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Shop 'til U drop weekend in Florence

Shop 'til U drop weekend in Florence
via Lufthansa First Class
April 2015

A few weeks ago, Mrs. SFO and I were discussing the strength of the USD in relation to the Euro. After I foolishly suggested that she should be buying Italian clothes in Europe and not the US, Mrs. SFO said "let's go check it out."   

So... we are off for a long weekend in beautiful Florence. And one more visit with nonstop Lufthansa First Class before Denver is downgraded to two class service in a couple of weeks. We lucked out with perfect timing as today is the last day of our wonderful 70/22 degree spring temps and a return to winter scheduled for the rest of the week. Although I had OLCI'd, we stopped at Lufthansa counter to change seats on our connecting flight to airport-assignment only bulkhead seats, the only good seats on what passes for Business Class in Europe.

With no PreCheck today, we used our CLEAR cards to jump the queue. Unfortunately, CLEAR at DEN doesn't hold a candle to CLEAR at SFO, where the agents escort you to the front of the queue at the conveyor and even bring you bins for your personal effects.  With 35 minutes before boarding, we headed to the DEN Admirals Club, which Mrs. SFO called "the crap lounge" before she experienced the DEN United Club. At T-35, we headed downstairs to nearby Gate 41 and our 747-400.

Denver-Frankfurt
Lufthansa 447
747-400
5:25P-10:55A +1
April 14, 2015
Departed 8/8
Seats 83C and 83H

Lots of gate lice as EF showed full Business and First Class cabins.

Typically pathetic LH outstation premium boarding as some 30 people queued at the First Class lane.  
Yes, by all means, don't pre board First but just open it up for Star Alliance Gold to board at the same time.

This seems a little pointless as you've already invited the world to use the First Class lane.  

Finally past the contract staff towards the jet bridge. OK, we can see how much Lufthansa Denver thinks of First Class.  

Ordinarily we'd go down the Economy jet bridge directly to the stairs. But they had already started boarding Economy so we took the Business Class jet bridge and walked thru the Business Class cabin to get to the stairs. Finally upstairs to one of our favorite First Class cabins. From previous trips...

 

Service was not very polished today, ultimately acceptable but started off not so well with seeming confusion and no PDB for nearly 20 minutes. Gone is the Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle, replaced by an inferior (IMO) Taittinger. No wonder it was poured out of sight although since no wine was ever presented, this crew just didn't know any better.

Perhaps LH is now catering a smaller package of mac nuts as my ramekin contained only 9 mac nuts.

Gone is the Rimowa amenity kit.  And the contents are just as weak.

Once in the air, not much better as it took 51 minutes after wheels up to be asked our drink selection.  

Forget the forgettable champagne, let's go with the G&T.

Today's amuse bouche.

Tonight's menu...

And wine list...

More than an hour after wheels up, showtime at last.


You'd think someone might notice my empty glass??

We passed on the caviar...

...but did go for the starter trio.

Citrus marinated Chicken with Vegetable Brochette and roasted Tomato and Tomatilla and Yellow Beet Salsa.

Watermelon Radish Salad with black Sesame Seeds, Wakame Salad with Orange and Ginger Vinaigrette.

Crabmeat deviled Egg, smoked Salmon and Chipotle Orange Aioli.

And Season Salad with Jicama, Cucumber and Teardrop Tomatoes.

For the main, Mrs. SFO had the Mixed Grill of Beef Tenderloin, Prosciutto and Sage Wrapped Chicken, Sautéed Chicken Chipolata with Zucchini, Baby Yellow Beets and Wild Rice Pilaf with Pecan.

While I chose the delicious Braised Beef Short Rib and Chorizo with Burgundy Sauce, Broad Bean Cassoulet and Potato and Butternut Squash Purée.

For dessert, we both had the amazing Lukewarm Sea Salt Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream.

And a glass of the 25 year old Armagnac X.O. 

Not sure if it was real or just the wine, but service seemed to improve as we got in to the dinner and beyond. We both hopped over to our beds and got varying degrees of sleep with Mrs. SFO complaining about the cabin being too warm. Ah well.  

We arrived onetime at Gate 25B and made our way to passport control and Germany and 10 minutes later were at the First Class Terminal.  

Frankfurt-Florence
Lufthansa Cityline 312
E90
12:25P-1:55P
April 15, 2015
Seats 1A 1D

Forty minutes later, our Personal Assistant escorted downstairs for another round of Lufthansa's best-in-the-world First Class ground experience.

For today's tour of FRA and virtually the entire airport as our FRA-FLR was parked at pretty much the furthest tarmac position. But no worries in a new S class.

We were the first to arrive today.

The rest of the cabin arrived having made the long trek by bus.

Shortly thereafter, we taxied out and were on our way to Firenze.

What a concept, completely foreign in the US, using a curtain to block the galley. 

Today's lunch was a very good ahi salad.

Great scenery along the route.

 

Descending to Florence. 

Florence Airport is tiny and lacks basic taxiways. So planes use the runway as a taxiway. Since we landed while two other planes were positioned for takeoff, we had to wait until they departed to be able to taxi to our "gate"...

Which in Florence mean a tarmac position.

A far cry from our S class in FRA...

 

And the short drive to the terminal.


 

Our hotel-arranged driver was waiting just outside baggage claim and returned a couple of minutes later for the short drive into the city.
 
 

 
I'm thinking a translation from Italian to English. 
 

In our previous visit, we stayed at what is now the St. Regis. This time, booking at the last minute, I opted for a charming, highly rated and reasonably priced centuries old family Palazzo. Once the home of one of the biggest art dealers in Florence, it has been converted to a 12 suite hotel, The Palazzo Magnani Feroni. Located on the west side of and only a short block from the Arno, the hotel is surrounded by numerous restaurants, bars and shops. By no means is this a 5 star luxury hotel. But it exudes charm and history and features an extraordinarily friendly and wonderful staff. Simply amazing service.  

Beautiful interior with hundreds of original pieces of art.

Just outside our suite, is a sitting area for the four suites on the first floor.

And our suite, The Angelica.

The hotel features a rooftop bar area with spectacular views of Florence.

While Mrs. SFO took a short nap, I explored the immediate area including the Ponte alla Carraia over the Arno.

Time for a drink on the rooftop before we head out for dinner. 

As we had not made any reservations, the front desk/concierge recommended nearby Trattoria Pandemonio. A little touristy with good, but not great food.

Nighttime views from our roof top bar.


 

A full breakfast was including in our rate.


Our wonderful driver Stefano picked us up at 9:30AM and 40 minutes later we were in the Tuscan countryside at an outlet store like no other I have seen.  
The Mall is home to outlets of the most exclusive designers in the world.  

Our home for the next three hours...

 

And finally, Loro Piana, the store that strikes fear into the hearts of most men. We spent an hour here and got some great "bargains". Of course, everything is relative. Then another 45 minutes at Ermenegilda Zegna where Mrs. SFO insisted that I buy stuff I don't really need "at great prices".  

And the Gucci store that started the invasion of the outlet stores to this part of the country.

Stefano drove us back to Florence and dropped us off at La Giostra, which both he and one of Denver friends recommended. Great atmosphere but so-so food.

 

After lunch, we explored and walked towards Via di Tournabuoni, Florence's main designer shopping street.

And naturally to Loro Piana...

... to try on items from the wish list and discuss the significant savings from buying in Italy and shipping merchandise back home. Suffice it to say, Mrs. SFO will never again buy large ticket designer items in the US where US stores want you to think that the Euro is still worth $1.40.

A stop at both Ferragamo and Zegna and then back across the Ponte Santa Trinita.

Past a restaurant on the Arno we remembered eating at more than 10 years ago, although it was a different name back then.

Naturally, we decided to go back for dinner since we had fond memories. Still excellent food and great service.

Friday morning we are off to the Uffizi Gallery. With an 11:45A reservation, we passed the time by exploring more of Florence. The walk from our hotel to the Ponte Vecchio.

Past the beautiful Hotel Lungarno, close to the Ponte Vecchio. Looked really nice. We may stay here next time.

Ponte Vecchio.

And the nearby Uffizi.

Since we were 45 minutes early for our reservation time, we walked over to the Piazza della Signoria for a cappuccino.

 

Nice café where we struck up a conversation with a personable local high end leather merchant whose family has been in the business for years and spends the winter in Palm Beach. He also recommended tonight's restaurant. 

We headed back to Uffizi, door #1 to pick up our preserved tickets.

Then back to door #3 to wait to enter one of the most crowded and miserable museum experiences in a long time. As a result, we tended to avoid many of the rooms with the most significant collections.

Yikes, get me outta here.  

After about 45 minutes, we'd had enough and left to have lunch at nearby All'Antico Vinaio, a great panini shop rated the #1 restaurant in Florence by tripadvisor.

 

After lunch, we started walking towards the Duomo.

And we entertained by a loud shouting match between these two. No idea what they were yelling at each other, but the only thing missing was fisticuffs.

And The Duomo, or Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore.

Another cappuccino...

... at Piazza della Republica.

And finally back to another 3 hours of shopping. Oh, woe is me. 

To Prada, our home the next hour where Mrs. SFO bought a pair of shoes at roughly 40% off the US retail pric

A couple more stores before we spent 45 minutes at ETRO where I bought 6 shirts at nearly 60% off the US retail price.  
The scary part was that even I was getting into this. 
Then back towards the Arno.

Heading to the Westin Excelsior for a drink at the rooftop bar.

More great views of Florence.

And finally our walk back to our hotel.

And the carnage from our two days of shopping.

Based on the recommendation of our new friend, we are off back across the Ponte alla Carraia to wonderful Trattoria Gargani. Great atmosphere and even better food.  The best meal of the trip.

 

After a lazy Saturday morning at the hotel, we check out around 11AM and Stefano was waiting to take us on a day tour to Chianti before dropping us off back at the airport this afternoon. Less than 30 minutes later, we were in beautiful Chianti wine country.

Our destination this morning was the medieval town on San Gimignano, which was a seat of power nearly a 1,000 years ago. Today 13 towers remain of the 72 towers of the fourteenth century, when every well off family built a tower to show its economical power. Stefano claimed that it was the "Manhattan of Italy" back then.

Yet another yummy cappuccino.

More Chianti wine country on our way to lunch...

..at nearby Tenuta Torciano, where we were met by the personable 3rd generation owner Pierluigi who was our host today for a wonderful over the top 10 wine, olive and truffle oil tasting.

We were invited to share lunch with a lovely couple from Baton Rouge. They were celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary.  
With the wine flowing, we made new BFFs and promised to meet next for home cooked Cajun food in Louisiana. 

Pieruigi working the crowd. 

OK, it's a little corny and contrived, but the wine was excellent and Pierluigi has this gig down to a science.  
He has a warehouse in Chicago which stocks and ships his wines to anywhere in the US, except Utah.  

He also takes his "show" on the road all over the world in the winter and will do a wine tasting meal at your home anywhere. He charges nothing but clearly with all your friends and guests pretty much sauced, he makes a profit on every tasting by successfully pitching and selling his wine. Did I mention that he has a warehouse in Chicago? His Tenuta Torciano blog has more info.

After lunch, we headed for the airport and arrived about 90 minutes before departure. I had OLCI'd so need to check in here.

We headed to the Sala Masacchio, the contract lounge for all airlines that serve FLR.

Looks pretty much like it did on our last visit a couple if years ago

 

Carb central.  

At around T-45, we headed thru security and downstairs to the "gate". Nothing but bus gates here even though the planes are right outside.

Florence-Frankfurt
Lufthansa CityLink 315
E95
6:05P-7:45P
April 18, 2015
Seats 1D and 2C

Ugly boarding process. The good news is the priority boarding call. The bad news is we all get stuffed into the same bus, that sits for 10 minutes before it moves and we drive all of 100 feet. Jeez.

I wasn't really hungry but took one for the photo op.

Um, I don't think so.

Even after a bite, no idea what this was.

Another mystery dessert.

A short 60 minutes later and we were on our approach to FRA.

And to our remote apron position, a much closer-to-the-terminal that our outbound. Ah yes, I see a Porsche Cayenne S just peeking out from behind the mobile stairs. As connecting F pax, we almost always get car service from a non-gate position. But since this was an overnight connection, I wasn't sure.

We were the 2nd and 3rd off and I approached the driver who was holding the usual FIRST/HON sign and told him "First Class". He asked our name, either didn't have it on his list or didn't care and responded "No". I repeated that we were First Class pax. He pointed at our Embraer and said "There's no First Class on that plane". Seriously?? A real comedian. I told him we were connecting to First Class. "Where?" Denver. He shook his head, pointed to the bus and said "Bus". My "we typically get limo service as connecting First Class passengers" was met with silence and he walked away. The strange thing was that he never picked up anyone. Went on board and came back with no one.

Mr. Warmth. 

'The bus ride was short and we were in a taxi a few minutes later. Rather than another airport hotel, I booked us the Villa Kennedy.  
Great Virtuoso rate: upgrade, breakfast and an €85 euro food credit for €245.

 

With a nice courtyard view, which apparently was our upgrade.

We headed downstairs to the restaurant to use up our €85 food credit.

We split linguine vongole and Weiner Schnitzel. The vongole was terrible.

But the schniztel was very good. OMG, glad we only split and didn't each get our own. 

Relaxing in the room after dinner, Mrs. SFO made the mistake of turning on German TV. What the heck???

Had no idea who he/she was until Mrs. SFO opened the LH inflight Media magazine to see a story about bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst, winner of the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest. OK, quickly veering into T.M.I. territory. 

Exploring this very nice hotel on Sunday morning.

 

We passed on our free breakfast and around 10:30A, decided to grab a taxi and head for the First Class Terminal.

With no Sunday morning traffic, we arrived at the First Class Terminal in less than 10 minutes, which is actually faster than walking to the FCT from the Airport Sheraton. :)    Our PA greeted us outside and escorted us to private FCT security where we the only passengers again this morning.  With all our Florence purchases, we requested a Zoll/Customs visit to stamp our Tax Free docs.  In the meantime, we headed over for breakfast.  Though breakfast service was technically over, no request is ever a problem here and we were able to order from the breakfast menu.

Mrs. SFO enjoyed her waffles.

While I had the Eggs Benedict 

OMG, the best ever Eggs Benedict.

The current menu, breakfast or lunch.

After meeting with the Customs agents and getting the requisite stamps, we relaxed for the next 90 minutes.

At about T-25, our PA escorted us downstairs to pick up passports and board our ride to the plane. With two other DEN pax, we all rode together in a Mercedes van.

 

Frankfurt-Denver
Lufthansa 446
747-400
1:25P-3:30P
April 19, 2015
Departed 5/8
Seats 82C and 82H

And "back home" to our favorite First Class cabin. Strange feeling this morning as this is the first time we've been in row 2 (82), as another pax had already selected 83C.

A happy Mrs. SFO777.

Time to dry out. Nothing but water today for me (until lunch at least), and no mac nuts.

 

Today's amuse-bouche.

And the menu.

And Showtime.

We both passed on the caviar.

But not the starters. 

Where Mrs. SFO went for the starter trio.

I passed and just had with the Salad of lamb's lettuce, Kenya Beans, sun-dried Tomatoes, shaved parmesan with sherry dressing.

And delicious Gazpacho with tomato, bell pepper, basil oil and prawn skewer.

Mrs. SFO enjoyed the Chinese artichoke with Topinambur Ravioli, Gorgonzola Dolce, Basil, smoked almonds.

While I had the simple and delicious Lemon Chicken with braised Vegetables and Potato Gratin.

For dessert, we both enjoyed the wonderful Coup Mara de Bois, Wild Strawberries, Vanilla Mousse, Sponge Cake.

After lunch, we alternatively read, watched movies, surfed the internet and slept until about two hours out, when it was time for our second meal... Viva México. Wow, this one was even better than lunch.

My main was sensational. Pork tenderloin in a light Manchego Cheese Sauce with Leaf Spinach.

The Chocolate Tart with Chili Juliennes.  OMG!

Lufthansa has taken a lot of heat for uninspiring inflight food. But this was a definite step up and major improvement over some of the weird catering in recent years. We touched down in DEN on time at 3:30P. Despite Mrs. SFO's annoying habit of not gathering her belongings until we've parked at the gate  and thus being way behind the other pax on the way to customs, we were out without any delay as there are now 7 Global Entry kiosks instead of the previous 2.  

Another great Lufthansa First Class flight and hopefully not the last First Class flight to/from Denver. Unfortunately, the LH winter schedule is not showing F. If this is indeed the case, it looks like we'll be connecting or just moving over to BA, which recently upgraded the DEN-LHR nonstop to a 4 class 744.  

Thanks to everyone for following this report and for your kind comments.