pipping hot , which is no easy feat with plane food, especially in large economy cabins, I finished everything , and easily could have eaten another chicken curry.

Emirates economy cabin main meal

After the meal there was a bar service with the usual beers, wine (basic red or white ) and spirits. Champagne was also available for a fee of $20 for a small 200ml bottle.

In between the meal service , crew would regularly come through the cabin with soft drinks , and would get alcoholic drink when requested.

Approximately 90 minutes before landing an ‘afternoon tea’ was served, with a chicken tikka and cheese and pickle sandwich and a warm scone served with cotted cream and jam and a cup of tea.

Emirates economy cabin afternoon tea

Emirates economy cabin afternoon tea

In my opinion …

This was my first experience on Emirates, Its well known that Emirates works hard to provide a great passenger experience, and on this flight I found the crew warm and friendly, and willing to go the mile.

I found my seat comfortable and had plenty legroom and the entertainment system had more than enough to keep me entertained during the flight. The food was more than adequate for plane food, and more importantly was served hot which is always a plus. I found flying in the economy cabin on Emirates was a good experience, this was enhanced by me having a great seat which I think is worth paying for on longer flights, so you are guarenteed to be able to strech out in comfort.

For more information regarding Emirates routes and fares check out their website https://www.Emirates.com #Flybetterwithemirates

First time on a plane ? things to know know before you go…

It seems like only yesterday when if you wanted to travel you’d have to go down to your local travel agent , who would book your flight for you , and once booked off you’d go with your paper ticket in hand. Thankfully due to the internet, you don’t need to leave the comfort of your own to home to book your flight

The travel website Kayak done a survey and found out that 22% of British adults have never been on a plane. Doing anything for the first time is pretty scary, especially if you don’t know what to expect, so heres a few things to know before you before you go on your very first flight.

Booking your Flight

It seems like only yesterday when if you wanted to travel you’d have to go down to your local travel agent , who would book your flight for you , and once booked off you’d go with your paper ticket in hand. Thankfully due to the internet, you don’t need to leave the comfort of your own to home to book your flight, and more importantly with a raft of comparison sites you can search for the best flight to fit your budget. Here are a few sites to start with:

  • Google flights
  • Momondo
  • Skyscanner
  • Expedia

When booking be sure the name you use on your flight booking matches the name on your passport exactly , otherwise you could be hit with fees for a name change ( could be as steep as £100 per ticket ) or worst ways you could be denied boarding on the day of the flight if your travel documents don’t match.

If you have any extra requirements such as you have a disability which makes travelling difficult or are traveling with small child , let the airline know well in advance so they can make the necessary arrangements to assist you , this also includes food if your travelling on an airlines that serves food as part of your ticket . You can order a wide range of specalist meals such as low calorie , halal , kosher or vegan but again this needs advance notice.

Where to go on your first flight ?

For your first flight , Its definately worth doing a ‘practice run ‘ take a trip in your own country first. This is good firstly because the flying time will be short ( try and keep it under two hours flying time ) and if you really hate the whole flying experience its easier to get back home rather than be stranded overseas because your too scared to get back on the plane to come home. If your not sure where you want to go, google flights has a nifty feature where you can search flight to anywhere and it lists the countries and flight options and prices.

Get your Paperwork in order

In order to board a plane you will need Photo ID. If your flight is within your own country, acceptable ID other than a passport for flights within the UK would be:

  • Valid armed forces identity card
  • Valid police warrant card/badge
  • Valid photo driving licence

If you decide to go a bit further afield ie abroad, you’ll need a passport. If your applying for your very first passport it can be can be done online via the YouGov website it costs £75.50 for a standard 34 page passport.

https://www.gov.uk/apply-first-adult-passport

or another option is to pick up a passport application form at your local post office ( get two you will make a mistake ) fill it in and then go back to the post office where they will check that you’ve filled out everthing correctly before sending it off securely.

For your first passport this in my opinion this is the best way, because then you know that you haven’t missed anything out and everything is correct. Your first passport will take longer to process, as more backround checks are required. The passport office advises allowing six to eight weeks processing time. For more info on the post office check and send service go to their website , the cost for the passport via the post office is £85.00 again for 34 pages.

https://www.postoffice.co.uk/passport-check-send

Know your luggage limits

As this is your first flight its best to keep it simple , pack light using backpack or overnight bag which can fit under the seat in front or in the overhead locker. Different airlines have different weight limits be sure to check , ignore airline weight limits at your peril , if your caught overweight you will be charged, Ryan Air curently charges an eye watering £20 per kg, you have been warned.

At the Airport

So you’ve got your brand new passport , you’ve packed your bag, and its time to head for the airport. The recommended time to arrive at the airport before your flight is 2 hours for domestic flights ( inside the UK ) and up between 2 to 4 hours for international flights.

Most airlines offer an online check in and a mobile boarding pass stored on your phone.On the boarding pass it will have your seat number if you prefer a certain seat ie window or aisle you can pay for the seat when doing your online booking, this usually costs around £10 on short haul flight up to £80/100 on long haul routes each way. If your over 6ft you may want to consider booking an extra legroom seat , again these options are available when booking.

If you already have checked in online you can bypass the check in desk and head straight for the security area.

An important thing to note is if your carrying liquids in your hand luggage, a single containers must hold no more than 100ml. Containers must be in a transparent, resealable plastic bag and its one bag per person, there are no exceptions, so be sure to pack some travel sized toiletries .

At security you have to remove your coat, belts, any metal objects you have your person and take your laptop and or i pad out of its case and place everything in a tray to go through the scanner , and you will also have to pass through a metal detector, and if your really really lucky you could be chosen for ‘extra checks ‘ don’t panic just follow the security personals instructions and you’ll be fine , unless of course you’ve fired a gun recently or have carried drugs in any of your belongings as swabs can be taken of any part of your belongings , ie inside your bag lining , your bank card , phone etc . If these come up positive needless to say you won’t be making your flight.

So you’ve made it through security now all you need to do is locate you flight on the departure board, and more importantly how far away the gate is from the main concourse, otherwise your gonna have to make a run for it when you realise the gate is 15 minutes away but the gate closes in 10 minutes .

Boarding

So you’ve made it to the gate , keep your passport and boarding card handy as you will need to show this to the check in agent as you pass throught the gate to the plane. Depending on the airport and airline you will eithier enter the plane via an enclosed walk bridge or have to get onto a bus which will bus you out to the plane and use external steps.

Onboard

So you’ve made it to your seat , depending on the length of the flight there may or may not be seat back tv’s , a tip is to always take an i pad and / or phone loaded with a few films so you wont be caught out.

Again with regards to food , depending on the flying time your ticket may or may not include food. The good news is food is usually available for purchase on most flights, but you can also bring your own food on board if you wish. Just think of your fellow passengers and leave smelly food at home, sandwiches , rolls , cold pasta are all good things to bring with you and are security friendly.

After everyone is on board the crew will go through a safety demonstration , its extremly important that you pay attention to the safety information , it could literally save your life in an emergency.

Then after everyone’s buckled in its time for the pilot to head for the runway and its up up and away enjoy your flight and then you can look forward to the next one !!!

screenshot_20190101-192926_chrome6610532599843082231.jpg

Bon Voyage !!!

Royal Air Maroc London to Casablanca Business Class Flight Review

royal air maroc London to Casablanca business class flight review

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

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 Business Class experience flying from London Heathrow to Casablanca……

Checking in …

Flight : AT801 Departure 17.10

Route: London ( LHR ) to Casablanca (CNM )

Seat: 3k (Business Class )

12 seats / 2-2 configuration

Duration: 3hrs 20 mins

Plane Type: Boeing 737-800

Heathrow Sky Team Lounge

Heathrow Sky Team Lounge
Lounging

As a Business Class passenger flying with RAM , a Sky team member , you are entitled to access to the Skyteam lounge within terminal four.

Sky Team lounge seating area

The lounge is light and spacious and has plenty of seating, but as it’s a shared with a number of other airlines , when I visited on a Friday afternoon admittedly a peak time, I found it pretty busy. There was a decent choice of hot & cold food and a serve yourself bar, but sadly no champange.

Sky Team pour your own bar

Boarding

RAM CREW
A Warm RAM Welcome

Boarding started promptly approx 40 minutes before take off , Business Passengers were invited to board first , I received a warm welcome at the door of the aircraft. with the business cabin half full on this flight ( six passengers ) , we were seated quickly, but as there was only one entry door on the 737 , economy passengers had to pass through the business cabin to the economy cabin, which interfered slighly with crew trying to serve pre take off drinks and hot towels, as it’s a single aisle aircraft. In my opinion it would be better for Business Class passengers to board last rather than first.

Cabin & Seat

737 Front of Cabin view
Front of Cabin view

The 737 has 12 Business class seats in a 2-2 formation, over 3 rows in the one front cabin.

A737 RAM BUSINESS CLASS SEAT MAP
A737-800 Business Class Seat Map ( http://www.seatguru.com )

With a generous seat pitch of 36 inches and width of 21 inches, I found there was plenty of leg room and wiggle room in the seat , the leather seat frame was especially comfortable, think comfy office chair with a decent recline.

I also was able to get out of my window seat into the aisle without disturbing my seat mate, which was a plus. As it was a short haul flight there was no amenity kits or individual entertainment screens. But you could track the planes progress via the map on the overhead screens at the front of the cabin.

View from my seat

My only gripe was that there was no in seat charging points, as someone who relies heavily on my smart phone I watched as my battery die throughout the flight as i presumed there would be in seat power, so by the time I landed in Casablanca the battery was well and truly dead.

If RAM was looking for ways to improve the cabin, this would be my suggestion. In a business cabin in seat power should come as standard, and would be relatively easy to resolve with just 12 seats.

Food Service

I was nicely surprised to see that there was a full long haul style meal service, complete with white table cloths and hot towels, on a relatively short flight.

Prior to take off I was offered a choice of juice & water , then shortly after take off I was offered an alcoholic drinks service, with a full bar including the delicious Laurent Perrier champange . As the Cabin was half full, the crew were happy to serve alcoholic drinks on demand throughout the flight.

Drinks service on RAM
More champange madam ?

The Dinner Menus were handed out with the drinks service, there was a choice one starter, two hot mains ( Chicken roulade or Lamb Tagine ) , cheese plate ,and dessert , all rounded off with refreshing moroccan mint tea just case the prior courses hadn’t quite finished you off.

Whilst the food options were quite basic for a business cabin , it was well presented, tasted good and was served hot , which is no easy feat with plane food.

Tea Time

With two dedicated crew members in the business cabin, service was prompt and friendly.

In my Opinion ….

If your looking for a long haul business class experience for a fraction of the price in a quater of the flying time , its definately worth considering flying RAM on your next trip to Morocco. Added with the generous 2 x 23kg luggage allowance per passenger and just 12 seats in the cabin, the service was prompt and efficient from the start. Whilst the 737 does not have flat beds , the business seats are extremely comfortable with no climbing over your seat mate required, so it’s a win win, so there’s just the in seat power issue to resolve.

RAM Business class flights include:

Priority check in lane

Two pieces of checked luggage up to 23kg each plus cabin baggage up to 10kg.

Priority boarding

Free seat assignment.

Lounge access

For more information on RAM’S flights & fares , Check out their website

http://www.royalairmaroc.com

Looking for accommodation in Casablanca ?

I stayed at the exemplary five star Four Seasons Casablanca during my time in Casablanca. Check out their rooms & rates via their website

https://m.fourseasons.com/casablanca/

For things to do and see in Casablanca , 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 London Heathrow to Bahrain Falcon Gold Business Class Flight Review

Gulf Air Falcon Gold Business class 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 Falcon Gold cabin inflight passenger experience on one of two daily flights from London Heathrow to Gulf Air’s Hub in Bahrain.

Flight: GF0002 Departure 9.30am

Route London (LHR) to Bahrain (BAH )

Seat: 1K ( Falcon Gold Class )

30 seats / 2-2-2 configuration

Duration: 6 hrs 30 mins

Plane Type: Airbus A330

Gulf air falcon gold check in London Heathrow

Heathrow terminal four check in

Falcon Gold Lounge – Heathrow

Falcon Gold Lounge- London Heathrow

Located between gates 6 & 7 on the main concourse in Heathrow’s Terminal four is the Falcon Gold Lounge.

Falcon Gold Lounge – interior

With a light and airy decor, separate lounging & dining areas as well as showering facilities, its small but perfectly formed with everything you need for a brief visit.

Whilst not extensive, there’s was perfectly adequate selection of hot and cold breakfast items were available prior to my 9am boarding call.

Falcon Gold food buffet

Boarding

Boarding started promptly approx 45 mins before departure. Falcon Gold passengers were invited to board first , in their own dedicated lane. After being greeted at the aircraft door by name , I was shown to my seat and offered a pre take off drink and hot towel.

Welcome aboard

Cabin & Seat

The A330 has 30 Falcon Gold seats in a 2-2-2 formation over 5 rows, split over 2 cabins eithier side of the main cabin door separated by the toilets and galley.

Gulf Air A330 seat map Falcon gold cabin

A330 Falcon Gold Seat Map

Whilst the Cabin is quite neutral , it has a spacious feel, and there is generous leg room between the rows, so no akward moments trying to climb over your seatmate when exiting your seat mid flight. There’s also a pull down privacy screen if your travelling alone.

Rear Falcon Gold cabin

Falcon Gold mid cabin seating

The seat was a standard forward facing full flat bed , there was a comfortable pillow & duvet style blanket stored in the cubby hole under the tv monitor. There’s also a bottle of water and noise cancelling headphones stored down the side of the seat. There was also a usb charging point in the console, but I found it pretty slow when charging up my smart phone.

Seat 1K

Amenity kits were handed out before take off , All Falcon Gold passengers recieved a Cerruti branded amenity kit, I particularly liked the Aigner products ( body lotion , mosturising lip balm and a refreshing facial spritz ) , the black leather pouch was handy to reuse as a washbag / make up case.

Falcon Gold Cerruti amenity kit

Entertainment

This is where I feel that Gulf Air can make their biggest improvement , I found Falcon entertainment system , clunky , dated and extremely tricky to use.

In flight entertainment controller

I also found the actual movie selection quite limited, and it was the same selection on both outbound and inbound journey, so I found I’d already watched the films that I wanted to on the way out. There was approx ten mainstream hollywood blockbusters , a number of bollywood films, some random tv shows and a muslim selction.

Food Service

With two crew members & a Sky Chef serving the Falcon Gold Cabin , service was prompt and efficient.

Falcon Gold dining menu

Gulf Air Sky Chef Sanjaya

The food service was hands down the highlight of this flight, with a relatively short flying time of just over six hours, service began approx two hours after a take off and the food just kept coming kicking off with a generously sized main course of a surpringly tender lamb shank cooked to order, followed by a fully stocked cheese and dessert trolley. with then just in case you were feeling a bit peckish there was an afternoon tea served about 90 minutes before landing.

Sky Chef prepared main course

Cheese trolley

Afternoon tea

Transiting in Bahrain

With over 41 destinations, for transiting passengers, Bahrain airport is pretty compact, from disinbarking it took approx 15 minutes to reach the Falcon Gold Lounge on the 1st floor of the main concourse. With comfortable seating ,a business section for catching up on work, shower facilities and a full food & drinks with waiter service, and a view of the run way it’s a pleasant way to spend a few hours away from the hustle and bustle of the main terminal.

Falcon Gold Lounge – Bahrain airport

Interior Falcon Gold Lounge

In My Opinion….

I’m baffled as to how Sky Trax can rate Gulf Air as a three star airline, clearly they are long overdue an upgrade in my humble opinion.

I was pleasantly surprised at the level of service I received in the Falcon Gold Cabin , from a decent lounge before boarding, to being greeted by name as I entered the aircraft, being shown to my seat , and the Sky chef coming out to personally discuss the dining menu , all the things that I’ve experienced on other five star middle eastern carriers such as Emirates, Etihad and Qatar.

But the highlight for me on this flight was the food service, this was one of the best meals I’ve had on a plane, with comfortable seating which converted to a flat bed and great amenity kit. Well worth the short detour through Bahrain when I’m travelling to the UAE and highly recommened.

With a major rebrand scheduled for 2018 , I look forward checking out a new and improved Gulf Air and a well deserved skytrax reclassification.

For route 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.

Qatar Airways #A380 London Heathrow to Doha Economy Cabin Flight Review

Qatar Airways, is the state owned flag carrier of Qatar, with a fleet of more than 180 aircrafts, all flights go throught their hub airport Hamad International in Doha, recently voted best airport by Skytrax. Qatar Airways was also awarded best ” Up in the Air Experience” in 2016 by the Future Travel Experience Awards, so my expectations were high from the off. Here’s my A380 Economy experience.

Flight: London Heathrow (LHR) to Doha (DOH)

Seat: 59k ( upper deck )
56 seats / 2-4-2 formation

Plane Type: Airbus A380

PSX_20170608_014436

Boarding

Upon boarding I made my way up the back stairs to the upper deck, there’s a galley and toilets located at the rear for the economy cabin, so there’s no need to venture back downstairs.

IMG_9506
Economy Amenity Kit

When I reached my seat, I was surprised to find that Qatar Airways are still giving out amenity kits in economy, as these seem to have been cut from a number of airlines economy cabins recently. It was standard stuff , but the eye mask was nice and thick so it made it home with me after the flight.

IMG_9513
Entrance to the Business Class Lounge is firmly roped off

One of the downsides of sitting on the upper deck, is that you get to hear the constant clink of champange glasses coming from the business class passengers in adjacent lounge, just the other side of the curtain, it was a proper FOMO moment. A rope was firmly fixed across the entrance, just in case any economy passenger decided to try and sneak in when the crew’s back is turned.

Cabin & Seat

With only 7 rows and 56 seats , in my humble opinion Qatars Upper Deck Economy Cabin is on par with some other airlines Premium Economy offerings.

Screenshot_20170608-005449

Theres only one tiny snag… , these seats are not bookable online, the official line is you’ve got to have status, ie be a frequent flyer to be offered an Economy seat on the top deck. My best advice is to ask Very nicely , if there’s any chance you can be moved to the upper deck . I managed to get my seat changed, but not until I got to the gate, and totally lucked out and got bulkhead seat 59k. The cabin was only at most only 50% full, so everyone got to spread out over the cabin.

IMG_9499
spacious upper deck economy cabin

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bulkhead seats

IMG_9503
Seat 59K aka Legroom for days

Entertainment

The Qatar Airways Oryx One entertainment system, has a 10.6 inch touchscreen TV screen with more than 3,000 entertainment options, in more than 30 languages. There’s blockbuster movies , full box sets to popular TV series, and music from around the world, there was more than enough to keep me entertained on a relatively short 7 hour flight. The screen also had a USB plug to keep everything nicely charged throughout the flight.

IMG_9502
Oryx One entertainment system

Food Service

When travelling in the economy cabin I usually try an order a special meal , this is to ensure that I get served ahead of the general service, ie no waiting ages to get served.

This flight I requested a low calorie meal , and whilst i would question if cod is really a breakfast food, the presentation was good and it tasted great. In fact I ended up skipping the mid afternoon snack as I was so full ( apologies, totally forgot to photograph it for the review ). I believe the afternoon snack was a sandwich, there was a couple of the usual drinks service , plus I also got a couple of tea’s on request. The upper deck had it’s own dedicated crew & galley , so the dinner service was pretty swift with a half full a cabin.

IMG_9515
Low Calorie breakfast

In My Opinion….

I have a confession , before this flight I was already a great fan of the A380. Getting a seat of the upper deck was the icing on the cake for me. Service was attentive, friendly and professional. As far as i’m aware Qatar Airways is the only airline that has an economy cabin upstairs on the A380, so it would definately be worth booking and trying to get upstairs. The Qatar Airways A380 economy cabin comes highly reccommended and I wouldnt hesitate to book with them in the future.

For more information fares and routes check out Qatar Airways website

Please note I paid for my ticket in full for this flight,and I was not compensated in any way by Qatar Airways to write this review, opinions are all my own as usual.

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

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

 London to Glasgow Scotland on the Caledonian Sleeper Train

Lonely planet Travel Quote

Travelling overnight between Scotland and London on the Caledonian Sleeper, is often touted as a travel must do. It’s not the fastest nor even cheapest way to get to Scotland from London, but it’s certainly the most exciting.

Boarding the train in London Euston, at around 11pm, then after a quick night cap in the lounge, its time to retire to your cabin, before waking up to a view of the Highlands whizzing past your window.

Check out my onboard experience below.

Included in my 1st single berth ticket:

  • Exclusive use of 1st class single berth cabin
  • Free hot or continental breakfast to eat in your cabin or lounge car
  • Complimentary toiletry pack and sleep kit
  • Free access to First Class lounge at London Euston and other station

Upon arriving at Euston station I headed for the Virgin 1st class Lounge, and before you start getting excited , it’s nothing like Virgins airport lounge, but it is away from the hustle and bustle of the main station. The lounge serves a limited range of free refreshments, ( tea ,coffee & soft drinks ) and snacks ( crisps , biscuits & fruit ). There is alcohol available, but it’s chargeable, there are comfortable seats , plug sockets and quiet work spaces so it’s definately worth stopping by.

This best thing about access to the Euston station lounge , is that theres a decent shower to use, ( there are no showers on the Sleeper ) so you can get a hot shower on arrival, before you head off to start your day. If your travelling first class its free, including towels and shower gels etc. If your on a standard ticket, you can still have access to the showers for £5.00, you just need to buy a voucher from the on train host.

Virgin trains 1st class lounge Euston shower room

The Sleeper runs 6 nights a week , Sunday to Friday in both directions. Boarding starts at 11pm and the train leaves Euston promptly at 11.50pm.

Before turning in for the night, theres just time to visit the onboard lounge for a night cap, or a traditional Scottish supper of a plate of haggis, neeps and tatties.

Night cap on the Caledonian Sleeper Dining car on the Caledonian sleeper

Then is back to your extremely snug cabin, check out my in room vlog below.

There are no plugs in the cabin, but there are 3 newly added USB sockets, oddly located above the sink area, if you want to use your phone / laptop while charging, a 2 meter lead just about reaches the bed.

The bed was comfortable, and I managed to get a decent nights sleep, but I personally found them extremely narrow, and there was certainly no room for tossing & turning.

As previously mentioned there are no showers on the train ( the whole service is due an major overhaul in 2018 which will include ensuite showers ) . There are a couple of toilets at the end of each carriage and a wash basin in each cabin.

The cabin comes with bottled water, and a cute sleep kit from Scottish company Arran Aromatics, body wash & lotion, an eye mask , flannel , ear plugs , socks and a pretty nice smelling pillow spray to help you drift off into the land of Nod.

If your getting off in the Lowlands, ie Edinburgh / Glasgow the train pulls in at approx 7 am, I was disappointed that due to leaving late and arriving early there is no view from the window, as your travelling in darkness. So its worth noting if your taking the train for the view, you wont see it on this train, you’d have to travel further up to the highlands i.e. Inverness , Aberdeen & Fort William, where ive been told you’ll be able able to take in the amazing mountain views over breakfast.

I was given a prearranged knock on my cabin door at 6.30am and headed down to the lounge for my breakfast , A hot breakfast is included in the price of your first class ticket , you can choose from porridge , salmon and eggs or a traditional Scottish breakfast. You can also take it in your cabin if you wish.

Breakfast on the Caledonian Sleeper

Unfortunately there are no on station shower facilities in Glasgow , so its worth enquiring with your hotel if you can check in early, so you can take a shower when you get off the train.

Conclusion

As already noted this is not the fastest nor cheapest way to travel to Scotland , but you do save the cost of a hotel room. And it really is a great experience. Whilst i did the return journey between London and Glasgow , I probably would advise, if you just want to do it to tick it off the bucket list, one way is enough.

Booking

In order to get the cheapest fare , its best to book as early as possible , tickets are avalible up to 12 months in advance, and fares start from £130 for a single berth and £70 for sharing a twin ( one way )

To book go to

http://www.sleeper.scot

For a sneak peek at the new trains lauching in spring 2018, with double beds and ensuite showers check out the link

http://newtrains.sleeper.scot/on-board/

Please note that Serco the current operator of the Caledonian Sleeper kindly hosted my journey in order for me to write this review, but as usual opinions are all mine.

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/

Virgin Trains 1st Class London to Liverpool ….

I was in Euston station, for my first trip on Virgin Trains, up to Liverpool. I was excited to bag a seat up front in first class, but what’s it really like ?, is it worth it? , it was time for me to get on board & check it out.

The Lounges

  
  Euston’s first class lounge


Liverpool Lime Street first  class lounge 

On a first class ticket your entitled to lounge access , but before you get all excited, it’s nothing like the Virgin Atlantic clubhouse , much to my bitter disappointment.

To be honest it’s somewhere to grab a snack , and escape from the crowds. There’s pay bar , with free soft & hot drinks and a few snacks which were pretty thin on the ground. Limited to crisps, biscuits and some sorry looking fruit. I wouldn’t bother getting to the station early just to spend time in the lounge, but if you find yourself with time to kill before your train its worth popping in for a cuppa.

On Board

This is where the magic happens, the first class carriages  are usually grouped together at the front of the train , shut off from the rest of the train with frosted glass to keep out prying eyes.

 Plenty of room to swing a cat or two 

The first class carriage was nice and spacious , with plenty of room to stretch out. Seats are configured on a table of 4 or 2, and every seat has a power point , so perfect for keeping everything in your electronic arsenal  fully charged. Though I’m disappointed to report, the promised free wifi failed to work at all on both legs of the journey, which was a bit of a bummer.
 Table for two 

About half an hour into leaving Euston , the food & drink service started passing through the carriage. Wine & spirits are free on board , and the food choice served is dependant on the time of day . As I was travelling mid afternoon it was mainly sandwiches & salads on offer.  I had dinner plans in Liverpool , so my deli plate successfully plugged the gap til I made it to dinner .


Yay it’s the Wine Trolley

  Mid afternoon food offering
 Ain’t no party like a in seat vodka party 

Even going to the loo gave me a bit of a giggle, in typical witty Virgin style.

But Is it worth it ? 

Virgin Trains regularly run special fares, and the on board experience in first class  is definitely worth the splurge , especially during busy periods as you can pick your seat when booking, so you know exactly where you’ll be sitting.

On weekends you can pay £15 on the train to upgrade your standard ticket to an available first class seat , but there’s no free alcohol and the food is limited to a small snack box. But it’s worth it for the comfort and power socket especially on longer journeys. The seat & space are the main factors your paying for here.

Weekend food offering in first class 

With journey time to Liverpool an extremely swift 2 hours, and fares bookable up to 24 weeks in advance , starting from just £16.50 each way travelling to Liverpool, was speedy efficient, and extremely comfortable, they just need to work on getting that Wifi up and running .

Check out all their UK destinations at http://www.virgintrains.co.uk

Please note my ticket to Liverpool was generously provided by virgin trains in order to write this review. 

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. 
 


My YotelAir Experience #LondonHeathrow

London Heathrow has been like my second home this year, but I must admit, I’d never thought to check out short stay hotel specialists Yotel, located in Heathrow’s Terminal 4.

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Previously dismissing it as, paying to sleep in a coffin sized room, I was pleasantly surprised when the folks at Yotel, invited me to stop by, and check them out. With an early flight, long before the tubes started running, it was the perfect solution, as you book in blocks of time rather than the usual overnight, so if you only need 4 hours that’s all you pay for. Arriving around 10pm and checking out at 5am the next morning here’s my experience;

It helps, if like myself , you had a hotel stay in Hong Kong. The apartment I spent a week in, was twice the price and roughly the same size, so when I opened the door, the size of the room didn’t phase me. And whilst the room isn’t by any means big, there’s more than enough room for 2 adults to move around.

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So what’s in the Room ?

The bed converts from a couch to a bed at the press of a button, when your ready to go to sleep. There’s a row of handy plug sockets and strong free wifi to keep Blogger HQ running, as well as loads of lighting opinions, including sexy purple for couples.

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The bathroom is a normal sized wet room, my only gripe is , when you have a shower, and then want to go to the loo your going to get wet feet, as there’s nothing to contain the water.

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With free hot drinks from reception aka Mission Control, I had a Blake Seven flashback when I was walking to my room , but you’ll have to be over 40 to get that joke .

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Yes there’s no windows, bell boys or plush lobby areas like the Hilton upstairs, but it depends on what you want. If you can put the bill on your expense account, then Yotel is probably not going to be your first choice. But for your average traveller, looking for somewhere to grab 40 winks on a layover, or myself got a crack of dawn flight Yotel is a great option.

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I could definitely spend a weekend in a Yotel , especially as I spotted that at the New York Yotel, some pods even have a deck and hot tub and presumedly windows or that would just be plain weird.

Yotel delivers what it says on the tin, its clean, efficient and comfortable.
I will definitely be giving their New York pad a look when I pass thru town, to give that hot tub party for one a whirl.

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For more information about Yotel and its locations check out http://www.yotel.com

Please note the room was complementary in order for me to write this review , but as usual the opinions are all mine

Where to find London’s best Street Art

To find Londons best street art,  you need to head to Shoreditch in east London. The best way to get there is to take the London overground line ( orange line )  to Shoreditch High Street.

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when exiting the station turn left onto Sclater street and head for Brick Lane where you’ll find the majority of the street art on and Brick Lane itself  and off hidden away on the side roads.

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If your heading out for the first time I would highly recommend you join a tour, so you can note the routes and where’s the best places to spot new pieces and then you can come back again & again. I recommend http://www.streetartlondon.co.uk for the authentic street art experience , led by guides who really know their stuff and are passionate about the art.

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unfortunately the street art around Brick Lane can be here today, gone in the next hour , the turnover is sometimes that quick on some popular walls that  pieces don’t last the night. Here’s a selection of a few of my latest favourite pieces of street art

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IMG_4380-0.JPG If your really lucky you might even stumble upon a street artist mid flow, the best time to see artists at work is usually early mornings on weekends, when the street are deserted and they can work in peace. Street art is still considered vandalism in the UK, unless the artist has the wall owners permission.

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IMG_4419.JPG Street art spotting is hard work so if you get peckish, sure to pop into the world famous Beigel Bake the oldest bagel shop in London, that’s open 24-hour a day and produces 7,000 bagels every day, Its menu is focused on bagels baked in the traditional Jewish style with fillings such as hot salt beef with mustard, chopped herring, and cream cheese. Be warned queues can get long during the day, but the salt beef and mustard beigel is worth the wait.

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Happy Hunting !!