A business trip on 747

My company’s headquarters are located in Southern France, so occasionally, I can be asked to head to Europe for business. This happened last December. It was the occasion of both sampling the business class of Lufthansa (and its Boeing 747), and, at the same time, of admiring once again, the beautiful city of Nice during this business trip to France.

A 747-800 for the flight

The 4-reactor jumbo jet is much less in favor nowadays, as airways do prefer more economical bi-reactors, such as the Boeing 777 or the Airbus A350. I flew extensively on the B777, and sampled the A350 thanks to Finnair.

upper deck stairway
upper deck stairway on 747-8

The B747-8 of Lufthansa, although it has the pretension of being one of the latest models, still suffers a lot of its age. Indeed, on the upper deck (admittedly, the most private setting for the business class), window side seats are established with a two-row setting. This means that if you are sitting near the window, then you have to jump over your neighbor to go to the restroom. In my case, pretty delicate as there is no place to hold yourself when the seat is reclined and this bed is fully flat.

Business class Lufthanasa
Business class seating on Lufthansa’s 747-8.

Entertainment

The 747-8 has one of the latest screens, but managing to connect the noise-cancelling headphones can be difficult. I even had to ask the assistance of the cabin crew to find the connecting port. Beyond that, the movies choice is pretty updated, but of course, when you download, you are necessarily a bit frustrated by the offer.

Business class screens
Business class screens on 747-8 of Lufthansa

One of the more quirky sides of Lufthansa, is that they provide you a mattrass to be deployed on your seat when you want to sleep. Funny and not necessarily very convenient.

Food: uninspiring

Most people like business class for the food. I have to confess I have a low interest for food, except that I can tell choices are uninspiring.

Dinner on Lufthansa
Dinner on Lufthansa

You might call my choice very “German”, as it comes complete with the potatoes!

At any rate, it was sufficient to nurrish me and keep me satiated until arrival.

One hour before arrival, we were served breakfast. Although the beds are lie-flat beds, I am afraid my back does not allow me to sleep comfortably in the rather Spartan airline seats. Breakfast was a welcome awakening.

Breakfast on Lufthansa
Breakfast on Lufthansa

Once again, it looks VERY German, complete with saussages and eggs.

Arriving in Frankfurt

Of course, when flying from Asia to Europe, you are always bound to arrive at dawn. It was not yet 6 AM, and hence quite dark outside as we landed in Frankfurt after an uneventful flight. I managed to take a few shots of the cabin and the Christmas decorations on the upper deck, before deplaning.

Christmas decorations on 747
Christmas decorations on 747-8

You really get a measure of the majestic plane once outside. In the night, the 747 has still a majestic and royal presence which fills the whole berth.

B747-8 in Frankfurt
The Boeing 747-8 of Lufthansa at its bay in Frankfurt

Layover in Frankfurt

Unfortunately, being a hub for Lufthansa, Frankfurt’s business lounge gets quite crowded in the morning. And, of course, there is a quite a queue to use the lounge’s showers. After shower, it was the time to catch my connecting flight to Nice.

By that time, it had started raining and we took off in an Airbus A320 “neo”. Short plane, with winglets at the end of the wings, the A320 neo is the short range Airbus solution (something of a competitor to the B737 of Boeing).

A320 neo
A view of the A320 neo at its gate. Notice the winglets at the end, fuel-saving feature.

We took off in the rain, but not before seeing a streak of sunrise coming through the clouds.

Sunrise on the airport
Sunrise while waiting to take off to Nice on the A320 neo.

Short haul business class

Obviously, the short haul business class on Lufthansa, just as on Finnair is pretty spartan. Breakfast comes through as a typically German breakfast (again!). Cheese and cold cuts and bread…

Business class breakfast
Business class breakfast on Frankfurt-Nice

The flight was quiet and uneventful, but as the plane flies over the Italian alps in its approach to Nice, the views from the window were quite spectacular. A reminder of how beautiful it is to fly during day time.

View on Italian alps
The view on Italian Alps from the plane

Nice: a classical city

Obviously, I am not going to talk about my work here, nor what I did in Southern France in relation to business.

No, I instead wanted to talk a bit about the city of Nice: although slightly fresh, it was not yet the real cold and dreary days of December down south. I enjoyed a beautiful sun during my stay and, contrary to Asia, the skies were a magnificent blue.

My hotel being located next to the Notre Dame Basilica, I managed to visit this beautiful neo-Gothic church – deserted as about every church in these days and times.

Notre Dame de Nice
The beautiful Notre Dame de Nice Cathedral at night.

The Basilica itself, is a magnificent example of Gothic architecture… brought down to scale! In fact, ths basilica was built around 1864, after the city of Nice was returned to France from the Kingdom of Sardinia. So, quite new as a church, but still it maintains a certain intemporal beauty.

Inside the Basilica
Inside the Notre Dame of Nice Basilica

The whole area of the center of Nice is a bustling area of promenade and of animation of the Southern city. Cars are excluded from circulating, so the main transportation is the tram and bicycle.

Biking in Nice
A lady bikes on the tram rails in Nice

A missed sunrise

Sadly for a photographer, I was unable to stop and shoot a picture of the beautiful sunrise on the mediterranean coast near Nice. I did manage to grab a snapshot from my car’s window, though.

A famous social media symbol
A famous social media symbol for Nice.

Later, on the same road, I managed to see a fiery sunrise.

Sunrise in Nice
Sunrise in Nice

Return flight

The return flight to Hong Kong was as uneventful as the going. I flew again on a 747-8, but this time, I took the precaution of getting an aisle seat to avoid having to hike above my neighbors…

And when I arrived in Hong Kong, it was time to say goodbye to the 747 after two flights with Lufthansa.

Boeing 747-8
The Boeing 747-8 of Lufthansa at its gate in Hong Kong after the night flight from Europe.

A layover tour in Istanbul

I am currently on my fourth trip paid uniquely with American Express card points thanks to a partnership with Zuji. Basically, you could book trips to various locations around the world for 30,000 Amex points (+ taxes!). My previous trips were to Kaohsiung and to Korea. This time, it is a trip to Barcelona (of which you can already have some idea on my instagram feed). The interesting part (or not so interesting!) is that you are obliged to travel with the airline they select, in this case Turkish Airlines. It was my first time flying with this airline. The best part is probably the fact that Turkish Airlines offers you a free layover tour of Istanbul, provided you have at least six hours on your layover.

The TK flight

As usual with flights from Hong Kong to Europe, the TK flight departed at 23.15. The plane was quite packed, but although climbing onboard was a bit chaotic, the remainder of the flight and arrival was quite peaceful, with passengers being courteous enough to unload and give me my camera bag from two rows away.

Food on board was pretty good even in economy. The choices of food were limited to fish, as by the time they served our row, they ran out of chicken, but that was my first choice.

Dinner on TK
The dinner on the TK flight

Sorry if the picture above does not do justice to the meal, but I had a very cramped space to operate.

Sleeping on economy class for 10 hours is an ordeal instead. Last time I had to do an intercontinental flight was in business class, so quite a difference this time. I woke up sore, but still rested.

In the morning, breakfast was as good as the evening dinner.

Breakfast on Tk flight
Breakfast in the morning

Istanbul Airport and its lounges

For a first visit to Istanbul, the airport was infuriating as could be. It was easy enough for us to find the lounge. Thanks to our Priority Pass card, we managed to get into the Prime Lounge, after passing through security.

The lounge itself had showers of which we took advantage after the long night sleeping. However, you had to wait for the staff to have cleaned first the toilets then the showers… Anyway, the shower was a welcome relaxation.

The food at the lounge was mainly Turkish-oriented, so it was the occasion for me to experience some “Turkish delights”.

A delicious meal at the Prime Lounge
Yogurt soup, cheese and black bread

After our meal and our refreshment, we took off to find the tour, and that’s where the airport gets properly infuriating. There is no clear sign on how to get out of the airport. If you ask staff, they just don’t answer you and tell you to go to the information desk. Eventually, we got some succinct information on how to get out and managed to find our way out of the airport after clearing immigration.

The Turkish layover tour

 

Obviously, once outside, signs are again lacking, and there is a wealth of tour agencies around, so I suspect many tourists might get snared by the tour agents when searching for the TK tour. Actually, you must turn right and walk all the way to the TK tour counter. TK also offers free hotel in Istanbul if your layover is long enough to warrant it. Anyway, when we got to the counter, we originally were refused by the lady at the counter… Then nevertheless added to the 8.30 tour by the supervisor. The tour lasts from 8.30 (Turkish time, so that means 8.45) to 11 (surprisingly they are punctual with that part). As our flight to Barcelona departed at 12.35, that meant we could do the tour and not be stressed.

Turkish Airline layover tour
8.45 and we are en route for Istanbul!

Sultan Ahmet mosque

The layover tour focuses on the old city of Istanbul (by far the most interesting). It also helps that the major attractions such as the “Blue Mosque”, also called “Sultan Ahmet mosque” and Saint Sophia (“Hagia Sophia”) are both within a short walking distance of each other. On the way from the airport, there are several sunrise spots (and we saw some “angel lights”, but the bus’ windows were too dirty to make anything out of it.

The Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque as seen from outside.

The Blue mosque, inside is even more beautiful than from outside. A lovely marvel of architecture and art.

The Blue Mosque of Istanbul
The inside dome of the Blue Mosque of Istanbul

Mitchy before the blue mosque of Istanbul
Mitchy before the blue mosque of Istanbul

Mitch, herself, took a pic of me before the mosque:

 

Myself before the blue mosque of
myself before the Blue mosque of Istanbul

Saint Sophia

Immediately outside Sultan Ahmet mosque, you come across the famous Saint Sophia. Originally an Orthodox church, it got converted into a mosque by the Turks then finally now is nothing more than a museum. It is sad that the tour being concerned about time, Saint Sophia was not available to be visited. I managed nevertheless to capture a shot.

Saint Sophia
Saint Sophia in Istanbul

It was then time to go back to the airport, but not before our guide managed to drag us into the bazaar.

 

Flight to Barcelona

Although the subject of the tour was mainly to talk about our layover tour in Istanbul, I cannot skip the part of our flight to Barcelona. Mainly because Turkish airlines provided us with… a chef on board! We were flying on a Boeing B-737-800, with a new and pretty modern upholstery and entertainment system.

Interior decoration
Interior of B737-800

Later on, the service was ensured not only by the flight attendants, but also by the chef himself!

Chef on board
A chef in a plane.

Finally, while flying above Greece, I shot the lovely perspective of the plane’s wing… one interesting perspective on flying.

View on the wing
A lovely view on the wing of the B737-800

If you are flying Turkish Airlines and your layover is at least 6 hours, then you definitely want to grab the chance for this tour. You can find more about it here.