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Our Month in Paris

Our Month in Paris
via Lufthansa First Class 
September 2008

After our superb SFO-MUC-SFO trip last December with only 8 pax on the 340, I was interested to see how the experience compared in the larger F cabin on the 744. Although last minute upgrades and at least one "friend" made it a full complement of 16, service was excellent, the food superb and our glasses never empty.

Traveling as a couple, I actually preferred the ambiance of the private upper deck especially from 83HK and the roomy exit row space, rather than the DG middle seats on the 340. I didn't mind the permanent serving station behind 82HK as it was only used during beverage and meal service.

However, one of the drawbacks of the upper deck is the stairs themselves, especially with heavy carry-ons. Another issue is the proximity of the galley and the lack of any sound barrier. Although it was not noticeable during dinner service, the prep for breakfast setup with dishes and glasses was clearly audible as most of us were sleeping or trying to. Another is that foot traffic seems more noticeable as the floor bounces a lot more than on the lower deck... or perhaps our FAs and fellow pax just weighed more than on the earlier flights? There is also no storage space for standard roller carry-ons, relegating those to the not so convenient closet at the top of the stairs. Even smaller carry-ons don't fit overhead and must be placed behind the seat in the well, but then have to be moved to permit a full lie flat seat recline.

Prior to boarding, the UA IFL was quite comfortable, manned by two friendly dragons upstairs who made timely boarding announcements for all *A departures. Serve yourself food and beverage offerings, while not exciting, seemed better than the last time we were there (although it was UA so expectations were pretty low to begin with), probably because it was just after noon and there were a slew of UA international departures.

Once on board at our spacious exit row seats (83HK), we were quickly offered pre-departure drinks and mac nuts, PJs, amenity kits and slippers. With everyone on board some 25 minutes before scheduled departure time, the door was closed. We were actually in the air prior to our scheduled departure time. Taking off from 28R, we were treated to an amazing view of the coast, the GG bridge and the entire city.

Even with a full cabin of 16, the 3 FA's provided exceptional service. We started with champagne with my wife opting for the Cuvée Paradis Rosé. Silly me, I asked for the D since they were both on the menu. But, they were only serving the rosé SFO-FRA. Just not quite the same as "Mr. SFO, would you like the Dom or the Krug?" on my recent SQ flights.

But it was still excellent...

And went very well with my caviar, which is the one thing that LH does better than SQ... unlimited helpings from the cart and all the sides one could want, proper plain toast points instead of melba toast.

Our menu...

And the LH rose...

The Seasonal salad with shaved parmesan and balsamic was quite good.

I stayed with champagne as the wine offerings (Chilean Sauvignon Blanc and Wente Chardonnay) seemed distinctly uninspiring and far beneath SQ's vintage offerings.

The main course of Beef Tournedos with Cilantro Crust, Wasabi mashed potatoes and Bok Choy was exceptional and perfectly prepared...medium rare.

The 2001 Chateau Lynch-Moussas Cru Classé was quite good although after my G&T and four glasses of champagne, it might as well have been 2 Buck Chuck.

After dinner, the cheese and dessert cart...

The cheese course and 2003 Neipoort were excellent.

...and the grilled pineapple and mac ice cream were a pleasant finish to a very enjoyable inflight meal.

Good night...

During dinner, the purser stopped by to say hello and inquire about our LH experience. We had a pleasant conversation but he erroneously recommended that we not bother with the FCT and go the "new B concourse FCL". Wow, was that a mistake. After our arrival at B42, there was no LH gate staff to direct us so we (and four other F pax) followed the signs to the FCL that was a good mile away (up, down, up) through one of the most ugly terminals I've been through recently. Once we arrived at this obscurely located lounge, we were advised by the dragons that this was just a limited service FCL (indeed the sign on the front door read "Open until 2PM only") to go to the A concourse lounge was was much nicer and had a full restaurant and showers. So like sheep, we trudged half way back, then thru C&I, out and a U-turn back into the A/B concourse. Another mile later, we were at the FCL above A26.

In retrospect, I actually thought my penalty box arrival on SQ last month and bus ride was less tiring, especially since I wasn't connecting on that trip and had no need for FCL/FCT.

Once we finally got to gate A26, the FCL was pleasant enough and conveniently located close to our connecting gate. The staff was most attentive and helpful. I only had to wait 10 minutes for a shower (which I definitely needed after our trek around a dismal FRA airport) in a very attractive and nicely appointed bath suite.

The entire arrival-from NA-for-connection experience at ugly FRA was just awful, in sharp contrast to wonderful MUC... with its well located FCL, private C&I and security, plus car transfer to your connecting gate.

Unless I missed something, why would anyone in their right mind willingly connect in FRA from North America if you could connect in hassle-free MUC? Though I can see where the FCT would make FRA the choice for fights to North America if one were originating.

We rented a 2 bedroom apartment on Rue des Beaux Arts in the 6th.  Two blocks from the Seine and four blocks from St-Germain... a perfect location to experience Parisien living.






After everything I'd heard and read about the FCT, I opted to fly to FRA the night before our FRA-SFO return in order to experience the full FCT treatment. We stayed at the airport Sheraton, which is very comfortable and most conveniently located via skybridge directly across from the Admirals Club on level 3 between T1-B and T1-C.

Since we (Mrs. SFO specifically) did our part to help shore up the French economy during our 2 month stay, we had at nearly two dozen VAT tax receipts we needed to have stamped. That and the fact that we could load up a luggage cart in our hotel room and walk to the terminal made me decide to check in at the LH First check in facility in T1.

After check in and a side trip to the export customs and tax refund counters in T1-B, we walked back to the glass FC check-in area, where we waited a couple of minutes for our car to take us to the FCT.

As we drove up to the FCT at about 8:45A, our Personal Attendant came to the car and warmly welcomed us to the FCT. She guided us through a deserted lobby to our own personal security station and then an explanation and brief tour of the FCT. She took our passports and BPs for processing, returned the BPs a few minutes later and told us she would be back to collect us about 30 minutes before our 10:05A departure. For future VAT refund reference, the PA explained that they would call customs who would send over an agent to process our paperwork, although she cautioned that it could take as much as 45 minutes.

In spite of stories (from disgruntled and spoiled HONs) of bucket-listers crowding the facility, we found it pleasantly uncrowded (especially for a Monday morning) and had our choice of numerous comfortable seating pairs and dining room tables. After a delicious breakfast, we relaxed for 20 minutes until our PA came for us.

We took the elevator down to the departure level, where our PA retrieved our passports and handed us off to a most lovely LH driver who walked us to our car, this morning a Porsche Cayenne. After a 5 minute drive around the tarmac and around and under various structures, she parked our car almost under the nose of our 744. A short walk to the private gate elevator, up one level and we were in the jetway about 100 feet from the mid cabin door, right in front of the stairs to the upper level. She walked us to the door, introduced us to the FA at the door and we exchanged pleasant good-byes. Wasn't sure about tipping, but she seemed appreciative of the €20 note I slipped her when we shook hands.

We were the last F pax to board and the door was closed shortly after we settled into our 83AC.

In contrast to some of the recent xFRA catering complaints, we enjoyed exceptional food. In addition to our usual caviar, all the other starters were superb (yes, I tried them all!).

My halibut was excellent and the banana and chocolate cake was in the "to die for" category.

According to one of our FAs, this new menu was just rolled out, and according to the menu, featured Chinese-Canadian chef Susur Lee, who apparently has restaurants in Toronto and New York.

Marinated Loin of Lamb with Mint and Yogurt Sauce, Tomato Chutney and Mango Salsa
Poached Lobster with Yuzu Mustard Dressing and pickled Ginger
Beetroot Salad with Roquefort, Horseradish and pecked Peppercorn

Frisee, Radicchio, Endive and Lamb's Lettuce with Bell Pepper, Cucumber and Mushooms with Orange Mustard or Macadamia Dressing

LH's Traditional Roast Goose with Red Cabbage, Potato Dumpling and Herb Crumb Butter
Marinated Halibut with Wild Rice and Mushroom Ragout served with Potato and Celery Puree
Grilled Loin of Veal served with Polenta Spinach Lasagne, Tomato Sauce and Olives
Eggplant with Herb Polenta, Oven Fried black Olives and Tomatoes

Cheese and Dessert...
Warm Banana and Chocolate Cake with Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream
South-east Asia Pudding of black Rice and Pineapple and Coconut

On the other hand, the lighter meal later titled "Grandpa's Favorite" featured some (presumably) distinctly German flavor. As I was still full from lunch and a great breakfast in the FCT, I only had the meatballs and mustard (wow, was that HOT!), pickles and the apple pie and fruit, all of which was very good.

Celery Wild Mushroom Tartlet with Balsamic Vinegar Hazelnut Marinade and Parmesan Cheese
Herring Salad with Beetroot (I'm not that adventuresome)
Meatballs with Mustard
Mixed Pickles
Cold Mashed Lingdonberry

Boiled Rump of Veal with Potato Vegetable Ragout
Filet of Perchpike with Chive Sauce, Champagne Sauerkraut and Fresh Noodles

LH First is a great west coast First Class option to/from Europe even with the dated seats/IFE. Inbound through MUC would be my preferred routing and return thru FRA for the amazing FCT experience. What is not to like about never having to deal with interminable walks through crowded unattractive concourses and gate lice?

Well done LH!