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Dubrovnik and the Dalmatian Coast

Dubrovnik and the Dalmatian Coast
Dubrovnik and the Dalmatian Coast
via Lufthansa First Class
September 2020

Mrs. SFO777 and I are off for a week in Croatia to celebrate my milestone round number birthday.  Croatia has been on our bucket list and was a no brainer this year as it is one of the few countries in Europe which permits Americans to visit without quarantine.  All we need is a simple negative PCR test taken not more than 48 hours prior to arrival.  We're visiting Dubrovnik and Split as well as some of the Dalmatian coast islands.   Traffic flowed smoothly up the 405 all the way from South Orange County and we made the 60 mile driive in arround 50 minutes.    Both Air France and Lufthansa had one connection options to Dubrovnik.  While we love Air France La Première, I opted for Lufthansa.  While both have cut back ground services in their hubs, Lufthansa reps at the First Class Hotline seemed less confused than the clueless staff at the Ligne La Première who couldn't even answer some of the most basic questions.  In the end, I went with Lufthansa primarily for the 747-8 and the availabiity of 1AK.  

The Ghost Town that is LAX

The most striking thing about LAX today was the lack of many cars or many people.  We parked in the T4/TBIT garage and simply walked across the street to the Bradley Terminal.   This was surreal.  Who needs traffic lights?

Inside on the departures level, finally some passengers for the relatively few international departures these days. 

OK, some folks at the Lufthansa counters.

These guys have a long day and night ahead on their way to Sweden.

No line at the entrance to security.

Although PreCheck doc check funneled into the same security conveyors as non-PreCheck, those with PreCheck get green cards which let us pass with the normal PreCheck protocols.

The Amex Centurion Lounge has a great location immediately after security...

... which wiill be useful someday.

Inside, empty.

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... with most of the stores closed.

Restaurants? Forgetaboutit. 

 I was aware that no TBIT airline lounges are open, but decided to check them out just for laughs.  The Star Alliance First Class Lounge.  Not exactly sure what the DANGER is.  You're just closed.

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And the Business Class Lounge, which rated big diagonal DANGER signs.

But the winner for the biggest lie of the day goes to Qantas.  The Qantas Lounge is closed "due to social distancing requirements".  LOL.  How about being honest? Like we're closed because we don't fly to LAX, or pretty much anywhere for that matter, and our One World partners and Air France don't pay us enough to keep the lights on.

So we headed to the only "lounge" open today, Hudson and Starbucks...

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A little later, the long, long walk to the end of the south concourse.

Past today's other option...  

At least LAX is being honest.  We don't want to pay the power bill to run these suckers.  

Our beautiful 747-8...

Los Angeles LAX to Frankfurt FRA
Lufthansa LH 457
747-8
3:10pm-11:00am +1
September 11, 2020
Departed 5/8
Suites 1A and 1K
 

Gate 156 is just about the end of the south concourse of TBIT.    Not a heavy load today. with maybe 60 pax total.   All required to wear masks to board and in flight, except when eating and drinking.

After the handicap preboards, First Class was invited to board.   This interesting guy was in 3A.  Masks I get, but full hazmat suit, mask, goggle and gloves?  Jeez, why even bother? 

Ah, back home again in one of the nicest First Class cabins in the sky, especially for a couple in nose suites 1AK. 

Service today was simply marvelous with our two First Class flight attendants, Sasha and Iris, doting on us with flawless service.  And the good news is that, unlike some airlines using Covid as an excuse to cut back, Lufthansa has maintained its excellent in flight soft product.

Today's menu...

And today's wine list.  The online menu teased LPGS Rosé, but alas it was not to be, as it was the respectable Lanson all the way.

The current LH First Class amenity kit...

Meh.

And off we go.

To start I went with the Monthly Proposal London Gin, and tonic.  Delicious even without the lemon, apparently a Covid casualty. 

Our lovely amuse bouche.

Showtime, Lufthansa style.  

With beautiful scenery along the way.

No fresh rose, another COVID casualty, but our FAs improvised wiith a paper rose.  That was sweet.

Caviar to start, delivered from the galley instead of the traditional cart-up-the-aisle service.

Yummy LH garlic bread.

Mrs. SFO777 opted for the salmon, which she said was dry.

On the other hand, my beef filet was fabulous...

... and perfectly medium rare.

One of two First Class lavs.

With cloth towels another COVID casualty.

Later, I headed to the lav to change into my PJs as FA Sasha made up my bed.

And slept a solid five hours...

... waking up an hour out from Frankfurt.

What a wonderful flight with outstanding in flight service. 

Nothing was a bigger contrast from our wonderful flight than arriving at Frankfurt airport.  This sorry excuse for an airport is arguably the worst major hub airport in the world.  To make matters worse, Lufthansa operations changed our scheduled arrival gate and decided to park us close to Siberia, at Gate A69, the furthest gate away from civilization. 

Mr. Hazmat leading us up to the Z level of terminal.  Check out the gloves.  And his Hello Kitty backpack.  Yikes.

And away we go for the long, long, long trek to try to get into Germany for three hours, because Lufthansa's only open First Class Lounge is the one in the A concourse... in Germany.  The A concourse may be directly underneath the Z concourse, but it may as well be in another time zone.

The terminal is dead with so few gates used that even McDonald's is closed.  Even more bizarre that LH would park us at A69/Z69.

About 10 minutes later, we followed the Hello Kitty Hazmat guy down to immigration.

Despite assurances from a Lufthansa agent at the Lufthansa US First Class Hotline that we'd be able to enter Germany to visit the First Class Lounge, reality was a hard no.   Officer was nice about the whole thing. He called his supervisor to check, then had another officer guide us back towards B.  Another long trek, followed by a train, security and one more long trek.  In retrospect I would have been far better off with Air France.  At least we'd have had a personal assistant with us trekking around CDG.

And more walking.  Yeah, I feel your pain.

Finally, some 45 minutes later, Gate B43 and the Business Class Lounge.

A far cry from the First Class Lounge, the Senator Lounge is pretty basic.

But at least it had a quiet room with lie flat beds, which is all Mrs. SFO777 wanted at the moment.  And she slept for a good 3 hours.

While I went to check out the rest of the lounge.

The food and beverage area.

"Meal service" was a pathetic selections of anemic looking sandwiches, and a warm rice and chicken option.

I joined the queue for a shower and was alerted about 45 minutes later.

After a shower, off for a little work and a snack.

At 2:45pm the lounge dragon announced that the lounge would be closing at 3pm.  Those with later departures are apparently SOL with Lufthansa.

And Lufthansa was not done playing games with us today, as our FRA-DBV gate was changed from nearby B47 to distant B22.  Just to rub it in B22 is adjacent to the shutterred B First Class Lounge. 

LOL.

Frankfurt FRA to Dubrovnik DBV
Lufthansa LH 1416
September 12, 2020
A319
Seats 1DF

 

As with most European Business Class, European domestc Business Class a pathetic Economy Seat with an open middle.  Fortunately, I was able to select row 1 bulk head seats, the only good seats in Euro-fraud Business Class. 

The best of a bad lot.

In flight, excellent service and unlike with BA, real glassware.

On approach to Dubrovnik.

Our other option, Air France, had landed just ahead of us.

We lucked out on the walk to immigration as I noticed an elevator just before the stairs (no escalator) down to immigration.   We appeared to be the only two aware of it and downstairs, the elevator opened up at a short queue, way in front of those pax on the stairs and those coming from the other side of the terminal.

The line moved quickly and we had absolutely no issues at immigration. The only thing that the officer asked for was our negative PCR test results. We had taken the test the day before departure and arrived 43 hours after swab up the nose. Got the impression that the 48 hours was not a hard 48 hours, just as long as the test was 2 calendar days before. YMMV though obviously.   I stopped at an ATM and then headed outside where our driver was waiting with our name on an ipad.

Leaving Dubrovnik airport for our 25 minute drive to the old city.

The lobby of the Hotel Excelsior Dubrovnik, our home for the next three days.

Amazing view of the old city from the lobby.

We had the option of a couple of suites and chose an Executive Suite in newer tower.

Amazing views from our balcony.

After a full 24 hours of travel, we were tired and stayed in for a quick bite to eat before calling it a day.  Beautiful outdoor dining area...

... with amazing views.  Shockingly, we were two of only a handful of guests tonight.   As we discovered during our stay, there are very few tourists anywhere this year thanks to Covid paranoia.

The next morning, we discovered even better views with a full wall of windows.

Dubrovnik

I had booked a guide and driver for our first three days in Croatia.  And we really were fortunate to find Julija (Julia) at dubrovnikdrivingguide.com.  We all bonded and had a wonderful experience.  We met Julia in the lobby at 10am and first headed just down the street, to old walled city Dubrovnik.

First stop was the harbor at Kings Landing which fans of Game of Thrones will recognize.  Much of the last two seasons of GoT was filmed in and around Dubrovnik.

Then thru the Pile Gate into the walled city.   In a normal year, we would have had to queue just to get in... to be with thousands of tourists.  

And the stairs where Cersei began her Walk of Shame in GoT.

From the old city, we drove up to the top of the mountain overlooking Dubrovnik.  Spectacular views of the city as we head up to the top.

The final couple of miles was a one lane, two way road.  

At the top, views of Bosnia and Herzgovina, and Montrenegro.

At the summit is the aptly named Panorama Restaurant where we enjoyed lunch with a view.

And back on the single lane road down to the highway, then to our hotel.

Back at the hotel, a little sun at the "beach".

Later that evening after a nap, we headed back to the old city for a wonderful dinner at 360 Restaurant.

What a gorgeous setting on an absolutley perfect evening.

Food, wine and service combined for a memorable evening.  Our sommelier guided us thru Croatian wines.

Wonderful bread.

And our beautiful and delicious amuse bouche.  The truffle macaroon was to die for.

Mrs. SFO777 started with octopus with fennel, lime ravioli and fish soup.

My foie gras was delicious with a divine sauternes gel, coffee mousse, dates and sourdough bread.

Our wonderful and passionate about food server Ivan.

For her main, Mrs. SFO777 had the Turbot with cauliflower cream, clams and dark fish stock.  Fabulous.

I had the Sea Bass, with smoked mayo, fagotiini with cuttlefish, mussels and a beautiful sweet and sour fish sauce.  Delicious.

And then there was dessert, seemingly nonstop.  Starting with a dessert amuse-bouche.  

Incroyable!

As if that wasn't enough...

What a marvelous evening and exceptional experience.  360 is a must for foodies visiting Dubrovnik.

Another gorgeous morning in Dubrovnik.

We headed out with our guide Julia down the coast to Cavtat.

Cavtat is a charming, seaside city about 30 minutes south of Dubrovnik. 

With a lovely walking path around the coast.

Lots of shops, restaurants and bars.  Eerily empty with few yachts, boats or tourists. 

From Cavtat, we headed inland to Ljuta, where we visited a series of mills, which have been here for nearly 500 years.

A few minutes walk thru the woods and we were at lovely Restaurant Konavoski Dvori.

Lovely riverside setting.

And delicious seafood.

Then back to Dubrovnik.

And later that day, back to Kings Landing for dinner at Nautika. 

A stunning location.

Lovely salad for madam.

While I had the Tagliatelle with creamy sauce and black istrian truffle flakes.

Oh yeah.

For our mains, we both enjoyed the veal with Dubrovnik malvasija sauce, potato gratin with truffle essence, pea mousse with mint and glazed carrots. 

What a wonderful experience and another must for foodies visiting Dubrovnik.  https://www.nautikarestaurants.com/restaurant-nautika/

One last morning breakfast with a view at the Excelsior.

Another beautiful morning as we head north to the Peljesac Peninsula, wine region and Orebic.

Our first stop is iconic Crotia winery, Milos.

Very nice.

Next stop is Grgic...

... smaller sister vineyard to Napa's Grgich Hills, founded years ago by Croat Milijenko "Mike" Grgich. 

And back on the road north to Orebic, to one of the most amazing hotels we have ever visited.

Villa Korta Katarina
Orebic

 

Twenty minutes north of Grgic is the one of the most luxurious hotels we have ever visited.  Villa Korta Katarina is a spectacular, stunningly gorgeous boutique villa overlooking the Adriatic.  Sumptuous decor with amazing personal service and attention to detail.  The newly opened villa is owned by Minneapolis natives and philanthropists Lee and Penny Anderson (APi Group Inc.) who fell in love with Croatia after visiting the area on humanitarian missions following the Bosnia War.  

With a full time staff of 13 and only 8 suites, guests are truly pampered.   Even more so in our case as we were the only guests during our all too short two day visit.   We were welcomed by multiple staff members as we arrived and were escorted to reception. 

After more welcomes in the reception area, we were escorted for a tour of the villa where we met some of the wonderful staff that welcomed us like family... including Slobodan, Marianne, Iva, Marijela, Tea, Ana, Antonia and Chef Ante.  The decor throughout is stunning with incredble attention to detail.  

Time to see our suite.

Upstairs on first floor, ouur beautiful Suite 103.

Just down the hall is the villa's stunning library, my favorite late night spot.

Wonderful views from the library balcony.

Down on level -1, the incredible wine cellar.

... and fitness (wellness) center and spa.

After we settled in, we headed downstairs to relax at the pool.  

As we started to relax, Iva came to visit and ask if we wanted refreshments.  Then afternoon concierge Tea visited and asked if we had any special requests for dinner.  After Mrs. SFO777 mentioned that she regretted not packing a bathing suit, Tea excused herself and returned 20 minutes later from a shop in town with 5 bathing suits for her to choose from.  Amazing.

Probably the nicest pool bathroom I have ever seen.

Later, we headed back to our suite, to discover the table that had been set for us for our dinner.

Showtime.

There are multiple different table settings.  Looks like seafood tonight.

Our delicious starter, with scallops caviar.  The tiny green balls were our dressing... an explosion of flavor in each bite.  We enjoyed a very nice Posip wine from the Villa's adjacent vineyard.

Our main was a lovely lobster with fried potato strings and delicious garnish.

Chocolate mousse with ice cream on a bed of chocolate dirt.  

After dinner and after Mrs. SFO777 went to sleep, I headed down the hall to the library to answer some emails, edit pics and enjoy a glass of sherry.

After a great night's sleep, we headed downstairs for an incredibly decadent and sumptuous breakfast feast in the kitchen.

Later that morning, we relaxed at the pool before heading to the island of Korcula.

By private water taxi from the pier just below the villa.

With our skipper Antonio.

Approaching Korcula.

Up the stairs and thru the gate to old town Korcula.

Some residents and travel guides claim Korcula as the birthplace of Marco Polo.  He may have passed thru and lived here for a while, but as for being born here, that might be a stretch.

Lovely seaside walk with dozens of restaurants.  Sadly, not many customers even at 1:30pm.  

We were trying for lunch at Michelin one star L-D, but alas they had just closed for lunch and the staff clearly had no interest in extending lunch for us.   So we tried the next resto down the water front.

After lunch, we called Antonio for the return ride back to Korta Katarina.

Interesting combination.  LOL.

More pool time and then back to our room to relax and get ready for dinner.

Pre-dinner drinks at the bar.

And then dinner on the terrace, again just the two of us.

Different night, different table setting.  Since we could request anything for dinner, we requested a greek salad and steak.

The salad was perfect.

Our steaks delicious.

And dessert of course.  Tasty peach cobbler like.