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Thursday, February 11, 2010

FROM DELHI TO MUNICH TO BARCELONA



Another truly monumental day, again a roller coaster of emotions with assorted tribulations and over the top stress. However, 24 hours after leaving the Delhi Le Meridien, I arrived at the Barcelona Le Meridien, and feel almost euphoric, for I survived India and am now in Spain.


I left the Delhi Le Meridien at 6:30AM and was taken by a hotel car (free) to the airport. Check in was terrific, for Lufthansa upgraded me to first class. With some trepidation, I nevertheless passed through customs with ease. I was about to have a croissant and capuchino breakfast in the Lufthansa lounge when a uniformed officer asked to see my boarding pass (BP). He then ordered me to accompany him, for there was a problem with my check-in baggage. Maybe another extortion scheme?


I imagined all sorts of worse case scenarios. Maybe someone had somehow snuck in a pound of heroin or a bomb into my baggage. We passed through one security gate, where they stamped my BP. At this point another uniformed officer with a rifle accompanied us. We went through two more security areas, where they again stamped the BP, into the bowels of the airport. Then I thought, oh no, my “India Sucks” blog really pissed off someone and they were going to execute me. However, Cambodia, maybe, but certainly not India. We made it to where bags accumulate, and there was my suitcase. It occurred to me then, what if they never found me before the plane left. This suitcase would never have made it to Barcelona.


They asked me to open it. At this point, I sort of realized the problem. TSA has a key to my type of luggage, but they don’t in India. As I was opening the bag, I was asked if I had a lighter in there. I said, yes, and found it in the bag with my cigars. He huddled with two others and they talked for several minutes. Then they went up to a higher official for several minutes more of animated discussion. I thought, with these histrionics, for sure, another $100 would be necessary. But I would go no higher. Then I saw one of them use a device to evacuate the lighter of the fluid. They gave me back my lighter, I closed the suitcase, they all smiled, so did I, and I left the area, accompanied by my two guards, mildly embarrassed for my unkind thoughts. I had to re-pass through the three security tables, where they again stamped my BP. By the time this was all over, my BP was totally unrecognizable. I was returned to the lounge, where I fixed myself a stiff Bloody Mary, except with gin, as there was no vodka.


In a short while it was about my boarding time, so I left for the gate. There, I learned that there was a two hour delay. No problem, at least I made it this far. Finally I boarded, and the 8 hour flight was about the best I’ve had in all my years of flying.


I was offered a Champagne Veuve Devaux with macadamia nuts. According to the write-up, the “freshness of the chardonnay knits perfectly with the fruit and opulence of the pinot noir.” I did not know this combination (Pinot Meunier can also be used) was what went into champagne, and this one was the winner of the Lufthansa blind tasting. As the plane was taxiing on the runway, they continued to pour more champagne. It is then I noticed that, while there were others in First Class, no one was sitting within 15 feet of me. I was sort of all alone.


The plane took off, and Emma, my hostess,

passed out three large booklets, one each for the two meals and a third of the beverages. I thereby, then, although Pearl would not have approved, decided to break the Guinness world record for the most esoteric assortment of alcohol drunk on one flight. My first drink was a La Guita Sherry, sort of a Manzanilla. If you’re counting, I’m now up to three. With the Serrano Ham and Milan Salami I had a Kaseler Nies’chen Riesling (#4), from the top vineyard in the Mosel Valley. Quoting again: “racy acidity, classic minerality and restrained sweetness.” Various cheeses then came, followed by an omelette of smoked salmon and creamy spinach, with pineapple stuffed pancakes. This was breakfast at 1PM, Delhi time, but 9:30AM in Munich, where the plane was headed.


I ended the first meal with a Niepoort White Port (#5), which had been aged for 10 years. Yes, white port, which actually is golden yellow. I had a Johnny Walker Blue (#6) with the first movie and Warsteiner Premium Verum (#7) with the second.


The second meal started with real caviar and traditional garnishes,








including a special Smirnoff vodka (#8). I reflected on the irony of this feast as the plane flew over the Middle East War. I skipped most of the rest, but had a Pomfret in Saffron Sauce with Fettuccine, accompanied with an Ihringer Winklerberg Spatlese trocken (#9), a Pinot Blanc “with subtle aromas of vanilla, pear and citrus fruit.” This all ended with a Pfalz Chardonnay Eiswein (#10), expresso and Calvados Pays d’Auge (#11). Actually, much of all the above were mere tastings. I did not actually consume every drop. You can ask Emma, who was a most gracious and accommodating partner in this epicurean experience.


The plane landed in a Munich whiteout.

I made it into the Senator Lounge passing through a mob outside. Most flights out had been cancelled, and the line to re-process was at least 200, if not 300, yards long. This was not single file, it was about 5 people wide and not moving at all. Amazingly enough, Lufthansa had the foresight to re-book me on a later Barcelona flight, and this one was to leave in two hours.


Unfortunately, the snowstorm worsened, and the plane did not leave until midnight, five hours late. But this was one of the few flights allowed to depart. Two hours later I landed in Barcelona. In fact, my two bags were the first to appear. Again, just a step before freedom, was asked to have my bags x-rayed in a side room. The setting was perfect. I was the only passenger, they saw a computer in my luggage, and they essentially asked the same question as in India. Theirs was, how many computers do you have in this suitcase. I said one. Is that all? Yes (although I could have added, I have another one in the other bag). He kind of shook his head and I thought, okay, how much? Well, he said okay and helped me place my luggage onto the cart and waved goodbye to me. My relief was overwhelming. Spain's Corruption Perception Index is 6.1, compared to the now #1, New Zealand, at 9.4, and the U.S. up to 7.5, versus India, still at 3.4. The rest of my stops will be in countries with a CPI higher than the USA.


I had made a brilliant decision the day before. I had the option of being picked up by the Le Meridien for 66 Euros (about $100), but I said no because there was a clause that said if the driver had to wait, it would cost 66 Euro/hour. My plane was 8 hours late, so I would have had to pay almost $1000 if I had not decided to catch a cab. I went with the Fodor recommendation that the airport taxi system in Barcelona was well managed. I ended up paying 40 Euros, a bit more than the book stated, but there is a surcharge after midnight, and I added a generous tip.


What a day!!!


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The Dow Jones Industrials went up 106 to 10,144, and world markets also mostly increased, with the Japan Nikkei at 10,092. Gold is up $13/toz to $1090 and crude oil is in the range of $75/barrel.


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Tropical Cyclone Pat is petering out, but Tropical Cyclone Rene is now up to 65 MPH and could well hit Samoa this weekend as a Category 3 storm.


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2 comments:

Leighton said...

Aloha Pat:


Your dining in Lufthansa first class does sound like a record in airborne decadence. I hope EH does not see this blog because it will blow your cover!

Leighton

Cathy said...

Hi your Stewardess Emma is my lovely niece - I am delighted that you mentioned her and how well she represents the charm of the Irish and that she is good at her job - she sent me the link so is obviously very proud herself !

Enjoy - rgds Cathy Reynolds