Service is operated by Titan Airways on behalf of British Airways – 757-200 PRG-LHR

Tags

,

I was booked to fly BA Club Europe from Prague to London Heathrow on the 20th February. I received an early-morning email from BA to say:

Flight Information
Dear Customer,
Flight BA0857 on 20-Feb/PRG – This service is operated by Titan Airways on our behalf. We apologise for any issues this may cause.

BA use Titan where they have a crew/aircraft shortage. The mixed fleet strike over the weekend was probably the reason this occasion. I envisaged a complaint to BA about some element of service that was missing. The reality was that Titan Airways were mostly much better!

I took my seat 1D – the bulkhead was slightly closer than on the usual BA flight. The leather seat was a little shabby but more comfortable than the BA equivalent. There was a corridor between 1D and the galley – all passengers boarded via this route.

titan-03

A glass of champagne was presented – something that doesn’t happen on BA Club Europe.

There was a manual security demo – I prefer these to the same old ‘picking up the teddy bear’ video. The downside was that passengers were advised that they couldn’t use portable electronics during take off and landing – different airline, different rules, but on a short flight like this that eats into my iPad play.

We were told that a meal and drinks would be served in Club and a snack and drinks in economy – what a bonus for economy passengers who would have been faced with BA buy on board!

Once airborne and even with my headphones on, the aircraft was noisy.

Hot towels arrived. Drinks were offered and delivered – they were from the same bar as BA use. Food choices were the same as BA, so the Club food has been loaded. I’ve no idea what the selection was in economy, although I bet nobody complained about the lack of BOB Marks & Spencer sandwiches.

The business toilet was clean and had nice amenities.

There was an in-flight entertainment system available, but it required an app that had to be downloaded from the App Store – so pretty useless unless you knew that before you boarded.

titan-04

Tables were cleared and more hot towels arrived – never seen this before in BA Club.

The flight was perfectly on time. Disembarking was from a door just behind the last row of business. The flight attendant held back economy passengers until Club had de-planed.

So a pretty good flight that actually felt more like business than BA. I’d certainly be happy to find my next flight, economy or club, was replaced by Titan Airways.

Bugs of Peru

Tags

, , , , , ,

A friend of mine recently returned from Peru and sent me a series of bug photos. I asked for some more information and added this to the photos below.

I don’t actually have advice to offer, except that you should expect to see these bugs if you decide to visit!

These centipede like things were EVERYwhere in Machu Picchu and I mean everywhere!

bugs-of-peru-01 bugs-of-peru-02 bugs-of-peru-03 bugs-of-peru-04

These big beetles were similarly prevalent in Aguas Calientes – including on our windowsill ….

bugs-of-peru-05 bugs-of-peru-06

This butterfly was on a plant near our hostel in Aguas Calientes:

bugs-of-peru-07 bugs-of-peru-08

This beetle I killed when it ran over our lunch table in Ollytaytambo:

bugs-of-peru-09

This flying bug I stamped on after I knocked it off of my shoulder in Nazca:

bugs-of-peru-10

This flying bug kept trying to get my beer – also seen in Nazca:

bugs-of-peru-11

Czech Republic Smoking Ban starts 31st May 2017

Tags

, , , , , ,

A law banning smoking in restaurants and bars takes effect on May 31st 2017 – this to coincide with World Health Organisation No Tobacco Day. Similar bans are already in effect across the European Union. The Czech Republic is the last EU member to allow unrestricted smoking in restaurants.

The smoking ban will apply to all pubs, restaurants, cafes and bars. The ban will also apply to indoor entertainment facilities and spaces such as ballrooms, nightclubs, exhibition halls and concert venues.

Many Prague pubs and restaurants are already non-smoking. All of these places that I’ve previously reviewed are non-smoking:

Buddha Café Norská

Cicala Trattoria

Yuniku Charcoal BBQ

Summa Cum Laude

Como Restaurant – although smoking is allowed on the outside terrace

Beckett’s Irish Pub – smoking allowed in the garden

Le Bouquet Wine Bar – smoking allowed on the few summer-month outside tables

Miky’s Food (Thai/Vietnamese)

Sansho

Mesy (Thai)

Wine O’clock Shop

Pizzeria Grosseto – although the summer garden has some smoking tables

James Joyce Irish Pub

U Tučňáků

U Emy Destinnové

The following have segregated smoking rooms:

Oliva by Amandine

Bernard Pub Bruselská – plus a large garden where smoking is allowed

Previous attempts to previously to ban smoking have failed because of amendments added to the bill. The last effort failed in May 2016 because it included a paragraph requiring pubs to have at least one non-alcoholic beverage cheaper than beer – a pretty difficult thing to do when beer is only 30Kc a half litre.

Le Club Accor Gold for 90 € or £65

Tags

, , , , , ,

Accor Hotels group includes Sofitel, Novotel, Mercure, Ibis and Pullman Hotel brands. Le Club Accor is their loyalty program. A few years back, it was pretty easy to gain status with Accor – they’d offer promo codes and status matches. Since then, they’ve strictly enforced status and you have to stay at their hotels for 30 nights to become Gold.

Here is their table of benefits:

le-club-accorhotel-status-benefits

If you’re planning to stay at one the hotels in the Accor Group on a fairly regular basis, you can purchase Gold Accor status via this page:

http://businesstravel.accorhotels.com/gb/hotel-subscription-cards/index.shtml

Scroll down to the area called IBIS BUSINESS CARD and choose JOIN.

The New York Bar from Lost in Translation, Park Hyatt, Tokyo, Japan

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

‘Lost in Translation’ is a Sofia Coppola movie starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. Bill Murray plays Bob Harris, an American actor having a mid-life crisis, who is in Japan to make a whiskey commercial. Scarlett Johansson plays Charlotte, who is bored while accompanying her husband on a business trip. If you ever stayed alone at a luxury hotel in a strange city, then you’ll love this movie.

Bob and Charlotte both stay at the Park Hyatt, Tokyo and first meet in the New York Bar on the hotel’s top floor. This is a classic picture of their first meeting:

lost-in-translation

While in Tokyo last year, our plan was to take the metro across town to the Park Hyatt and have a Suntory whisky in the New York Bar, sitting in the same seats as Bob and Charlotte. I rehearsed my “for relaxing times make it Santory time” line.

Here’s Bob making the Santory commercial:

The New York Bar is expensive and there is a cover charge after 8pm. We planned to be out before then. But I was fully prepared to splash out on a few drinks.

We exited the metro and crossed the street to the Hyatt. Into the elevator and press the button for the top floor – no bar in sight. Turns out it’s the Hyatt Regency. £6 taxi to the nearby Park Hyatt.

By 19:30, we find the New York bar and it’s busy. The spectacular view is missing – just grey clouds so the windows appear white.

Bob and Charlotte’s seats were occupied by a group of Americans sporting beatnik looks, one wearing a beanie hat indoors – they probably didn’t even know the significance of their seats.

The waitress offers us a table and we take that – she explains that there is an £18 per person cover charge and I can see that we’re getting too close to 8pm to avoid it. I’m wondering whether I can ask the beatniks to move for a few seconds while I get the picture.

Prices are expensive. There’s no view and it’s also pretty smoky, which is odd as you aren’t allowed to smoke in the street here but bars and restaurants are okay. We left.

Having spent nothing at the hotel, we cheekily took the free shuttle bus back to the station (Shinjuku L-Tower Building).

Metro back to near our hotel and we had pretty good food from a local place where you order food/beer and pay at a machine and they cook and bring it to you. Large beer £2.25. Half bottle of Suntory whisky £4 compared to the Hyatt £9.40 beer and £14 a measure.

If you are a fan of the movie, I’d recommend you visit when the bar isn’t open, or maybe just after opening time – otherwise you’ll be stuck in what is a pretty soulless hotel bar, paying too much for your drinks.

https://tokyo.park.hyatt.com/en/hotel/dining/NewYorkBar.html

Park Hyatt
3-7-1-2 Nishi Shinjuku, Shinjuku-Ku, Tokyo, Japan, 163-1055
Tel: +81 3 5322 1234

Here’s the full scene from the movie:

Buddha Café Norská, Prague, Czech Republic

Tags

, , , , , , ,

Buddha Café Norská is the new Sister restaurant to the popular Café Buddha Balbínova. We visited on Friday 20th January and had a 30% discount (food) from a Groupon-style site. The restaurant is on a side street not far from the 22 tram line where it leaves Francouzská and turns into Moskevská. Nearest stop is Ruská.

img_1504

There are two rooms; the one at the front also contains the bar and has maybe three tables, the rear was configured as five tables (for 2, 2, 2, 4 and 6) when we visited. There were only three tables occupied and that’s a shame as the place is really good. We sat in the back room which I think is better.

They offer cookery courses in the back room during the day and so you may need to sit in the front room at lunchtime – might only be Saturday when they do the cookery course.

img_1503

img_1494

The waitress was friendly and we ordered a jug of tap water (25Kc) and an excellent bottle of Rioja Crianza (598Kc).

The main draw for us was the Kanom Jeeb (Steamed Thai Dumplings) 185Kc per person, that are really difficult to find in Prague. They were absolutely delicious – I could actually have these for a starter and main course!

img_1493

We ordered a Green Thai curry with Prawns 295Kc plus Rice 35Kc and a Prik Thai Dum Beef (Beef and Black Pepper Sauce) 325Kc + 35Kc. Everything was obviously made from fresh ingredients and was really tasty.

img_1497

img_1496

We could have left quite full and happy, but with all the food so good, we had to have the Kluay Bud Chee (Bananas in coconut milk) 95Kc per person. As you can guess, these were excellent.

The total bill for food was 876Kc – but would have been 374Kc higher without the 30% discount. Wine and water made it 1499Kc. So this isn’t inexpensive compared to many local places in Prague, but I think the quality makes it well worth it.

We left our table, where above us was a sign that said ‘the best Asian food in town’ and I’d have to agree with that.

img_1502

We’ll definitely be back. My message to the owners – change the menu all you like, but please keep the Kanom Jeeb!

http://norska.cafebuddha.cz/

Norská 14 Praha 10, Vršovice
+420 737 808 464

norska@cafebuddha.cz

Open Monday – Sunday 11:00 – 22:00

Tram 23 returns in March 2017 and will run classic T3 trams, Prague, Czech Republic

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The 23 line first ran in 1929 and connected Prague 4 to Prague 6. It saw many route changes and then was put out of service in 1991. It came back in 1999 and ran along part of the same route as the 22, in the most touristy areas, but was canceled again in 2008. It has made sporadic appearances since then, notably in 2012 and 2014.

From March 2017, the 23 is back and running the following route:
Zvonařka – I.P.Pavlova – Karlovo náměstí – Národní třída – Staroměstská – Malostranská – Pražský hrad (Prague Castle) – Pohořelec / Hládkov – Malovanka

So it starts on the almost un-used track at Zvonařka, currently only used by the Number 13 tram, then joins Bělehradská street where the Trams 6 and 11 run. From I.P.Pavlova it mirrors the 22 route until Národní divadlo where it turns right along the river. Then crosses the river to re-join the 22 route at Malostranská.

At Zvonařka you should pop in to Le Bouquet for a glass of wine or visit Beckett’s Irish Pub for a pint of Guinness. Jump off at I.P.Pavlova  and walk down to Žitná street for dinner at Cicala. Not far from Staroměstská is Wine O’clock – another great place for a glass of wine.

Initially, the line will run four or five trams running at half hour intervals. In the summer, there will be a tram every 15 minutes.

The 23 route will only run the older Tatra T3-type tram cars – the popular red and beige models with the high steps.

In celebration of this route and the classic T3 tram, I’ve included a series of T3 tram paintings by kind permission of Czech artist Martina Krupičková:

mini-no24-60x60 mini-no-22-500 mini-no14 mini-no-8-500 mini-no-7-500-1

 

Congratulations you won a holiday to Dubai! Well thanks but I don’t want the prize

Tags

, , , , , , ,

I’m a member of Heathrow Rewards – this is a scheme that allows you to collect points while spending at London Heathrow airport. You can then transfer the points into various loyalty schemes. I’ve previously written about Heathrow Rewards here.

Heathrow Rewards often run competitions. A month or so before Christmas, I clicked to enter a competition to win return economy flights to Dubai on Royal Brunei Airlines plus four nights accommodation in a deluxe room in the Hilton Al Hamra Beach & Golf Resort. I did hesitate slightly before entering – see my article ‘Dubai – is visiting worth the risk?’.

And just before Christmas, I received an email from Heathrow Rewards to congratulate me on winning. They then sent my details to Royal Brunei Airlines and I started an email conversation with them between Christmas and New Year.

The first thing I did was look at the flight times:

Departure:
17:05 Heathrow (LHR)
04:00 +1 day Dubai International (DXB)
Total duration 06h55m, Direct flight
Royal Brunei (BI98)

Return:
03:00 Dubai International (DXB)
06:45 Heathrow (LHR)
Total duration 07h45m, Direct flight
Royal Brunei (BI97)

Possibly the worst flight times ever! Imagine arriving at what feels like Midnight from an economy flight (so no fast track through Dubai Airport) and then take a 45-minute transfer to Ras Al Khaimah. You’d want accommodation, but that would mean using one of your four days to check in at around 6am in the morning.

Then imagine that it’s your last day and even with a late checkout you’d need to be out of the room by 4pm. Then wait until Midnight for a transfer back to Dubai Airport, fly at 3am in economy for almost 8 hours and arrive bleary-eyed at Heathrow early morning.

Royal Brunei Airlines is also a ‘dry’ airline – so no alcohol served on board.

I’d probably use one of my four nights so I could keep the room on the last day. So that really means just two nights in the hotel. I asked Royal Brunei Airlines about that and they confirmed I would need to use ‘nights’ to check in early morning and checkout at Midnight.

The hotel looked good and so I looked at other flights. There were plenty of options, flying at good times and with reasonable prices. I asked Royal Brunei Airlines if I could just have the accommodation element of the prize – they said no.

I asked if I could give the prize to some friends – not surprisingly that wasn’t possible.

I did consider running some social media campaign whereby someone with my name, or who was prepared to change their name to mine, could have the prize, but decided that would have been against the rules.

And so I decided to return the ‘prize’ so it could be re-drawn and hopefully go to someone who wouldn’t mind roughing it for a free holiday.

What would you have done in these circumstances?

If you won my returned prize please let me know how you enjoyed the holiday.

The best and worst Christmas travel videos of 2016

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A number of airlines, airports and hotels have created Christmas videos this year. Here are my top 12:

Number 12 – Delta Airlines – a little disappointing for such a large airline

Number 11 – Finnair – slightly confused

Number 10 – Air New Zealand – not bad, but we all get that it’s summer there

Number 9 – The Silver Tassie Hotel & Spa, Donegal, Ireland – just a small hotel, so well done for a nice video

Number 8 – KLM Airlines – clever idea that just about works

Number 7 – WestJet Airlines – almost trying too much for a tear-jerker ad

Number 6 – Pestana Hotels – unusual heads-up display, but professionally done

Number 5 – Air Berlin – very Christmassy

Number 4 – Barceló Hotels – just the right balance

Number 3 – EVA Air – clever idea from an airline I’ve never flown with

Number 2 – London Heathrow Airport – a great ad but sadly doesn’t reflect the actual shambolic experience of arriving at London Heathrow

Number 1 – RyanAir – well who would have guessed that RyanAir would win with this funny and realistic ad

And here are the worst:

Number 1 – Hawaiian Airlines Christmas Luau

Number 2 – RIU Hotels

ryanair

The Mazací tramvaj (Grease Tram) in Prague, Czech Republic – Christmas Makeover

Tags

, , , , , ,

In January 2015, a special tram was launched in Prague. Red in colour with an ‘M’ on the front and the rear of the tram cut off – like a pick up truck.

The tram would appear at different times and on different lines. I started to wonder if there was more than one. I also wondered if the rear of the tram was supposed to carry goods or spare parts. Later I discovered that the tram’s purpose was to grease the tram lines and it was called Mazací tramvaj – there is only one.

I previously wrote about the Grease Tram here. Last Christmas the tram carried a Christmas Tree, with lights that you could control remotely and I wrote about that here.

The tram has been in the depot for months but has just emerged, with a large new canister fitted to the rear, plus Christmas Lights and an Angel.

A webcam has been added to the rear of the tram. You can see the lights and watch the tram’s progress via this site (sadly has a small advert before the live webcam). If you can’t see the video it means the tram is in the depot.

new-grease-tram

So thanks DPP for Christmas Mazací tramvaj!