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Tooner & Dr Tooner head off to Europe

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Tooner

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It's been some time since I've written a TR, but then I've not done much flying of interest. While the Tooners headed to South Africa for Christmas, it was SQ Y and hardly notable (except for SIN would be the only place you could achieve a less than 60 min transfer!).

This one is a little different. for a start, I'm taking my Father (88), I'm treating myself to the last stage of the TdF from a grandstand (as it is a change of big figure for me this year), visiting my Uncle's grave in Germany (My Father's brother), visiting my Aunt in Plymouth and working a few days in London on a PA (personal account) trip to reduce the leave burn.

Following my demotion after 10 or so years from WP to LTG, I wondered if I could at least keep my VA WP and give EYor SQ a try to Europe. Of course I had to treat my father well, so J for all.

Not a cheap sojourn, as it were, but significant birthdays are, well, significant, and you only have one father. Some savings in London and Plymouth however, as friends in Islington are heading to Oz for a while (so we can house-sit a little) and we can stay with My Aunt in Plymouth. Hotels needed for Paris and Brussels (for the trip to the Schwarzwald)

Planning did start some time ago, but as with all things, it is easy for time to slip away from you. When I eventually came to book, the very cheap fares on SQ had vanished and I was looking at EY as a distinct possibility. QF priced out, and how could I fly QF with no access to the Flounge! At least with EY I could try out the new F Lounge in Sydney!

Given Amex upped the Platinum fees and gave us a $200 credit I thought I'd see what they can do.

More updates soon....but no selfies a la Erk!
 

Tooner

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Having decided on what the trip was to cover, I set about convincing Dad to take the trip. My Father hasn't travelled overseas for many years, but a recent trip to ADL (in J) convinced him that maybe he could handle the trip.

After convincing him it was worth doing, he started to get into possibilities of travelling here and there in the UK to research his theories on Shakespeare. Which lead me to book us a trip to the Globe to see Julius Caesar.

Given J was the preferred class, I contacted Amex Platinum. We were looking for SYD - CDG to set us up for the TdF on the Sunday, then returning from LHR around 2 weeks later. We'd also need trains from Paris - Brussels, then Brussels to London. Combined Thalys then Eurostar was the order of the day. After agreeing with Amex Platinum EY was the cheapest J option with VA earn, I was told the EY special was in place. I had a vague memory of a special deal, but had thought it was long gone. Turns out the previous offer of pay for J, travel in F was still in place, and we would both be upgraded to F each way!:)

This meant, however, that the WP benefits sort of faded a little. I'd be hard pressed to come up with 50kg of luggage to check-in for 5 weeks, let alone less than 2! Also, we wouldn't need the WP card to get into EY F Lounges - we'd actually be in the right travelling class.

Nevertheless, it seems a great opportunity to sample some of the benefits of EY and report back. There have been few trip reports on EY F (and of course I've read every one of them since booking), so I'll try to cover some additional details.

Next, our rough itinerary.....
 

Tooner

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We depart SYD - AUH - CDG EY451/31 (both A340-600) on 25 July, arrive 26 July (7:35 am) Lunch at nice restaurant and a bit of touring before collapse in hotel
2 nights at Holiday Inn Notre Dame (let's see if we get any Platinum benefits!)
Tour de France for from around midday (fully catered and grandstand), Louvre for my Father, probably.
July 28, Thalys to Brussels and 2 nights at the Rocco Forte Amigo (Amex special)
July 29 pickup Hire Car from Hertz and then day trip to Commonwealth Cemetery near Kleve.
July 30 Eurostar to London and then to friends place in Islington.
July 31 Julius Caesar at the Globe
Weekend in Plymouth (possibly!)
I'm working July 31-1 August and 4 August - 5 August
6 August free, then
7 August LHR - AUH - SYD on EY12/454 (B777 both legs)

Should be interesting to compare the A340 and B777. More F class seats on the A340, and very few on the B777. Chauffeur service at in SYD and CDG/LHR is pretty useful too. Looking forward to the Spa in the F lounge in AUH, too.
 

Anna

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Sounds like a great trip. Happy 30th :p Hope your dad enjoys it too.
 

Major

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Looks like a very interesting trip...enjoy
 
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Tooner

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We depart SYD - AUH - CDG EY451/31 (both A340-600) on 25 July, arrive 26 July (7:35 am) Lunch at nice restaurant and a bit of touring before collapse in hotel
2 nights at Holiday Inn Notre Dame (let's see if we get any Platinum benefits!)
Tour de France for from around midday (fully catered and grandstand), Louvre for my Father, probably.
July 28, Thalys to Brussels and 2 nights at the Rocco Forte Amigo (Amex special)
July 29 pickup Hire Car from Hertz and then day trip to Commonwealth Cemetery near Kleve.
July 30 Eurostar to London and then to friends place in Islington.
July 31 Julius Caesar at the Globe
Weekend in Plymouth (possibly!)
I'm working July 31-1 August and 4 August - 5 August
6 August free, then
7 August LHR - AUH - SYD on EY12/454 (B777 both legs)
Confirmed We'll head to Plymouth on 2 Aug to catch up with family and I'll return Sunday evening 3 Aug, Dad will come back on 5 Aug after I've finished work.

Just over a week to go - getting awfully close!
 

Tooner

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We were picked up from home by an Audi SUV which had plenty of room for us. We almost made it a no check-in bags trip, but in the end we both checked one bag through, wheeley and briefcase on board. THe Driver was telling us that the company he works for gets about 30% of its business form Etihad, and they are not the company that does the Emirates/Qantas trips.


We wound our way through the suburbs to the airport where our friendly driver dropped us around row C. Unfortunately we were heading for Row F! Strange that the Etihad Driver didn't drop us closer to the check-in area!


We were checked-in quite quickly. Our check-in agent had gone on a trip with his father many years ago, and despite working in the industry hadn't travelled since. We were given our fast-track cards, lounge invite etc and headed to passport and security.


At Security, we had a small hold-up: Dr Tooner has a hip replacement! So while I went through the standard security, Dr Tooner had to go through the full body scanner, which meant he had to take everything (yes everything) out of his pockets. Then to top it off, he also did the explosives scan (fortunately he wasn't explosive). On top of not being sure where his mobile was for some time (top pocket), slightly elevated blood pressure for the doctor!


Once through security we had to long trek to the other boarding pier (via the shortcut to avoid the duty free) and all of a sudden, after rounding the corner to the other pier, we were at the Etihad lounge. The very friendly staff greeted us and took us into the lounge. We decided to have a bite to eat (breakfast Paris time?) and we had a very nice meal. It is a very nice lounge, and compares well to the Qantas ones.


image.jpg


Part way through our meal, one of the attendants came around to tell each of us individually that the plane was boarding. We were personally escorted to the plane by the attendant and so we began the journey. Our Cabin Manager Ehab greeted us and showed us to our seats

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My seat


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Dr Tooner's seat


After a nice meal, we watched movies, listened to music, and then slept for a while. It really is a long flight. About 40 mins from Abu Dhabi (mercifully we were some 50 mins early) we were all awake and ready to transit.


We then had a long walk to the transfer desk. Kind of a waste as we will head back to the same gate and get on the same plane to head to Paris!


This time at security it was me who slowed us down, but eventually we go to the very nice F Lounge. I recommended Dr Tooner take a shower here, to refresh and get ready to have some sleep on the next sector.
 
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Tooner

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I've just realised the two photos of the seats are upside down. I can guarantee we were not flying upside down. I've no idea how to fix it either.
I will update the TR a little later with the rest of the flight. I'm now in Brussels and end to catch up! For anyone interested, the Tour de France was sensational, and now huge value with La Course beforehand.
 

Tooner

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We spent a very pleasant couple of hours at the First Lounge in Abu Dhabi. The service is very attentive, and the food quality very good. The menu structure is much the same as on board, and they certainly emphasise the taste of Arabia menu. Although Dr Tooner walked straight into a shower, I wasn't so fortunate and had to wait. Nevertheless it wasn't long before the attendant came ad got me. After that we had something to eat. Sliders for me, scrambled eggs from the Taste of Arabia menu for Dr Tooner. This all set us up nicely for sleep before Paris. Not long after, one of the attendants came around to advise our flight was boarding (she'd been doing that every 10 mins or so the whole time we were there). Overall impression: a vey good lounge!


The new terminal in Abu Dhabi is enormous, and it can be hard to work out where the entrance to the gate is. We eventually found it, and another very attentive crew looked after the 7 of us in the cabin very well. On the previous flight we were in row 1, this time row 3 and we were well used to the seats and surroundings. We even discovered a mini-bar at the front of the seat! This time I also took advantage of the coat cupboard in the wall of the suite.


As this was effectively our night sector (it was around midnight in Paris by the time we left) we skipped dinner on-board for sleep: time to change into the PJs while the flight attendants made the beds up. We slept reasonably well until about an hour from Paris where we were woken and served breakfast: omelettes all round, nice pastries and fruit platter. Very nice espresso, too. I'd have to say the crew and service on Etihad were very good, and looked after us very well. They were very patient when every question had to be referred to me as Dr Tooner couldn't hear much! Dr Tooner was particularly impressed with the omelette for breakfast (I did note some saucepans in the gallery, so clearly they cook them on board).


We got to Paris and made our way towards the terminal. A mini-passport control at the gate (2 Gendarmes), then into the terminal and off to passport control proper. CDG is unlike most other terminals you see these days. Arrivals and departures are not on different levels, and only separated by walls. That means the gates cross the arrivals path, so at busy times it must be hard to board and disembark! There was no fast-track we saw, only EU and non-EU (effectively), but it didn't matter much; we'd just beaten the rush from other planes and were out quickly. Our 2 bags came out very quickly and then through the gate to meet the Etihad Chauffeur. We landed around 7:30am. By 8am we were in the car!


Our Driver was a very chatty man from Alsace, and told us about museums and art we could go and see. He took us via Bois de Bourgon which has a great childrens adventure playground, and showed us the new Louis Vitton Foundation museum building designed by Frank Gehry. A beautiful building.


Eventually we pulled up outside the Holiday Inn Notre Dame. Our room wasn't ready, so we dropped our bags off and went for a wander. We decided to walk to help with adjusting, and thought it would be good to pick up the Louvre tickets for tomorrow. We also saw 2 Eiffel Towers!
image.jpg
Then we got our Mobilis daily ticket and headed back to the Left Bank. A little more wandering, and we ended up at Shakespeare & Company, the wonderful bookshop and surrounding area (ancient church, park statue and pretty buildings.








We headed back to the hotel (still not ready, but check-in isn't until 3pm). Then, we headed to Montparnasse for our lunch at Le Ciel on the 56th floor of the Montparnasse Tower. Beautiful food; great views!


Then we headed bck to Saint Michel and discovered our room was still not ready! After waiting around we wee shown into the only room on the ground floor. Dr Tooner was pooped, so went to bed; I headed to the rooftop bar and spent my drink and snack Platinum voucher while sitting watching the Eiffel Tower. There are quite a few staying here heading to the Tour, including some guys from SRAM. Aussies, of course!

Feeling a bit pooped myself, I managed 10pm before flaking myself. There are some photos to add, but I can't get the website top help me load them!
 

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Denali

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Im pretty sure the Holiday Inn Notre Dame is where we stayed. Terrible name but great location and the rooftop was very nice. Best hot chocolate I ever had was on the café near Notre Dame, hubby walked up to the top of Notre while I sipped and waved at him.

If you have time and if its your type of thing, behind Notre Dame is a Holocaust memorial that is stunning.
 

drron

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We also had a great dinner at Le Ciel.The lounge staff at the previous Paris Hilton said it was the best view in Paris as you couldn't see the Tour de Montparnasse.It certainly is a great view.
As for security I also have a knee replacement and mrsdrron a lot of hardware in her ankle.Now have to allow more time for security.
Enjoying the TR.
 

Tooner

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We also had a great dinner at Le Ciel.The lounge staff at the previous Paris Hilton said it was the best view in Paris as you couldn't see the Tour de Montparnasse.It certainly is a great view.
As for security I also have a knee replacement and mrsdrron a lot of hardware in her ankle.Now have to allow more time for security.
Enjoying the TR.
I agree it is a good meal. I was expecting some attitude after reading reviews in Tripadvisor, but found the food excellent and view spectacular. I booked via Amex and they secured a window seat with the view you saw in the photo. I've been trying a new strategy at restaurants like these: Ask the waiter what they would recommend. Working quite well at the moment!
 

Tooner

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Currently in the Eurostar heading to London. Will try and catch up on the Tour, Belgium and our trip to Germany, Netherlands, Germany, Netherlands and back to Belgium!
 

Tooner

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Today we managed to wake up at a reasonably normal time, and Dr Tooner decided to go for a walk to Le Jardins Du Luxembourg. I followed a little later after talking to my family on Skype (gotta love free high speed internet) for a run in the gardens. I didn't manage to run through the gardens, only around; despite the signs saying open at 7:30, it was more like 8am! Dr Tooner went in completely the wrong direction, but had a long look at the Hotel de Ville and Ile St Louis!


After a free breakfast (our reward for the mucking around yesterday), we headed off to the Louvre. The easiest way was to walk (shorter than the Metro). We walked through Paris Plage (essentially a beach without ocean next to the Seine).
View attachment 33068








We also had a closer look at the mini-Eiffel Tower. Can you guess what it is made of?








Also, we saw a mass of Fussbal tables. What's up with the one in the middle?

image.jpg
WE eventually got to the Louvre and were grateful we had pre-purchased the tickets, as we had a queue of 0, and, even at 9:30am, a huge queue for those with no tickets. Once inside we headed for the sculptures and paintings in the Denon wing. After wandering through a number of collections fighting crowds and the heat (it was 5 degrees hotter inside the Louvre than out), we took refuge in the Cafe Molliers. Dr Tooner decided he had had enough of walking around and fighting the crowds, so we decided to leave, via the Italian collection. Of course, we walked past the Mona Lisa, and marvelled at the churning mass of cameras bobbing above heads trying to take a photo of the painting. With all of the barricades and glass pannelling, it is hard to tell if the paining is real, but I'd wager not many of the people waving their cameras had much idea either! Funnily enough, just after seeing this we saw an article in the NY Times (International) about how museums are struggling with the numbers of visitors!


We headed back to Saint Michel and the hotel. I was due to pick up my tickets for the final stage of the Tour de France by 12:30. By now, I had my work cut out getting to the collection point in time as the roads were starting to close in preparation for the tour. I ended up getting there at 12:29!


After a brief pause, I headed to the marquee and got into watching some cycling! La Course was first - 13 laps of the final circuit. Marianne Vos was all over that and won well. We were standing by the track, and one of the Orica AIS riders, Jessie McLean, stopped by us. We asked her wether it had been fun. She just said "it was really hard...those cobbles!".


After lunch, we saw the caravan arrive and depart (not throwing anything out, however) and then the Peleton was upon us, lead by Astana of course, but there were many attacks off the front:


image.jpg

As you all know by now, Marcel Kittel won on the line, despite valiant breakaway attempts from our own Richie Porte, and it was all over. As the riders rode back, Jens Voigt gave everyone a high 5 as he rode back for the last time!


I had a great time in the stands, met some of the Bikestyle's tour people (some of whom live near me) and saw the final stage in style.


After getting home, I heard Dr Tooner had a quiet time, but also managed to have an omellette for lunch and read a lot of his books. We went out for dinner around the corner, quite late and then turned in. A big day today, and only the 2nd day of the trip. Tomorrow we head for Brussels for the next big visit - Kleve and the Commonwealth War Cemetary.
 

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