SFO777 The First Class Travel Blog

The First Class Travel Blog

From Flyertalk's Most Popular Trip Reporter

New Years in the South of France

New Years in the South of France

via Lufthansa and Swiss First

January 2015

Mrs. SFO777 and I are off this afternoon to Nice and the Cote d'Azur in the South of France.  And we are back on our favorite airline and our favorite flight, Lufthansa 447 non-stop from Denver.   Despite 6 inches of snow on Christmas afternoon and this morning, roads were clear and we had no delays on our ride to DIA.   After security, we head for the American Airlines Admirals Club or "The Crap Lounge" as Mrs. SFO affectionately refers to it.   

Yeah, that looks yummy.

At T-35, we headed downstairs to nearby Gate 41.

Denver-Frankfurt
Lufthansa 447
747-400
5:35P-11:10A +1 (sked)
7:00P-11:55A +1 (actual)
December 26, 2014
Departed 3/8
Seats 83C and 83H
 

Ah yes, heaven.  And a virtual charter tonight as there was only 1 other F pax who was quiet as a mouse up in the first row, 81C.   A blurred pic means it didn't make the cut and was not approved by Mrs. SFO.

Pre departure Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle.

And we head out for deicing as the snow has returned.

Tonight's menu with a lot of interesting options.

And a much improved wine list from my last flight.

De-icing took 15 minutes and then another 40 minutes to correct a malfunctioning back up generator.   No worries, we have a 5 hours connection.  More champage sir?  

Once in the air, it took a while for the IFE system to reboot.  Although, it's almost not worth it.  Pretty crappy IMO although it is better than the old 744 IFE.  Media guide lists all sorts of movies few of which were actually available on our flight. 

OK, let's start with a G&T.

And showtime!

Our wonderful FA decided that tonight was wine tasting night.

The starter cart.

Smoky rosemary shrimp with black eye pea salad and cilantro vinaigrette.

Honey ancho beef jicama roll with hominy salad and gazpacho vinaigrette.

Green asparagus, red peppers, feta cheese and toasted pistachios with truffle oil sherry vinaigrette.

And a seasonal salad with shaved fennel, pine nuts, tomato and parmesan cheese.

And the mains.  Mrs. SFO went with the Sautéed grouper, crawfish tails and crab with creole sauce, corn and tomato succotash and farro risotto.   Looked great and she loved it.

While opted for the Filet of smoky beef with chipotle cherry red wine sauce, mixed vegetables and sweet potato chilaquiles.  This was another great dish.  The chilaquiles were out of this world.  

Although the beef could have been a little less well done.

And the wine tasting continues...

The cheese and dessert cart.

Sure, why not.  I'm not driving tonight.  LOL.

The apricot pistachio loaf served warm with vanilla ice cream.

Mrs. SFO snapped a pic of the wine carnage.

And the finale.

With the late departure and extended meal service, I changed into my PJs, said good night and hopped into bed... where I slept for nearly 7 hours.  I woke up on our descent, 25 minutes from landing.  Unfortunately, the weather in Frankfurt wasn't any better than Denver.  And even though we were 40 minutes late, our gate was occupied.  The bad news was that It was still occupied 15 minutes later, and we parked at a non-gate apron position.   

But the good news for F pax is that a Mercedes S class was waiting to take us to the terminal.

Our limo driver dropped us off at the Terminal A entrance, where amazingly we were the only people at passport control.  Two minutes later we were outside A-1, turned left for the short walk to the First Class Terminal... our home for afternoon, and unexpectedly the evening.  

I set up shop in our usual corner seats and started to pass the time for 4 hours and our 4:25P departure.

While Mrs. SFO headed for one of the two day rooms to catch up on sleep.

This in not looking good.

Oh well, what can I do expect enjoy this amazing lounge, decked out in beautiful Christmas decorations.

And the latest gummy bear display.

The wonderful Cigar Lounge.

Meanwhile back outside, it's still coming down.

We've outlasted all but one other party.  Everything looks good.

Uh-oh, not so fast.

Our PA Sonya stopped by to give me the bad news.  The 4:25P is cancelled and the 9:15P is oversold.  But we are confirmed on tomorrow morning's 7:30A flight.  And she gives us a voucher for the night at Airport Sheraton.  Did we want to standby for the 9:15P?  Absolument.  And the good part is that if we clear, the gate will call the FCT and only then will our limo take us to the plane.   I give Mrs. SFO the good news and other than missing our friends and dinner in Eze, we're remarkably calm.  There are worse places to pass the time.  And with lots of time, let's have dinner.

Our PA Sonya stopped by to tell us that the 9:15P flight was now cancelled as well.   At this point, we're thinking let's just stay here and go in the morning and arrive fresh.  Plus Avis in Nice closes at midnight and it would be really tight.

We both had the sensational Linguini con gamberetti.  Phenomenal.

And naturally the Wiener Schnitzel. OMG.

Time for dessert.  Decisions, decisions.

The warm apple strudel with creme anglaise and chocolate was to die for.

Just as we finishing dinner, our new PA Stephan came over to inform us that the 9:15PM flight was now back on the schedule... provided the inbound arrives from Hamburg.  OK, let us know. Danke.  We returned to our lounge seating area to wait it out a while when I struck up a conversation with a fascinating German-Saudi gentleman who is apparently one of the original HON Circle members and seemingly knows every FCT employee.   The kitchen makes special "off the menu" items for him and he convinced me to try the Kaiser 'schmarn.  Wow. Wow. 

At 7:30P, after nearly 7 hours in the FCT and our inbound plane still on the ground in Hamburg, we decided to call it a night and head for the Sheraton.  We bid adieu to our new German-Saudi friend and head out to the waiting Lufthansa van which took us over to the Sheraton.  

And the longest line for check-in I have ever seen at any hotel.  Apparently, there were lots of flights cancelled tonight.  

And our digs for the night.  Not exactly the French Riviera.

Despite getting to our room just after 8:00PM, neither of us slept very well and by 4AM, decided we may as well head over to the airport for breakfast.   My plan was to take a taxi back to the First Class Terminal and be pampered and driven to our Nice flight.  For whatever reason, Mrs. SFO decided that this was not a good plan and insisted that we just go the regular terminal and one of the First Class Lounges.  Husbands will understand that it is sometimes pointless to argue with your spouse, regardless of how misguided their thinking may be.  This morning was one of those occasions.  I knew the experience would be hell and I decided to let her learn.   Although the premium security line was not that bad, everyone seemed to be in total cavity search mode this morning.  It took 30 minutes to escape security as they double and triple checking almost everything with a wire or chip.   At that point, Mrs. SFO realized that she had made a big mistake and agreed that she would never again question my plan at any airport.  

We finally arrived at the A Terminal First Class Lounge and were welcomed despite technically not qualifying for admission since we had arrived in First the day before.  An explanation of the cancellations from yesterday was all it took.

Time for breakfast in the dining room.

At around T-30, we bid adieu to the lounge staff and headed out to walk to our gate... where Mrs. SFO quickly realized again the error of her insistence of going to the main terminal... Euro gate lice.  She again apologized and insisted she would never again question my airport decisions.  LOL.

Frankfurt-Nice
Lufthansa 1058
A321
7:30A-9:00A (sked)
8:20A-9:50A (actual)
December 28, 2014
Seats 3DF
 

How do Europeans put up with the crap their airlines call Business Class?  And Lufthansa really flies this A321 on 4 hour flights to Tel Aviv??

 

Very consciencious Flight Attendant even swept up the laid-down-to-prevent-sliding-sand brought on board by passengers.

But what a gong show with getting out this morning.  Either Frankfurt doesn't see much snow or this is one really challenged ground team.  Sure, let's send de-icing trucks to each gate instead of having an efficient de-icing area like Denver or Montreal.   And sitting in these miserable seats for close to three hours is not my idea of fun.  We finally took off at 8:20A.  Ugh.  

This morning's continental breakfast.  I just took it for the photo op.

We finally arrived to a gloriously sunny +10C/50F morning on the Cote d'Azur.

Where miraculaously, our HON tagged bag was the first to come onto the carousel.

We headed out into the arrivals hall of Terminal 1 to pick up our minivan and head out for the short drive to Eze.   It was only then when I discovered that it is sometimes a good idea to research a new airport.  Despite being the international terminal, there are absolutely no signs for rental cars and no rental car counters here.  Turns out they are all located in Terminal 2.  And where is that?  Out the door to the left.  OK, how hard can that be?  How about two miles away.  It was not until we were a third of the way there that I discovered that there were shuttle buses between the two terminals.  And then there is French signage.  I love this country, but what is it with signs.  Someone had to be playing with us by posting conflcting signs to Terminal 2.  Well, we finally got to the Rental Car Centre but only after seeing the single tiny sign in an obscure location.  Five minutes at the Avis counter and up the elevator to our... Renault.  LOL.  This is going to be fun.

Thirty minutes after we finally left Nice Airport, we arrived at our home for the next three days and nights, the Chateau Eza in Eze.   Not your typical hotel, but a converted castle located high atop a mountain with spectacular views of the coast.

Photo from chateaueza.com

Beautiful hotel but this is one difficult hotel to get to.   You can drive to the parking lot but then you have to walk the last 100 yards thru a 16th century village.

And our suite for the next three nights.

After we settled in, we went for lunch at the Chateau's Michelin 1 star restaurant.

Photo from chateaueza.com
 
With one of the most spectacular views from any restaurant, high above the Mediterranean.
 
Photo from chateaueza.com

After lunch, Mrs. SFO and I went back to our room for a nap.   Late PM and evening sunsets from our suite.

Despite the snooty maitre d last Valentine's Day, one of our favorite restaurants is L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon St-Germain in Paris (7th).  So when we found that he has a restaurant in Monaco, it became a must stop this week.  We walked down from the hotel to the parking lot and our waiting taxi, which took 12 minutes to drive us to the stunning Hotel Métropole in Monte Carlo, the tony neighborhood in gorgoeous Monaco.

Stunning lobby.

We stopped for a drink at the bar.

Before heading into the elegant Joël Robuchon.  Pic from after dinner when most guests had left.

Wonderful amuse bouche.

The bread cart.

My amazing canelloni with shrimp and truffles.

And the out of this world John Dory.

OMG, the dessert cart.

After dinner, we left the hotel and headed towards the famous Casino de Monte Carlo.   Still the hotel grounds.

And a block away, the main square of Monte Carlo.

With spectacular Christmas light display.

Including cotton snow.  LOL.

Mrs. SFO and Mrs. SoCal Travel Buddy with the Casino in the background.

Bentleys and Lambourghinis parked in front of the Casino.

We got as far the lobby of the Casino only to discover that you need ID (and 10 euros cover charge) to get into the place.  Well, none of the ladies had ID's so we were SOL and move on to the Hotel de Paris across the street.  We had originally hoped to get a reservation at Alain Ducasse's The Grill but it was one of the casualties of the hotel's 4 year closure and renovation.   

On the other hand, the lobby was still open.

As was the lobby bar.  Not exactly a happening place but the drink and music was excellent.

After our drink, we found a taxi outside and 12 minutes later, were back in Eze.

After a good night's sleep, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast in our suite.

And the view from our suite.

And then headed out for Nice and Cannes.  In Nice, we stopped at the Matisse Museum.  Meh.

And then off to explore Cannes where we nearly lost the top of the van at the low underpass near the beach.  Inched our way into until we decided that it wasn't going to fit.  LOL.  Wish we would remember to take a pics of that one.

Squeezing our wondeful Renault into a tiny parking space.

Back above ground, Cannes is cutesy seaside town.

We headed for a restaurant recommended by our sommelier, only to find it closed.  Ha.

But went for plan B and nearby Le Beija-Flor after checking with tripadvisor.  Owner Christof welcomed us in and we were the only patrons for lunch today.  I would definitely recommend Le Beija-Flor.

And a Pharmacie stop for skin care products and a 70% savings compared to US prices.

Back in Eze, more beautiful sunsets before dinner.

Drinks and pupus in the bar.

And then to the restaurant for a wonderful dinner and amazing views of the Mediterranean coast.

From chateaueza.com

From chateaueza.com

This morning we headed out to explore Monaco and then to San Remo on the Italian Riviera.   But first down the mountain to the parking lot, passing tonight's restaurant.

Fifteen minutes later, we are in tony Monaco.  OK this may be the cleanest and most elegant places I've ever visited.

We are talking some serious money here.  

Not sure I'm brave enough to live in this building.

Since we were only a few minutes away, we decided to head to Italy for lunch.  The A8/A10 has some pretty spectacular views.

And 30 minutes later we are in more plebian San Remo on the Italian Riviera, where the contrast from the gltiz and glamour of Monaco is pretty dramatic.  From a harbor filled with 200' yachts to a harbor filled with 30'-40' boats.  
 

Our first stop was Ristorante Glam, which rated highly in our research. 

Very nice atmosphere and an excellent choice.

We started with homemade pasta with truffles.

Even a little room for dessert.

After lunch, time to explore a little of San Remo.

Proof positive we are not in Monte-Carlo today.  LOL.

Back at Chateau Eza, we rested up and then headed our for dinner at Le Troubadour, which claims to have been a bar-restaurant for at least 500 years.

Excellent French Onion soup.

And out of this world profiteroles.

New Years Eve was getaway day and a 5 hours drive to Lyon.  Great driving conditions and exorbitent tolls kept the A8 and A7 clear of most traffic today.   We decided to make an impromptu stop for lunch in Aix en Provence. 

 

As we were walking I searched tripadvisor and found a great sounding bistro only a 7 minute walk away.  Unfortunately, it was closed for the day.  At that point, the group was cold and hungry and decided "what about the Irish Pub?", which is where we stopped.  Good people watching but terrible food.  I'd have gone hungry before eating at this place.

We arrived in Lyon and the Villa Florentine just after 5PM.  

Located on a hill overlooking Lyon, Villa Florentine was a 17th century convent, converted to some 20 years ago to a small luxury hotel. 

Our suite was a more recent addition in a next door building connected by underground walkway.

Suite 24 is a two level suite with comfortable downstairs living area and upstairs bedroom loft.

We enjoyed New Years Dinner in the hotel's Michelin 1 star restaurant.

MIdnight in Lyon.  Pretty quiet.  

Happy New Years Day in Lyon.  Early morning views from the hotel.

And later in the day.