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Private Barge Cruise - South of France

Private Barge Cruise - South of France
via Lufthansa First Class
June 2015

Mrs. SFO and I are off today to the south of France and a small barge cruise from Béziers to Carcassonne. Plus a day in Paris tomorrow and dinner at one of our Paris faves, Le 114 Faubourg at the Hotel Bristol. But best of all, we are back on our favorite airline, Lufthansa. Since LH has pulled First Class from DEN, we are forced to connect, today via Chicago on United. Miserable rainy weather continues to plague Denver and we are happy to "get out of Dodge".  

• United First Class Denver-Chicago
• United Global First Lounge at ORD
• Lufthansa First Class Chicago-Frankfurt
• Lufthansa First Class Terminal 
• Lufthansa Businss Class Frankfurt-Paris
• Hotel Esprit St-Germain
• Paris and dinner at Le 114 Faubourg
• TGV First Class Paris Gare Lyon to Béziers
• Belmond Alouette Barge 
• South of France
• Lufthansa Business Class Toulouse-Munich
• Lufthansa First Class Munich-Chicago
• American Admirals Club ORD
• United First Class Chicago-Denver

PreCheck was amazing this morning with only real PreCheck qualified pax today. Despite the gloomy Denver weather, everything was on time at DIA, or at least with our flight.

Denver-Chicago
United 1698
737-800
8:55A-12:15P
June 12, 2015
Seats 3DF

Every now and then, you encounter a real jack*** and today was that day. Guy cuts the Group 1 line right in front of us. Okeedokee.  
I'm thinking that Mr. DYKWIA just got his free upgrade and he's now a legend in his own mind. Yeah, that's you in the white jacket fatso.

LOL, Indeed, PLA, I. was upgraded and is sitting in 2A. One of the great things about UA.com and the UA app is that you can see which upgraders are sitting where.

Another United flight, another excellent crew especially First Class FA David. OK, these seats are not the most comfortable but it was only two hours. Wifi worked great today as did personal entertainment system letting you watch movies on your tablets, smartphones etc…

 

Choice of oatmeal or scrambled eggs. The scrambled eggs look like a big improvement from previous United breakfasts. Oatmeal tray was pretty substantial with a nice fruit plate, yogurt and biscuit.

Although there was no milk for the oatmeal until I asked for it. Not sure what anyone else used or perhaps they just ate their oatmeal without milk.  

On time arrival in ORD meant we had 3 hours to kill before our Lufthansa flight.

First stop is the United Global First Lounge. Better than the United Club but definitely not even close to the size and comfort of the SFO lounge.

With a surprisingly good selection of alcohol offerings.

And as during our last visit, impressive Far Niente as the house chard.

But pretty pathetic food options, both serve yourself and "made to order".

 

I had a shrimp cocktail.

And we ordered the prime beef and quiche options both of which were clearly prepared by graduates of the Doug Parker Culinary Academy.

A couple of bites and we headed out to explore Terminal 1 in search of real food.
America's Dog looks like a possibility if all else fails.

And this year's winner of the Biggest Lie contest. Yeah, that looks United Economy Plus.  LOL.

Nothing but garbage in the C concourse, so we headed over to B.

And Rick Bayless' Frontera.

OK, now that was good food.

And then back to C and the Global First Lounge.

Where Mrs. SFO eyed dessert.

Chicago-Frankurt
Lufthansa 431
747-8
3:55P-7:45A +1
June 12, 2015
Departed 6/8
Seats 1A and 1K
 
At around T-40, a Lufthansa rep came to escort us and one other F pax to the B concourse and our flight.
 

And a packed Gate B17.

We were escorted by the masses to the front of the line, where we were pre-boarded began less than a minute later.

And our first time in the new 747-8 with First Class in the nose of the main deck. But the nicest surprise was our flight crew including wonderful Mauro, one of LH's best First Class flight attendants and indeed one of their First Class trainers.

Each seat had mac nuts and water and Mauro offered champagne. At the gate today was Pommery. Quite nice and in a substantial and proper champagne glass.

Taxiing out to join the line and await our turn.

The meh amenity kit although an Escada bag that one could use an a iPad bag if you were really desperate.

After take-off, our amuse bouche.

And a glass of the 2007 Vintage Louis Roederer, much better than April's featured offering. And a much better IFE quality with many more movies than the challenged 744 IFE system.

Today's menu...

And wine list.

Showtime.

Caviar to start.

The starter cart, today including Seared Scallops and Artichoke Salad, Bresaola wrapped Quince and Manchego seasoned Cole Slaw, Marinated Feta Cheese with Sweet Peppers.

And the start of today's impressive wine tasting experience including the 2013 Anura Stellenbosch Chardonnay and the 2012 Magré Alto Adige Chard.

And Seasonal Fresh Salad with shaved Fennel, Pine Nuts, roasted Red Tomato and Parmesan Cheese.

And the red tasting including the 2007 Ricasoli Casalferro, the 2009 Louis Felipe Edwards LFE900 and the 2008 Chateau Durfort-Vivens Margaux.  

Mrs. SFO enjoyed the Poached Lobster, seared Scallops and Shrimp in Puffed Pastry with Lemon Beurre Blanc.

For my main, the heavenly Filet and Lump Crap with Béarnaise Sauce, Asparagus, Baby Carrots and Whipped Potatoes.

Perfectly prepared.

The cheese and dessert cart.

Why not.

And finishing with the Hazelnut Pot de Creme.

Nap time.

Off to the lav to change for a few hours sleep.

 

With a short 7:35 flight time tonight and our wonderful 90 minute dinner experience, I passed on breakfast and slept until about 45 minutes from landing.

What an absolutely delightful Lufthansa flight with exceptional service, again confirming that, despite the maze that is FRA, Lufthansa is our favorite airline.

Despite an end of the concourse A/Z-25 gate arrival, with no line at passport control, we were outside Door A1 at Terminal 1 in less than 10 minutes.  

And 5 minutes later at the First Class Terminal.

Still stuffed from dinner, we passed on breakfast. I showered and got a new series silver duckie. 

At T-30, our Personal Assistant retrieved us and escorted us downstairs to limo dispatch and today's Porsche Cayenne to our gate and onto plane before any other pax boarded.
 

Frankfurt-Paris
Lufthansa 1030
A320-200
9:35A-10:45A
June 13, 2015
Seats 1AC

Another coach seats masquerading as Business Class European flight. Fortunately, we were lucky enough to be able to select the bulkhead when I OLCI'd. 

We arrived on time at 10:45A to the marvel of French engineering, CDG Terminal 1, made even more pleasant today by construction that closed the inbound moving walkway. 

With light Saturday morning traffic, we were in the 6th and Boul. St-Germain in about 45 minutes.

For a quick overnight, we decided to "go cheap" and stay at a much heralded Virtuoso boutique hotel, L'Esprit St-Germain. Convenient location on St-Sulpice but no where near it's laughable 5 star rating with lilliputian size rooms, and overrun with Americans in the summer. Quite possibly the smallest room we have ever seen.  

The living room and dining room were pleasant enough.  Complimentary Continental Breakfast the next morning. 

After we settled in, we headed back over to Boul. St-Germain and then to rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré to satisfy Mrs. SFO777's apparently insatiable appetite for exploring high end stores.  

And then to meet our travel buddies for lunch at Chez Julien (10th near Le Pont Louis-Philippe) after they had escaped the crowds on Ile St-Louis. Food was meh, but the wine and atmosphere was great.

After lunch, we walked back to Ile St-Louis, then Notre Dame and finally to the 5th and 6th. OMG, just shoot me if I ever again suggest visiting Paris in the summer.  

Early evening, the four of us headed out around for dinner at Le 114 Faubourg, the fabulous 1 star resto at the Hotel Bristol Paris. This one was first recommended to us by FTer JohnRain. What an elegant restaurant with simply fabulous food and wine.

 

My rhum baba.

Our cruise company driver met us at the hotel at around 11AM and dropped us off at Gare de Lyon about 20 minutes later.

At around T-20, the gate is posted and the mad dash begins.

Our car on the lower level.

And the upper deck.

Time for lunch at the café a few cars back.

Food selections were pretty basic but the croque was quite tasty.

Four hours and change later, we arrived at Béziers.

Where two of our barge crew greeted us on the platform and for the short 5 minute drive to our barge.

 

Five minutes from the train station is the nearly 400 year old Canal du Midi.

Our wonderful crew, Captain Joe, Hostess Ang, Tour Guide Olivia and Chef Joe.

 

The lovely main living area of the barge.

Our suite.

We departed shortly after we boarded for a 45 minute cruise up the Canal du Midi for our first stop of the trip.

 

 

 

Getting ready for dinner.

Lovely table setting.
 
 
OMG, food was simply amazing. And the wines!

 

Up next: Cruising the Canal du Midi and exploring the surrounding area.

After a peaceful sleep, we awoke to birds chirping along the canal and a beautiful morning in Languedoc.

Breakfast, Chef Joe's special scrambled eggs.

Including fresh baked local pastries every morning.

And then off in our accompanying van with Olivia to tour the old picturesque town of Pezenas.

Twenty minutes back to the Alouette and we continue our 4 km/hour cruise up the canal.

Lunch time... Chef Joe's amazing salmon dish.

All types of boats on the canal, some nice, some not so much.

Later in the afternoon, we headed off in the van to visit a local olive and olive oil co-op.

And back to the Alouette.

For happy hour and then another amazing dinner.

Tonight's starter... the most amazon foie gras ever!

And perfectly prepared, delicious sea bass.

 

An amazing meal and beautiful sunset to finish the evening.

Day 2 started off calm, sunny and +15/59. So breakfast on the deck.

And we headed just after 10AM for this morning's tour.

To the Ensérune archaeological site and museum, featuring ruins and artifacts from a 2,000+ year old Roman settlement.

On our way back to the barge we stopped in Capestang at a local wine producer for wine tasting. Languedoc is not Burgundy, and these wines for the most part, while interesting, were pretty forgettable.

Meanwhile, back on barge, Ang met us with the usual welcome back drinks.

Since the wind had picked up, we headed inside for lunch.

And resumed our cruise up the canal.

As the weather started to turn cloudy and windy.

Now windy and rainy outside, we passed the afternoon drinking wine and playing Trivial Pursuit, the Canadian version. Hah, that was a hoot.

 

Happy hour, hors d'oeuvres and more wine.

And Ang with tonight's menu.

Fabulous potato and truffle tortellini.

Wonderful wine.

And amazing pork medallions.