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Christmas in Paris

Christmas in Paris
via Lufthansa First Class
December 2012

We've been to Paris many times but never at Christmas. And even though we're going to Spain in two weeks, we decided what the heck, with tons of miles from new Chase credit card bonuses, let's go for three nights, see the lights and do a little shopping.

-Lufthansa 447 DEN-FRA NEW First Class
-The LH First Class Terminal at FRA
-Lufthansa 1034 FRA-CDG Business Class
-Hotel de la Trémoille
-Christmas in Paris
-Eating our way thru Paris
-Lufthansa 1043 CDG-FRA Business Class
-Le Meridien Parkhotel Frankfurt
-Lufthansa First Class Terminal at FRA
-Lufthansa 446 FRA-DEN NEW First Class

DEN-FRA is generally an easy award flight and at T-14 I booked two seats into an F8 cabin. Although the flight has only been running about 50% new First, we lucked out today as refurbished D-ABVP was our aircraft. I OLCI'd at home but we stopped at the counter for real BPs and our onward FRA-CDG BP.

Pleasant agent told us we were welcome in the United Club in the B concourse. I don't think so. A crappy lounge in a different concourse from our A-41 departure gate? Come on LH. Much more convenient to use the A concourse Admirals Club, a nicer lounge and only a three minute walk from the gate. Some recycled pics from a previous trip...

At T-50, we headed out to nearby Gate A41

Boarding started at T-45, with First and Business pax, although one DYKWIA *G in coach insisting that he should be able to board with the F pax.
 

Lufthansa 447
DEN-FRA
747-400
December 11, 2012
3:05P-8:40A +1 (sked)
2:56P-8:16A +1 (actual)
Departed 7/8
Seats 83C and 83H

Always seems a little strange when Business is the first jetway and First is the second one, as is the hike up the narrow stairs with carry-ons. But once on the upper deck, all is well. Our two wonderful FAs welcomed us on board and showed us to our seats. As we were the first pax to board (no doubt the others were still on the train from the United Club ), was able to snap some cabin pics.

The first of four glasses of Pommery Cuvée Louise at the gate.
OK, it's not Krug but quite nice.

The amenity kit, a little weak. Thanks for the eye/face cream but how about some hand lotion? Especially since there wasn't any in the lav.

Great views from high above the tarmac as we get ready to push.

Skychefs no doubt delivering fine cuisine to one of the dregs of the Alliance.

After take-off, our FAs sprung into action prepping the cabin for drinks and dinner service.

Meanwhile, time to see if the internet actually works. I popped for the 19.95 euros for 24 hours. Speed was excellent throughout, generally faster than gogo on AA or DL. Although at that price, probably not a lot of takers. UA of course has never heard of WiFi, but heck they have the best route network and 787s, right Jeff?

Amuse bouche and an excellent G&T today.

Checking out the IFE prior to dinner. Better than the old IFE but still not in the same category as SQ or even CX.

And some issues with mine today, caused a couple of reboots.

Mrs. SFO and I received our menus at the gate while we were chatting with one of the FAs, while the other 5 pax got menus during cocktail service. Today's feature chef was from the Mandarin Oriental in New York.

After a couple of rounds of cocktails, it was showtime...

Yep, following Short hair Francis' cue, that's me trying everything...

The caviar was excellent although we could have done better than room temp Smirnoff. Yeah, I know... a first world problem.

The seared beef tataki with green papaya and peanut sauce was excellent...

As was the Nantucket scallop with ham and split pea purée...

And the Beet ravioli stuffed with creamy goat cheese and toasted pistachios.

Seasonal salad with dried yellow tomatoes and green bell pepper julienne.

Tried one of the featured wines... meh. Stuck with the champagne during the meal.

The poached lobster tail and claw in saffron reduction with simmered mushrooms and butternut squash was delicious.

The cheese and dessert cart.

Went chocolate tonight, the delicious warm chocolate cake with yogurt ice cream.

And a glass of port.

And the after dinner and sweets cart.

The obligatory Bailey's with truffle bon-bons.

After a delicious two hour meal, Mrs. SFO and I said goodnight and hopped into our wonderful respective beds. The absolute best sleep in the sky. No seat converted into a bed. An honest to gosh bed with mattress and duvet. Slept like a baby until about 90 minutes out.

I woke up about 90 minutes out, as the crew was beginning to prepare breakfast service. Not many takers this morning, as the under 9 hour flight is simply too short for full dinner and then full breakfast. Plus, I knew we'd have breakfast in the FCT a little later. We touched down at FRA about 25 minutes ahead of schedule and taxied around the airport...

...to the ordinarily dreaded tarmac position. Ordinarily yes, but not when you are flying LH First. As a limo is waiting to shuttle you to arrivals. Not sure why we were so special as we got our own S class while the other 5 pax (family of 4 and one single) were relegated to a mini van. Sorry for the quality of these iphone on the go pics...

After a 5 minute drive, we were dropped off at arrivals. After clearing immigration, we headed for the lower level of the terminal and the trek to the FCT.

 

 

This is the first time I had walked to the FCT but I knew the drill from other TRs. Just go to street level and keep left. We stayed inside until the last door and then exited. From that point, it was less than a 5 minute walk. Not the most welcoming and elegant walk, but I guess that's the point... "we'd rather you not come here for a connection". 

But once upstairs, we were warmly welcomed by our own personal assistant for our stay, who escorted us through friendly FCT security and into the terminal lounge itself, taking and hanging our coats.

After a little while, I decided to head for a shower...

...while Mrs. SFO found a comfy nearby chair...

After a shower and some rest, we decided to have breakfast...

At about T-25, our PA came over and announced that we were ready board. We took the elevator downstairs to the limo dispatch area where she handed us over to our driver and our Porsche Cayenne for the 5 minute drive around the tarmac to A13.

At (or under) the gate, our driver escorted us into the lower level of the gate, then up the elevator to mid point of the jet bridge. Timing was just a little off today as gate pax were still boarding and (unlike last time) we had to wait in the jet bridge queue to board. More first world problems.

While other airlines F service may challenge and exceed LH in the air, there is no airline I've encountered that treats it's F pax better on the ground at a hub. Simply amazing.

Lufthansa 1034
FRA-CDG
737-300
December 12, 2012
11:50A-1:05P (sked)
12:05P-1:20P (actual)
Seats 5EF

While AA and UA don't have a international First product worth flying, at least they offer a domestic front cabin product better than a coach seat with the middle blocked that is standard in Euro-fraud "Business Class". Narrow seat, thin seat, crap legroom. Quel joke, unless you are in the bulkhead. Even there, it's still a narrow, ridiculously thin seat. Don't let anyone tell you they'd prefer European SH J to any US domestic front cabin flight. They are either delusional or just looking to pick a fight.

Unfortunately, a couple of HONs or SENs snapped up the bulkhead so we were relegated to row 5. Ugh.

Pleasant and efficient FAs provided excellent service for what amounts to a coach flight.

I wasn't hungry but I took one for the team and the photo. Yuck. Give me an AA domestic F meal any day.

50 minutes after take-off we touched down at CDG and were at the T1 gate surprisingly in less than 3 minutes. I guess this terminal was cool and futuristic 30 some years ago, now it's just strange.

After a stop at the loo, we navigated our way out to the taxi stand and 30 minutes and 45 euros later we were at our hotel.

Hotel de la Trémoille
14, rue de la Trémoille
Paris 75008

As this was a spur of the moment trip, I wasn't interested in spending 1,000 euros a night for a closet at Le Meurice. So we opted for a smaller place on a quiet street in the 8th. Great location, one block from Avenue Montagne and Avenue Georges V. And at only 525 euros a night for a Junior Suite including breakfast and Wifi... a pretty good deal for Paris.

Deal got even better when we checked in and found that we had been upgraded to a full one bedroom suite on the 5th floor!

Enjoyed our stay, pleasant for a few days but not sure we'd stay here again.
More like a 4 star rather than the advertised 5 stars.

Up next: Pics of our favorite city and meals. And could it be that one of my favorite restaurants in Paris is Mexican??

Night 1

After a short afternoon nap, we headed out for the evening.

First for drinks at a neighborhood bar and then another block from the hotel to one of old haunts from when we lived in Paris for a month, a couple of years ago. Relais de l'Entrecote serves steak and frites, all you can eat in precision assembly line fashion. Turnover is the key here. The doors open at 7P, with a line outside the door, and by 7:30P the place is packed, and like many Paris restaurants, with little room between tables.

Waitresses ask two basic questions, "how do like your steak?" and "what do you want to drink?" They write your meat preference (3 options only: rare, medium or well done) on the table cloth, so the refills are easy to track.

Round 1...

Round 2...

Dinner. OMG delicious and done in 45 minutes! Now we're off down the street to The Crazy Horse for some T&A. Swear to god, it was Mrs. SFO's idea. Although the girls were all beautiful, young and pretty much undressed, the best part of the show was the two male jugglers. That alone was worth the price of admission. Am I getting old?? Sorry, no show pics as I was too chicken to go against the bouncers.

Someone has a sense of humor...

Couple of pics from our short walk back to the hotel.

After breakfast and a lazy morning, we bundled up and headed out into chilly +2C temps to see Christmas in Paris...

The Plaza-Athenée.

And the rest of Avenue Montagne.

Up to the Champ-Elysées

And over to the Petit Palais.

And it's wonderful architecture.

Across the street, the Grand Palais is now the Grand Palais de Glace with indoor Patinoire or skating rink just opened for the holidays.

Back up to the Champs-Elysées where security was pretty evident.

Interesting Christmas market stands, shops and activities line both side of the Champs-Elysées.

On the Tuileries side of Place de la Concorde is the Roue de Paris, a 200' high portable ferris wheel. It first appeared here in 2000 then moved around and recently returned. Not anywhere near as high or as luxurious as the Singapore Flyer, but it gets you above the city for some great views. Three spins for 10 euros.

For lunch, we stopped at another old hang-out, classic Mini Maxim's on rue de la Paix and then headed up to rue du Faubourg St-Honoré.

...and the gorgeous Christmas lights at Place Vendome, where The Ritz appears closed and undergoing a major and much needed renovation.

We're off for our first visit to L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, tonight at the Saint-Germain location. On the way, lights along the Champs-Elysées

Gorgeous restaurant with counter only seating around the kitchen. No, Joel was not in the house tonight, but from the website.

I like the clientele better in my pic... 

Every dish tonight was a taste sensation. We both started with langoustines. Mrs. SFO, the ravioli...

En papillote pour moi.

Next was the most incredible pasta carbonara I have ever tasted. OMG.

Coquille St-Jacques with truffles.

L'agneau pour madame.

Our culinary orgy finished with an incredible Le Chocolat Tendance.

An amazing meal and reasonably price I thought. Including a 90 euro bottle of 1er cru Dauvisset Chablis, our tab was only 282 euros, less than we'd spend in San Francisco at Quince or Gary Danko.

More sights on the way back "home"...

And we decided to walk up to L'avenue Georges V and the Champs-Elysées to walk off dinner and take in more lights.

More window shopping along the way. Mrs. SFO liked this one...

Although I was more interested in buying something for her in this store...

After she laughed, gave me the roll eyes and told me that outfit wasn't going to happen, we continued on up to Fouquet's and the Champs-Elysées.

And back to the hotel.

Day 3
Paris

What a butt ugly Friday this is looking like. +4C, cold, windy and rainy. Lovely.
We're off to La Musée de L'Orangerie to revisit the wonderful Monet water lillies mural.

And an interactive panaroma
http://www.musee-orangerie.fr/homes/...24799_u1l2.htm

Just outside L'Orangerie at Place de la Concorde.

And the lovely walk thru the Tuileries. 

To lunch at one of the oldest restaurants in Paris, La Cordonnerie. Two years ago it was rated the #1 of 8,500+ restaurants in Paris by Tripadvisor. It is currently #48. OK, I always take tripadvisor with a grain of salt, but I love this place. Mrs. SFO hates it. But in a moment of weakness, agreed to go here for lunch. It is a wonderful traditional French cuisine family restaurant. Papa Claude is the talented chef and his nephew was the server today.

This place isn't old, it's ancient. Probably so old that its code violations are grandfathered. Why else would exposed wire be tolerated?

I blocked the unhappy face.

Starters were charcuturie and delicious duck paté.

Our mains, poulet for madam while I had the incredible escalope be veau Normande.

My sauce Normande was artery clogging "to die for".

From La Cordonnerie, we walked up towards Boul Haussmann.

By the Palais Garnier, home to the Opera Garnier.

From a previous visit including the incredible Chagall ceiling.

One of the classiest Apple stores you'll see.

Up to Les Galleries Lafayette on Haussmann.

And the wonderful Christmas displays.

And the most spectacular shopping atrium and tree I've ever seen.

And nearby Printemps.

Night 3

Call us crazy but one of our favorite Paris restaurants is a Mexican restaurant.
Anahuacalli (in the 5th) serves the best (and most potent) margaritas and best chili rellenos I have ever tasted.

For our starter, we shared the delicious Tacitos Dorados.

And another margarita, prompting our waitress to warn "oui, c'est bon mais aussi dangereux monsieur".

The most amazing beef and cheese chili relleno...

And another "dangereux" margarita pour madame.

As if we haven't had enough alcohol, we decided to have nightcap at the Georges V...

... where our two martinis cost nearly as must as our entire dinner at Anahuacalli.

As with most Four Seasons, the Christmas lights and decorations are wonderful.

Last Day

With a short day and a 2PM checkout, we decided to head to the Marais for a few hours. While waiting for Mrs. SFO to get ready, I headed down the street for some Eiffel Tower pics as the temps warmed and the sun tries to make a comeback.

On my way back to the hotel, classic Paris...

Our hotel, finally back in the sun.

Off to the Marais, starting with beautiful Place des Vosges...

... where the sun brings out Parisian families.

More fun at the Bastille than the original residents...

We were both disappointed with our lunch at Bofinger, although the historic decor was very nice.

Up next: Frankfurt, quite possibly the most boring city since Helsinki.

After lunch at Bofinger, we returned to La Trémoille and only missed our late check-out by 15 minutes, bid our adieus and were on our way to CDG. Sadly, our whirlwind 72 hours in Paris was over. La Trémoille was a pleasant hotel in an absolutely fabulous location (perhaps the best location in Paris we have stayed), but there were enough little annoyances that we are unlikely to return.

With little Saturday traffic, our taxi pulled up to T1 departures level some 25 minutes later. Although we were booked on the 6:55P flight, pleasant LH First agent moved us to the earlier 5:55P flight and got us bulkhead seats. 15 minutes later after a maze of tunnels and walkways, we were at an empty security are for gates 60-68. And a few minutes later in the dungeon that is the *A and LH Lounge. Perhaps one of the most depressing lounges I have seen in a long time.

At some point during our visit, the lounge dragon came over to apologize that due to our flight change, there would not be a meal for us on board. After the "meal" on the inbound, I'd say that this was actually good news.

 

Lufthansa 1041
CDG-FRA
737-300
December 15, 2012
5:55P-7:05P
Seats 1AC

Business class tonight consisted of only 3 rows and 10 seats. There was only one other passenger, another AA EXP (or at least his carry on had an EXP tag), who was either brain dead and/or just unfriendly as he just grunted when I mentioned that the cabin was full of EXPs tonight.

There must have been a no show as there were two meals catered for this flight. FA apologized when he announced only one meal, but was relieved when we both declined. Hey, we're going to Frankfurt and we're going to hit the town. 

On time arrival but a tarmac arrival position. Perhaps our last minute flight change didn't make it to operations, or maybe overnight connections don't count, but there was no waiting limo and we were relegated to the indignity of taking the bus with the unwashed masses. 

Le Meridien Parkhotel
Frankfurt

After a quick 15 minute 25 euro taxi ride, we were at the Four Seasons Frankfurt.  Yeah right, would you believe Le Meridien Parkhotel? The airport Sheraton was booked so I opted for this one at 4,000 SPG points and $60. A butt ugly, 3 star hotel near the train station. Mrs. SFO initially decided she didn't want to go out for dinner so we tried the Café dining room. 15 minutes without seeing a waiter and we decided that this wasn't going to work.

Friendly front desk clerk suggested a German restaurant near the Christmas market, a "short" walk away. Or so it seemed on the map. After near 15 minutes of walking thru quite possibly the ugliest city in Europe, we couldn't find the Christmas market, and opted to eat at Oscar's, a pleasant looking place near the Hotel Frankfurter Hof. Friendly waitstaff served plenty of cold Bitburger Pilsner on tap and a delicious Weiner Schnitzel.

Not fine cuisine, but good comfort food, although Mrs. SFO lost her appetite towards the end when we both saw the cutest little mouse scurrying across the floor a couple of tables away. 

The First Class Terminal at Frankfurt

After a 15 minute taxi ride from the hotel, we pulled into the First Class Terminal's circular drive, where we warmly greeted by our personal assistant and porter. Our PA checked our CDG-issued BP's and then escorted us to the Terminal's private security, where we the only pax.

Rather than take a whole set of new pics, I'll repost some pics from our inbound visit.

And a few new ones.

Mrs. SFO was hungry, so we decided to have breakfast... delicious made-to-order omelets with bacon, sausage and Christmas cake.  Our PA stopped over to give us back our BPs and let us know everything was on time, and to confirm that today's FRA-DEN flight was indeed the New First.

At T-35, our PA retrieved us announcing that it was time for our limo ride to the plane. Downstairs in limo dispatch, we retrieved our passports from passport control and were handed off to our lovely driver/escort (sorry guys, no pic) for the short drive to the tarmac beside Z69 in another Porsche Cayenne.

 

Lufthansa 446
FRA-DEN
747-400
December 16, 2012
New First Class
10:35A-12:45P (sked)
10:30A-12:35P (actual)
Departed 5/8
Seats 83C and 83H

Our Personal Assistant escorted us thru the maze of security doors and up a huge elevator inside the jet bridge. We cut thru a queue of Y pax and entered 1L where she handed us off to an FA who escorted us thru the J cabin to our "stairway to heaven." What an amazing ground experience, once again. This is as close the charter as you get flying commercial.

Again WiFi equipped!

On time push and we were ready to go on our 9 hour 35 minute trip to DEN.
Great plane sightseeing on our taxi. Some of the industry's best...

And the not so best...

If you are tuning in to see more gluttony and macabus-like champagne consumption, you will be disappointed. After four days of eating and drinking like there is no tomorrow, we both decided that it was time to dry out. Indeed, with the exception of a couple of glasses of Riesling with my lunch, ice water was the extent of our drink consumption the entire flight.

And since we had just finished breakfast in the FCT, we weren't hungry. I asked to defer lunch for at least a couple of hours. Our lead FA was cool with it, but the 2nd one seemed less than enthused. Although she seemed to be off from the outset, but that could have just been her nature... tall blonde, once young and attractive, now not so much as the years taken their toll.

Mrs. SFO started watching Ted, and laughed so much that pax downstairs could have heard her.  I popped the 19.95 euros for WiFi, did a little work and started working on this TR. But 7,000 M&M miles? Seriously? I don't think so.   WiFi was great, faster than most AA/DL gogo flights.

Still not hungry even after the movie and the two hour meal service for the three pax in rows 81 and 82, Mrs. SFO hopped into bed and promptly went to sleep for 4 hours.

About 4 hours into the flight, I decided to have something to eat. Today's menu...

I went light today with just the salad, Baby Leaf Salad with Chanterelle Mushrooms, Cucumber and Cherry Tomatoes with Orange and Mustard Dressing. It was delicious and almost as good as my KE salad last month.

As none of the Braised Beed, Char or Goulash did it for me, I opted for today's Lufthansa Classic, Free Range Goose flavored with four Spices Orange Sauce Joachim Wissler with Red Cabbage and Potato Dumplings. It was excellent as was the 2011 Pechstein Riesling, although this would have been even better if it has been properly chilled. Ah well, first world problems.

I moved over to my bed for about an hour, and then some more work. At about T-2, Mrs. SFO woke proclaiming that she was totally refreshed after "an amazing sleep". She decided that she was finally ready to eat. Today's snack menu was Asian Delight.

I wasn't very hungry but had a little Thai Vegetable Salad and Sweet and Sour Pork Belly cooked in Soy Sauce with toasted Sesame Seeds, Spring Onions and Chili. Very good.

Mrs. SFO started with the Thai Vegetable Salad, Sushi with Japanese Ginger and wasabi.

Then the Tenderloin of Beef Strips with red Thai Curry Sauce and wok fried Vegetables with Basmati Rice.

She had the Fresh Fruit.

While I tried the light but tasty Pineapple and Mango Tart.

Shortly thereafter, we started our descent for an on time arrival back at our new home town.

This was our first time clearing customs in DEN and wow, what a hike from A41... up, down, up and over the top of the long walkway between the A concourse and the main terminal, down to C&I. Only two Global Entry kiosks, but they were both working and unoccupied when we got there. Unfortunately, Mrs. SFO got a big X on her receipt (apparently a finger print recognition issue) so she had to stop and talk to an CBP agent. Once outside of customs, we were right beside Terminal West valet parking where our SUV (yes, we're in Colorado now) was warmed and waiting for us.

Another great Lufthansa experience with Mrs. SFO proclaiming that "the seat and the bed is the only way to fly." As the only premium TATL option from DEN to Europe (BA has no First and UA is not premium), and relatively easy award seats, I think we'll be doing this often.

Thanks for coming along on the ride. Hope you'll join us next week for our first Swiss First flights (LAX-ZHR-ORD) as we head to Spain for the New Year.